In twenty-first-century America and beyond, the once-sidelined LGBTQ movement has moved fully into the mainstream of society and culture. Corporate offices celebrate Pride Day, media outlets promote LGBTQ awareness, and communities host pride parades.
How should the church respond to the LGBTQ movement? Should we stand against the tide of our changing society, or is it time for the church to give its full support to the LGBTQ cause?
Christians should exhibit compassion and grace to all persons, including LGBTQ persons. But Christians must do so without embracing and promoting the cause of the LGBTQ movement.
The Message of the LGBTQ Movement
One of the difficulties that the church has in discerning the message of the LGBTQ movement is that it is presented as a positive thing for people and for society. Indeed, all significant societal shifts throughout history – good and bad – succeeded because the people that embraced them believed that they were doing right.
It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to entice people to knowingly support an evil cause. But it is not difficult to encourage people to join a cause that seems noble. And that is the strategy that Satan uses to turn people away from God:
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.2 Corinthians 11:14
In America, we recognize slogans such as ‘love wins,’ or ‘hate has no home here,’ as phrases closely associated with the LGBTQ movement.
To be fair, as Christians, we rightly recognize that the most egregious forms of injustice carried out against LGBTQ persons, particularly acts of violence, should rightly be condemned. For they are indeed unloving and do not please God.
But the LGBTQ movement does more than invite us to condemn violence. We are being invited to celebrate sexual behavior that is displeasing to God. And by claiming the mantle of ‘love,’ the LGBTQ movement has succeeded in casting mere disagreement as ‘hate.’
This places the church and Christians alike at a difficult crossroads.
The Choice Before Us
As Christians, we understand that we live in a fallen world, that all people are sinners, and that the grace of Jesus is our only hope. We also understand that our responsibility is not to condemn the world (1 Corinthians 5:12) but to love others while we live as holy people set apart for God while we are still in the world.
So while we must not resort to the unproductive and unChristlike tactics of engaging in angry protests, acts of vandalism, and threats against LGBTQ persons, we cannot embrace and champion the LGBTQ movement while still living as holy people.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.Proverbs 4:14
So we neither wage war against those who walk in worldly ways nor follow their lead. We must not only behave differently from the world, we must start by thinking differently:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Protests, threats, destruction, and violence are the tactics and strategies of worldly conflict. But our primary battle as Christians is the inward one, whereby we discern the mind of Christ as He is revealed to us in scripture and proceed in obedience.
This is the formula for Christians and for the church. We are to let our obedience be our witness.
The Church: People Set Apart
If we follow Christ, we cannot also follow the world. For this reason, churches should not advertise or host pride parades, or perform same-sex weddings. As individual Christians, we must also withhold our participation in these things.
However, in modern society, many churches – even whole denominations – have embraced the LGBTQ movement.
To many, the reasons for doing so might start with a desire to reach people that the church has difficulty reaching. Others might be compelled by a desire to present the church as a haven of love in a manner that society will understand.
So with sincere and noble intentions, we compromise our churches.
But embracing compromise is fraught with danger.
Words of Caution
In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, we read letters that Jesus sent to seven churches. Jesus calls two of the churches to account for being compromised.
To the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), He reveals that they have adopted a posture of complacency, allowing the teachings of Balam and the Nicolations in their midst. Jesus calls them to repent, or he will ‘fight against them with the sword of his mouth,’ (v 16).
His rebuke of the church in Thyatira is even more severe. This church has shown not just complacency, but an outright embrace of the false teachings of Jezebel. Yet, even as Jesus leaves the church itself in judgment, He invites the faithful remnant who have not been compromised to hold on to Him.
When the church gives a platform to a message that is not of God, we compromise the gospel. And when the church promotes such a message, we lead people away from Jesus and into sin.
As Christians, we ought to love people with genuine compassion. The LGBTQ persons in our schools, our workplaces, and our families are just as worthy of our kindness, friendship, and grace as anyone else.
But grace does not embrace the values and the ways of the world. If it did, then Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection would be meaningless and futile.
So as Christians, let us stand firm in God’s truth, and live according to His grace, so that the world may see how loving – and how necessary – Jesus truly is:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.1 Peter 2:12