One of the most divisive and difficult topics to discuss today is over sexual ethics—specifically involving LGBT issues. It's a topic most of us avoid. For the few that are engaged, conversation is often shrill with carpet bomb arguments that leave the public arena riddled with verbal craters and unspent mines making it difficult to navigate civil conversations.
I've had several instances this past year where I've been directly in the realm of conflict. I've debated LGBT activists over transgender issues on public radio and spoke to local governments that were considering Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) ordinances. In one of those meetings, I was accused of being tied to an outside hate group that local law enforcement was monitoring. In another I was verbally accosted by a woman who blamed me for her nephew’s death simply because I held the wrong view.
In both camps of this culture war there are real people caught in the crossfire of this barrage of words. I recall a conversation with a prominent social conservative years ago about how to win the LGBT issues. "I wish we had a silver bullet to deal with it." That statement implies there's some kind of weapon. And a target. I repent of that sentiment. The LGBT community needs God's grace just as much as I need it.
Interestingly, both sides are angling for the moral high ground. This was evident at a Georgetown City Council meeting earlier this year where LGBT advocates widely quoted Scripture in defense of the proposed SOGI ordinance. In the broader arena, one side chants Love Wins! The other, less conspicuously from the pulpit: Sinners Repent!
One thing Christianity teaches is that we're all sinners fraught with brokenness. This is the common denominator of humankind. My sin might not be your sin, and your sin might not be my sin, but we're all sinners.
For those who've been reconciled to God, there ought to be deep gratitude for forgiveness and restoration. This means that believers have no right to look down on another person in sin. Instead, they ought to extend grace to others because God has been gracious to them.
This grace, along with empathy and compassion, have sorely been missing in this discussion. This is why my organization is holding three one-night conferences in Lexington, Bowling Green and Louisville in early November called Loving Your LGBT Neighbors Without Losing Your Convictions.
This is not about watering down a Christian sexual ethic, which I believe is a gift to the world. It's about holding true to all of God's commands which means that "loving your neighbor as yourself" is just as important as "taking up your cross" to follow Jesus. It's about affirming the dignity of your fellow human beings and extending respect even when you deeply disagree with them.
But who defines love? Who sets the ethical standard? For Christian's, it's Jesus—the one who loved and interceded for the poor, the broken, the marginalized—all those outside respectable religious circles. At the same time, he affirmed a moral framework for love and boundaries for human sexuality. When the line was crossed he offered kindness yet conviction for those in sin.
One of the greatest Bible stories of grace is when the religious leaders wanted to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus wouldn't let her be used as a pawn in their power struggle and said "let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Each of the Pharisees quietly left. Then, the same Jesus that had just protected her, graciously dealt with her sin by saying "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
Such responses confound culture warriors in both trenches. While there is no silver bullet in this debate, nor should there be, finding the balance between grace and truth is worth more than gold.
This column appeared in the October 27, 2017 edition of the Kentucky New Era.