Christians, it turns out, are given a choice. One option is to approve of people satisfying same-sex desires through sexual contact. If Christians do that, they are believed to love LGBT people. The other option is to affirm Jesus’ teaching that sexual activity is reserved for a married man and woman (Matt. 19:1–4). If they do that, then Christians are allegedly hateful towards LGBT people. It’s a tiresome, false dichotomy.
Here’s an example of this thinking. In the concluding paragraph, the author suggests that kids will either grow up believing that LGBT people are “absolutely as worthwhile and worthy of love and respect as anyone” or believing their parent’s religious tenets that LGBT people are “awful.”
Really? Are those the only two options? I know that article is just one example, but I see this thinking a lot (both in person and in print). We either approve of what someone does (somehow signaling we love them) or we hate them and they’re awful.
But here’s what the Christian faith has taught for two millennia. All human beings—including those who identify as LGBT—are made in the image of God, are intrinsically valuable, and are the pinnacle of God’s creation (Gen. 1:27). Like every person on the planet, they deserve dignity and respect. Period.
Let me briefly unpack that. If LGBT people are made in God’s image, then they bear the hallmark trait that justifies their equality with every other human being. That’s incredibly amazing and good. If LGBT people are intrinsically valuable, then they are valuable in and of themselves. There’s nothing they can say or do to diminish their value. That’s also amazing and good. If they are the pinnacle of God’s creation, then they are the highest form of creation. Again, good stuff!
That’s what my “religious tenets” (to use the author’s words) teach me to believe about LGBT people.
Notice, there’s no “LGBT people are awful” doctrine, teaching, or implication. If they are awful, they are awful in the same way that any person is awful. That is, they are people who have committed crimes against God and deserve to be punished. But the Bible teaches every person on the planet deserves to be punished (Rom. 3:9–10). There is no special condemnation that applies just to LGBT people. They are guilty just like every other person.
Though that certainly sounds like bad news (for everyone), the good news is that God loves His creation and believes all people (including LGBT) are worthwhile. Because of His grace, He is willing to offer everyone a pardon. That applies equally and in the same way to LGBT people and to every other person on the planet. There’s no distinction between people. It’s the same grace and the same amount of grace offered to all people.
Do you see a pattern? LGBT people are equally valuable, equally guilty, and equally candidates for God’s grace as every other person on the planet.
When the author of the article says he wishes that children of religious parents would grow up believing that LGBT people are “absolutely as worthwhile, worthy of love and respect,” that’s no problem. That’s what our religious convictions affirm (at least for Christians).
Where the author (and many others) seem to get confused is when they learn of an additional teaching conveyed by Christ: Sexual contact can only occur between a married man and woman. That, somehow, translates to “Christians believe LGBT people are awful.”
Yes, it’s true that people who have sex with others of the same sex are violating Jesus’ teaching. That does not mean we think people who do so are awful. It means their behavior is sin and they are guilty of sin, but it is not a statement about LGBT people’s value or how they deserved to be treated by Christians. They are still “absolutely as worthwhile and worthy of love and respect as anyone.” We’re still commanded to love them.
The same is true of boyfriends and girlfriends who have sex (fornication). They are also violating Jesus’ sexual ethic. They are also guilty of sin. They are also “absolutely as worthwhile and worthy of love and respect as anyone.” We’re commanded to love them too. The same is true of any person who violates Jesus’ teaching on sex or any other moral principle found in Scripture.
Now, are there some people who believe LGBT people are awful, not worthwhile, and not worthy of love and respect? Yes. In fact, I’ve met a few. After speaking at a church on this subject, one man confided in me and told me about his genuine homophobia. That is wrong, and I told him. Most Christians I speak to, though, aren’t like him. They express their frustration to me that though they love their LGBT friend or family member and treat them with respect, they’re told they’re being hateful because of their adherence to Jesus’ teaching on sexuality.
That’s why the dichotomy presented so often in this discussion is a false dichotomy. There’s another option. We can recognize that people who violate Jesus’ sexual ethic in Matthew 19 are committing a sin and are not awful. We can acknowledge that people sin and are still “absolutely as worthwhile and worthy of love and respect as anyone.” What a concept! Most Christians I know personally do this every day.