“How Knowing People Should Change Us”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations

Over the past few months, a couple of progressive friends of mine have challenged my critique of the LGBTQ agenda by saying that my views would change if I knew someone in those categories.  If I knew someone who was gay, if I knew someone who was trans, I wouldn’t say such things about them.

My initial response was to dismiss the argument.  After all, I do know people who are gay, trans, etc., and I still write the things that I do.  Whatever my motivations, I’m pretty sure ignorance and bigotry aren’t on the list.

However, I think there’s more to consider here than that.  Though I believe that a Christian’s closest relationships should be with other Christians, we also should not isolate ourselves from the world.  That’s a Pharisaical approach, not a Christlike one. 

Indeed, Jesus came to earth in the first place to dwell among sinners.  If He was willing to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes, we also should not shy away even from those whose conduct seems to us to be least consistent with God’s will.  What’s more, knowing them should change our perspective on them and those who are like them.

First, it should teach us compassion for them.  Every human being is created in the image of God, and that does not change, no matter what sins they practice.  The better we get to know someone who is gay or trans, the less we will see the label, and the more we will see the human being.

Second, it will help us see the ungodliness of treating them badly, and I think both sides of the culture wars fail to approach this subject honestly.  On the one hand, progressives are inclined to label anyone who repeats the teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as a homophobe and a bully.  That’s an ad-hominem attack designed to shut down any discussion of God’s expectations for sexual morality, and it’s frequently untrue besides.  It advances the conversation in much the same way that a concrete bridge abutment advances the progress of a car.

On the other hand, conservatives are so used to being called homophobes and bullies that they dismiss the existence and ungodliness of genuine homophobia and bullying.  It is never, ever right to treat someone else hatefully, regardless of who they are or what they have done, but so-called Christians have justified tremendous cruelty against gay and trans people in the name of Christ.  The best way to avoid such cruelty is to know and love its potential targets.

Third, it will reveal our commonality with them.  In my interactions with people in the world, I always try to keep Hebrews 5:2 in mind.  There, it says of the Levitical priest that he was able to deal gently with the ignorant and misguided because he himself was beset with weakness.  We always must view the sin of others through the lens of our own sin. 

I know what it’s like to be tempted.  I know what it’s like to give in to my own evil desires.  As long as I keep my own failures in mind, it becomes very difficult to climb up on my self-righteous soapbox and give those wicked sinners over there what-for.  On our own merits, we’re no better than anyone else, and the better we get to know people, the more apparent that will become to us.

Finally, forming connections with gay and trans people will motivate us to share the gospel with them.  This is not the fruit of moral indignation, but of compassion, gentleness, and love. 

Satan is not a kind master, and his handiwork often is evident in the lives of gay and trans people.  Statistically, LGTBQ people have a much higher risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and even suicide.  Anecdotally, most whom I’ve known have not been happy, not particularly because they were persecuted, but because they couldn’t seem to make life work. 

Such problems, significant as they are, pale in comparison to the problem of sin and separation from God.  Gay and trans people are no greater sinners than I am, but that only means that they need the grace of Jesus as much as I do.  I feel bound, then, to speak truth in love, to them as much as to everyone else, not because I think that everyone will listen, but because I hope that some might.