May 1, 2013

Homosexuality: six ways to love the sinner, hate the sin

by Jesse Johnson

fb equalMonday’s announcement by Jason Collins that he is gay is the latest example of the homosexual “issue” being elevated into the secular marketplace. The new normal is for homosexuals to announce their sexual identity, and then receive affirmation for their bravery, boldness, and honesty from their co-workers and clients (or, in the case of Collins, journalists).

This puts Christians with secular jobs in a predicament. Most believers understand perfectly well the concept of hate the sin and love the sinner. But that concept is more and more being seen as inadequate simply because homosexuals often perceive their sexual orientation as their identity, thus rendering any attempt to love the sinner while hating the sin as contradictory.

The difficulty is compounded for believers who work with, for, or around those who are openly homosexual. How should Christians respond to those in the work place who are homosexual? If you manage a company with homosexual employees, or if you have homosexual co-workers, how do you find the balance between hating the sin and loving the sinner? Here are six suggestions:

1) Remember the gospel, which is another way of saying the over-riding issue is that homosexuality is a sin, and that all sin is against God. Yet God is also eager to forgive any sin that is confessed in faith, and repented of. The reason this issue is difficult is because the Christian has the desire to see his friends and co-workers come to faith, and we know that salvation is really impossible if a person refuses to recognize their sin.

2) Don’t approve of homosexuality. There is no positive aspect of homosexuality in the Bible. Every mention of homosexuality in scripture is negative, and it is both an act and a lifestyle condemned by God. In all your interactions with homosexuals, remember that their identity is rooted in a practice that God calls sin, and that (like all sin) leads to destruction. This issue is complicated because unlike many other sins, the homosexual is often in search of approval for his/her actions, which is something that the believer simply cannot give.

In our culture it is not even the sin itself that is the issue, as much as it is the push for affirmation of the sin (Romans 1:32). The goal is to have others give their acceptance of their sin ( “the opinion of America is changing”), and that is the one thing that you cannot do. I can’t think of another group that has strived to justify their sin as much as this group, and to a large part they have been successful. As you strive to find the balance of loving the sinner and hating the sin, remember that there is a red-line you cannot cross; you cannot do anything that would give the impression of approval for a homosexual lifestyle.

3) Have compassion on homosexuals because Satan is a hater and a destroyer. A person shackled to a gay lifestyle is a person who experiences profound pain, rejection, and isolation to an extent that most people don’t understand. It’s hard to imagine the damage that is caused to someone when they question their own sexual identity. It strikes at the very core of their being. That pain and insecurity is masked by coming out, but it is not taken away. Instead, it leads to a perpetual search for acceptance, and ultimately it is a life that leads to misery. Remember, Satan hates people, and those who are ensnared in sin should be the object of Christian compassion.

4) Demonstrate love to homosexuals—the same love that God showed us when we were separated from Him. Develop relationships with co-workers who are homosexual. Get to know them, pray for them, and don’t shrink back from sharing the gospel with them. Refuse to say anything negative about them, and show them a loyalty and friendship from a heart that is filled with concern for them. Remember that at the end of the day, we “don’t owe anybody anything except love” (Romans 13:8).

5) Don’t tolerate any divisive or hate speech. If you manage a secular company, and you have employees that can’t work alongside someone who is gay without being divisive or unprofessional, you have to deal with that divisive and unprofessional employee. Your employees need to work together, and ensuring that this is the case is not tantamount to showing acceptance for homosexuality, but rather is a mark of professionalism, and a sign of Christian maturity.

6) Be honest with a homosexual co-worker by letting him know that you have the desire to love and care for him, without in any way giving him the impression that you approve of his sinful actions. Tell him that this is the same tension you have with all non-Christians, but that it is even more pronounced with him, and ask for help in trying to find that balance. Explain that it is your desire to see him come to faith, and in the meantime it is your desire to get to know him and pray for him, but that you don’t want him confused about your understanding of sin.

Are these suggestions helpful? What would you add?

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • g. canady


    Thank you guys for this blog. I am grateful for the insight into the mind of how pastors work out their salvation.

    Can you expand on what you mean by the sin of homosexuality being “more pronounced” that the other sins/sinners listed in Romans 1:23-32

    • Thanks for the comment Canady. So I can answer the question well, can you help me find the sentence you are asking about? There are a few you might be referencing, but I want to make sure I’m answering what you are actually asking. Thanks!

    • g canady

      Thanks for responding.
      I have a small buisness and right now it is just my wife and I. I hope to have other workers and I know they ,like me, will be all kinds of sinners. My question is how ,as a Christian, can I have a “more pronounced” “tention” with a homosexual that anyone else.

      • So what I meant by that above is that the homosexual community (and this is a generalization, of course) is active in pushing for acceptance of their sin. Tolleration is not enough, but rather approval is the goal, and any thing short of approval is seen as “hate speech.” This is not true for the other sins on that list in Romans 1.
        The second reason is that the sin of homosexuality becomes a person’s core identity. It comes to define them, as Collins himself said: “I’m an NBA player, I’m black, and I’m gay.” A person probably wouldn’t put the other sins from Romans 1 in that kind of list. Does that help? Thanks Canady.

        • g. canady

          Thank you Jessy. I expect I will have to deal with this first hand with company policy some day. I want to stand in the truth what ever the cost but not in offence because I have a wrong understanding of love.

  • I know this underlies all your points, but I think a reminder that we need to rely on the authority of scripture and use a proper approach to interpretation is appropriate at this time. I have a series called How to Witness to a Homosexual on which are some practical tips for having these discussions rationally with those who are willing. I’ve had open homosexuals appreciate and respect my stance while disagreeing with me. Not that I’m bragging; I just think all Christians are capable of this if taught and submitted to the Holy Spirit and use my experience as encouragement to others.

  • Melissa Collins

    Thank you for this most important, prevalent blog. I work in a company surrounded by many homosexuals and I literally have been having the conversation with my Christian friends about how to handle working around them with love and compassion and yet standing firm in my beliefs. I understand that my thoughts and words, if not filled with compassion, are sinful as well. This is very helpful to me and I consider it an answer to pray for what I have been seeking – a way to work with, and love all sinners (as am I), but more specifically, this controversial issue with homosexuals.

  • Ryan

    Six ways to get fired or sued at work when working with gay people should be the title.

  • νεό φυτος

    I wonder if this really only has an impact with, say, something like diversity training, where you are put on the spot and asked to make a stand on certain beliefs and convictions, but in day to day work life, I’ve worked with plenty of homos and never had any issues. They do their job, I do mine. There’s never been a point where I’ve been put on the spot as part of the job to tolerate/approve of another lifestyle I might disagree with.

  • “Explain that it is your desire to see him come to faith, and in the meantime it is your desire to get to know him and pray for him, but that you don’t want him confused about your understanding of sin.”

    That’s all very good, but, What do you tell those who insist they are already Christians?

    • That is a great question–and one that is not limited to homosexuals. What do you tell the person in living with their girl friend who says the same thing? My approach has always been to hold people to the standard of their profession. “You say you are a Christian…well that’s confusing to by because I see x, y, or z in your life, and the bible calls those sins. I didn’t think Christians openly lived in sin. What do you do with those passages?” And then have that conversation.

  • Doc B

    The biggest problem I see is, all of your suggestions under #6 will fall under #5, and get you fired. Being honest about homosexuality as sin IS hate speech today.


    • Well you identified the tension right there. That is the love the sinner, hate the sin argument. I’d suggest reading Mike Riccarid’s post (linked above) called Love, hate, and homosexuality. And if Mike has anything to add, this would be a good place for him to jump in.

    • Hey Doc B. Are you saying that since speaking any biblical truth regarding homosexuality is regarded as hate speech by the world, that we have to choose between them? That’s how I took your comment. Let me know if I misunderstood you.

      I would just say that I read Jesse’s #5 and read “unwholesome talk” (cf. Eph 4:29) for “hate speech,” and not what the world calls hate speech — which is pretty much anything but blanket approval and celebration of homosexuality. The way I’d apply #5 is to make sure that if there are others who make crude jokes or call names, I would speak up and let those people know that that is unacceptable, just as I would if others were making fun of someone for something else.

      But when it comes to lovingly and gently confronting sinners with the truth of the Gospel, I think we do that regardless of whether the world defines it as hate speech, because we must obey God rather than men. It doesn’t mean that we turn our places of employment into mission agencies — we have a job to do afterall. But it does mean that if the Lord provides an opportunity to confront sin and proclaim forgiveness for that sin through His sacrifice for us, then we should take that opportunity as good soldiers of Christ Jesus, and as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

  • Richard

    I was a homosexual; but, Jesus saved me through reading the Bible and various Christian radio ministries (sadly, not through the personal witness of a Christian). Once a sinner; now a sinner saved by grace and mercy.
    It seems to me we focus too much on one’s life dominating sin rather on the Savior from our sin. I think we need more instructions on explaining and exhalting our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; and, then we will save people from a multitude of sins. Surely, we must exercise discernment; but in an age of instant blog responses or twitting in brief statements, we do not clearly know who is a Christian and who is not.
    An important distinction in dealing with people, both need the Gospel: one needs to hear the Word clearly and the other needs to more clearly know the Word. “Remeber the Gospel” should remind us many spend their entire lifes apart from God; and, we should expect sinners to sin (in a multitude of ways). You point number three is spot on and true for both the unrepentant and repentant homosexuals.

    • That is a great point Richard. Any life dominating sin becomes even MORE of an obstacle to the gospel when it becomes a person’s identity. I completely agree that we should refuse to define people by a particular life dominating sin. Well said.

  • Excellent post, Jesse, and one that hits all too close home for me.

    Balance, balance.

    I am thankful for ESPN commentator Chris Broussard’s very public, very biblical-reaction.

    • Yeah. When I first heard about what Chris said, my first reaction was that he went too far–not that what he said wasn’t true, but that it was sort of strange in that setting. But once I heard/saw the whole exchange, it was obvious that he was expressly asked for his personal view, and he said that his personal view came from the Bible, and that the Bible is clear on this subject. I agree that in context, it was a really good answer.

  • David

    While the sin of homosexuality can definitely a touchy subject. The gospel sheds light to any life of sin. God’s judgement does need to be proclaimed in proportion to repenting and believing the gospel (Mark 1:15). The thing sometimes I personally forget is how bad my former life used to be before Christ.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-1 says 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

    I used to fit in this category but praise God for sending Christ to be the propitiation for my sins. In ministering and gospel presentations on an everyday basis in the workplace, I try to show those i come in contact with, that I was wretched, and headed for God’s judgement and condemnation. Therefore I try to focus not just on generic love of Jesus we hear today, but the glory of Christ. I boast in Him constantly for saving me

    I have seen responses to my boasting in Christ from people and a lot of times they seem to be curious about my faith.

  • Creighton Ring

    Thanks Jesse, It may be helpful to note that individuals who believe they have (or actually have) experienced unloving responses from Christians, may attempt to corner Christians at work. This is sometimes done in a deliberate effort to get the Christian fired. Many companies have policies that expressly prohibit conversations in this realm, unless individuals are on their own time.

    I have a colleague who is very careful about this. He has experienced the purposeful attempts of co-workers to goad an answer out of him while on company time. He was always very careful to patiently and softly divert discussions of his biblical understanding to break-times or to off-hours discussions. Curiously, the same individuals usually did not want to talk during those times. In short, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

  • kevin2184

    As someone who was saved out of a life of homosexuality, I
    can’t tell you, Jesse, how pleased I was to read this post. It’s the most concise and well-balanced approach to ministering to gay people, that I think I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I was very pleased to read in #3, “It (their sexual identity) strikes at the very core of their being” and I’d like to expand on that a bit. Christians need to realize that when speaking to someone who is gay, even though the gay person may have chosen to live a sinful lifestyle (that he or she must repent of in order to be saved); that lifestyle has, even more so, chosen them. Without out getting into the nature/nurture
    cause of homosexuality (which is really just a red-herring argument since its purpose is to evade the real issue of sin), keep in mind that just as a heterosexual person didn’t “choose” to be heterosexual, gay people didn’t “choose” to have homosexual desires. Like most gay people
    (at least of my age), I fought homosexual desires during my childhood and adolescence and would have given anything to be straight. I did not “choose” to have such desires and,
    in fact, was trying in my youth to “choose” to be straight. Please don’t construe this as an argument for
    the “nature” cause. Again, the cause of homosexuality is irrelevant; its effect is sinful activity that, like all other
    sin, must cease as one surrenders themselves to lordship of Jesus Christ.

    My point in all of this is for the witnessing believer to grasp the importance in understanding the gay person’s perspective when the gospel is presented to them. In the
    homosexual’s mind, the gospel has no room for them if it requires the cessation of something that they have no control over. To the homosexual, to “stop being gay” is akin to someone telling a heterosexual to stop being straight. In short, homosexuals are correct in believing that one is powerless to change their sexual orientation (relying on their own power that is). What gay people don’t understand, and what needs to be emphasized, is the power available through the cross which provides the ability for one to repent of any sin, including such life-defining ones as homosexuality. Repentance, as is the grace that provides it, is all a free gift from God to those who ask for it.

    • Creighton Ring

      Thank you Kevin. Praise the Lord for his testimony of Grace in your life. Your comments provided a great deal of clarity.

      • kevin2184

        Thanks Creighton. Indeed, praise Jesus!

    • Amen! God’s grace accomplishes the impossible! Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Kevin.

      • kevin2184

        It sure does, Mike, which is precisely what gay people need to hear. “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” – Mark 10:7

    • Firstly, I thank Jesus Christ for saving you. Your story is not uncommon, and is rarely told, and when it is, it is derisively sneered that you are “denying yourself”. People state that homosexuality is permanent because they WANT that to be the case, but it is not, and you are proof of that.

      With regards to what you say, the attraction is not a choice. That can be established through basic logic. The action (which is the sin), is of course a choice, a temptation. That is what has to be avoided.
      Nature and nurture is a meaningless argument in light of these facts, though from evidence I have seen, I believe that while some people have a disposition to homosexual desire, it is triggered by certain environmental factors.

      As we discuss this, let’s not forget that certain babies, because of irresponsible mothers, are born with drug addictions. If they grow up to satisfy these addictions, or they grow up with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism (leading to drunkenness), we still would not accept that behavior as moral or good. It is up that person to put their faith in Christ, and overcome adversity. Many people are born into horrific conditions in third world countries. This does not excuse or affirm un-Christian behavior either.

      We all have crosses to bear, as they say, and through the power of our Lord, you have cast yours down and you have been freed from sin. I wish you the greatest life, and am sure you will have the greatest life beyond this one. God bless you.

      • kevin2184

        Thank you John for your kind words. Christ’s power is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12: 9). He proves that to me every day. God bless you too, brother.

  • HC

    I often hear your blog title being quoted…’God hates the sin loves the sinner’ ……the problem is… the sinner gets sent to hell but not the sin.

    I feel that phrase implies I am really a good person, this sin is distinct from, not in me, not driving me, not embedded wired into me.


    • HC – Good question. 1. That isn’t what Jesse said. Jesse instructed us as to how to hate the sin but love the sinner.

      The Bible doesn’t say God hates sin but not the sinner. So when people say this, simply tell them it isn’t true. In fact, I find it hard to believe that God will laugh in derision at the calamity of those He loves. When a man is punished by God, it is certainly indicative of God’s hate. Just read Romans 9 Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.

      But we are to love even our enemies which includes all sinners. So Jesse’s title is appropriate because it instructs us – people who do not have God’s wisdom and foresight – how to love people who are active in their sin, in the hopes that God will grant them repentance and faith in Christ.

  • Chris

    Thank you for your suggestions! They are helpful! I think that the difficulty comes in applying these principles.

  • Jeff Clark

    “you cannot do anything that would give the impression of approval for a homosexual lifestyle.”

    This might be a broader question, but what is our role as Christians in terms of giving approval at all? I understand that if someone is actively seeking approval from me, I shouldn’t give in just for the sake of not hurting their feelings. But sometimes I see Christians going out of their way to “not approve” and I think that comes across as hurtful and unloving.

    • That’s a great question Jeff. I think comments like “you are brave for coming out, and I just want you to know I support your decision…” Those kind of things could be construed as affirmation. In the case of Collins, for example, I think the comments made on your blog about him being a disciplined player, a guy with character on the court, etc., were all affirming of the right things, without affirming the wrong things. The thing to be careful of is saying things that could be construed (by him, or readers) as affirming what is sinful. Does that help?

  • Eyob

    Excellent post! I enjoy reading your articles and thanks so much for sharing this with us, Jesse.

  • This is a great article! I was just wondering more about point three. I was surprised to hear that many deal with fear and pain about their lifestyle. To me they seem so bold, like they are happy about what they do. Could you explain a little more about what they may be going through or where they are coming from in their choices?

    • Thanks Melissa. Check out Kevin’s comments on this thread. I think they would be helpful for you in that regard.

  • Wonderful article. I’m following your blog, having converted to Christianity pretty recently. I can’t believe the flack that the ESPN commentator is getting for simply stating facts that appear in scripture. He wasn’t hateful. He was factual, yet he is attacked all over the place.

    This country is becoming very hostile to people of faith. People don’t seem to understand that I hate the sin of laziness, but I love lazy people as if they were my brothers. Homosexuality is the same.

    I am interested to a response from you on a very simple, if slightly off-topic question. What about murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and such? It’s easy to hate these people’s sins, but very hard to love them because of the visceral reaction we have to their crimes. Is this just the biggest challenge in loving sinners that we must overcome?

  • Jonathan Jennifer Dale

    Hello Jesse Johnson! I wrote you a comment on the front Page of the cripplegate website, the front article. I didn’t realize it was a number of people that wrote articles on here. I thought this website was your personal Blog, so I wrote a comment under the first article I found. I can’t cut and paste my comment to here seeing I’m on this mobile phone.

    But I came across your article on your concerns of The Way of the Master materials and had a question. Specifically how you yourself go about evangelizing the biblical way. If you could read my comment on the front Page Page and get back with me that’d be great.

    Regards, Jonathan

  • busdriver4jesus

    Do you think it’s misleading to use the extrabiblical maxim “God loves sinners, but hates sin.” without spending equal time on God’s explicitly biblical hatred of sinners (Ps 5:5,6, 11:5, Mal 1:3)?

    • truthunites

      The term “misleading” somehow, for whatever reason, connotes intentionality. I think it’s more of an accidental oversight, or a benign ignorance, or a rush to comfort the hurting soul rather than a “misleading” when overlooking the verses you mentioned.

    • busdriver4jesus

      That’s fair… Good to know.

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