A firestorm of controversy erupted a couple of weeks ago when former NBA star Tim Hardaway had this to say in reference to former NBA player John Amaechi, who came out as a gay man:
"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people,” he said. “I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
How as a Christian should I respond to these comments? Should I agree with Hardaway or is there another way? Yea, a better way for a follower of Christ to respond? Rather than agreeing with Hardaway's comments, I did find myself saying, "Amen" to these thoughts from Michael Spencer of InternetMonk.com:
"In this atmosphere, when someone like Hardaway lets it fly with unapologetic hate-rhetoric, many Christians will feel a greater attraction to the opportunity to denounce homosexuality than to the opportunity to distance themselves from an especially ugly expression of bigotry. Ironically, is there anyone left in the galaxy who doesn’t know, or who actually cares, what conservative evangelicals think about the issue of homosexuality? Still, we have to be heard saying things about how we don’t hate anyone, but we sure know what he means. We want Jesus to be on the record as hating homosexuality, and of course, mildly offended at the hating people thing."
Though Hardaway eventually apologized and recanted his initial statements, I think it's fair to say that his initial comments were probably how he really felt. Unfortunately, I think many of those who call Christ Lord actually agree with him. The issue of homosexuality has become one of the hot button issues for our current society and, in many ways, evangelical Christians have led the way in the preoccupation with this matter. Though each and every one of us struggles with various sins and shortcomings, this one particular area seems to have been lifted up as the most wicked of sins. Sexual sin and immorality should not be taken lightly (see I Corin. 6:18), but this is not limited to same-sex behavior. It also includes heterosexual sin.
When it comes to marriage, I really don't think gay people are the biggest threat to this sacred institution. We as heterosexual Christians have made a big enough mess of it ourselves. When we talk about the sacredness of marriage, yet divorce at the same rate as non-believers, the world shakes their head and laughs. What I'm calling for is some consistency in our judgments. In fact, Jesus told us to take the log out of our own eye before we could see the speck in someone else's. Once we deal with our own sin, then we can be in a position to help others. Our stone throwing and angry rhetoric needs to stop if we want to be true representatives of Christ. Yes, Jesus did have righteous anger at times, but it wasn't with those that were considered the sinners of his day. He saved His strongest words for those that claimed to be the religious leaders of His day that thought they were without sin. It was for them that His holy fury was unleashed.
Why is it that in many ways are we as evangelical Christians are known more for what we hate (e.g. homosexuality, abortion, etc.) than for the person we love (i.e. Jesus)? I think because at times our front foot can be in the form of "taking a stand" instead of being known as lovers of Christ. This doesn't mean we compromise our principles or biblical truth. It does mean that we seek to not be defined by issues that Jesus didn't call us to be defined by. So please stop using phrases like "hate the sin, love the sinner" and "it was Adam & Eve; not Adam & Steve." These saying are tired, trite and cliched and wins over no one. It shuts people down and interrupts dialogue.
When encountering a homosexual, maybe a better approach would be to get to know them and listen to their story. Maybe we could love and serve them and show them that we are not angry at them. Chad Allen is a gay actor who starred in the recent Christian film, "End of the Spear." The makers of the film took a lot of heat for having an openly gay man portray a Christian missionary. I wonder if he was "just" a heterosexual fornicator if their opposition would have been as great (but I digress). This is what Allen had to say about that experience:
"In making End of the Spear, [I] expected to meet only bigoted or mean-spirited Christians, but instead found "smart, God-loving, God-following individuals, who were doing what they thought was the most loving thing to do."
At least he encountered Christians who were loving and not mean. I have not always held up this standard myself. I think back to my sophomore year of college -- the year I told Jesus that He could have my life. One of my other three roommates was quiet, shy, kind, awkward and friendly. He wasn't athletic, didn't date girls and was a bit effeminate. We thought it was fun to tease him from time-to-time and tell "gay jokes" in front of him just so he would know how the rest of us felt about that lifestyle (just in case he was...well, you know). The next year I ran into one of my roommates from that year and found out that this other guy had just come out of the closet. Instantly my mind shot back to the jokes, the remarks and the mean way we had treated him. I was ashamed of my behavior and realized that I had fallen short in being an example of Christ to him.
Since then I have sought to be a better listener instead of seeking to tell everyone else how to live their lives all the time. I've failed at times, but I've also learned a lot as I've sought to meet people where they're at. In our ministry I've met many young men and women that live a gay lifestyle or those that struggle with this and desire to change. I've found that for many of them, the church was the last place they could go for help. For a number of them, but they've received has been condemnation, judgment and scorn. I don't think that's how Jesus would want us to be. Let's trust Him to change our own hearts so that we can represent Him well to a hurting world just as He would -- in grace and truth (John 1:14).