As Democrats in the Senate yesterday sought to pass the Equality Act (which would remove some key current protections for religious organizations), Denny Burk highlighted an important point in our culture’s current clash between Christians and those pushing the LGBTQ agenda. Burk pointed to the continued fulfillment of a statement from Robert George six years ago.
There is, in my opinion, no chance—no chance—of persuading champions of sexual liberation (and it should be clear by now that this is the cause they serve), that they should respect, or permit the law to respect, the conscience rights of those with whom they disagree. Look at it from their point of view: Why should we permit “full equality” to be trumped by bigotry? Why should we respect religions and religious institutions that are “incubators of homophobia”? Bigotry, religiously based or not, must be smashed and eradicated. The law should certainly not give it recognition or lend it any standing or dignity.
Christians are often accused of bigotry in this area. They are said to be hateful, fearful, and prejudiced against LGBTQ persons. Why? I think there are at least three causes for this accusation. The first is that many in America who claim to be Christian have never truly been born again. They may go to church (though many do not) or hold some formal Christian beliefs, but their heart is still full of “all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.” (Rom 1:29) These people often do hate or fear LGBTQ people, but they are not representative of biblical Christianity.
A second cause is that some true believers may harbor some measure of wrong fear or malice toward LGBTQ individuals. They may rightly view the practice and desires represented by that community as sinful but simultaneously dismiss or downplay other sins. They are less comfortable interacting with a gay person than a serial adulterer. They do not harbor the same feelings for everyone in the following list of those the Bible says will not inherit the kingdom of God: “the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers” (1 Cor 6:9–10). In that sense, they have wrongly fallen into a kind of homophobia or bigotry, though usually of a relatively mild variety.
However, I think the primary reason many accuse Christians of hating LGBTQ individuals is because they are not able to distinguish between hating or fearing someone and lovingly disagreeing with them. Christians often try to clarify that they love gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning people, even though they believe those people are disobeying God. In fact, they emphasize that their love is what compels them to not simply be affirming but to kindly and lovingly call them to repent.
But many do not believe Christians when they claim to strongly disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, and convictions while still loving and respecting them as people. Why? Because those people are not able to make that distinction in their own life. They cannot fathom loving those with whom you disagree, because they do not. They assume Christians must hate LGBTQ individuals, because they hate Christians. They assume Christian are bigoted against those with whom they disagree, because they are bigoted against Christians (with whom they disagree). They have no love for their enemies (Christians), so they assume Christians must be the same.
Of course, this should not surprise believers. One of the things that sets Christians apart is their ability to love those with whom they disagree. It is natural to love those like you and hate those different from you. It is to be like your Father in heaven to be able to both be angry at sin while in some sense loving the sinner.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:43-48
Christians must respond to those who revile us in a way that demonstrates the work of God in our hearts, that allows us not to return evil for evil, but instead good for evil as we continue to warn against sin and offer the hope of forgiveness.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Lk 6:27-28
Christians must guard ourselves against viewing sinners as enemies to be conquered instead of people made in the image of God to be rescued. We must continue to love those with whom we disagree, even as we continue to be slandered as bigots by those who do not understand that love.
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Pet 3:15-16