Today, I conclude my mini-series with an appeal to those believers who remain unconvinced about what the Church’s attitude should be about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, and those of other ‘different’ sexualities (so, LGBTQ+).
It is a fact of life that society in general is slowly becoming more ‘tolerant’ of LGBTQ+ people. Not too long ago, it was actually illegal, in the UK, to be homosexual. Nowadays, of course, same-sex couples have the right to form ‘civil partnerships’ and also to be married, just like heterosexual couples. It is gradually being recognised that the emotional, financial and practical needs of these couples also need to be met by allowing them to have a legally-recognised relationship. So, things like inherited pension rights, sharing of tax benefits; in short, all the rights that a heterosexual married couple would have.
This is not because there’s a ‘gay agenda’. Sure, some people have been extremely vociferous in their campaigning for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. But most LGBTQ+ people don’t have such an agenda. They just want to live their lives with their loved one – who might just happen to be of the same gender – in the same way as other couples do, and to enjoy the same rights that others in equally-committed relationships have.
Many Christians see these changes in society as being ‘The World’ encroaching upon society in a negative way. This is quite understandable if one’s attitude towards LGBTQ+ issues is a negative one. The ‘gay agenda’ is thought of as a threat to the idea of a more ‘godly’ society (which many Christians believe is God’s will) and they therefore find the idea of gay marriage/civil partnerships to be offensive, and, increasingly, ‘worldly’.
And so, they might well quote Romans 12:2 – about not conforming to the ‘pattern of this world’ – that pattern being seen as LGBTQ+ affirming – because they consider that affirming Christians are ‘conforming to the pattern of the world’; that we are gradually becoming more ‘worldly’ by accepting ‘worldly’ things like same-sex marriage and so on. They will likely quote James 4:4 – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God”.
Well, these arguments need to be addressed, if indeed it is true that the ‘world’ is dragging sexual morality ‘downhill’ with its affirmation of LGBTQ+ people.
However, I don’t actually believe that this is the ‘world’s’ way at all.
I would instead point out that, notwithstanding the excellent progress which has been made, legally speaking, in the area of LGBTQ+ rights, still ‘the world’s’ pattern is generally to reject LGBTQ+ people. They are persecuted and vilified in public, in the workplace, in schools, and of course in churches. You ask the ‘man in the street’, and particularly those over the age of about 40 or so, and this will be the opinion: ‘They’re queer, those folks…’ If you’re lucky, you might get a grudging, ‘…but so long as they keep theirselves to theirselves… ‘ LGBTQ people are ostracised in the playground; excluded from certain public places; personae non gratae in certain pubs; they are still seen as ‘odd’ or ‘wrong’, and – let’s not kid ourselves – they are still assaulted by homophobic thugs on a daily basis. This is aptly illustrated in the United States, where the homophobic attitudes of President Trump have been taken by some in society as a licence to allow renewed persecution of LGBTQ+ people. This is actually really happening in the real world, to real people. In addition, the self-harming and suicide rates are far higher amongst LGBTQ+ people than those in people of more ‘conventional’ sexuality. Despite current legislation legitimising same-sex relationships, and despite the undoubtedly increased tolerance (especially in British society), still the general consensus in society is that these people are somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘different’, and of course no amount of legislation can change that feeling.
Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that actually ‘the world’ too hates, or at least in some way discriminates against, LGBTQ+ people. It’s a complete misconception that Christians and other religious people are the only people who have a special problem with people of ‘different’ sexualities. The way of the World is not one of acceptance, but of rejection.
Now, Jesus hung out with the social outcasts of His day – prostitutes, tax collectors, political zealots, non-Jews. Those deemed unworthy or unclean not only by the religious extablishment but also by society in general as well. Tax collectors, for instance, were as universally hated as parking enforcement officers are today 😉 He set us the example to follow; not so much as a set of Rules, but to show us that the natural consequence of knowing Him and becoming like Him in His Grace and mercy results in us treating others with the same gentleness and kindness that He has treated us. He went out of His way to go ‘against the grain’ of society’s opinions, in order to include the ostracised (see for example Mark 2:16).
No, the ‘pattern of this world’ is that of separation, segregation, judgementalism, hatred, us-and-them, ostracism and violence, and the other things in the list in Galatians 5:19-21. The huge strides forward made recently for LGBTQ+ rights are nothing short of wonderful and are a result of precious (and, yes, sometimes militant) people standing up for their rights and for fairness. This renaissance in gay rights is advancing the Kingdom of God because it results in goodness and love and peace. And Christians have no right to hinder this because ‘he who is not against us is for us’ (Lk 9:50). This is Christ’s Kingdom at work and indeed advancing, even though it has not usually so been advanced by Christians (although some Christians have bravely identified themselves with the LGBTQ+ rights ‘movement’)
Now, many people quoting the Romans 12:2 verse about not being ‘…conformed to the pattern of this world’, also miss out the second part of the verse, which is ‘…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. This is not correct Biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), because the verse is actually a doublet expressed as Hebrew poetry. It’s what’s known as an antithetic parallelism. One part of the verse cannot be interpreted correctly without the other. And so the injunction ‘Don’t do this…’ is only complete when we read the ‘…but do this instead’. So, we don’t just not conform to the world, but we need to have our minds renewed as well, in order to indeed not ‘conform to the pattern of this world’. This transformation; this renewal of the mind, is how that non-conformance is enacted in practical terms.
Bearing all this in mind, then, I would therefore propose this idea: that this transforming of the believer’s mind into something other than the ‘pattern of this world’ is actually, in this instance, to move away from the pattern of hatred and persecution that the world inflicts on LGBTQ+ people, and instead to be ‘transformed by the renewing of your minds’ – to change our minds; to ‘Repent’ (for that is what the Greek word translated as ‘Repent’ means – metanoia – to change one’s mind) and simply treat LGBTQ+ people with love and kindness such as ‘the World’ does not do. In other words, the Christians, like myself, who are complete affirmers, are actually pioneers setting the example of what Christian affirmation of the outcasts of society looks like.
Conversely, the rejection and other mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people by Christians is actually conforming to the pattern of this world. Now there’s a sobering thought…
And, as a final point, that kind of love must not come across as judging them or otherwise condemning them. We must treat them as Jesus would treat them. We must treat them fairly; treat them kindly. And, we mustn’t think of them as ‘them‘! These are fellow humans we are talking about here; there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, the same as there is neither Jew nor Greek; slave nor free (Gal 3:28). Let God’s Spirit bring you to metanoia – to repentance. Let Him change your mind!
I would request that, as a believer, you go before God with this concept, and just ask Him to speak to you about it. Come with an open mind – either way – and just ask Him what He would have you do. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus what He thinks!
If you have enjoyed this article and mini-series, or maybe simply for a little more background on my journey to becoming a full affirmer, you might also be interested in reading some of my other articles on LGBTQ+ issues, which are linked to below. Remember that I too was once very firmly anti-gay. I was in the same position as many Christians still are with regard to ‘alternative’ sexualities. But God changed my mind – He brought me to metanoia; to Repentance, on these issues. And He can do the same for you.
One of my earlier articles on ‘How the Church should Treat Gay People‘
The story of my first encounter with ‘different’ sexuality as a Fundamentalist Christian
Finally, this link will take you to all my articles on LGBTQ+ and sexuality issues, including those mentioned above.