Tolerance or Compassion

Tolerance or Compassion

 
         The article which I write today is one that came after much prayer and soul searching. It is about reaching out to all members of society. For Adventists this should not be difficult, as we believe in God's mandate to go to all mankind and preach the gospel. Additionally, Christ affirmed, "come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest." Has it occurred to you that “all” includes drunkards, prostitutes, cheaters, and homosexuals, etc.?
 
Reaching Out Does Not Mean Condoning
         How do we separate the two? That is reaching out to people does not mean that we condone their ways and practices. That is a fact! But how will we fulfill Christ's mandate unless we meet and deliberately seek such persons? It occurred to me recently in a question and answer period a member asked, "Do we have any homosexuals in our church in the Bahamas?"  I responded that I did not know but would not be surprised if there were. Since then I attended a summit in South Africa entitled "In God's Image." There, I was confronted with what should be our response to all people afflicted and struggling with sin? Over the years it has been easier to relate to drunkards, persons involved in drugs, unfaithful marriage partners, and the like but certainly not homosexuals.
 
Position of the Church
         The position of our church is clear —we believe in sexual intimacy within marriage between a man and a woman. Accordingly, we would not knowingly baptize persons who are practicing homosexuality. Neither would we continue to keep as members individuals who have chosen to embrace homosexuality. On other hand, that is not to say that as a church we ought not to work with such persons. By that I mean reaching out to such as we would to any person struggling with any deviant behaviour, ill or vice, as God loves all people while He strongly detests our sinful behaviour.  The church’s role is to help all find freedom, healing and deliverance in Christ. For this reason the church exists. I know this sounds a bit contradictory- based on what I said earlier. Nevertheless, I ask that you consider that reaching out to, or embracing one in love is not the same as condoning or ignoring a practice. Could not the church uphold its standards in love and with compassion, recognizing that all are prone to engage in sinful acts outside of Christ?
 
 What Can We Do?
            Admittedly, this is a new venture for some of us. Truth be told, many of us are afraid to work with homosexuals, based on the stigma of society, but we need to manifest a Christ-like spirit. Consider how Christ related to the woman caught in adultery according to John 8. The record shows that when all rejected her and would have nothing to do with her, He reached down and out to her with a non-condemnatory message. At the same time, He did not down play adultery; for He said, “go and sin no more?”  What a remarkable balance and example of love! As followers of Christ, we need to follow His example. This fact was underscored in the summit held in Africa. As opposed to being reactionary, we need to find ways to be proactive towards all people. For instance, in listening to the testimonies of three former homosexuals at the summit, I discovered a similar thread in each story. They all experienced neglect by a parent. In the case of the one female, she was sexually abused, but her mother concealed it; and she was adversely affected and found love and acceptance with fellow women. Thank God! She has experienced deliverance and is actively assisting gays to experience deliverance in Christ. Also, it should be noted that she is active in the church. Praise God! I believe that God timed the following passage in the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly during March 16 - 22 in an attempt to sensitize His church. The author wrote, “Through teaching and personal example, Jesus taught His disciples to associate with sinners, even notorious ones such as prostitutes and tax collectors. How else would they disciple the whole world? His teaching often focused on these sinners. His characterization of them as lost demonstrates how merciful Christ was. He might have characterized them as rebellious (they certainly were) or depraved. Instead, He chooses lost.”