And Then She Told Me She Was a Lesbian . . . (Part 2)

And Then She Told Me She Was a Lesbian . . . (Part 2) May 28, 2014

5.27.14Yesterday I shared about a recent conversation I had with a woman where I had the opportunity to practice what I preach in the most uncomfortable fashion. While sharing the good news of grace and forgiveness from John 8 (the story of the woman caught in adultery), Leslie* asked if she could ever be forgiven because she was a lesbian and didn’t want to change.

The easiest thing to do would have been to give into the temptation that too many evangelicals fall into: sweeping judgment and condemnation. But I had literally just shared about how Jesus offered grace to a woman caught up in sin. Was the sin of homosexuality outside the bounds of God’s grace? What’s more, I knew Leslie. I liked Leslie. We had built a relationship. She wasn’t an abstract idea I was judging from a safe distance. She was a human being, filled with inherent worth, sitting five feet from me. It’s easy to judge someone you don’t know and condemn a community with whom you have no relationship. But what if it’s someone you know and care for? (And let me beat some of you to the punch. You might counter, “But Leslie is unrepentant! She has to repent of her godless lifestyle before she can be forgiven!” Look in John 8. We have no biblical record of the adulterous woman repenting or showing any remorse. Lack of repentance isn’t a good rationale for judgment and condemnation.)

Here’s how I responded to her and the entire group of ladies I was sharing with that day:

  • I acknowledged the reality that homosexuality is seen as the ‘unforgivable sin’ in churches today. They already know that and sense that. Leslie shared that her church friends communicated that to her, so there was no use in me denying it. I apologized on the church’s behalf for elevating that one sin above all others when we have no biblical right to do so.
  • I reaffirmed that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful. There is no way around it. To teach otherwise would be to try and do theological gymnastics around passages that teach on this subject pretty clearly.
  • I also acknowledged that my job as a preacher wasn’t to teach what was popular or culturally acceptable, but to be faithful to the Bible. I realize that the biblical teaching on homosexuality is increasingly unpopular today. I know that this will be one of the defining battlegrounds for the church in my generation. But my call was never to be popular. My call was to preach God’s Word.
  • Should the Bible be modified as civilization progresses and we become more ‘tolerant?’ I don’t dare make the prideful assumption that I know more than God. Some churches have embraced the homosexual lifestyle by cutting and pasting around sections of the Bible they don’t agree with. As uncomfortable and unpopular as the Bible’s teachings may be at times, I dare not assume that I know more than God. That is a slippery slope that never ends well.
  • I told Leslie that as a practicing homosexual, I would treat her like all the other sinners that show up at my church each week. In my eyes, she would be just like the liars, cheaters, gossipers and adulterers that fill the church each week. She would be like every other person sitting in that sanctuary: a sinner in need of forgiveness. I would love her and befriend her and value her like I value everyone else that comes to my church. Homosexuality is a sin, but it’s not the ‘unforgivable sin.’
  • What I really tried to do was to get Leslie to look at how Jesus interacted with sinners in the gospels. He took a strong stand for truth and didn’t back down to popular demands, yet at the same time sinners loved hanging around him. That is the balance we all need to embody: grace and truth.
  • I told her I hoped that she would consider Mt Vernon a safe place to explore her faith. I do not believe she is a Christian. I told her that for me, her homosexual lifestyle wasn’t my primary concern. I want her to give her life to Jesus. Once she does that, the Holy Spirit can begin to change her from the inside out. My job as a pastor isn’t to ‘cure’ her of her homosexuality. It’s to introduce her to Jesus.

It wasn’t the easiest conversation, but I tried my hardest to speak to her how I believe Jesus would have spoken to her. I didn’t condone her sin, yet at the same time I didn’t condemn her.

QUESTION: How would you have answered her?

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  • I would have done pretty much the same thing…

    • Thanks Michael. If I’m in agreement with a guy named Wise, that’s got to be good company!

  • I think it is sufficient to say that God forgives you. Jesus concluded by saying go and sin no more. Be blessed. God is with you.

    • Kaylon

      Jesus had limited time on Earth and was a itinerant preacher in the places among which He circulated. Josh may now get to minister to this woman over the long run. I do feel that Josh was wise to “cover the bases” about the how and why of his thinking. She will need to know that there is more to follow…

  • Kaylon

    Wow! Josh, God has used you! A real live preacher talking to a real live sinning person without ABANDONING EITHER GOD OR THE PERSON!!!! Hooray!!!!

  • Tim

    Josh, I applaud you for your answers to this lady. My issue with this whole conversation is that as a church we have decided homosexuality is the unpardonable sin. However, that is NOT what the Bible teaches. So many of my friends who are gay have completely left the church (even though many of them were raised in it) because those who are supposed to love them have turned against them. As I read the Bible, that too is sin. I hope that because of ministers like you, many church people will begin to love and minister to those who have become disenfranchised due to their lifestyle and the reaction of the church.

    • Thanks Tim! If you any of those friends live in Columbus, send them our way!

  • Marshall Pace

    Josh, I really appreciate the way you addressed such a controversial topic. Many times people in today’s church culture have placed homosexuality as sin and heterosexuality as spirited when that’s not the case at all. I know many people in heterosexual relationships or with heterosexual orientations who are not spiritual at all and just as immoral as those who practice the sin of homosexuality. The opposites of saved and sinner aren’t to be defined by sexual orientation at all. I heard a former lesbian once say, “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, its holiness”. I think when we change the dynamics in our worldviews to look at people as either pursuing Holiness through the spirit or pursuing the road to destruction we will see that many people (homosexual and heterosexual alike) need to pursue holiness in their lives. We in fact need to pursue holiness more than a sexual orientation because that is how we become Christ like. Being heterosexual doesn’t save you, being Holy does.

    I would probably have said a similar thing, followed by a statement that said that when an individual pursues a Christ like lifestyle, then that pursuit towards holy living will manifest itself into a practice of holy sexuality, which is a sexuality that mirrors biblical Christlike living that looks at the whole of the bible and not cuts and pastes it to meet our personal moral tolerance in a feeble attempt to be relevant to worldly culture. Otherwise, like usual. I really liked your stance and see great spiritual maturity and Christlike compassion in your response and heart.

  • rachelannacastlen

    I love this, Josh. Thank you for sharing. I recently heard an excellent presentation from Tim Keller in his book ‘The Reason for God.’ It was a simple 3 part answer.

    1. The Good Samaritan shows we need to make this a loving place for everyone to live. This is how we need to love our Nieghbors regardless.
    2. God created us and the Bible explains how we are designed to thrive in Gods ways. Just like ignoring a car manual that recommends tune ups and maintenance repairs, if we neglect his ways we do so at to the detriment of our own lives.
    3. God designed marriage betto be the only place for sexual intimacy, so anything outside that is to our own detriment and sin in against God. This includes living together, polygamy, homosexual relationships, and anything else you can cook up.

    • Thanks Rachel. Tim Keller is wise (as always!)

  • rachelannacastlen

    I so appreciate your heart on this matter.

  • Aprill Fleming

    Please continue your non-judgemental style of preaching. My cousin is gay and was raised in a church that eventually turned their back on him and his friend who was also raised in the same church. Now they don’t want anything to do with church. I hate to say it but I don’t blame them. They very publicly kicked them out. Shameless.

    • Hey April, thanks for sharing so sorry to hear about your cousin’s experience. I wish it was an isolated experience but we both know it happens far too often.

  • Jay Pickard

    Thank you Josh for sharing this conversation. I’ve often wondered how I would respond in a similar conversation, but couldn’t put words to my thoughts. This helps a lot. I loved how you stated in a sermon not long ago that we heterosexual marriages really have no room to judge considering nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. We justify our own sin so well, that we forget God doesn’t judge one sin greater than another. So thankful you are my pastor!

  • Stephanie Johnson

    Josh, these girls love you and your teaching style. You are changing one life at a time! I appreciate you being such a postive role model for our women, especially those that struggle with their past.

  • Stephanie Johnson

    Josh, these girls love you and your teaching style. You are changing one life at a time! I appreciate you being such a positive role model for our women, especially those that struggle with their past.

    • Thanks for having me out! It’s my favorite part of the month!

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