As Christians, we serve as Christ’s ambassadors according to 2 Corinthians 5:20, “[W]e are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” An ambassador is one who represents and speaks on behalf of another. When an ambassador of the United States of America speaks to the leadership of another country, he is speaking with full authority as if he were the President of the United States of America. Likewise, when we share the gospel of salvation with others, we speak with full authority as if we were Jesus Christ reaching out to that individual. Therefore, when we ignore, belittle, mock, and reject another—such as a person with same-sex attractions—to that individual, it is as if Jesus Christ Himself were ignoring, belittling, mocking, and rejecting him.
Jesus would never ignore or reject a person who was lost and separated from God simply because he was acting out his sinful nature. It should be expected that sinners will sin. Apart from the forgiveness of Jesus and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, every person is a slave to sin. In John 8:34–36, we read, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” Likewise, Jesus presented an analogy in Matthew 7:17–18, saying, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” In other words, a person’s consistent behavior is the result of a spirit that has either been renewed by God and is healthy, or a spirit that is sick and is enslaved to sin.
When we read the Gospels, we do not find Jesus cloistered away with the righteous. Instead, Jesus actively sought out sinners and built relationships with them. Mark 2:15–17 recalls, “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
It is important to realize that the use of the term “sinners” in this passage is not a generic reference to the common people. Rather, it refers to those who through the habitual practice of unlawful behavior had been separated from God’s covenant with Israel. These were the “reprobate” who were destined for eternal damnation. As such, they were often ostracized by society, and certainly by the religious community. The parallels between these sinners and the homosexual community should be obvious. Through repeated sexually immoral behavior, homosexuals often find themselves ostracized by the religious community as reprobates who are destined for an eternity in Hell. And yet we discover that it was precisely these kinds of individuals to whom Jesus actively ministered.
Jesus did not minister to the rejected reprobates of society because He had nobody better to teach. Rather, Jesus had a heart for those whom society had rejected. Jesus reached out to those who were in the greatest danger of experiencing God’s judgment because they had chosen a lifestyle that had divorced them from exposure to the truth. Realizing this, Jesus brought the truth to them. But He did not do this by shouting at them from a distance. Rather, He entered their homes and fellowshipped with them. Jesus built relationships with them in order that He might have opportunity to share the truth.
Likewise, we have been commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:19–20 to follow Jesus’ example and to seek out the lost in order that we might share with them the truth of God’s Word, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” This requires that we not allow ourselves to construct a wall of separation between ourselves and those whose practices are different, sinful, destructive, or even disgusting to us. Rather, if we are to follow Jesus’ example, then these are precisely the individuals whom we should most love and reach out to.
So, the first part of our Christian agenda is to identify the sinners—those who through the habitual practice of sinful behavior have been ostracized and rejected by society and by the religious community—such as homosexuals. Second, we are called to reach out to these individuals in love. This involves building relationships with them in order that we might have opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word. Third, we must speak the truth to them.
Jesus did not build relationships with sinners just to make them feel loved. Jesus was not afraid to offend sinners with the truth after first demonstrating to them his genuine concern for their wellbeing. There was never a question regarding whether Jesus condoned or affirmed the lifestyle of these sinners. Once again, in Mark 2:15–17, Jesus referred to these people as being spiritually sick sinners in need of a cure in order that they might live in righteousness, “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
All too often, Christians develop relationships with unbelievers only to discover that they do not have the strength to speak the truth when given the opportunity. Sometimes this is because they fear offending the individual, and sometimes it is because they begin to question what they believe to be true. Being ambassadors for Christ, it is as if Jesus Christ were communicating to these unbelievers that it is more important that they feel affirmed, supported, and loved than it is that they know the truth and fix their relationship with God. In so doing, the Christian offends Jesus Christ rather than offend his new friend. Jesus never placed an individual’s feelings above his need for salvation, but Jesus also did not minister to such individuals before first developing a firm personal conviction and understanding of the truth. Luke 2:52 teaches that Jesus first grew in His understanding before ministering to those who would challenge the foundations of His belief. In other words, Jesus equipped Himself for this kind of ministry.
So, we might add another element in our agenda which really ought to be the first step. First, we grow in our understanding of the truth of God’s Word and in wisdom. Second, we identify those who through the habitual practice of sinful behavior have been ostracized and rejected by society and by the religious community—such as homosexuals. Third, we reach out to these individuals in love. This involves building relationships with them in order that we might have opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word. And fourth, we speak the truth to them.
This should be the agenda of every Christian in order that we, like the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, can say to our friends, “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 inherit the kingdom of God. 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.” (emphasis added)
This article is excerpted from the book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.
NO WORKS CITED AVAILABLE
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.