It’s amazing the theological discussions in which one engages, and the place where they take place. In this case, it was in an emergency room at our local hospital.
This past Sunday, I preached on “Why Are Christians So Homophobic?”—a question the culture (and even some who identify with a church) lob at us with marked frequency. I received mostly positive comments. One elderly gentleman, who said it was the best sermon I ever preached (glory to God), nevertheless asked to speak with me at some point about something I said.
I braced myself and we set up a time.
Turns out, this gentleman found himself in the ER during the time we were to have our talk, so we evidently changed venues for the conversation.
He came to Christ in the 1990s and had a burden to reach and minister to the outcast downtown. While doing some construction there, the conversation came up about homosexuals. One other ‘believer’ noted, “Well, I hope they don’t come to my church.” As a new believer saved later in life, he could not understand that. Didn’t they need Christ like anyone else?
It was here that the conversation turned to something he heard me say, that he needed reconciling in his mind. “Preacher, I see where Jesus loves everyone, no matter what. But then I see Paul condemning and calling things an abomination. I read them both, and decided I’ll stick to the red letters.”*
I had heard this argument before, some in church, most in seminary—never in a hospital room. I was grateful that God still has people thinking about His Word, and that God gives people to help sort through it all.
I told him, “You just said that before you were a Christian, you were a first-class jerk, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Your wife sitting over there (almost married 60 years)—would she testify that you were this way?”
“Oh, sure! How she put up with me, I’ll never know!”
“But she still loved you, right?”
It was then some clarity came about! We didn’t need to go any further. It is possible to love someone deeply, passionately, without reservation, yet hate the very things in them that they see could and would destroy them if gone ahead to the full measure.
You see, we as believers can say that God loves you through Christ, but hates your sin. He hates your sin because of His great love for you. True Christians have that heart of Christ in them as well.
So this is one way to think of how Jesus (“For God so loved the world…” in John 3:16) and Paul (“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and how their messages reconcile to one another.
The unity of the Scriptures is evident: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Amen! And Amen!