In reading comments and blogs by so-called “liberal” Christians on LGBT issues, I have noticed a common thread: Many of the arguments are based on the belief that in order to show homosexuals mercy and compassion, Christians cannot condemn homosexual behavior, but must accept their behavior as normal. They argue, gays cannot help being gay, so the merciful, compassionate thing to do is to accept them for who they are.
To paraphrase Inigo Montoya in the classic movie The Princess Bride: “You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”
What is Mercy?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, mercy is:
: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also
: lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
: a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>
: compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>
Let’s consider the primary definition first. Mercy is “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender…” Mercy is shown to someone who is guilty. Mercy cannot be shown toward someone who is innocent.
If you appeared in court on a charge of shoplifting, and were found to be innocent, it would make no sense for the judge to say, “I have found you innocent; but I am going to show you mercy, and let you go.” It would only make sense for the judge to show mercy if you had been found guilty.
To argue that Christians must accept homosexuality as normal (not a sin) in order to show mercy, is like arguing that a judge must declare shoplifting to not be a crime in order to show mercy to a shoplifter. Such an argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of mercy.
What is compassion?
All three definitions of the word mercy include the word compassion or compassionate. What does compassion mean? Again, according to Merriam-Webster.com, compassion is:
: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
In the case of homosexuality, what the source of this distress? From the perspective of those who try to justify homosexuality, the distress is caused by society’s refusal to accept gays for who they are. If society would simply accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and embrace gay marriage, the distress would be alleviated.
I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. True, many homosexuals have been bullied, attacked, and rejected, often by self-righteous Christians. This is where the third definition of mercy applies: compassionate treatment of those in distress. Bullying gays is clearly wrong, and shows a complete lack of true mercy and compassion by those who perpetrate such actions. However, there is a much deeper source of distress for homosexuals. It’s called sin. All sin separates people from God, whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, pride, arrogance, hatred, lack of compassion and mercy, or gluttony. All sin needs to be alleviated. The only true alleviation for sin comes from Jesus Christ, who died in our place to take our guilt upon Himself. True compassion for the homosexual, or anyone else, for that matter, means confronting them with their sin and showing them Jesus Christ. The distress of sin can only be alleviated through repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is where the second definition of mercy applies: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.
To argue that compassion requires accepting homosexuality is to misunderstand both the meaning of compassion and the seriousness of sin.
How should Christians show mercy and compassion to homosexuals?
There are several points that should be kept in mind as a follower of Jesus Christ in order to show compassion and mercy to homosexuals:
- Homosexual acts need to be recognized as sin. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual acts are sin (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 1:7; and others). Don’t listen to those professing “Christians” trying to convince you that the Church has been misinterpreting Scripture for 2,000 years and that the Bible really doesn’t actually condemn homosexual behavior. Yes, it does. Read it yourself, and trust God’s Word, not people’s opinions about God’s Word.
- All have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). Embracing homosexuality is no different than embracing any other sin. All sin separates us from God. You and I are just as much sinners as any homosexual, and we all need the Savior.
- Combat anti-gay hatred. Christians should be deeply troubled about people being bullied for being gay and do all we can to combat it. In fact, Christians should be leading the way by showing Christ’s love to homosexuals.
- Be willing to admit that we don’t fully understand homosexuality. All sin is highly addictive; acknowledge that those who struggle with homosexuality may not have any control over who they’re attracted to. Isn’t that the point? We cannot control sin. Some people are compulsive liars; others have chemical or eating addictions. Others are addicted to other types of illicit sex, or power, or wealth. Some of us are addicted to pride. Everyone has areas of sin in their life, and none of us can stop it. There are undoubtedly deep psychological issues involved with many homosexuals, and there is much we still don’t know.
- Share the love of Jesus Christ. Get to know homosexuals the same as you would anyone. Build relationships. Make friends! Invite them into your homes and churches, go into their homes, share meals, have deep discussions, go to ballgames, whatever. Accept these people – not their actions – as you would anyone, and love them unconditionally, as Christ loves you.
- Share the Gospel. The only solution for homosexuality, or any other sin, is the grace of Jesus Christ. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do for a gay person, or any other person, is to explain how to obtain God’s mercy and compassion through the blood of Christ.
When followers of Jesus unwaveringly hold to the truth of Christ, while extending the love of Christ to the lost, including gays, hearts can be softened and changed. While Christians must be adamant about extending mercy, compassion, and a humble attitude toward the gay community, it’s also imperative that we be just as adamant about standing firmly in the truth. Homosexuality, like any sin, destroys our relationship with our loving Creator. Mercy and compassion do not mean denying the truth. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do is to share the truth about sin and the truth of the Gospel, while loving the sinner, as Christ first loved us.
Filed under: Ministry, Theological Positions I Don't Understand, Theology / Apologetics | Tagged: Christianity, compassion, culture, Homosexuality, Intolerance, mercy, salvation, Savior | Leave a comment »