I struggle everyday with trying to live for God and not be a total screw up. A lot of times I fail, sometimes I succeed. It’s a process.
What makes this process bearable is having a body of people surround me and help keep me accountable and on track with what God has planned for me. This is why I think Church is so crucial for Christians at any stage in their walk. We simply cannot enjoy the fullness of this life for God without other believers encouraging and building us up (See 1 Thess. 5:11).
Which brings me to the awkward topic at hand.
The tension between being a church with open arms for anyone and everyone of all backgrounds, and being a church that calls for repentance of sins and a deeper relationship with Jesus.
I recently read a post about Pastor Andy Stanley and his comments in regards to homosexuals (specifically students) in the local church. He declared that the local church should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”
Now my problem is not with Andy’s statements, in fact I proudly posted the article on Facebook and stated I couldn’t agree more. My problem is with the response from Christians on social media. Many began to bash Andy, say he is an untrustworthy, liberal, Pastor. Some said he was attempting to be popular for church attendance. Others stated he was being dramatic and jumping on the bandwagon of being too critical of believers.
Pause. Let me state for the record my stance. I believe homosexuality is a sin, I believe it is against God’s design for relationships and marriage. I believe we were built to marry the opposite sex. However, I also believe we were designed to show grace. What Andy (at least in my humble opinion) was doing is not calling for us to condone anything, but simply to create an environment where people can come broken and sinful and receive love.
Where people can come and not have to pretend to be better than they are.
Where people can come to encounter the living God and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sins.
We see this in Jesus’ ministry when he welcomes broken, no good rotten sinners to be His disciples and through love, relationships and time radically transforms their lives. We have the ability to foster and create an environment where this can happen, but we have to be willing to deal with messy broken people.
Why? Because Jesus did.
People often act as though showing patience, kindness and grace to sinners is the gateway drug to condoning their sin. Here is my problem with that mentality. It contradicts exactly what Jesus did and said.
I see this in a very famous story where Jesus defends a woman who committed adultery and saves her from being stoned to death. The religious leaders of that day were about to KILL this woman.
But Jesus steps in, and right before He drops the mic says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
The men one by one left until it was just the woman and Jesus. “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
Now obviously we don’t stone people to death here in American churches, but some of us make it very difficult for any person struggling with same-sex attraction to feel welcomed in our doors.
We talk about the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ, except if you’re gay of course.
We talk about the Church being a hospital for sick people, but we only treat certain illnesses.
As a Church we talk as though the only threat to marriage is homosexuals. Let’s not worry about men being addicted to porn and teenagers having sex outside of marriage.
What we need is for everyone to drop their rocks, look broken hurting people in the eyes and say, “I do not condemn you. Go. Sin no more.
We will walk with you, love you, pray for you. We will not leave your side.” We do not need to condone their actions, but we also do not need to act as if we are any better than them.
What would happen if more churches welcomed people struggling with same-sex attraction?