The body of Christ continues to need a reasoned and consistent response to the reality of homosexuality in our culture and society. The hand-wringing surrounding Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the latest example of this glaring need.
Pastors and leaders, your people do not need you to join the culture war, they need you to shepherd them into a kingdom-centered approach to living as sojourners in a pluralist society.
The latest tweets from Christian leaders, such as Franklin Graham (no stranger to his own controversies) and others, reveal a portion of our Christan culture that seems to be at ease with different levels of immorality, but when it comes to homosexuality, there is a desire to ignore or deny existence altogether. When the sum of our response to the LGBT community is your going to hell, and I do not want my kids to even deal with your reality, we cannot be surprised that our LGBT neighbors do not look to us in times of need or for any level of moral leadership.
First, in regards to the current dust-up over Beauty and the Beast, Christians should not be surprised when companies in our culture acknowledge and in many cases promote the sexual ethics that reflect where we are as a society. We do not serve a biblical vision for sexuality and life as image bearers when we respond to each of these companies with shock and vitriol. The debate over what is appropriate and how to engage with entertainment is not new and there will continue to be disagreement. But, the inconsistent singling out of our LGBT neighbors needs to stop!
I cannot tell any Christian parent what they must do or how they must engage with the entertainment offerings of our culture. However, I can offer the perspective of one who deeply cares about the faith of my children, while also holding within my heart a deep love for my LGBT neighbors, who feel increasingly and continually alienated by the body of Christ.
Facts matter and the fact is, the depiction of Lefou, in the latest version of Beauty and the Beast, does not promote homosexuality. The depiction of Lefou does acknowledge the presence of feelings that Lefou recognizes and begins to think about. This is not the presence of an agenda as much as it is an acknowledgment of a reality so many of our neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ are walking with every day! I doubt my children will pick up on such a subdued approach to a very real experience, but I am ready and even welcoming of the opportunity to have an ongoing conversation with each of my children about the formation of identity, confusion, and the reality of God’s intention for our sexuality.
Selective rage never produces a Christ-honoring depiction of the Christian life. When we choose to be outraged at the existence of same-sex feelings in a movie but ignore the other situations that fall short of God’s call to the moral life of humanity, we present ourselves as hypocrites interested in straining out gnats and swallowing camels.
Do sexuality and identity matter? Should it be taken seriously? Should Christian parents have important conversations about culture and how to engage with it? Yes, absolutely yes! None of what is said here is meant to diminish the seriousness of ordering our moral lives. Yet, when we do this at the expense of love, compassion, recognition, and the opportunity to shepherd rather than avoid, our witness faces unnecessary damage!
Christianity is not without an agenda, in fact, all worldviews seek to advance their understanding of life and morality. Christianity has a compelling and beautiful story to tell and we do it a disservice when we seek to advance it by excluding other stories from our children’s sight.
When our Christian leaders engage homosexuality as an “agenda” and a “lifestyle,” we are trained to respond to people as propositions and their lives as threatening to our own. Nowhere in Jesus’ life and ministry do we see this type of disembodied protectionism towards the sin that shows up in each of our lives!
We can do better, and in the name of Jesus, we must do better!
Doing better means living a life with a gospel and kingdom passion. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus consistently points out the inconsistent and broken morality of the scribes and Pharisees.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For, you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you out to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
Jesus does not expect us to devalue our moral lives. Rather, he calls us to live faithfully in the particulars of this life without ignoring mercy, justice, and faithfulness in all things. Jesus points to justice, mercy, and faithfulness as “weightier matters of the law.” In other words, what good is your sacrificial life if you offer it to the exclusion of mercy, justice, and inconsistent faithfulness.
It is not particularly merciful, just, or faithfully consistent to push our LGBT neighbors to the margins of our lives and society, where we can safely avoid living incarnated lives among them as those whose lives have been changed by the Savior.
We can live convicted lives, faithfully walking before God and our neighbors, while offering deep and abiding compassion, mercy, and grace towards those who either deny a biblical sexual ethic or struggle with it. We can and we should because the gospel tells us that each of us is in need of the same compassion, mercy, and grace. We are not better, or wholly different from our LGBT neighbor. Christ changes us and he longs to bring change to all our identities. When we live as those in need of change before others in need of change we demonstrate the beauty of the gospel that calls all of us to say yes to Jesus as the abiding and better identity.
We cannot live this way if we see ourselves as more significant than our neighbor and we cannot be compelling or faithful while seeking to keep others at arms length or off the screen.