Jesus, Homosexuality, and Scandalous Grace, by Preston Sprinkle
DECEMBER 19, 2015
Some may wonder whether the label “anti-homosexual” is all that bad. After all, the Bible condemns homosexuality. Be that as it may, the label “anti-homosexual” is not a statement about behavior but about people.
Ten years ago, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons published their bestselling book Unchristian, which reveals how unbelievers think of Christians. Their evidence was startling. When unbelievers were asked What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christians, 92% said Christians are “anti-homosexual.” Not “forgiving,” or “full of grace,” or “loving toward people,” or “generous with their money,” or “people who promote good news.” But—“anti-homosexual.”
Some may wonder whether the label “anti-homosexual” is all that bad. After all, the Bible condemns homosexuality. Be that as it may, the label “anti-homosexual” is not a statement about behavior but about people. And that’s why it is embarrassingly unchristian. It may describe the view of some Christians; perhaps many of them. But it’s a terrible description of Christ.
The Bible does, I believe, prohibit same-sex sexual behavior (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:26-27), and it celebrates male/female sex-difference in marriage (Gen 2:18; Matt 19:4-6). But there’s nothing in, under, or around the life and teachings of Jesus that would give the slightest hint that he would have been considered “anti-homosexual.” After all, the phrase “anti-homosexual” means “anti-people.” And the posture of Christ shows that he defies such a label.
While the religious elite shunned tax-collectors, drunks, and the sexually immoral, Jesus embraced them. Jesus was so chummy with “those sinners over there,” that the religious leaders thought he was one of them. The Jesus of the Bible was able to maintain a strict sexual ethic, while welcoming and embracing those who violated that sexual ethic. The Jesus we claim to follow was against adultery, fornication, and the abuses of tax-collecting. Yet no one could ever accuse him of being “anti-tax-collector.”
Today, many religious leaders have treated the unchurched LGBTQ community in the same way the Jewish leaders of the first-century treated tax-collectors, sinners, and fornicators. We read about Jesus’s gracious posture toward the woman caught in adultery in John 8. But I wonder how many Christ-followers today would do the same for a gay man “caught in the act.” Would we sacrifice our reputation and our lives for those who violate a Christian sexual ethic? Or would we stand there simmering in self-righteousness with stones in our hands?
Many Christians are still holding verbal stones, and they stand on the wrong side of the cross.
Instead of “loving the sinner while hating their sin”—an overused Christian cliché that comes with legalistic undertones—why not “love the sinner and hate our own sin,” and then invite others to join us on the journey? D.T Niles once said:
“Christianity is one beggar showing others beggars where to find bread.” And this is the posture that Christians need to enact toward those who are LGBTQ, if we desire to live in the rhythm and scandal of Christ’s unmerited love.
Preston Sprinkle (Ph.D.) is the New York Times bestselling author of two recently released books on homosexuality: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is not just an Issue, and Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Homosexuality, both published by Zondervan.
Listen to Preston’s interview on Steve Brown, Etc!