It rattled me. I felt uneasy, uncomfortable…even offended. There it was glaring at me, a revised Google logo, decked out with rainbow colors and reminding me it’s LGBTQ pride month. I was raised to be a conservative guy, and still am, so my knee-jerk reaction was strongly negative.
My visceral, moral anti-LGBTQ response felt so “right”…but was it? On the flip-side, I’m sure the pro-LGBTQ folks feel their passion is “right” too…but is it?
I imagine for people in the pro-LGBTQ community this month feels exciting, hopeful, and liberating. Meanwhile, for people in the anti-LGBTQ camp, it definitely feels offensive, scary, and intrusive.
It’s a divisive issue, and we live in a divided country…in case you haven’t noticed. The culture war rages on. The pro-LGBTQ camp voices contempt for the anti-LGBTQ camp, and the anti-LGBTQ camp returns fire.
As the battle over this issue continues, the question debated by many in the religious community is this: If Jesus were here, whose side would He be on? Would He champion “traditional values” and side with the conservatives, or would He embody the “compassion” and “tolerance” of liberal progressives?
In my opinion, Jesus’ view of this issue is far more radical than simply, “Pro-LGBTQ is right, and anti-LGBTQ is wrong,” or vice versa. What He taught was much deeper, much more offensive, and also much better than, “This side is right, and that side is wrong.”
Here’s what He said essentially: “None of you are right, morally speaking. You’re all wrong…You all reject your God personally and perpetually. You ignore Him and His rightness, seeking to establish a rightness of your own. This is the true source of all your misery. And yet, He loves you and offers you mercy.”
It is spelled out clearly in Luke 18. The Gospel writer introduces a parable of Jesus by saying,
“He told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (v. 9).
In other words, His parable has something to say to all of us who are confident that we are morally right and who have disdain for those we deem morally wrong. Here’s how He continues,
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (vv. 10-14).
So, you get the idea—the radical, other-worldly idea: The man who trusted in himself that he was right and who boasted in pride regarding his moral superiority—even feigning reverence for God—went away declared wrong by God.
On the other hand, the man who was so humbled by moral bankruptcy that he couldn’t even look up, let alone condescend toward the first man, that man went away justified. Seeing himself as the worst of sinners and crying out for mercy, he was declared right by God.
The irony of ironies—and the profound truth of the Gospel—is that God reckons us wrong when we think we are right, and right when we admit we are wrong.
Coming back to the LGBTQ debate, here’s what I believe Jesus would say to both sides: “You’re both wrong.” Each side is guilty of self-righteousness and contempt. That’s the bad news.
And, here’s the good news: God loves wrong people and offers us grace and the gift of “rightness” in relationship with Him. To use big theological words, He offers us justification.
I truly believe that even if the 7+ billion people on earth fully embraced and enthusiastically celebrated the pro-LGBTQ community, it still would not be enough to satisfy their cravings for affirmation nor assuage their deep sense of guilt.
Similarly, if the world’s population unanimously affirmed the anti-LGBTQ group, that still would not be enough to satisfy their cravings for a pure society or silence their fears of what could go wrong.
Neither extreme would end the war within or bring peace for anyone. The only One who can do that is Jesus who invites us to drop our false sense of self-righteousness, and to come to Him for grace. He is the Prince of Peace and the only hope for any of us to have it. He lived a life of true rightness, not by harboring contempt, but by having compassion; not by fighting for His cause, but by dying for others.
This compassion is available to us all. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that we have all spurned Him personally and violated His standard for sexuality, and He invites us to find full pardon and cleansing in relationship with Him. Only His voice, declaring us right in Christ—declaring us forgiven and free—can give us the peace we long for.
Societal discussions over important matters like the LGBTQ issue will continue. We will passionately debate which view is biblical as well as what is best for individuals and for society. I have my strong opinions, and you have yours. It is a hugely important topic, worthy of deep thought and careful argumentation.
As we wrestle our way through, surges of disdain for others will well up within us. It is inevitable. May we experience these uprisings as invitations to remember our condition and our Savior, and to receive anew His compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Only His grace can settle our hearts and grant us much needed measures of gratitude and peace. It might even help us engage those on the opposite side of the issue with compassion and respect.