As a compliance officer at Concordia University, Nebraska (CUNE), I see many regulations from the federal government, different states, and a variety of accrediting agencies come across my desk. The regulated areas cover a variety of topics including how institutions of higher education address human rights. Recently a significant amount of communication has dealt with the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning (LGBTQ) community.
An increasing number of our CUNE population indicates that they have an acquaintance, friend, or relative who is homosexual, transgendered or struggling with gender identity. In spite of some level of continued harassment toward such individuals, it is significantly less threatening to “come out” today than it was even a decade ago. This is due in part to a society that increasingly welcomes, applauds and to some degree idolizes these individuals. It’s now common to see openly LGBTQ actors and musicians. There are homosexuals written in as loveable characters in popular television shows and movies. Public declarations of being a member of the LGBTQ community are newsworthy as a testament to courage and acceptance (e.g., Michael Sam and the coverage of the 2014 NFL draft picks). Our current radio, television, and social media outlets put an acceptance of homosexuality and other nontraditional views of gender on an equal (if not higher) footing with the biblical view of marriage, sexuality and sexual behavior. Recent legislation gives government support to LGBTQ lifestyles and even marriage and civil union in some states (and we are awaiting the Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision). As a result, it seems reasonable to expect that in the future more people on Concordia’s campus will publicly express some LGBTQ orientation. With this in mind, CUNE develops ministry strategies for its members that belong to this segment of the population, whether students or employees.
Regardless of becoming more common and socially accepted, I suspect that individuals with LGBTQ inclinations still struggle with them. These people likely did or continue to experience some degree of confusion, frustration or shame because they are “different” from what they think (or are told) they should be. Additionally, some who have lived in more discriminatory areas of the country might have suffered exclusion, contempt, hostility, or abuse for expressing their feelings. I think it would be a difficult situation to be in.
So what does a Christian do when he or she comes face to face with the LGBTQ issue? Here at Concordia, I would not be surprised if we would observe behaviors among us touching both ends of the spectrum—from all-encompassing approval to outright hostile rejection. However, I propose that we as a Christian community accept the opportunity to minister to these individuals as we are able through the lens of God’s Word.
What can I do? Well, first of all I can love them. Just as Jesus displayed boundless love for humanity despite its sin and weaknesses, I can try to do the same. As a sinner, I can embrace my fellow sinners and share that all of us (the equally guilty) live under the same blanket of forgiveness won for us by our Savior. I can share my great joy in knowing that nothing I have done or ever could do would stop or even lessen the amazing love God has for me—for each of us—individually and collectively. His love is passionate and everlasting and always seeking after us because each of us is His beloved child!
How can I address LGBTQ issues? I can gently share that I believe in the Creator and His perfect plan. That the body we are born with is the one He intended for us to have and to use to glorify Him. That He purposely made male and female and intended for them to be attracted to each other and to come together to produce children. I can share that when His intention and plan is questioned or rejected we have sinned—just as we sin when we disobey any of God’s commands. Above all, I can share that Jesus knows we sin and loves us anyway. That He has saved us from all of our sins by His redemptive work, and that we receive Christ’s forgiveness freely and graciously by faith in this promise!
Can I overcome my fear and be brave enough to imitate Christ’s example and try to love others with an unconditional love? I think so. I have Jesus’ example of how to love the sinner while rejecting the sin. Will it be easy? No. Will it be uncomfortable? Occasionally. Will I fail? Likely. But it’s something I can keep trying to do; after all, I’ve had lots of practice. I sin. I sin all the time. As a result, to love a sinner is a challenge I have to meet every day regarding the person I see in the mirror each morning.