Editor's Note: The following excerpt is taken from Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblical & Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking About God, in which Sean McDowell, as general editor, has assembled a group of modern Christian thinkers to help you to communicate the gospel in a winsome way that will win those around you. ©Harvest House Publishers. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

It's not surprising people think Christians hate homosexuals. They see the way we often treat them. 

Kyle's sad story was similar to others I'd heard. After 25 years of immersion in the gay lifestyle, he wanted out. His choice to follow Jesus meant a day-to-day struggle to stay celibate because simply becoming a Christian didn't change his same-sex desires. With God's help, though, he was winning the battle.

Kyle thought his church would be a safe harbor during the storm. But when he "came out" to his pastor and a counselor, both told him to never speak of his plight again. His church forced him back into the closet.

Fifteen years of celibacy later, Kyle came out a second time. Surely things have changed, he thought. It must be safe now. After all, everyone has struggles and temptations. This time he hoped his new church would come alongside and pray for him. But he was mistaken. They turned a blind eye to his struggle, discouraged him from serving, and relegated him to attending and tithing.

Back into the Closet

Our formula for gays is predictable: Condemn and convert. Rebuke their behavior, blast them with the Bible, and then try to win them over with a cliché.

"Sodomy is sin," we proclaim. Then we quote our "clobber passage," a verse that condemns homosexuals or even commands their execution. "But there's hope," we reassure them. "God hates the sin but loves the sinner." That's not what they hear, though. They hear one word: "hate."

Armed with Bible verses for bullets, we're locked and loaded, ready to fire at the first sign of a homosexual. But there's no grace in a gunshot. Instead of offering hope and healing, we inflict more injury.

We shouldn't be surprised when gays go back into the closet after they try to come out in the church. Worse, many go back into the lifestyle, sometimes through a "gay church" that shows them the love, grace, and respect they had hoped to get from us.

Predictably, younger people often perceive Christianity negatively. The Barna Group found that young people think Christians are not only opposed to homosexuality but also show "excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians." Ninety-one percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers perceive Christianity as "anti-homosexual."

More tragically, the Barna study found that younger Christians complained their church failed to help them apply biblical principles to their friendships with gays. Young people lack arguments and tactics needed to maneuver in conversation and navigate moral dilemmas in a thoughtful but loving way. Consequently, young people think they must choose between their faith and their friends who are gay. If their friendships mean more to them than their theology, they will choose their friends over their faith every time.

Something is wrong here. Clearly, we need a new approach. Our young people think they're faced with a difficult moral dilemma. But they don't have to abandon their gay friends just because homosexuality is wrong. There is a third option, but it's something that's rarely taught or modeled in church.

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