Vice President of Eternity Boise, Preston Sprinkle has written People to Be Loved and to help both adult and teen Christians better understand what the Bible says, and how the Church should address, the topic of homosexuality.
When we look at the gospels and the way that Jesus interacted with sinners, such as the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, or any of the other numerous examples, We see Jesus dealing with people who in that culture, and certainly by the Pharisees’ definition, were sinners and pariahs. It’s clearly documented how Jesus responded to each person and how we are similarly supposed to respond.
However, we never hear about a situation where Jesus interacted with a homosexual. This isn’t too surprising considering it was a culture where people wouldn’t be open about that kind of lifestyle, but it still leaves room for the imagination as to how Jesus would have responded.
What if Jesus had been approached by someone who talked about the fact that they, as a man, had a love for another man? What do you think Jesus would have said and done?
Although we clearly cannot know the answer for sure, Preston points out that we do have a lot of Biblical material on how homosexuality is a sin, and we have a lot of examples of how Jesus interacted with other so-called sinners who were shunned by the religious leaders of the day.
“I think the category of tax collector or even, you know, adulterous women, or whoever that of religious leaders kind of stiff-armed and said ‘you sinner, you need to go over there. We’re going to go over here do our religious thing,’ … we can see how Jesus approached them, and match that with, how I believe that, the church should treat gay and lesbian people today.”
A good example of this is the story of Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had mounds of sins in his life when Jesus encountered him. Jesus said two things when He met Zacchaeus;
I need to be with you and stay with you.
“[This was] a statement of relationship. You only do that with somebody you want to be in relationship with, and then after that radical display of love Zacchaeus repents.”
You have now been saved.
“What we don’t see is Jesus giving his stance on tax collecting and [saying] ‘Hey I need to tell you where I stand on extortion. You know there’s not a single tax collector in Heaven who got there because Jesus gave his stamp on tax collecting, but here’s the thing: did Jesus have a stance on tax collecting? Of course he did, but on the ground, on a relational level, he led with love. He affirmed people’s humanity, and that love is what pushed obedience out the other side.”
This story with Zacchaeus shows us how important love is and how we need to lead with that relationally. Preston emphasizes that this doesn’t mean that we don’t have opinions.
“I think as Evangelical Christians we need to be very courageous in knowing where we stand, but on a relational level I don’t think we always need to lead with that stand. We need to be known for the radical grace that Jesus has shown us, and let people be convinced of that before we start talking about, you know, different issues related to sexual ethics and so on.”