Sometimes, we as Christians see grace and truth as opposing forces; either we be really graceful and avoid hurting others, or we stand firm on the truth regardless of how people feel. Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14) and I don’t think Jesus was schizophrenic about it. I don’t think grace and truth are opposing forces, but when we treat them like they are we can end up really hurting Christians who struggle with SSA.
It’s important for Christians to value the truth of God’s word. It’s important to stand up to sin and deceit. Christians have to stand against injustice, racism, sexism, corruption, and oppression because God’s word is true. But sometimes, it’s issues like homosexuality that we stand most firmly against, and are most known for standing against. When Christian opposition to homosexuality is better known than our opposition to injustice and oppression (two topics on which far more biblical ink has been spilled) we hinder those seeking to deal with their SSA by driving them deeper into hiding for fear of having committed the “ultimate” sin. Sure, a gay Christian kid should know Levitucs 18:22 “a man shall not lie with a man … it is an abomination,” but that law can’t save him. That God is his father (Gal 4), that Christ understands his temptation (Heb 4), and is not ashamed of him (Heb 2) that God lavishes grace on him (Eph 1), that the Spirit is fighting for his heart (Gal 5); these gospel truths have to penetrate his hurting heart. A mentor of mine used to run a manufacturing plant and said, “For every time you call a guy an idiot, you better have given him ten pats on the back.” Yes, we should oppose what God opposes, but we need to proclaim the good news as just that, really good news!
Christians who highly value God’s word, who believe in it’s inspiration and authority, and who stand firm in the truth, sometimes play the role of Bob Newheart in a Mad TV sketch. in the sketch, a patient comes to see psychologist Newheart with a fear of dying and his response is “stop it.” She becomes increasing disturbed and Newheart repeats over and over again, “just stop it.” Does God’s word say that homosexuality is sin? Yes. Does yelling at people to “just stop” actually help them overcome their struggle with sin? Well, has it helped you? I’m sure some people need one biblical knock between their eyes to turn their life around, but for most of us, gentle, patient, gracious application of the truth has wooed us to greater repentance and obedience.
In attempting to be gracious, many Christians are tempted to back off of historic, biblical sexual ethics. They see friends, neighbors, and family members in loving, committed homosexual relationships and the thought occurs to them: “they seem so happy, so loving, how can this be wrong?” Couple that with messages about psychological health and self-acceptance, and the danger posed by fundamentalism to gay youth and teens, and we find ourselves in a situation where biblical seems bad, faithful seems frightening, and loves means lenient.
But, if God’s word is true, and if the church for 2,000+ (and I mean the whole church – catholic, anglican, lutheran, presbyterian, orthodox, methodist, baptist – a group of people that can’t agree on almost anything!) has testified that sex is for heterosexual marriage then how can it be loving to encourage people to walk in what God calls sin? Our hearts might be rightly motivated – “love our neighbors,” after all, and “judge not,” – our relaxing of biblical teaching ends up doing what the pharisees did with their legalism: we make our disciples twice as fit for hell. If you’re running toward the edge of a cliff blindly, and I trip you so that you fall, yes it will hurt to bite the dust, but I might have saved your life.
Another way to put this comes from my experience with same-sex attracted Christians who believe the Bible is God’s word. Generally, we are a lot harder on homosexual sin than Christians who don’t struggle this way, but have friends who are affirming homosexuality. It’s not unlike alcoholics or recovering addicts: we see the issue more black and white and we’re not afraid to say so, in a loving, knowing way.