homosexuality isn't a sin | harm, hurt & the limits of language

"Homosexuality is a sin." How many times have we heard that? One hundred times? One thousand?

The trouble starts when we begin reading "homosexuality" into the biblical text, because that idea as we understand it just isn't there. Although it condemns same-sex practices like prostitution and pederasty, scripture is silent about what modern readers understand as sexual orientation, same-sex attraction, or monogamous or non-exploitative relationships between adults of the same gender.

The bible is not nearly as clear about homosexuality as heterosexual Christians imagine or preach. Christians who insist that homosexuality is sinful may think they're "loving the sinner, hating the sin," but in reality they condemn and stigmatize people made in God's image, and that is not the place of a people called to love our neighbors.

Each of us has the ability to honor God with our whole selves, including our sexuality. But how many stories have you heard or lived in which gay Christians are kicked out of communities for merely acknowledging their sexual orientation, a thing that cannot be changed and simply is.

How do churches expect gay Christians to practice their faith? If we're honest, do we offer gay Christians anything more than:
  • "Homosexuality is a sin,"  
  • "Don't be gay,"  and  
  • "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" ?
I have to believe that Jesus would respond wholly different than his Church does when it comes to loving our queer brothers and sisters.

When churches insist that homosexuality is a sin:
  • We draw lines, make assumptions, and cause lasting trauma.
  • We exclude gay Christians and seekers from feeling welcome in our churches and exercising their own God-given gifts. 
  • We fail to affirm the image of God in our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.  
  • We legitimize anti-gay bullying. 
  • We fail to wrestle through, articulate, and live out together a sexual ethic that honors God and includes everyone.
We pretend that:
  • Being gay is a choice to get out of wrestling with harder questions about interpreting scripture, the character of God, community life, power, the nature of sexuality, discrimination, privilege, and more. 
  • Being a Christian means being straight and feeling at home in the gender we were assigned at birth.
  • It is possible to "pray the gay away," bisexuality doesn't exist, and conversion therapy is not itself inhumane, unscientific, and spiritually abusive.
  • Straight and cisgender Christians are the most trustworthy authorities on sexuality and interpretation and that queer theology isn't an entire discipline centering other voices, perspectives, and expressions of deep faith.
Claiming homosexuality as sin is dehumanizing and dishonest. It stops conversations, burns bridges, and compromises Christians' ability to live out the gospel and love our neighbors well.

Homosexuality isn't some abstract political issue. People matter. Language matters. Sin matters, but that's true individually, communally, and systemically. We're hardly closing our doors to the self-righteous among us and are barely scratching the surface of recognizing the Church's historical, ongoing, sinful contributions to rampant homophobia, harm, and discrimination, so why have parts of the Church elevated homosexuality to its deal-breaking, flagship sin?

The gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, and intersex men and women within our churches and communities aren't projects to fix but our siblings, co-members of one Body of Christ. The last thing that Christians are called to do is drive people away from Jesus with careless rhetoric, easy answers, and lack of grace.

If Christians truly desire to be faithful to Christ, we must be known by our love above anything else. Straight, cisgender Christians have had more than enough to say about the sexuality and lives of those who hold far less structural power for far too long. Let's love our neighbors by listening better and remembering that Jesus had not one word to say about homosexuality.

Many churches are realizing that loving means supporting equal rights and marriage equality, and that legislating theology from the halls of power is a far cry from where Jesus dwells at the margins. Christ's love ought to be fleshed out among us first, infusing and transforming our own hearts and communities with new life.

As we practice listening, humility, and faith together, may we learn what it looks like to honor God and one another with our language, our love, and our lives.

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