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This article originally appeared here as a guest post for the GrowUp318 blog. Thanks to Heather for the encouragement and the privilege of writing a piece for her blog.

When the word homosexuality is mentioned in a Christian context, most of the responses one receives will be negative. Gays are usually talked about as “those sinners out there.” But not all who are gay are outside of the purview of the Church. (And by gay, I’m talking about all those who experience homosexual temptation, whether or not they routinely give in to those temptations.) This may not be self-evident to all who read this, so it should probably be said: gay people are among us. They serve on our committees, sing in our choirs, give us financial advice, teach our Sunday School classes, and play instruments in our services to lead us in worship.

Some of them are fully convinced that acting on their attractions would be the unforgiveable sin. Others are doing their best to keep their ‘baser desires’ in check so they won’t be invalidated for ministry. Others are off-the-radar simply because they’re between relationships, but would want a relationship with the same sex if the right one presented itself. So what is to be done with such a wide divide? And how should we as Bible-believing Christians respond?

Let’s start by asking a very simple question: does eating with a person—having fellowship with them over a meal or a movie—does that imply endorsement of the entire person’s life? Many Christians seem to answer this question with a resounding Yes. But it would seem Jesus’ example would speak to the contrary. In Mark 2:15-17 (ESV), the evangelist writes,

15And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”17And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The charge of Christ eating “with tax collectors and sinners” was not something founded on the imaginations of the Pharisees. Instead, it was rooted in the facts: Christ did eat—have fellowship with—these sinners.

Let’s suppose that a young lady named Trina comes to your church. She has a child and no husband; at this point you don’t know anything beyond that. Trina is looking for a place to belong and saw your church as she was driving by while taking her son to school. What do you do? It’s likely that Trina has sin in her life. After all, even if her husband has died and the child was conceived in wedlock, she’s still born into original sin. She is still an idolater and breaks God’s law all the time. Would you eat with such a person?

Of course you would. You do every time you have dinner with your own family. Your wife, husband, children, and parents—all of them are sinners in need of Christ. Even if they already know Christ, they still need Him.

In the early church, community often accompanied the preached word. This example of preached word about the person and work of Christ coupled with the attractiveness of the fellowship of believers created a situation in which pagans could be envious and would begin to want to investigate the claims made by the members of this very strange new religion. The message we, as the Church, have been given to proclaim is repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ (Luke 24:47).

So, if we believe that we have heard the message by which men are brought from darkness into marvelous light—the Gospel!—then we should, out of our joy in Christ, be reaching others with this same Good News by which we were ourselves made children of God from our previous status as children of the Devil. This is an important concept where our doctrine, far from dividing, should unite us in loving our neighbors in word and deed. Anyone short of a fatalist can sing with gusto the hymn in which we challenge on another, “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do if with His love He befriend thee!” God has chosen to use means to accomplish His ends. How might Christ use you to befriend a sinner and use that for His saving purposes?

By inviting sinners—repentant and currently unrepentant—into our homes, we commend the Gospel to them. We honor them as fellow image-bearers of God and offer to them the words of life in the Gospel. We also acknowledge the fact that we, too, are sinners—and need this Jesus we talk about just as much as they. And for the believing gay man or woman in our midst, we not only encourage them in repentance, but we also provide that family situation that they may miss out on as a single person.

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