Q&A on Gay Pride Activism
August 18, 2023
QUESTION: As Christians, should we be protesting gay pride festivities as either individuals or churches – or both?
ANSWER: Everything about Christianity centers on Christ. Specifically, that means witnessing to who he is, what he did, and what it means for us (Psalm 96:3; Matthew 5:16; 24:14; 28:18-20; Mark 13:10; 16:15; Acts 13:47; Romans 10:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Peter 3:15). We call this Gospel outreaching, evangelism, or witnessing. Contrary to how we often approach this topic, it is not depicted as an event or program but as a lifestyle. Look closely at the 1 Peter 3:15 passage. Done correctly, you are not standing on a street corner proclaiming Christ. Instead, people see within you a hope that the world cannot provide, and they will want to know the source of that hope. I suppose this is what many refer to as “lifestyle evangelism” – a life that lives in such a way that it creates a positive curiosity about what is making you tick.
For any of that to happen, it requires some relationship. The Apostle Paul was direct on this point (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Because some people are more challenging to have a relationship with than others, Jesus outlined the sacrificing this would require (Matthew 5:38-45). The Apostle Peter candidly established the standard that we are to imitate (1 Peter 2:21) in a manner like what Paul said directly in Ephesians 5:1 and indirectly in 1 Corinthians 11:1. My favorite reference in this regard is Philippians 2:3-5. Imagine how different the world would be if every Christian lived this way.
I often state in my preaching and presenting that at every decision in life, big or small, we reach a fork in the road where what we do, what we say, and how we say/do it will either build a bridge or a wall. When it comes to “letting our light shine” and acting in a way that makes people wonder “about the hope that we have” and being able to talk about sin, sacrifice, and salvation – is that easier done with a bridge or a wall? The answer is obvious. Making it happen is a challenge.
What creates an especially onerous challenge is translating action within varying cultural and political landscapes. The Old Testament presented various cultures and political climates where believers lived and served God and others. I am especially fascinated by the Babylonian exile and how Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had high-ranking positions in a political regime that was a monarchy opposed to the will of God (Daniel 1-3), as well as the story of Esther (found in the book of Esther).
When we get into the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the disciples found themselves existing within the context of a government opposed to the will of God. Within the New Testament form of government, there were overthrow attempts (Acts 5:33-39), but never with the endorsement of Jesus and his followers – even though one of the disciples was called a “zealot” (Matthew 10:4) whom some scholars believe would have been such a rebel.
The way Jesus sidestepped the tax question (Matthew 22:15-22) strongly suggests he wasn’t looking for a corporate or governmental conversion. He had plenty of reason to comment on how the government used the collected tax for sinning (including the beheading of John the Baptist and persecution of the believers, not to mention his execution). Instead, the focus was individual and personal.
We see this, especially with fault-finding. The practice of identifying the errors of others was a distinguishing characteristic of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day (Luke 18:9-14). In contrast, faithful followers of Christ are reminded to face an introspective truth: we are far more unworthy of God’s mercy than we imagine. He compares our judgment of others as finding a sliver in their eye compared to missing the plank in our eye (Matthew 7:1-5).
Our relationship with God begins with recognizing our unworthiness (Romans 7:7-24). This is not a causal acknowledgment that “no one is perfect,” so we are all part of one big group of sinners. The condemnation is deep and personal. When Paul wrote Romans 7, he was talking about himself, revealing that sinful inclination in all of us (Genesis 8:21; Romans 8:7).
So, to ask the old Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” The task of curing the ills of society begins within us. When every inclination of a person’s heart is evil, no law in the world will correct that problem – and that, by the way, is the problem – the heart. We can protest and counterprotest every social ill in our society, but it often fails to build the bridge necessary to share the message that changes the heart.
I have always been troubled by the plight of Christians in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-17). This portion of the letter was written to the “angel (or messenger) of the church in Laodicea.” These were not heathen who knew nothing of God. They were a congregation who presumably gathered regularly to go through the motions of worship and listening to the Scriptures. Somehow along the way, they got lost. But what is important and alarming to realize is that they did not realize they had gotten lost. We are told: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
How do Christians, meeting as a church, and doing “church things” like worship and Bible readings, reach the point of ignorance? Somewhere along the way, they missed a turn.
Scripture talks consistently and regularly about how faith makes you think and act differently. The ways of the world, while formerly a lifestyle, no longer matters (Ephesians 4:22-24). You are different!
There is a way the world functions to accomplish its agenda. There are tools specifically of this world to achieve the world’s gains, but they are not the tools a Christian uses (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). This is because we do not live to create a new world. We are called strangers in this world with citizenship in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-2; Philippians 3:20-21; Hebrews 11:13; 13:14).
Because of this reality, our focus is always on heaven and the salvation of souls (Colossians 3:1-2). Our thoughts, words, and actions are all directed toward connecting people with God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We can end all abortions, outlaw gay and other perverse lifestyles, but if we do not lead them to Christ, we will have failed (Matthew 16:26).
I am never comfortable making arguments from silence in Scripture. Still, it is noteworthy that despite numerous reasons to correct governing and social policy in the time of Christ and the apostles, they never engaged in doing so. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, the culture was permissive enough to permit promiscuity on her part. Jesus never set out to change the culture but to change the person. The well and the human need for water provided a bridge for the conversation.
If we settle on using the tools of the world, we can take steps to block the pride parade. It may indeed be a worthy cause as the gay lifestyle contradicts God’s word. But I would raise the question, will an action or petition create the bridge to witness to the truth and help connect the person to Jesus Christ?
In a representative form of government, each citizen can play a role as an elector, or someone elected. They can engage in referendums, petition drives, campaigning, writing letters to the editor, posting to social media, etc. These are freedoms unheard of in the time of Christ and the apostles. Yet, the diversion that occurs is that we forget we are strangers here and that heaven is our home. We forget that moral victories are hollow without spiritual change. Remember, our primary goal is to change hearts.
Early in my ministry at Christian Life Resources, I would travel to preach on a Life Sunday at some congregation. Well-meaning congregation members would erect crosses, each representing one million unborn children who have died because of abortion. It represented a bold and assertive statement on the part of the congregation in its opposition to abortion. The problem was that the mission field, those who needed a relationship with God through Christ, were often those having abortions. For them, it was merely a social issue – a matter of opinion. They did not know or understand the offense it presented to God. By erecting the crosses, a less-than-subtle message was conveyed that those who had abortions were not welcome.
It is a precarious line to walk when making public statements. We do not want to leave the impression that we approve of activity contrary to God’s Word. But making the statement is not what we are all about. Connecting the soul with God through Christ is our goal; we need a relationship to do that.
Not knowing the dynamics of every community or every congregation, I cannot offer a one-size-fits-all answer to the question about the pride parade. I suggest, however, approaching the issue from a different perspective. View each marcher in that parade as the mission field. See each marcher as someone with a distorted view of God and his will. Then ask yourself, how can I create a bridge to reflect Christ’s love and share the truth with this person?
This is hard because we have been conditioned to use strategies designed for worldly victories over centuries. Instead of confronting the gay issue head-on, perhaps pursue another charity outlet that creates interactions between God’s people and those who need them. Maybe you need a community picnic, a softball league, or some event that provides a safe environment for the gay community to interact, build relationships, and possibly hear the truth and let the Holy Spirit change the heart rather than trying to do so with some community policy or piece of legislation.
That all being said, it is a worthy cause to support secular efforts to create a wholesome and safe society for people. It is a good idea to send support to agencies to strive to pass laws to protect the unborn and protect marriage. Those efforts, however, are subordinate to our soul ministry effort. Seek a strategy that reflects that priority for Christians to participate within the congregations and community without building a wall between those who know Christ and those who still need to.
January 8, 2005
January 8, 2006