So you believe homosexuality is a sin- now what?
I was 15 years old when I went through conversion therapy- a (usually religious) practice that attempts to turn gay people into straight people and transgender people into cisgender people. The amount of trauma and shame that this process caused me pushed me away from God for a long time, but conversion therapy isn’t the only type of ministry that causes this anguish for LGBTQ+ people. In fact, your ministry, even if it seems innocent, could be causing the same problem of keeping people from knowing God.
As Christians, we are called to grow the Church, but how do we bring gay and transgender folks to Christ if our beliefs push them away? How do we even know if we’re pushing them away? How can we bring people to Christ without supporting their sinful behavior?
First and foremost- being queer is not a sin. If you take the time to find direct Hebrew to English and Greek to English translations of the Bible, you’ll find that homosexuality isn’t even mentioned at all. This is a helpful resource for finding these translations.
However, if you still are of the belief that it is a sin, it’s likely that this belief itself is not the culprit in pushing away LGBTQ+ folks. It’s your Church’s behavior in response to this belief.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you or your Church encourage or force LGBTQ+ people to “change” or “cure” their same-sex attraction?
- Do you or your Church tell people they’re going to hell for being gay or trans? Or do you automatically doubt the salvation of queer people?
- Do you or your Church use the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” when speaking about LGBTQ+ people?
If you answered yes to any of those, congratulations! You’re actively preventing LGBTQ+ people from having a relationship with God. You’re doing the exact opposite of what God calls us to do.
The thing is, gay people can not “choose” to be attracted to the opposite sex, just like you can’t choose to be attracted to the same sex. The only One who can change these things is God, and while this has happened before, that has to happen in God’s time if it’s within God’s plan for that person. No amount of spiritual abuse will change that, and forcing people to try to change the way they naturally experience attraction under the assumption that they can’t know God without this change, is spiritual abuse.
John 3:16 is probably the first verse you’ve ever memorized. It explains what salvation is in its simplest form- essentially saying “You believe in Jesus, you’ll go to Heaven, regardless of your sins.” If a queer atheist’s early interactions with your Church include the opposite of this- claiming they will go to hell for being queer- they will naturally think “If I’m going to hell anyway, I might as well live it up while I’m alive and not follow Jesus.” It’s totally false that being gay sends people to hell, regardless of whether or not it is a sin, and claiming this does NOT make Jesus seem appealing.
“Alright, okay, I get what you’re saying, Eli. It’s okay to believe what we believe as long as we’re nicer about it. That’s why I say ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’.”
See, you can’t open with that. It’s too simplistic, and no one is going to listen to you when you’re calling their very identity sinful from the first time you minister to them. The more Christ-like thing to say is “Love the sinner, respect the personhood of the sinner, do not cast stones at the sinner.” Remember, you’re a sinner too. What if someone said, “I love you, but I hate these aspects of you.”? That’s hurtful. That’s pointing out the speck in their eye, while ignoring the plank in your own.
With all of this being said, I would hope you would re-evaluate your beliefs, but if that’s something you’re not willing to do, please re-evaluate your behavior. Harming others is not what Jesus was about, and when you cause this harm, you’re actively pushing people away from God. If you truly want to bring LGBTQ+ people to Christ, you have to love them holistically first. Remember, the first example of God’s love they will experience is YOU, so make sure you show them that love. There is a time and place for holding them accountable, and helping them to understand any and all convictions they may experience, but prior to them knowing Jesus is not the time nor place.