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Letter to the Church

Christians sin. It is an uncomfortable truth. Those who know best the cost of sin still partake all too often.

Some people profess Christ and then continue in their lives of sin with no sign of remorse or change. Only God can judge, but my heart screams that they cannot really know the same Redeemer I know. And my own sins condemn me, too. So I am slow to judge and quick to forgive.

People who do not know Christ, who do not have His Holy Spirit, cannot help but sin. They have no choice until they find faith in Christ. We were all there once. I remember that trap. I thank God that I am free from it. And I have enough memory of it to feel sympathy for those who are still trapped.

The Law was powerless against sin. All it managed to do in 2000 years was to prove beyond any doubt that humans couldn't not sin. And so God sent a Savior to set us free from the power of sin. The power of sin is so great, and our training in sin is so thorough, that even after God's Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. we continue some of our sins. It is a shame. It is our shame.

We who are free should be a light to those who are still trapped. But our light is often dim. Those who are still lost revel in their sin, as we all once did. And they resent us when we talk about their sin, as we all once resented it. And they cannot tell the difference between our condemnation of sin and our condemnation of them. If you think back you can probably remember feeling that way, too. I remember it. It hurt when people told me that I was a sinner. It hurt when people told me I was trapped and lost. I knew it already, but I didn't want to admit it. I was miserable, and I thought there was no solution to my misery. And I certainly didn't want to hear it from someone else. Do you remember? You need to remember.

And so the sin of the sinners keeps them from the dim little light that we manage to shine. And many of them remain lost. And to the extent that any of us know the heart of God, our hearts are broken.

When Christ walked among us He was known as a friend of sinners. No self-respecting believer today is known as a friend of sinners. Does that ever strike you as strange? We are supposed to remain unstained by the world. I'm not sure we can make much of an argument that we are accomplishing that task. But one way that we try to remain unstained by the world is by not being friendly with sinners--that much is clear.

Christ was fully God, and somehow that had to have something to do with how He managed to be a friend of sinners and yet remain sinless Himself. We are not fully God, and so we wouldn't be able to be too friendly with sinners without getting a little stained.

I wish Scripture had given us more private conversations between Christ and sinners. Maybe those were conversations where even the disciples had trouble following. We do have some snippets, and I'm paraphrasing here. "I am interested in you"-to Zaccheus. "I understand you better than you can imagine"-to the woman at the well. "God forgives you"-to just about everyone he healed. "Believe in Me"-to Nicodemus. "I do not condemn you, go and sin no more"-to the woman caught in adultery.

From just those snippets we can see how He could be described as a friend to sinners, and there are many more just like them. And I am left wondering if these are things that we could say to sinners today, without getting too stained by them.

In our world today there is one group of sinners that seems to feel especially put-upon by believers: homosexuals. More than any other group of sinners, they refuse to see any distinction between themselves and their sin. And it doesn't help that their particular sin happens to be pretty repulsive to most of us.

I think that our personal repulsion to homosexuality is causing us to over-react to that particular sin. And homosexuals take our reaction very personally because they see their sin as their identity. And those two dynamics work together to keep homosexuals from Christ. Does that break your heart? I believe that it breaks God's heart.

There is a movement today to pass laws and amendments forbidding same-sex marriage. Some of the laws are written in more positive terms, but the effect is the same. These laws are primarily supported by Christians. And the homosexuals know it. And they take it personally.

Let's face it, Christians and homosexuals don't talk together very often. Whether it is true or not, they think we hate them. Some people who claim to be Christians even say loudly that God hates homosexuals. But we know that is a bald-faced lie. And we do little to correct it. Most of the communication between homosexuals and Christians is indirect, like through the signals sent when we lobby for laws.

So we don't talk to them much. A few "crazies" tell them lies designed to keep them away. We don't really correct those lies. And the few indirect signals that we do send are all interpreted by them as "God hates you and we hate you." This is not a good evangelism strategy.

I think that we need to ask ourselves what is more important: maybe leading some homosexuals to faith in Christ or defending the sanctity of marriage, or whatever other purpose you might have for supporting these laws. If you decide, as I have, that cracking the door open to shed some light into the homosexual community is more important, then you will not be able to support these laws.

And if becoming a friend of homosexuals is our goal, with the hope of helping some of them find Christ, then these potential laws represent a golden opportunity to give that door a big shove. It will probably be misunderstood and not trusted. But it is clearly a step in the right direction.

I think that evangelical Christians should publicly repent and apologize for these marriage laws, and stop supporting them. I think that we should be humble and gentle in our apologies. And I think we should be clear that homosexuality is still a sin, but it is not unforgivable. I would propose that the apology go something like this:

God does not hate homosexuals. Christians do not hate homosexuals. We can't lie that most of us really don't like homosexuality. But God classifies homosexuality in the same list that He classifies all of the stuff that we used to do: sin. He forgave us of our sins. And He wants to forgive homosexuals.

After He forgave us He empowered us and commanded to stop our sinning. And when homosexuals come to faith in Christ we believe that He does the same for them. We understand that homosexuals hold their homosexuality very close to their personal identity. But drunks, prostitutes, adulterers, and all other manners of sinners feel their sin is their identity as well. We know because we were all there once. And letting go of that is scary and difficult. But God can be trusted. And the rewards are well worth the sacrifice.

We are dropping our support for the marriage laws and amendments. We haven't changed our minds about marriage being designed by God to be for a man and a woman. Nor have we changed our minds about the value of having both gender parents raising children. But we recognize that this world is an imperfect place. And the damage that these potential laws were doing was greater than the good that they might accomplish.

We are not just retreating to fight a different battle. We are trying to obey the example of our Savior who didn't fight battles at all. He just loved and accepted people first, and then only challenged them to change after they already had fallen in love with Him.

We are sorry that we have been so very mean to you for so long. Our God is perfect. But we are very slow to follow His lead sometimes. We have been too slow defending your human rights. We have been too silent defending your honor. We have been too phobic to show you our friendship. We were wrong. We commit to you that we will try to do better by you in the future. And we grant you full permission to throw it in our faces and correct us when we fail. We probably will fail again. But hopefully the failures will get smaller and less common, with your help.

You are welcome to come into our Churches and sit next to us in our pews. We aren't perfect. And there are certainly a few stubborn people here who are still not very accepting. But we will try to accept you as people and show you the kindness and compassion you deserve.

If you decide to put your faith in Christ then He will empower you with His Holy Spirit and work on you to stop your sinning. He did it to us. And He was right that the benefits are absolutely worth the sacrifice. But we understand that you have trouble believing that. We were skeptical, too.

I think that a statement like that will genuinely help lead some people towards Christ. Of course we have to then follow it up. Killing the marriage laws will only be the first step in a process of actually being compassionate and kind to lost people whom we feel little love for. But Christ did not call us to feel love. He called us to act in love.

Ironically enough, if God chooses to move among homosexuals and begin to really reveal Himself then we might actually accomplish the thing that we were hoping to do with the marriage laws: defend marriage. Because God will not change, and homosexuals who come to Christ will have to stop their sin. I hope for them that they can find sexual fulfillment with a spouse of a different gender. But some will undoubtedly end up struggling with celibacy. And others will refuse to give up their sin, and just reduce their dosage. Like some of us do with our sins. And that will be a little uncomfortable for most of us. But God did not call us to be comfortable, either.

Grace and Peace.