A youth leader wrote me: “I would say that the issue of homosexuality is THE #1 BARRIER for teenagers…that keeps them from believing the gospel.” I can see why he said that. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. You can keep your faith or you can keep your friends and family. You pick. Well, the answer for many people is obvious: relationships are more important than a theological idiosyncrasy. So, they either compromise on the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality or they ditch their faith altogether.
Part of the problem stems from the belief that if you keep your convictions about homosexuality, then you can’t stay in relationship with your friends and family who say they’re gay. But this isn’t the biblical view.
The New Testament doesn’t prohibit Christians from friending (I know, I know…that’s so Facebook-ish) homosexuals. Paul, writing about a sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, tells Christians that they are “not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” Notice how Paul clarifies that we don’t have to avoid relationships with non-believers (who he calls “people of this world”). After all, we can’t influence them if we’re not involved at all.
There is a group of people that Paul warns Christians to avoid. Continuing his discussion on sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul explains, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of a brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” The people Paul warns us to avoid are Christians who engage in sexual immorality. Why? Because sin left unchecked within a body of believers is like cancer. It spreads and harms those around them (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).
That doesn’t mean we are to end all relationships with Christians who have committed sexual sin. Paul is talking about unrepentant Christians. People who know the biblical standard but thumb their nose at it and continue in the illicit behavior. That’s the context of 1 Corinthians 5.
It does mean that people who claim to be Christian and engage in willful, unrepentant homosexual behavior fall under the jurisdiction of this command. Friends like that can influence us and other believers in negative ways. But this rule applies to any sexual sin, not just homosexuality.
In all other circumstances, there’s no reason to choose between your faith and your friends. Keep them both so you have a chance to be a positive influence in your relationships. That’s the point of being an ambassador for Christ.