About Me

All God’s Children: Loving our LGBTQ Friends As We Love Ourselves

I love gay people.

For many, it’s surprising to hear a Christian minister say that — especially an evangelical minister from a fundamentalist background and with fundamentalist theological training — but I do love them. I can’t help it really. And I don’t love people because I’m a saint. I love them because I know so many by name.

I know Jesus asks me to love everyone, but I must be honest; I have trouble loving people I don’t know. A plane crashes in Asia and I’m saddened for the families of the dead, but I don’t grieve. I don’t love them as Jesus does because I don’t know them. Jesus knows them.

I know many gay and lesbian people. I love them.

For a decade and a half I was a youth minister. I took teenagers to Six Flags, to summer camps, on mission trips, to countless retreats and rallies, and I loved every minute of it — well, most every minute of it (I could have lived with better sleeping conditions on many of those retreats and mission trips). But I never complained because I always loved my kids. And they were my kids.

We shared our lives together. We joked. We cried. We served.  We worshiped God. And we loved each other. I can’t recount all the late night conversations and heart-to-heart talks on long rides. Conversations about life and faith; God and evil; and the purpose behind our existence peppered and seasoned my life as I walked alongside teenagers. They walked alongside me too.

Some of those teenagers are now ministers themselves – both inside and outside of churches. Some have adopted needy kids while they were still basically children themselves. Some of my kids have set out to change the world while others are just trying to hang on and save themselves. Some are therapists; others wait tables. They’ve become teachers and lawyers, accountants and musicians. Each one has chased God to the best of their limping abilities.

And some of those kids are gay.

These kids aren’t celebrities “parading” their relationships in publications and in front of the cameras. They aren’t activists working to bring disquiet to little old ladies carrying King James Bibles. They aren’t shouters or screamers or dancing in the street. They never wanted to throw their identities into someone’s face, like some of my Christian friends accuse them of.

These are my kids.

They have faces. And names. And stories. They have moms. And dads. And brothers. And sisters. They have hopes and fears. But mainly they want to live quiet, peaceful, and useful lives.

My kids aren’t stereotypes. They’re not caricatures. They’re flesh and blood; alive and kickin’ people.

Regardless of your Biblical or political convictions regarding homosexuality, I think you would have to agree that the way many of us in Christian communities have spoken to and about people in the LGBTQ community is wholly and fundamentally unChristian.

And I know when something is fundamentally wrong.

Remember, I was raised a fundamentalist.

We have not hesitated to mock, abuse, degrade, and humiliate God’s creation. We have chosen the sins of division, blasphemy, stone throwing, bearing false witness, and judgment while simultaneously accusing them of choosing a “sinful lifestyle.” We are hypocrites and liars and afraid of our own humanity. And we have tried to blame our gay and lesbian friends for our sin.

There is no excuse for our words of degradation; no excuse for our venomous attitudes; and no excuse for our failure to love our neighbors. It’s no wonder then that in this past year hundreds of gay teenagers committed suicide. The most chilling sentence in Justin Lee’s tremendous book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate is this one: “During the day, I daydreamed about ways to kill myself.”

I cannot tell you with certitude that these tortured young souls killed themselves because of the words of Christians, but I can offer the assurance that the “hands and feet of Jesus” have not helped. My guess is that few of them thought the church would be the place to turn for comfort, solace, and love.

At this critical moment in time, what is required from the church is nothing short of repentance. Our repentance need not necessarily be for wrong-headed views about homosexuality, but it most certainly must encompass our hypocrisy for not treating all sex outside of marriage equally. Our repentance should be for angry words not spoken in love and not coming to the aid and defense of the LGBTQ community when they have been attacked.

This past Sunday I preached a message close to my heart about Christian speech ethics. My heart was again pricked by James, the brother of Jesus, as he writes,

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3. 9-10)”

The simple truth for the Christian community is this: We can no longer refer to the LGBTQ community the way we have. We cannot say, “God hates fags.” We cannot tell jokes mocking who they are. We can no longer do so because the scriptures instruct us not to.

James reminds us that all people are made in God likeness, His image. All people are God’s children. They, like we, are God’s kids. How would you feel; what would you think; if someone spoke about your kids the way some of our Christian brothers and sisters speak about God’s kids?

The men and women you shame, devalue, and humiliate sat in my youth group and struggled quietly and patiently with feelings that they neither wanted nor understood. Because of our words and posture, they believed they had no one to tell.

They are trying their God’s honest best — as we all are — to try to be God’s woman or man. So please, be good to my kids.

And if you can’t…be good to God’s kids.

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  • Danny Sims

    Really good post. It’s easier to say, “Go loves gay and lesbian people” than “I love gay and lesbian people.”

    Sex & intimacy is just messed up for lots of people. This is true of heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Yes, many Christians harshly criticize and degrade gays & lesbians as they permissively look the other way at sexually promiscuous heterosexuals. The pathway is found in the character of God. Trouble is God’s character will call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to make adjustments, as well as Christians who like to cherry-pick the sexual sins we either condemn or accept.

    Thanks for your post.

  • Gary Corum

    Thank you for your courage, for your helpful focus, and for your invitation to a very serious and important conversation.

    I have lots of thoughts and observations, but I will offer just this one. Most of us now accept, at least in the abstract, that we must not judge others. We have numerous direct commands about that, and most of us try not to do it. But I wonder if we’re not engaging in the same kind of “try harder” behavior-modification-thinking when we do so. In other words, we go right ahead and decide “what’s right and what’s wrong,” determine where all the lines are drawn, but then try to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” lest we be guilty of judging them. And we find it lots easier to say than to do.

    We should ponder why we think any of us are qualified to know where the lines are to be drawn regarding terrifically complicated matters with which most of us have no experience and precious little understanding. As Danny pointed out above, sex and intimacy are relationship issues that confront and confound us all. How can we presume to “know” when someone else is “sinning” or not in how they are dealing with complex issues and personal relationships, but kid ourselves into thinking we are not “judging them” when we do so? Do we really want that power and that responsibility, if we think about it seriously?

    What if Jesus wants us out of the “knowing good and evil” business when it comes to the sexual preferences and behaviors of others because we are incapable of knowing. What if we understood “not judging” to mean “I don’t know God’s will for your life or for your beliefs or for your conduct regarding your sexuality. That’s between you and God. I can only encourage you to pursue your relationship with him and trust him to help you and guide you in your decisions about your relationships with others.” Wouldn’t that provide much needed relief for us and for them? We’d be relieved of the need to determine and declare and monitor and decide, wouldn’t we? And wouldn’t that clear the way for us to love them unconditionally like we know we should?

  • Leslie

    Great blog, thank you, Sean!

  • Thanks, Sean. Very good blog!!

  • Shawna Mathis

    So glad to be reading your thoughts about this “issue.” As one who is working on becoming more sensitive t the people around me, I think it’s important for us to have healthy, vocal dialogue about what bringing God’s kingdome to Earth really means. Thanks for your willingness to share!

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  • Sean,

    Thanks for sharing this blog. It is very well written and it needs to be heard. When I lived in Ithaca, NY, I played on a co-ed softball team. Between the team and people who hung out with the team, there were plenty of gay people. Once they learned that I was a Christian pastor from an evangelical background, listening to their stories was stunning. Many of them came to Ithaca for college and so they came from other areas of the world, mostly though from the US. Most of them grew up attending some church and felt completely shunned from the Christian community. Now I don’t necessarily believe that is solely the fault of the Christian community but as you remind us, “the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ have not helped.”

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  • Let us stop dehumanizing homosexuals by viewing them as genetically programmed and determined and robot-like when it comes to who and how they are attracted to others sexually. They are human beings, not just animals. Thus, let us stop degrading and dehumanizing homosexuals by claiming they have no choice in their sexuality. And it is especially horrific to label kids with swexual identitues when they are just trying to grow up and develop into adults. Their childhood is confusing and difficult enough.

    • Chris Algoo

      May I ask when you chose to be straight? Could you choose to be gay, if you wanted to? What are you basing your claims on?

      • Chris, I’m not sure who you were asking? Help.

        • Chris Algoo

          Very sorry! I thought the system would automatically label my reply. This was directed to Joel Solliday’s post asserting that gays have no choice in their sexuality.

          • It should have. I’ll double-check. Thanks for reading.

    • Lector Eloise

      My sexuality is not a sin. It is not an accident or a mistake or a failing. And no, it’s not a choice, but I’d choose it if it were.

      Because I’m in love with her, and she is the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I never expected her, and found her anyways. Because she is bright and beautiful, and oh, I am in love.

      Have you ever been in love, Joel? Ever woken up, thrilled by the chance to have another day with your beloved? Ever gone the extra mile, gone above and beyond, gone out of your way, just to make them smile? Ever sat and shook and worried, because they’re hurting and all you can do is wait it out with them? Ever missed your beloved, the sound of their voice, the touch of their hand, so bad it is a physical ache? Love is pain and joy and grief and hope and fear and courage, all bound up together, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

      I am in love with her. There is nothing degrading about that.

  • Deanna Love

    Thanks, Sean, and amen!

  • Ty

    I went to a talk this morning on hermaneutics. I was surprised by the level of fear in the questions raised by examining the lens through which we interpret scripture and culture. “That’s a slippery slope,” was said multiple times. That fear is born out of a love for God and a desire to do what is right coupled with the (somewhat silly) misconception that God cares that we get it all exactly right. Also, the fear of the repercussions from our fellow Christians.
    We’ve got to do a better job at majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. Love is a major. Another person’s sexual orientation has to be a minor.
    Thanks for leaning into the major in a world of fear.

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  • Ric

    Sean,

    Thank you so much for openly addressing this sin issue. I have to confess that, earlier in my life, I treated LGBTQ people in a much less than Christian fashion, simply because they were LGBTQ.

    Now, after years of friendship with some people that are loving, kind, God-fearing men and women that happen to be in this group, I have repented. Not that I don’t still struggle with some issues of judging, but I am actively working to love them and be Jesus to them.

    Where my family and I struggle at this point is on the issue of whether we can invite them to our church. There are a few outspoken members that we feel will make our friends feel unwelcome. For instance, in a class where the subject of false teachers came up in scripture, somebody asked what false teacher were. The reply was that false teachers were those that teach that homosexuality is OK. Somehow, I don’t think that was exactly the number one thing on Paul’s mind when he wrote the letter. I want so much for my friends to feel the love of Christ and the support of His body, not the hopeless pain of yet another rejection by “Christians.”

    I have to wonder what it is like to wake up on Sunday mornings and go out to breakfast or on a bike ride instead of to church to worship the God that you love because the pain of being on the outside is less than the pain of going to church.

  • Lovesinners!

    Loving people regardless of sexual orientation is what we are supposed to do. In fact, that is our call, period – the same can be said of loving any sinner. If we don’t love sinners then we don’t love anyone at all. However, we are also called to clean up the sin in our lives, whatever that may be, as Christians. A gay person who follows Christ must at some point make changes in their life, just as a heterosexual must make changes to whatever sin problem he or she struggles with, no? YES, lets love sinners – all of them, but don’t stop helping each other overcoming sin – we all need each other’s love and support to defeat sin in our lives. We can love the sinner without supporting sin, REGARDLESS of what the sin is…

    • Always remember Jesus’s commandment to those who were eager to throw stones, though.

      • Lovesinners!

        love and support the sinner but not the sin. Does God desire for us to deal with the sin in our lives regardless of what that is? Yes! We are called to love others AND be different from the world! Do we or do we not follow Paul’s advice in Rom. 6:1-2? Love sinners, ABSOLUTELY!! But lets take that love a step further and support each other in OVERCOMING the sin that each of us has. Not sure where I advocated stone throwing – I definitely don’t see a place where that fits in!

        • Support each other, yes. Judging and condemning, no. I’ll also refer you to the commandment about planks in eyes. Christians are emphatically not to judge each other, it’s supposed to be up to God. You can provide all the support and encouragement you want but the instant it becomes harassing to the other person you are committing sin, or at least being a bad human being who is not paying attention to the person in front of them.

          You probably know this, but young people are leaving the church in droves because they see it as a place of judgment and hypocrisy. This is the image that many people hold of Christianity, and it isn’t always false. Christians are God’s ambassadors on earth, and can inspire others towards or away from faith by their actions. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.

  • Summer

    Thank you, Sean. I read this when you first wrote it and read it again today…and tears come to my eyes again.

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  • justjohn

    i decided to brave your church today.
    i was not offended.
    this is nothing short of miraculous.
    i do wonder how many heads would implode if i held my man’s paw, however.

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