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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- A few years ago I joined leaders of a Christian organization in a meeting with executives of a Nashville TV station. They were preparing to launch a new program catering to gays and lesbians. We asked them to reconsider.
Among the TV executives was a lesbian. She wanted to know why Christians couldn't just accept her for who she is. It was the only time I recall speaking up, and I said something like this:
"I accept you for who you are, if you accept me. We are both sinners who struggle with many desires. Some of them are good and some of them are not. The Bible teaches us how to tell the difference. At the end of the day, you and I must decide whether to act on these sinful desires. When we come to the point of losing our shame over sinful behavior -- and actually celebrating it -- we find ourselves in deep spiritual trouble."
It wasn't the answer she expected. It neither confirmed her suspicion of Christian malice nor compromised biblical truth. The meeting ended cordially. A few weeks later the station premiered "Out & About."
The experience raised my awareness that many gays think Christians hate them. Perhaps some Christians do, as evidenced by the self-righteous protestors that stand on street corners and hoist hateful signs.
But they do not represent Christianity nor the Christians I know, who strive to follow the example of Jesus to be soft on people and hard on sin. This is challenging when the people we are called to love cast us as bigots, hatemongers and hypocrites.
The Apostle Peter urges us to always be ready to give a defense of our faith "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15-16). So perhaps this is a good time to rehearse a hypothetical conversation with a gay friend, who asks pointed questions.
Q: Why do you hate homosexuals?
A: Have I said something to give you that impression? If so, I am truly sorry. In fact, if any Christian expresses hatred toward you, they have denied the command of Jesus to love everyone. Jesus loved people enough to speak the truth to them, however. He confronted them about their sin while offering forgiveness. That's something we both need. You and I share a sin nature -- a natural tendency to live independently of God. Jesus calls us to repentance and offers us eternal life.
Q: Jesus never spoke against homosexuality.
A: Actually, He did. He affirmed God's creation of male and female, along with God's intent for one man and one woman to be joined in marriage for a lifetime (Matthew 19:4-6). Anything outside of God's design is sin -- and that includes all forms of sexual immorality. Jesus also affirmed the truthfulness of the Old Testament, which identifies homosexuality as sinful behavior; and He called Paul, who wrote against homosexuality, to be an apostle.
Q: I want to marry my partner. What right do you have to stop me?
A: Don't I have a right to express my views and vote my convictions? Besides, no one is entirely free to live as they please. A man in love with two women is not permitted to marry them both. The laws respecting the sanctity of marriage are based on the conviction that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, and that this is our Creator's design for enjoying intimacy and raising children.
Q: Some day the laws will change.
A: Maybe so, but that won't make them right. God's standards remain the same because He is a God of supreme holiness who knows what's best for us.
Q: Who are you to tell me what's right and wrong? The Bible says judge not, doesn't it?
A: It does indeed. Do you believe the Bible? If so, you can look there for God's standards of right and wrong.
Q: Am I going to hell?
A: That's not my call. And it's not God's desire for you.
Q: You must think homosexuality is the unpardonable sin.
A: Of course not. But you make a good point. As Christians speak out against homosexuality, they should speak out with equal conviction against adultery, pornography and other sins that may ensnare all of us. While some sins carry more severe human consequences, all sins grieve the heart of God and led Jesus to the cross, where He bore the penalty for my sins, and yours.
Q: But I was born this way.
A: I don't believe so. Studies regarding the "gay gene" show that biological processes may influence behavior but do not determine it. Sin comes naturally to all of us. But Jesus offers us victory over sin and will change our desires. The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians who once engaged in homosexual acts and other sinful behavior, saying, "Some of you were like this; 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 Corinthians 6:11).
Rob Phillips is director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibility for leading MBC apologetics ministry in the state. Phillips is on the Web at www.oncedelivered.net. This column first appeared in The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the state convention.