Sexuality and Gender

The Apology to the LGBT Community That Needs an Apology

Author Tim Barnett Published on 02/02/2017

Last week I was sent a video titled Confessions of a Christian Nation—LGBTQ Discrimination. The short, six-minute video features Brian McLaren, Greg Boyd, Brian Zahnd, and Bruxy Cavey taking turns apologizing for the mistreatment of the LGBT community by the Church.

I want to begin by echoing that I, too, am very sorry for the genuine mistreatment of those individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, especially by those who claim to be followers of Christ. If you have been cursed at, maligned, abused, unjustly discriminated against, or treated as subhuman, then I sincerely apologize. This is unacceptable, and there is no excuse for that kind of behavior. Period.

I want you to know that every member of the LGBT community is made in the image of God. Therefore, you are intrinsically valuable and should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

I also want to apologize for those Christians who have given you the impression—by their words and actions—that God doesn’t love you. Let me say unequivocally that God loves you. In fact, He gave His life for you.

But this video fails to accomplish its intended goal. It’s an apology that itself needs to be apologized for. That is, in its attempt to apologize for the sins of the Church, it commits further sins that ultimately hurt those whom it’s trying to heal. So, in all sincerity, let me apologize for this failed apology.

I want to apologize for some Christians who refuse to speak difficult truth in the name of love and compassion. Compassion divorced from truth—even hard truth—is not compassion at all. Yes, love is patient and kind. True, love is not arrogant or rude. But, as Paul goes on to say, love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6). Truth and love are inextricably linked.

Pastor and author Tim Keller writes, “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.” If you have experienced the latter, I’m sorry. But I’m equally sorry if you’ve only experienced the former. Sentimentality might feel good. After all, everyone wants to be affirmed and supported. But this is equally dangerous, because it puts feelings above truth. No, truth and love must be presented together. I’m so sorry for any Christian who would mistakenly give you one without the other.

I’m deeply sorry for any Christian who proclaims another Gospel—not that there is another Gospel—that leaves us in our sin. This is not love. This is not compassion. Yes, God loves us just as we are. But He doesn’t want to leave us where we are. God wants us—all of us—to turn from our sin. The biblical writers call this repentance. God is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

I’m sorry for Christians who make same-sex intercourse out to be the greatest sin, and I’m sorry for Christians who deny that it is a sin. Both are wrong and hurt you.

After confronting sexual sin in the church of Corinth, Paul gives a list of sins people commit that keep them out of the kingdom of God.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9–11)

The practice of homosexual behavior is not at the top of Paul’s list. It’s just one of the many sins on the list. But, please notice it is on the list. He warns us not to be deceived. It’s almost as if he anticipates a time when people who engage in these behaviors (e.g. drunkenness) may one day be deceived into thinking that these aren’t really sins at all. When in reality, these sins—and others—can actually keep people out of the kingdom of God.

I apologize for Christians who have given the impression that to love someone means you cannot also tell them what they are doing is wrong. If this were true, it would make God unloving.

One way God communicates His love for you and me is by telling us that many of the things we want to do, we mustn’t do. Because Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery, He told her to sin no more (John 8:11). Because Jesus loved the rich man, He told him to sell all that he had and to give it to the poor (Luke 18:22). Because Jesus loved the lost Jewish people, He said, “Unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Because Jesus loved the church in Thyatira, He told them, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20).

Moreover, when Paul discovered sexual immorality at the Church in Corinth, he didn’t ignore it. Rather, he “pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing” so that they “may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:3,5). Both Jesus and Paul modeled genuine love in the context of making a right judgment.

I apologize to the LGBT community for so-called Christians, who take the clear interpretation of Scripture and twist it to suit their own desires. In so doing, they completely mislead the LGBT community into thinking that God has no problem with same-sex behavior.

I’m sorry for any Bible teacher who—either out of ignorance, or fear, or worse—refuses to tell you that there is not a single passage in the Bible that speaks positively about same-sex intercourse. These teachers are not being loving. They are hurting you by keeping this from you, because they are keeping you from repentance. It is with genuine sorrow that I tell you that every time same-sex behavior is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned.

I apologize for Christians who use terms like “straight Christian,” “straight Church,” and “gay Christian.” This vocabulary is absolutely foreign to Scripture. The believer has been crucified with Christ. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). A few verses later, Paul adds, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:24). This kind of language doesn’t build unity; it tears it down.

God doesn’t call you to be heterosexual, but He does call you—and me—to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). So we are to strive to be holy, but how do we do that? Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Anyone who wants to follow Christ must deny himself, not affirm himself. Following Christ means being obedient to His word, even when our natural desires and inclinations pull us in the opposite direction.

Finally, I apologize for Christians who have failed to clearly proclaim and live out the Gospel. Granted, we must be better at showing the love of God. But we must also be better at articulating that love of God. My prayer is that you experience both. John says, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). But how did God first love us? Paul gives one of the clearest descriptions of this incredible love in his letter to the Romans:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:6–11)

The good news of the Gospel only makes sense in light of the bad news. We are in active rebellion against God—enemies of God—and deserving of His righteous wrath. It was when we—you and I—were in that sinful state that God stepped in to rescue us. God shows His love for us by dying for us.

For all of this, I am truly sorry.