Would you ever ban somebody from being a part of your small group?
That question has been going through my mind after I read an article about some American pastors who went to Uganda to speak against homosexuality. They preached in support of a bill that
…creates a new category of crime called “Aggravated Homosexuality,” which calls for death by hanging for gays or lesbians who have sex with anyone under 18 and for so-called “serial offenders.”
The bill also calls for seven years in prison for “attempt to commit homosexuality,” five years for landlords who knowingly house gays, three years for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand gay children over to the police within 24 hours and the extradition of gay Ugandans living abroad. ABC News article
So these American pastors are encouraging people to hunt down homosexuals because homosexuality is wrong and destroys the family. They have also met with the Ugandan government and preached their message to them.
Is this the way the church should treat lost and broken people?
Even if you agree that homosexuality is a sin, and destroys the family, inciting a manhunt is not what God would have us do.
Here are a couple of tips on dealing with the lost and broken when they’re in our small group. Though the sin of homosexuality may make you uncomfortable to talk about, I encourage you, for the sake of those who need your grace and love, to consider the following:
1. Remember that Christ didn’t die for you because you were good. He died for you while you were still his enemy.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
2. Remember that sanctification doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. And processes take a lot of time to finish. In fact, the process of sanctification won’t be complete in this lifetime.
3. Remember that God hates your sin. He hates it so much that He would deny you a relationship with Him, if it weren’t for Christ.
4. Listen. People appreciate when you ask them to share their story. But they feel loved and valued when you actually listen and engage them while they’re sharing.
5. Speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth is good. But truth without love is abrasive. And hurtful. And unhelpful. It doesn’t have the other’s best interest at heart. It’s self-serving and self-focused. It’s un-Godlike.
6. Be open and honest about your own struggles. This helps you to fight against pride, and makes others feel more comfortable in being honest about their struggles.
7. Invite an open dialog. Instead of condemning the lost and broken, ask if they’d be open to thinking through what the Bible has to say. And don’t let the conversation drift into a discussion that slams one sin, and minimizes another. It’s easy to condemn the sins that we don’t struggle with. It makes us feel better about the sins we constantly have to battle. Don’t fall into that trap.
8. Be quick to forgive. Those quick to forgive understand the true nature of their sin against God. Those not quick to forgive don’t truly understand the nature of their own sin, and the loving mercy of God.
9. Offer prayer and further pastoral care and counseling to those open to it.
Notice that I didn’t say, “Ask them to leave.” OR, “Point out every passage in the Bible that condemns their sin.” OR, “Petition the government to hang them.” (see article above that does just that)
Those who are broken and lost don’t need our heaping condemnation. They need our pursuing, relentless love. Jesus, to an adulterous woman, said these words:
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”John 8:9-11
A sin is a sin, no matter how small.
Do you treat some sins as worse (in God’s eyes) than others?