"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.”
It is time.
It is time to name it for what it is and say it as clearly as we can.
Homophobia is a sin. It is an affront to the Gospel. It is an affront to God and to God’s children.
It is a sin as surely as racism and sexism and classism are all sins.
Once upon a time we could say that homosexuality was a matter about which faithful Christians could disagree. But that is no longer the case.
Just as we gave up that notion of faithful disagreement with regard to women’s issues and racial issues, it is time to recognize that our moral vision and understanding have evolved. Dressing up bigotry with a few carefully chosen Bible verses is not an ethical argument.
Which brings us to Gandhi. And Jesus.
The admonition to “Hate the sin, but love the sinner,” is commonly attributed to Jesus. It was actually said by Gandhi.
Of course, Jesus did love sinners. The orthodox believers of his day were appalled by this and Luke says that he told the parables of the Lost Sheep (above), the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son because they were “grumbling” about how “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Two thousand years later, the spirit of Jesus’ critics lives on.
In a website called “Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry,” Matt Slick writes about how Christians are wrong to believe that God loves everyone. He argues, in apparent opposition to Jesus’ life and teachings, that actually God really does hate sinners. Not just sins, but the sinners themselves. It’s all about God’s holiness and righteousness.
As Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Those of us who are working for the full inclusion of our LGBTQ friends and neighbors in the life of the church and in the wider culture must be careful not to become mirror images of the self-righteousness and judgmentalism we have seen so often from those trying to maintain the legacy of exclusion and rejection.
We must name homophobia as a sin. Anything else is dishonest. We must confess it as a sin uniquely perpetrated in the church and by the church. Anything else is unfair to those who have suffered great harm.
I realize this sounds unkind. But it is also honest. Just as it does no good to pretend that racism and sexism are okay. It also does no good to pretend that homophobia is okay. It isn’t. As Christians, we need to say that as clearly as we can.
But we must also love those who are still living within the walls of that bigotry.
Hate the sin and love the sinner.