Anti-Homosexual, Judgmental, and Hypocritical

It is usually an overstatement to say that everyone is doing something but it does seem like everyone on the Internet is talking about gays and gay marriage. It seems about half the posts I notice on Facebook and Twitter deal with the subject and most of the blogs I frequently read have all taken a stannce on the issue. Of course, all the politicians have stated their position since it is an election year. Even people who typically say nothing about political or moral concepts are diving into the fray.

I don’t mind a good debate, even if it concerns a hot potato (do I use “o” or “oe,” I can’t remember?). Of course, religion and politics can always be counted on to lead to such a discussion. In this case, it seems like we have both of them wrapped up together and that is probably why everyone has an opinion.

But here’s the problem. Christians have become so involved in the debate and so vocal and strident in our position it is possible that it has become a stumbling block. George Barna, the guy Christians look to for help in understanding the world, reports that ninety-one percent of non-Christians pick the term anti-homosexual to describe Christianity. In other words, this is the first thing they think of when we use the word “Christian.” By the way, not far behind were the terms “judgmental” (eighty-seven percent) and “hypocritical” (eighty-five percent).

That means when non-believers notice the fish symbol on the back of your SUV they immediately think you are an anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocrite. That’s a lot to overcome if you plan to stop and tell them about Jesus.

Some of you are proud to be known as anti-homosexual, but is that really the first thing you want people to think about you? When they pronounce the final words over your grave, do you really want the preacher to say, “Here lies Bob. He was a fine Christian man, the best anti-homosexual in the county!”

It is easy to quickly dismiss me as being flippant and extreme, but I think these survey numbers expose a serious problem we have created for ourselves. They are simply describing the picture of Christianity that we have painted. I realize some of the blame goes to extremists like the fruitcakes at Westboro Church in Kansas who are sandpaper harsh. Their clamoring means that the rest of us must make up the difference in presenting a different version of the Christian faith.

The point of this article is not really homosexuality so don’t try and take it that direction. It is about how we represent ourselves to those who need to meet Jesus. As the church, we are the body of Christ. We are His hands and His feet. We are the tangible expression of Jesus in the world. What they know about Him is what they see in us.

When they hear us constantly arguing about issues, condemning gay people, spewing hatred toward politicians in the wrong party, and accusing everyone who does not believe like we do of being evil then what else are they to think. They are drawing the obvious conclusion that we are anti-something, judgmental, and hypocritical.

The accusation that Christians are hypocritical is very interesting to me. Most people who have any knowledge at all about the Christian faith know that it is about grace and forgiveness. The very center of the faith is that Christ died to pay the price for our sin so we could be forgiven. So here we are, forgiven sinners, yet we often go around criticizing and condemning other sinners. That sounds hypocritical to me.

Hurling stones of judgment toward others is not a new problem. Even in the New Testament, the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is really a story about judging other people. The climax of the event is when Jesus says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Yet, the way people read that story today is to make what happens later the main point of the story. They like to focus on Jesus’ words to the sinful woman, “Go and sin no more.”

If we are honest, we must admit we are more like the Pharisees who want to condemn sinners than Jesus who wants to forgive sinners. We want to skip the forgiving part and get right to the stop doing it part. The problem is that people who have not experienced grace are not able to stop sinning. Consequently, all they hear from us is condemnation and straighten out your life – not very appealing words.

We have gotten ourselves in trouble because we have taken on a task that does not belong to us. For some reason we have the opinion that our duty is to straighten people out, to let them know when they are wrong and get them moving in the right direction. I hate to break it to you, but that is not the work of the church. We have been sent out to proclaim the Good News, which is not a message of condemnation and judgment. It is a message of forgiveness and hope.

I am not suggesting that we cannot take a stance against things we consider sinful, but that must not be our primary calling card. When ninety-one percent of non-believers identify us anti-anything, it is a problem.

The task before us is enormous. We must make a one hundred and eighty degree change of direction in the way we communicate our faith. We don’t want folks to think we are negative, always against something. Instead, we want them to see the Christian faith as hope, forgiveness, and relationship with God. When they see the fish symbol on the back of your SUV their first reaction should be, “There is a person who cares about me!”

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Anti-Homosexual, Judgmental, and Hypocritical

  1. Edward Neepaye

    Hi Terry, I’m a Christian minister hailing from West Africa. I’ve lived here for about 9 years and have watched the various staces taken on the subject. For me, one cannot truly convey the message of Christ without calling sinners to repentance. Love, is our primary aim for the Bilbe is very clear on the matter; our God is Holy. Whether it’s lying, stealing, idolatry, fornication, adultery, or sodomy, once an individual makes these practices a life-style they are unable to have a vibrant walk with the Lord. I’ve had my struggles as a believer, and I’ve noticed that until I’ve turned away from conscious sin, my walk with God was strained. Also, it is apparent that this debate is only controversial amongst the western Christian community.
    Thanks,
    Edward.

    • Edward, thanks for the comment. I certainly agree God is holy and calls us to holiness, however, a call to holiness is not the same as condemnation and criticism. Also, if this is not an issue in your part of the world, what is the predominate opinion about homosexuality?

      • Edward Neepaye

        Would I be considered a heterophobe if I encouraged folks living in sexual sins to get married? Also, Jesus did not condemn the lady caught in adultery but He did say, ‘go and sin no more.’ It is not condemnation when we encourage folks who are struggling with a sinful life style to repent. It’s an expression of love and concern for their eternal souls. In our culture homosexuality is considered biologically unnatural and thus frowned upon. But those who practice it are not ostracized or demonized. I’ve been in the ministry for over 24 years and have personally brought folks that struggled with that sexual proclivity into my home and helped them through prayers and counseling overcome sodomy.

  2. Excellent perspective Terry. Thanks.

  3. Edward Neepaye

    Terry please allow me to comment on another subject that is very controversial in this nation. Would I be condemning a young pregnant lady if I encourage her to avoid abortion but rather put the baby up for adoption? You see, as a Christian I see the Bible as absolute truth and not a document to be fondled with to fit prevailing cultural or political norms. Thanks.

    • To “encourage” is certainly not the same thing as “condemning.” To offer help with adoption is a far cry from telling her she is going to hell if she has an abortion. To counsel and pray with someone trying to overcome a sinful lifestyle is not comdemnation. However, what is happening too often is that our condemnation is louder than our encouraging, thus the message we want to preach is not heard.

  4. Rebecca W.

    I’ve always felt like a lot of Christians have the attitude of “you can believe anything you want as long as its the same as me…” This just reminded me of that and that it has to change. How can anyone expect change in the world if they aren’t tolerant to beliefs other than their own. You don’t have to agree with them, but don’t condemn those who do.

  5. Edward Neepaye

    Thanks. Let the “truth” be told with true agape and a genuine concern for the salvation of all mankind. Shalom!

  6. ben

    We must learn one thing about Christ: passionately hating sin but at the same time passionately lovIng the sinner. We must not mix or miss the point.

  7. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

  8. Edward Neepaye

    True love tells the truth it doesn’t compromise.

  9. Terry Evearitt

    Edward, thank you for these wise words; you Biblical wisdom is welcome and needed.

  10. Jason A

    Terry,
    Can you give the source of the Barna survey you mention?
    Jason

  11. Glenn

    I have been a pastor in the US for just a little over 15 years. My experience has led me to conclude that any time we say something is wrong according to God’s Word, people perceive that as being judgmental and unloving. I see this as a deceptive lie of Satan that twists the teachings of the Bible to keep us from speaking the truth to people who will continue to live under condemnation if nobody steps in to warn them of the error of their ways.

    – “Christians are supposed to be loving. If you loved me, you would just accept me as I am and to tell me I am wrong.”

    – “You’re not supposed to judge. You are just being judgmental when you say I am wrong”

    Jesus did not condemn. That is true. He did not come to condemn. If I understand John 3 correctly, He came because we were already condemned. If Satan can prevent people from hearing about their state, and their need for forgiveness, they will remain condemned forever.

    I have never found a way to talk to people about their need for forgiveness without pointing out that they are sinners. Some harden their hearts and say, “You’re just being judgmental!” Others listen. Either way, my message remains the same regardless of what the think of me.

    Jesus loves you. He died for our sins and rose from the dead. He wants you to confess your sins and turn to Him and follow Him. By confess, I mean to agree with Him that your way of life is against what He intended for it to be and that you should not live that way.

    Some harden their hearts; others listen. If that’s offensive or anti- something or other, so be it

    • Glenn,

      That may be your interpretation of how you should approach this issue,
      but it seems to me that this would be a method leading to the numbers
      Terry describes above.

      You are leading with what to a homosexual person feels like a
      condemnation of their person. They certainly don’t feel like it’s a
      lifestyle choice.

      So the reaction is to wonder perhaps why you are not approaching a
      women wearing both wool and linen, or someone eating crabs, or any
      number of proscriptions in the OT or Paul, with similar vehemence or
      faith in your righteousness.

      Thus the feelings that the Christian condemnation of homosexuality is
      hypocritical.

      One of those who lived most like Christ, Francis of Assisi, had a
      maxim. “Preach constantly, use words as a last resort.”

      If you allow that the mores presented in the bible are malleable; for
      instance, the 90% of Leviticus we find confusing, foreign, or
      downright offensive; then you are saying you are applying a human
      interpretation, speaking for God.

      We have no words from Christ directly condemning homosexuality (an
      extrapolation of a passage from Matthew is just that, an
      extrapolation) so why be so sure, vocal and steadfast in this? Why not
      just love one another as He has loved us.

      Semper Fi,
      Terry

      • Glenn

        First, I never specifically mentioned homosexuality in my reply to this post. I said “any time we say something is wrong according to God’s Word….” I have never felt the need to adjust the message of Christ to fit one specific sin. He died for all sin. My premise is that Satan has twisted the command to love one another to the point that people think they have to approve ungodliness to be loving.

        When you say, “We have no words from Christ directly condemning homosexuality,” you are conveying a different understanding of Scripture, and of the Trinity, than I hold. It is my understanding that Scriptures are the product of God’s inspiring men to write. In my simplistic understanding of the Trinity, that means Jesus was involved in the writing of the Scriptures. He was there, and actively involved, when the Israelites received all those commands that seem so obscure, and “downright offensive.” He was there, and actively involved, when Paul wrote his letters to the churches. To separate sections of the Bible and elevate certain passages, or even books, above others is no different than any other type of proof-texting. What you leave out is as important as what you leave in.

        If I were tempted to leave something out, it would be John 8 because of the textual variants that don’t include the record of the woman caught in adultery. There’s the principle of canonicity that comes into play here, though. Traditional Christianity works with the canon of scripture we have and works to interpret and to apply it. If you want to disregard all the writings outside the Gospels, you have veered from the path of traditional Christianity. How we read and interpret all the scriptures matters.

        As far as I know I have never told anyone that they have to live under the rules of the covenant the Lord made with Israel. We are not Israel, at least in my neighborhood. I have never even asked anyone to take an animal to the temple and sacrifice it when they sin. I do take my family and sleep in a tent for a week or so every year, but that’s just camping. I am not uncomfortable, however, saying that we all are sinners and we need the sacrifice that Jesus offered to the entire world when He established His new covenant.

        Even Jesus told people they were sinners, and (believe it or not) He didn’t reserve that designation just for the religious leaders. Read Luke 15 and consider who was sitting on the sidelines hearing Jesus tell why He was hanging around them. Some people though, are so convinced that their actions are right that they won’t be told they are sinners. They will simply say, “This is how I am supposed to be. If you think I am doing wrong, you don’t love me.” To me that’s what faith in your righteousness looks like.

  12. Edward Neepaye

    Terry, when we attempt to interpret the Bible from a Eurocentric paradigm we seem to render it confusing and archaic. It’s a living book. Love must not be confused with honesty. The Bible and nature speaks clearly about sodomy.

    • It speaks pretty clearly about divorce, too. Apparently, it speaks different things clearly to different people, depending on what is convenient to their view.

      Nature also says to those couples who need IVR, “no kids for you.” It also says to my wife and I “your babies will kill your wife”. In both cases, science steps in. The first case is as close to abortion as you can get without going over the line. The second case means I am in conflict with my church, but I will not let nature kill my wife.

      To me, the bible speaks clearly about loving my neighbor as Jesus loves me. “Render unto Caesar” speaks to me clearly, but I’m not sure if that’s my personal desire to keep all elements of my faith out of governance.
      I’ll stick to love and not judge my neighbor, there is too much room for nuance if I start co-opting the Lord’s duty of judgement.

      Semper Fi,
      Terry M (so as not to confuse the Terrys)

      • Glenn

        Terry M

        I am so sorry to hear of your wife’s health issues. I cannot imagine the pain that must cause. Though I don’t know you personally, I pray for you both to feel the comfort of the Lord.

  13. Edward Neepaye

    The ultimate demonstration of love is to ensure that your neighbor experiences a personal relationship with Christ that leads to eternal life. The Bible is clear on the consequences of unrepentence.

  14. Edward Neepaye

    Ultimately, folks have the right to believe what they want, and live the way they choose but when we use scriptures to support what is clearly sinful that’s apostasy. 2 Tim. 3 – 5.

  15. Great conversation! I wonder if our problem is that we typically condemn sin prior to giving any evidence that we love the one we are condemning. I have raised three sons and learned that I can say almost anything to them about their behavior because they know that I love them. If the most noticable thing about us as Christians is that we love, I think we would have the freedom to speak frankly about sinful behavior. It is hard to pay the price to love first. It would be great of Barna’s next survey said the most frequent word describing Chrisians is “love.”

    • Glenn

      I wonder if our problem is just that people are prejudiced against Christians in our country. If 91% of non-Christians pick anti-homosexual as the term they use to describe Christianity, I don’t think they know very many Christians. Somebody’s feeding their bias.

  16. Edward Neepaye

    I guess the Pharisees and Saddusees felt Jesus wasn’t showing them ‘love’ when He called them hypocrites and brood or vipers. Neither did Harod whom He called a fox. Let’s not confuse timidity with love. To love is to present the whole truth laced with compassion. Again, I currently pastor folks who struggle with homosexuality and they know that I love them.

  17. I grew up in Denver so I was always a Denver Bronco football fan. In addition, I always disliked the Dallas Cowboys, not so much because of the team but because of the fans. They seemed obnoxious and arrogant. Perhaps they had good reason to boast but as someone who rooted for another team it was not appreciated. I have always dislilked the Cowboys. It is not that they are bad folks but their followers turned me off.

    Perhaps that is somewhat akin to what has happened to the church. The church is not filled with people who hate sinners but judgment, condemnation, and anger is what people hear from us most frequently. It is certainly appropriate and necessary to take a stand against sin but unless we do it with love it will be misunderstood as condemnation.

    To give you an idea of what we up against and why 91% have the opinion, check this out – http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/22/video-of-north-carolina-pastors-plan-to-get-rid-of-gays-goes-viral/
    With this kind of stuff coming out of the church (and going viral) is is surprising the number is not 100%.

    • Terry, That is what I am trying to say. I have a handle on my own sinful nature and lack of capacity to grok God’s intentions. Isaiah 55: 8-9 is my favorite OT passage.

      The problem is not whether you, I, or Glenn (BTW thanks Glenn! We ‘fixed’ the situation, so she won’t have any more three month long labors, but we still can use all the prayers we can get) or anyone on here approaches in a certain way.

      We are standing next to those folks in NC if we lead with a general condemnation. I personally choose not to judge ANY behavior, and just show love, as I have sins, and I trust neither myself or my church to make an untarnished judgment.

      Love first, Love last, Love Always. Judge Not.

      Semper Fi, Terry

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