Hearing countless stories, I understand why many in the gay community are upset, hurt, and frustrated by the church. Over the past 60 years or so, the gap widened and deepened between the gay community and Christ’s community. Some churches allowed the divide to grow wider, turning a blind eye to homosexuality and pretending it doesn’t exist. Others spouted condemnation through a barricade of banners and signs that spit arrows of hatred towards the gay community. All of this in the name of what? Christ?
The hurt has run so deeply that many churches have overcompensated for their guilt by becoming fully accepting of homosexuality as a God-ordained gift. It seems the church’s ideology swings on a pendulum. “We accept homosexuality as a gift” versus “homosexuality is an abomination”. These two messages seem to overshadow the message of Exodus and organizations or people who express the belief that while God loves all people, He calls us to be obedient to Him first and foremost. Yet, we are pitted in the same category as those who are considered “anti-gay”. Does something need to change?
I think many of us on both ends of the spectrum and in between have reacted to, instead of proactively engaged gay culture. More liberal Christians have reacted to their guilt by condoning homosexuality. More conservative Christians have reacted to their fear and gay activism with hate and judgment. Gabe Lyons, in his book The Next Christians, offers a refreshing look at Christian culture today and the direction our faith is taking in America. He discusses a new generation of Christians called “restorers”. These “restorers seek to mend earth’s brokenness” (47). Are we restorers? Am I a restorer?
It’s so refreshing to look at the Christian faith lived out in the paradigm of restoration. Christ came to earth to restore us to God. He didn’t shun us, nor did he condemn us. He left the comforts of paradise to bind himself to a frail, limited, weak, human body. He was more interested in the restoration of His people than the serenity of His deity. What would it look like for us to leave our places of serenity and focus more on the healing of others than how we feel?
What would it look like if we were provoked to engage culture, instead of withdrawing or becoming offended? What if we approached every human being with the mindset of restoration instead of condemnation? “[Jesus] was driven to be present in the darkest and most corrupt places of his culture, to extend his holiness, love, grace, peace, and purity to others in creative, redemptive, and ultimately self-sacrificial ways” (78-79). Why would we hold ourselves to any other standard?
I think many times people are afraid of mingling with the “sinners” because they may be influenced or it makes them uncomfortable. I’ve been guilty of that mindset before. But that’s the mind of a hider and not a restorer. Christianity spread so fast, because the disciples were provoked to engage the culture of their time. Paul engaged the philosophers, idol worshippers, and prostitutes of Corinth. Many have compared Corinth to a city like Las Vegas today. Had the disciples mission only been to correct people and not restore people, the gospel would not have spread so rapidly and expansively. What would it be like if they hadn’t been restorers and engagers in their first century hostile culture?
Engaging culture doesn’t mean going full force into the secular world alone. We need accountability, support, and a firm foundation in the word and our community of faith. Otherwise, we may become influenced by the world. As Gabe Lyons states, as we engage culture that is devoid of Christ we must remember that we follow Him. The moment we lose sight of our purpose and whose we are, compromise sets in.
We also must have a lens of grace. How could we hold people who live a life outside of Christ to embrace the same morals we abide by? They are functioning out of a completely different worldview. If they don’t live under Christ’s authority, why should they stop living the way they live? It’s a self-righteous mentality of “we know better”. Well that’s not really true. We could be messed up, broken, and rebellious people. The difference isn’t that we know better, but that we know a “person”. That person is the beginning of healing, restoration, and freedom. Words of hatred, judgment, ridicule, or condemnation creates bitterness, resentment, and anger towards the ones who should be restorers. Strip off the cape of judgment. Pull off the mask of fear. Put on a lens of engagement. And embrace a robe of restoration.
Christ came to restore. The church body is called to follow Christ. We should imitate our teacher and be restorers also. Provoked to engage, and moved to restore a broken world.
“Whoever claims to walk in Him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6