It’s that time of year. Alongside the June flowers, gay pride is in full bloom. Here in Los Angeles, most shops, restaurants and even some churches have pride flags prominently displayed.
Social media is awash with rainbows. Facebook turned its logo into a clever gif. Not wanting to be outdone, other tech giants and corporations have put significant creative energy into commemorative logos signaling support for the LGBT community. Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO Max joined the festivities by suggesting gay-themed TV shows and movies to enhance the month’s entertainment offerings.
As Christians, how should we respond? Should we put up a fight? Grit our teeth and pray for July to arrive? Or to prove we’re not hateful, maybe we should post a pride flag on social media to demonstrate our solidarity?
A little backstory
In the early morning hours on June 28, 1969, a gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn was raided by police and many gay men were arrested. That event sparked a series of riots in New York City, and the following June, gay pride rallies took place in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Today, pride parades are held in almost every corner of the country and in many parts of the world.
I attended my first pride parade in Dallas when I was in high school. I was coming to grips with my sexuality, and participating in the sea of gay people marching and celebrating was exhilarating. After that, I never missed a parade, whether in Dallas, New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, my home since 1993. Sure, some aspects of the parades were tacky, like nearly-naked gay men gyrating on over-the-top, garish floats, but I enjoyed the comradery nonetheless.
All of that changed on September 20, 2009 when I walked into an evangelical church in Hollywood as a gay atheist and walked out two hours later utterly transformed by the gospel. That day, my identity as a gay man was washed away along with the rest of my sins. I had been invited to that church service a week before by gracious Christians who, when asked, told me the truth about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. I am eternally grateful for their honesty and forthrightness.
Jesus was a master at this. He balanced grace and truth perfectly. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus spends a lot of time with tax collectors and sinners. He eats and drinks with them. He travels with them. He does business with them. He laughs with them. In short, He loves them — but He never leaves them in their sins. There is always an implicit or explicit call to repentance.
When Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector, Levi leaves everything behind and follows Him. A feast ensues directly afterwards at Levi’s home (Luke 5:27-32). A celebration like this always implies repentance (think the parable of the prodigal son). With the woman caught in adultery, Jesus intervenes lovingly and with much grace, but then tells her to go and sin no more. Love and truth are inextricably linked.
It may seem loving to affirm our gay friends or relatives, but it is actually quite the opposite. With eternity at stake, the most loving thing we can do as Christians is tell them the truth that, yes, homosexual behavior is a sin, but that forgiveness and mercy can be found in Jesus Christ.
I spoke on the topic of homosexuality at a church recently, and afterwards a young lesbian woman came up to me, visibly upset, and asked, “Why do you think you need to fix people?” I told her that was above my pay grade. I can’t fix anyone; only the Holy Spirit can. I then added that the only reason I speak on this issue at all is that I care about her eternal life. That’s it. As someone who once believed the same lies she believes, I love her too much to not tell her the truth. Love without truth is mere sentimentality; truth without love is harsh legalism. We must try our best to never separate the two.
The power of the culture
The influence of the world is more powerful than ever in history. That’s why it’s incredibly important to meditate on the law of God day and night (Psalm 1). We are either giving into the pressure of the world or the pressure of the Word. And right now, the pressure of the world is overwhelming, which makes reading our Bibles all the more important. We need to have our minds renewed every day, otherwise we fall into the trap of believing the lies of our culture.
Shadrach and his friends in the book of Daniel knew what it means to push back against the culture. While in captivity in Babylon, they were commanded, along with all of the other Chaldean officials, to bow down to the golden statue Nebuchadnezzar had built. They refused, knowing they would be tossed into a fiery furnace. They knew God’s Word well: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:2-5). They did not cave to culture even though the stakes (and the heat!) could not have been higher.
Satan twisted God’s Word in the garden while tempting Eve: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) He’s still up to his old tricks today: “Did God actually say homosexual behavior is a sin?” Christians are increasingly buying this lie, that somehow over the last few decades, homosexual behavior suddenly became a good thing, a righteous thing, and something to be celebrated. Satan is laughing all the way to the bank. He couldn’t be more thrilled that he has so many deceived, especially in the church.
The power of the cross
Nowhere else is truth and love demonstrated more powerfully than at the cross. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and He was brutally beaten, tortured and crucified because of how much He loves us. He went to the cross so that we could be set free from the bondage of sin.
Twelve years ago, I was set free because Christian strangers loved me enough to tell me the truth. They didn’t try to change me — they let God do that — but they didn’t tell me I was OK, either. They didn’t love me with empty affirmations or rainbow profile pictures. They loved me with truth and an invitation to meet Jesus, and thankfully, my life will never be the same.
Copyright 2021 Becket Cook. All rights reserved.