I am not sure how many of you read the Lexington Herald Leader but they ran an interesting article last Saturday. The article, “Gay pride event banners hit Lexington streets,” covers the banners for the Lexington Pride Festival which have been placed in downtown Lexington. The Lexington Pride Festival has been held annually for the past twenty years and this is the first time it has been held publicly; until this year it was held on private farms. Not surprisingly the banners have drawn criticism. But how should you respond?
Should you send angry letters or perhaps make a phone call to express your disapproval or should you make signs and join the “pro-Jesus” picketers who will likely protest the event or maybe you should sit at home and pretend that Lexington’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community does not exist?
I hope you respond and I hope the church responds quite differently than the various scenarios listed above. Before I address how you should respond it is appropriate to briefly examine how Jesus reacted to “sinners” in His own day. First, Jesus was broken and filled with compassion: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Second, He befriended them and spent intimate time with them: “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples” (Matthew 9:10). Third, He developed such close relationships with them that the self-righteous religious outsiders viewed Him as one of them: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19a). Finally, denying the religious elite the preeminence which they felt they had earned He directed the whole of His ministry to calling sinners to unite with Him in repentance: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
While that was certainly not an exhaustive examination of Christ’s reaction to such individuals it provides several key principles that should guide your life. First, your reaction to gross immorality and sin must not be anger and rage directed at the individuals involved but brokenness and compassion. Christ saw the crowds as “sheep without a shepherd” as being utterly defenseless before the countless predators devouring them; you too must see the world through the eyes of Christ. Second, you must not withdraw from social outcasts and sinners but spend intentional time cultivating intimate relationships with them. Christ relaxed with, ate with, drank with, and built such relationships with sinners and tax collectors to the degree that He was viewed as one of them. If Christ were to have been born today’s context it seems likely that the religious elite would consider Him to be a “homosexual drunk and a friend of sinners and the worst kinds of social outcasts.” Finally, in the context of broken compassion and in relationship you must lovingly and sincerely call such individuals to repentance. By repentance I do not mean the social gospel repentance of external forms where you tell individuals to stop all behavior that you are not comfortable with but genuine repentance and submission to the Lordship of Christ.
Where do these principles leave you? Maybe you should do something different and spend time meeting people who are not like you and go to the festival. Maybe you should look at the countless individuals that your local church is not reaching and whose lifestyle your political activism will not change. Maybe you should go and see the countless individuals who are like “sheep without a shepherd” and feel compassion for them. Maybe you should look at the countless hate-filled self-righteous protestors and be filled with indignation over their misrepresentation of the gospel and their spirit of antichrist. Maybe you should go and make a friend. Maybe you know someone from Lexington’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who you have ostracized because of their sexual preference and you need to ask for their forgiveness and seek reconciliation. Maybe you should take your children and teach them how to love individuals who are not like you and explain to them why God killed His only Son so that He could reconcile those individuals to Himself. Maybe you should take your children and teach your children of the inadequacy of social and political reform and explain how and why they should give their lives to living and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“For our sake he made him sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ― II Corinthians 5:21