The conflicting response of Christians to sex and gender

On one end of the spectrum are Christians who believe all sexual orientation outside the scriptural bounds of male and female is wrong and must be cured by the church through prayer, counselling and conversion therapy.

On the other end of the spectrum are Christians who believe the church should welcome those with different sexual and gender orientation as fellow humans made in God’s image. It’s not their fault the way they are, they were born that way, and God made provision, therefore, for sexual relationships other than heterosexual husband and wife.

The result, unfortunately, is yet another source of conflict in the Christian church, not only on what God’s word says, but also on what the church is for. Is the church a curing house or a safe house?

How, for instance, would each of those two groups of Christians run an AA meeting? Would the first group only invite alcoholics who want to be cured? But isn’t that what the church is for, the first group asks, to cure people of their ailments? What’s the point of the church if it doesn’t encourage and promote repentance and change? You don’t create a hospital for sick people to remain sick, you create it to make them well. And isn’t that what Christ came for, to “turn each of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26)?

But, the second group says, people aren’t wicked if they have a problem with alcohol; it’s something they’re born with. It’s not the church’s job, therefore, to cure them, it’s to provide an environment where they feel loved, accepted and safe as they are. The primary purpose of a hospital is not to make sick people well, it’s to make sick people feel comfortable. And isn’t that what Jesus made people feel when they came to him? He didn’t condemn prostitutes, for instance, or insist that they stop being prostitutes to be accepted by him. They felt safe and comfortable in his presence as they were, which made it so much easier for them to approach him.

Is the purpose of an AA meeting, therefore, to cure alcoholics of their alcoholism, or to make them feel safe and accepted as alcoholics?

Well, it’s both, isn’t it? And don’t hospitals do both too? Hospitals exist to make sick people well – and to make them feel comfortable.

So, what if the Christian church did both, where it never stops preaching repentance and cure on the one hand, but it also makes people feel safe and accepted as well? It’s a tricky balance, yes, but surely worth seeking to ease the present conflict in our Christian response.

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