For example, in Nigeria, a recent law criminalizing homosexuality provides punishments, like whippings, to men who are caught having homosexual relations. The New York Times reports that crowds in the African nation are demanding their local officials to go even further, because local Islamic law requires the penalty for such an act to be death by stoning. In many places these same types of punishments are also meted out for other nonmarital sexual behaviors.
As a Christian, I’m troubled and heartbroken when I read of such things, as I suspect you are, too. Beating or killing someone because of their personal sexual expression is not the answer.
But as American Christians, how should we react to such news beyond expressing sadness and carrying around the burden of a heavy heart?
To be clear, as someone with a conservative Christian worldview, I believe we’re commanded to adhere to a biblically defined sexual ethic. God’s parameters for sex are clear and I believe that practicing homosexual acts clearly fall outside of those standards.
Yet it should go without saying that every person is made in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect regardless of what may ensnare them in this life.
I’m reminded of the time in John’s gospel when Jesus was asked to judge a woman caught in adultery. Do you remember his response? He refused to condemn her but instead shared truth and admonished her to “sin no more” (John 8:10). He reminded the people that only the sinless are to cast stones.
Columnist and commentator Peter Wehner recently penned an important article encouraging Christians to speak out against these injustices happening around the world. He writes, “One need not endorse same-sex marriage to believe that the rising tide of anti-gay legislation in other parts of the world is quite troubling, that gays deserve to be defended against persecution, and that the Christian church is one institution that might have some power, at least in some nations and in some circumstances, to make a positive difference.”
One of the very best things Christians can do, I think, is to pray for those around the world who find themselves being targeted for mistreatment, no matter the reason. There is power in prayer, and those in foreign lands being mistreated would benefit from our petitions and supplications.
But what causes someone to lash out violently at another person about their sexuality in the first place?
I think the problem is sin.
It's our failure to fully recognize our own significant shortcomings. We would do well to model the Apostle Paul, who wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost”(1 Timothy 1:15).
When we reduce someone to a behavior or label, when we begin to see ourselves as better than the next guy, we begin to allow self-righteousness to creep in and take hold of our heart. We begin to look at homosexuals as somehow inferior, and the minute such sentiment grabs hold of us is the minute we become vulnerable to diminishing the inherent value of another person.
So instead of just talking about homosexuality and homosexuals, maybe it’s time that we sat down and spoke with homosexuals. Just sitting down over a cup of coffee doesn’t mean you have to cede your deeply help biblical convictions about human sexuality.
Sitting down and talking with people with whom you have fundamental ideological and theological differences is no sin. Sometimes I think we forget we're all sinners, that we've all fallen short and are in need of a Savior.
How can we be used by the Lord to help turn hearts toward Him if we're not willing to sit and listen to the hearts of those who don't acknowledge Him as Lord?