I got an e-mail today from someone who wanted to know if I believe that God loves homosexuals. The short answer is yes. But short answers aren’t nearly as good as biblical answers. So let’s look at three texts to establish the point.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The object of God’s love is the world, and God loves the world such that anyone who believes can be forgiven and saved. In that sense, world applies comprehensively to everyone on the planetâ€”including homosexuals. I would add also that the term world is not simply a generic term for people who live on the earth. In John’s writings, it’s often a technical term for humanity in its rebellion against God (see John 3:19; 1 John 2:15-17). God so loves this fallen world, and this world includes all kinds of sinnersâ€”both heterosexual and homosexual.
1 Timothy 1:15 “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”
In this text, Paul affirms that Christ saves sinners. In verses 9-10, Paul gives a list of the various kinds of sinners that one finds in the world: murderers, immoral men, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars and perjurers. Among these, Paul names himself as the worst of the lot because he was a blasphemer, persecutor, and an aggressor when God saved him (v. 13). In verse 14, Paul says that he found love when by the mercy of God he came to Christ. If God’s love applies to Paul the chief of sinners, it certainly applies to other sinners as wellâ€”including the homosexual sinners of verse 10.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall 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, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And 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.”
Here Paul includes “homosexuals” and “effeminate” in a long list of different kinds of sinners who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s astonishing how specific Paul gets in this verse. The original first century readers would have understood the word translated effeminate as the passive participant in a homosexual encounter. They would also have understood homosexual as a reference to the active participant. For whatever reason, Paul wishes to identify both actors. And in verse 11, Paul says this: “and such were some of you.” This means that there were Corinthian believers who had been both effeminate and homosexual and that God had saved them nevertheless! He writes, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul would pray elsewhere for these sinners that the “God of love” and that the “love of God” might be with them (2 Cor 13:11-14). Once again, it’s clear that God extends His love and mercy to sinnersâ€”including homosexual ones.
These are but three texts, but we could find many more to make the point. The Bible says that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Could this be any clearer? God deigns to love sinners, and there is no text that would exclude homosexual persons from this love. In fact, we have seen two texts in which they are explicitly included. No one deserves this love, but God gives it nevertheless. He offers to all of us sinners forgiveness and eternal life if we would repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. This is the good news.
I write a lot on this blog about moral issues in the news. Oftentimes, that includes discussions about the moral status of homosexuality. Because some in our culture argue otherwise, I think it’s important for Christians to be clear that homosexuality is a sin condemned by scripture. We press this point often not because homosexuals are worse sinners than others, but only because the point is so contested.
The main thing that I want homosexuals to know is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. That includes me, and that includes you if we repent of our sin and believe in Christ. My hope and prayer is that everyone reading this message will do just that.
Thanks Dr. Burke, and I am glad you pointed out your motive.
Well said Dr. Burke!
Hmm, last I checked this is dennyburk.com, not dennyburke.com. 🙂
Yes, Marke and Jon, this comment is directed at you. 😉
You speak of loving homosexuals, Denny, but how many gay friends do you have?
Eric W Richey
Ahh yes – the “How many gay friends do you have?” Trump Card has been played. Dr. Burk living in Christian community, working in Christian community in Louisville, KY is probably not going to have many opportunities to become friends with active homosexuals.
To assess the level of our love for Homosexuals by the number of gay friends we have does not take into account the sovereignty of God working itself out in our particular vocations/callings. By this logic – the Social Worker living in San Francisco clearly loves Homosexuals because he interacts with them daily.
A better indication of our love for homosexuals: Do we instinctively retreat from the opportunity to establish a relationship with them? Or do we embrace the opportunity to build a relationship with them for the sake of clearly witnessing to the gospel? Obviously our approach will differ depending if the Homosexual person considers themself to be a Christian or not.
That’s such a cliche argument…
The better question is whether Christians are attempting to build any relationships with those who don’t know Jesus as Savior, no matter what sin(s) they are trapped in.
What does Denny’s contacts have to do with God’s love for all sinners?
I’m not saying that a person’s failure to personally know and love gay and lesbian people falsifies their theological argument.
I have noticed, though, that opinions can be influenced when one moves from the abstract cliche of “hate the sin, love the sinner” to really loving an individual. I know many people whose opinions on folks of a different race, gender, religion, political persuasion or sexual orientation were deeply challenged when they actually became friends with someone who defied their stereotype.
If you think there aren’t homosexuals at Southern Baptist Seminary or in the churches of Louisville, you are in serious denial.
By your own standard –
“A better indication of our love for homosexuals: Do we instinctively retreat from the opportunity to establish a relationship with them? Or do we embrace the opportunity to build a relationship with them for the sake of clearly witnessing to the gospel?” – how well would you say you’re doing?
Do you love pedophiles, rapists, murderers, prostitutes? If the answer is yes, I hope you are friends with some.
The points regarding demonstrating love to homosexuals through direct relationship are well made on both sides.
I would add this consideration. It might be worth a special effort to make such connections at the ‘ground level’ in such issues if one is going to presume to spend much time talking about them. Doing so is not a requirement of rightness of message, but it may be a requirement of effectiveness of message. Furthermore, becoming more directly, relationally involved with such a difficult issue like homosexuality may help shape the attitude, method and care employed in speaking about the issue.
For instance, a pastor who believes that homosexuality is condemned by the scripture may nonetheless speak of that condemnation in a very different manner if he has a gay son or daughter.
Well said Russ…especially the part about the rightness of the message versus the effectiveness.
Thank you, James.
Many years ago, in a worship service at Irving Bible Church, my young daughter performed a solo version of the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians (by our love).” As she sang the hymn a cappella, we showed video images of violence and hate propagated by the Church throughout history. It was powerful.
The message of the hymn is that the world will identify us with Christ based on our loving action (one to another in particular), rather than our right doctrine. At the same time, is it not our doctrine that tells us that we are to love? And then, is it not our love that give us the platform to express our doctrine in the context of more receptive ears.
I fully agree with you (by the way, I know quite a few folks at IBC). I just don’t think it is loving to tell people living in sin (not just homosexuality) that God is fine with it, and it doesn’t bother him (I know that’s not what you’re saying, but I’ve come across plenty of Christians who feel that way). We should be honest about what scripture says. With that being said, you are absolutely right that we can and should do that in a loving way full of grace and truth.
Agreed. It is frustratingly rare to see difficult, uncompromising truths expressed in the context of true love and grace. And let’s be honest, it’s really hard to do! We need the Spirit and the Word to fully shape us into true ‘world lovers’ in the John 3.16 sense. Lutherans talk a lot about ‘Law and Gospel’ as the framework for sharing the message of God’s truth. In this context I would suggest an expanded framework: Love -> Law -> Gospel. Love is the platform that allows us to speak the hard truths, and them to offer the good news!
My understanding is that grace always comes earlier than truth, it is grace and truth, for example, and that we are to model this ordering.
Well said Dr. Burk! (Thanks Darius.)
I think the law comes before grace… so wouldn’t that mean that truth also comes before grace? One can’t appreciate grace if one doesn’t know the law or truth.
Why don’t you press the government to make any sex that is out of scriptural bounds to be illegal? Why didn’t you title your blog, “does God love capitalists?” Your conservative stance seems to a zeal for God but is not enlightened. This sort of packaging on issues only hinders the cause of Christ. Jesus is not interested in the politics of governments but the heart of man.
Grace and the law are both truth. Neither are the whole truth.
‘is’ the whole truth. 😛
Rev. Ryan M.
You wrote: “Paul would pray elsewhere for these sinners that the â€œGod of loveâ€ and that the â€œlove of Godâ€ might be with them (2 Cor 13:11-14). Once again, itâ€™s clear that God extends His love and mercy to sinners….”
Correction: Paul did not pray for the sinners, but for the former sinners. The passage you cite reads, 2 Corinthians 13:11-14, â€œFinally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you allâ€ (ESV). Since his comments are addressed to “brothers,” the recipients had already abandoned their sins.
Rev Ryan, I don’t know about you, but I am not yet a “former” sinner. Sure, for the most part I repented of my sins and renounced them as my master, but that doesn’t mean that I perfectly live out my convictions and faith every single minute.
Rev. Ryan: In addition to Darius’ point, denying that God loves sinners (on some level) makes the Gospel senseless. He saves because He loves.
I believe there are some OT passages which state that God hates the wicked. Either the wicked have blasphemed the Holy Spirit (unforgivable sin), or God hates on one level and loves on another – similar to how His will has two levels. I lean toward the latter, because I don’t believe God gives up on anyone; some people just lose the capacity to repent.