Following the Savior’s Example

I recently watched a CNN video of a reporter who visited a flower shop in Georgia to discuss their willingness to provide and deliver flowers for a gay wedding. He was actually there to confront the Christian owners about their “discrimination” against the LGBT segment of our society. While the answers given by the florist clearly reflected the traditional, Christian values of the owner, they were less than satisfactory to the reporter.

He first questioned her commitment to the biblical value of “love.” Her response was typical of most Christians. She insisted that she did not hate the “sinner.” It was, instead, their “lifestyle” that was offensive. Believers use that line about “hating the sin while loving the sinner” very casually, as if that sufficiently justifies their attitudes.

The reporter went to a different florist; asked the same question and got a similar response. At that point he began to probe a little more deeply. His next question had to do with her willingness to serve those who were known to be guilty of other sins, such as adultery, or not honoring their father or mother, both forbidden by the Ten Commandments. She made it clear that she would serve them. She would not, however, serve a homosexual because, in her opinion, “it’s just a different kind of sin and I don’t believe in it.”

At that point the video returned to the studio where the commentators were having a field day with the inconsistency of her response. The sad truth is – they were justified in doing so.

There is a biblical problem with her response, and it has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. It has everything to do with… discrimination. Does the scripture state that homosexuality is a sin? Absolutely! Are we, as believers, required to take a stand against homosexuality? Certainly! Not doing so is a clear violation of scripture. Does scripture identify homosexuality as a “different kind of sin,” and are we commanded to treat it “differently?” If the answer to those questions is “no,” (and it is) we must come up with a better approach.

We should take a moment to ask: Did our Savior “discriminate” (helping or befriending some offenders, while refusing the same kindness to others) against any of the sinners with whom he dealt while on this earth?

Matthew 11:19 says that Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders of His day for being a, “friend of publicans and sinners.” Matthew 9:10 informs us that while Jesus was enjoying a meal with His disciples, “many publicans and sinners came and sat down” with them.  Are we to assume that those meals eaten with “publicans and sinners” included thieves, liars, adulterers, and all sorts of despicable reprobates of society, but no homosexuals?

Was there a sign outside the door that said “no gays allowed?”

Instead, it appears that Jesus was not primarily concerned about the sinful lifestyles of those with whom He dined, and He obviously did not care what the religious authorities thought of His associations.

When the Pharisees asked the Savior’s disciples why their Master was eating with “publicans and sinners,” Jesus spoke up, stating: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).  Verse 13 reveals His motive: “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus cared about their spiritual needs. He was seeking to remove the spiritual blindness that was responsible for their sinful lifestyles. And His interaction with them was crucial – it communicated the sincerity of His love.

We (21st century believers) often do exactly the opposite. We refuse to befriend, aid, or associate with them in any way. Our normal response is to avoid them altogether, much like the Jews did the Samaritans. Evangelistic efforts are usually conducted from a distance. We don’t want to leave any doubt about our opposition to their lifestyle, and we fear getting too close or showing too much kindness will somehow weaken our testimony. Yet the Savior’s willingness to help, or befriend sinners did not weaken His opposition to their sins, nor support their continued practice of them.

Some insist that homosexuality is “different” because it is a perversion of God’s original purpose for men and women. Yet all sin perverts God’s original plan. Others justify their opinion by stating that the Bible says that homosexuality is an “abomination” in the eyes of God. It is, indeed, a disgrace to the character of a holy God. However, many other sins also fit that definition:

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

While all of those sins are classified as an abomination unto the Lord, none would be cited as a reason to refuse service to the offender.

Our challenge is consistency. Integrity demands that we either demonstrate consistency in our treatment of those with whom we disagree or acknowledge that our actions are being driven by our personal offense rather than biblical conviction. It matters not whether we are welcoming them to a church service where they will hear the truth, selling them flowers, baking them a cake, or helping them remove a dead tree from their back yard. We are constrained by scripture to follow our Savior’s example, no matter the sin, or our opinion of its level of depravity.

Is it reasonable to expect our preferences to be honored when we are confronted with a disagreeable or distasteful challenge? Should we have the right to “choose” who we serve, or treat with kindness, based solely on our perception of their sin? Perhaps. But support for that position (which requires discrimination) must be obtained exclusively through our legal system, because we will not find it in scripture.

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