The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.
You will often hear Christians with a more conservative view of scripture as it relates to homosexuality say that they must share their faith with grace and truth when it comes to engaging the gay and lesbian community. Translated from Christianese, that can basically be read as “while sharing your faith, don’t forget to speak about your understanding of homosexuality as it relates to your theological perspective and tell those that you disagree with in a loving and compassionate way that they are wrong and living in sin.” While I don’t completely disagree with their reasoning as I believe that individuals should be true to what they believe, I have a hard time making the connection between scripture and this philosophy when I look to the life of Jesus and the examples used to back up this thinking.
Individuals will typically reference John 8: 1-11 that speaks of the woman caught in adultery as a basis for the belief that it is their duty to tell others to “go and sin no more”. After Jesus stops her accusers from stoning her, he follows that up by saying “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” While using this as justification to call others out, I think that individuals often fail to focus on Jesus’ actions leading up to that statement that gave him the authority to tell her to “go and sin no more.” Jesus stood up for her to preserve her dignity while they were trying to humiliate her as they could have kept her in private custody while they spoke to Jesus. He then proceeded to save her life and did not condemn her according to the law as he could have. He connected with her in a very profound way that paved the way for her to be able to follow him. After meeting her at her place of need and his actions on her behalf, he would have almost been justified in telling her anything as she owed everything she had to him. She also would have been incredibly thankful and thus receptive to what he had to say as he earned the right to speak into her life.
Jesus was described as being full of grace and truth (John 1:14 & John 1:17) when he came to dwell among humanity, but despite those references to his character he did not just go around telling everyone to “leave their life of sin.” Jesus talked about repentance and called out the religious leaders, but after reading through the four gospel accounts I only found one other instance where Jesus told a sole individual to stop sinning. In John 5:1-15, after healing a man of his physical ailments, he proceeds to tell him to stop sinning. Once again, his bold statement was foreshadowed by helping the person that he was speaking to in a profound way that changed the course of his life.
So if speaking with grace and truth into someone’s life means attempting to follow Jesus’ example of positively impacting individuals’ lives and loving in dramatic, life altering ways before speaking your ‘truth’ instead of just using it as a justification to tell anyone and everyone your beliefs about them in a graceful manner, I would be happy to see it more often.