KL submitted some interrelated questions:
1. What is considered to be a good Christian? Every day I ask these questions to myself. Especially lately. Isn’t part of the teaching is to love thy neighbor? Yet, lately you see legislation that seems to contraindicate this. What place is it of ours to tell someone they can’t use a bathroom? What place is it of ours to tell someone they can not love who they love? Isn’t forbidding a person these individual’s rights not against God’s teaching? Isn’t it against the principle of loving thy neighbor if we tell a person that they cannot legally do this or that?
2. I have grown wary of the Christianity based religion. [I see] … people … claiming to be Christian but choose to do acts that seem completely opposite of what Christians are supposed to stand for. For example, current legislation acts would take money away from those that are in poverty or limit access to health care but give to oil companies or other big businesses. How are acts like these being Christian?
RESPONSES BY ZACH:
Thanks, KL, for your questions. In your first submission, you asked about how Christians should think about homosexuality and transgender issues given that the Bible commands us to love our neighbor. In responding to this issue, I would first point you to Dr. Bob Kurka’s response to a question related to yours on the topic of homosexuality in his article, Same Sex Attractions and Homosexual Sexual Behavior. In his response, Dr. Kurka notes that we must recognize the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is not God’s intention for sexuality and that upholding this biblical teaching is not in conflict with loving homosexuals and having compassion for them. Some people wrongly single out homosexuality as the worst of all sexual sins; however, this is not the case. God created sex and designed it to be within a marriage relationship, and God defines marriage to be between a man and a woman. It is often very difficult for all people–both homosexual and heterosexual–to live up to this. For example, a married person often struggles to avoid committing adultery or to avoid lusting after someone who is not his spouse. A married man may very well fall in love with a woman who is not his spouse. But it is important to recognize that just because one may love a certain person, it does not mean that it is within God’s will to pursue a sexual or romantic relationship with that person. Having the restraint to honor God’s command to keep sex within marriage is difficult for all people, whether heterosexual or homosexual. So sexual temptations are not struggles for homosexuals alone, and homosexual behavior is a sin just like any sexual behavior that is outside of the boundaries that God has set for sex.
You also asked whether it is our place as Christians to tell someone who they can and cannot love. The most loving thing that a Christian can do is to tell everyone the truth that God has communicated to us in the Bible. I am convinced that there is great evidence to believe that the Bible reveals the truth about God, about humanity, about sin, about how much God loves us, and about how God wants us to repent of our sins and accept an amazing eternity with Him. The Bible has an incredible message of hope and of God’s love and grace. But the sin part cannot be overlooked. The Bible tells us that all of us are guilty of violating God’s perfect moral truth, and the Bible reveals to us how God wants us to live. If we understand God’s message of love and grace, then we will want to honor God’s commands and help others to do the same. Although we will never be perfect in avoiding sin and although we can take comfort in God’s grace and forgiveness, we are called to turn from our sin and strive as best we can to live a life that honors God. Although living such a life is not easy, we owe God everything, and our love for Him should motivate us to want to do whatever it takes to honor Him with our lives–even when it is very difficult.
So what is the most loving thing that a Christian can do for those who struggle with avoiding homosexual behavior or struggle with any temptation that is outside of God’s will? We must, in a loving and caring way, tell them the truth. Telling them the truth is not for the purpose of restricting them or looking down upon them; rather, it must be out of love and concern for them. If a patient has a medical condition, it is not loving of the doctor to hide this from the patient. All of us have a sin problem, and the most loving thing we can do for others is to encourage them to repent, to honor God with their lives, and to accept God’s grace.
Your second submission focuses on the general issue that Christians often seem to act in ways that contradict what they say they stand for, and this has made you grow wary of Christianity. I can certainly understand your concern here. I myself am disappointed when I sometimes see someone who claims to follow Christ acting in a way that is contrary to the truth that God has revealed to us in the Bible. Unfortunately, there are some who claim to be Christians who are actually not. Others really are Christians but do not always act in a way that is consistent with their faith. I consider myself a faithful follower of Christ, but I certainly admit that I have had my moments when I was not perfect in living in a Christ-like manner.
Let me just offer you some encouragement in this. Despite the fact that some self-proclaimed Christians are hypocrites and despite the fact that all Christians who strive to live for God fail to do so at times, I encourage you not to let this turn you away from the truth of the Christian faith. If the Christian faith is true, then it is critical that you and I and all people accept it and devote our lives to God. I would encourage you to ask the key questions about the truth of Christianity, such as: Is there good evidence to believe that God exists? Is Jesus really the divine Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead to prove His identity? You will find answers to questions such as these on this site, and I encourage you to consider them carefully. If Christianity is true, then we all should follow it and not be turned away from it on account of those who profess to follow Christ but are often not faithful in living up to what they profess.
-Zach Breitenbach, Assistant Director of Room For Doubt and an adjunct teacher at Lincoln Christian University
[Additional Comments by Rich Knopp]
KL, your specific questions about legislating what bathrooms to use or how to allocate tax-funded dollars adds another significant factor and complication to your questions. At least in America, “loving your neighbor” as a religious matter is, in principle, irrelevant to the process of legislation. Passage of such laws, whether federal, state, or local are not appropriately done as a Christian act, even though some individuals may have some personal religious motivations for voting a certain way. So, passed acts of legislation (for example that might stipulate what bathrooms to use or how to designate tax-funded dollars) cannot be a “contradiction” to Christian principle of loving thy neighbor, since the legislating body is not a “Christian” group to begin with.
Even if individual politicians who are Christians should support legislation that would specify bathroom use or budget allocations, they could have a number of other legitimate considerations that might outweigh the Christian “love thy neighbor” principle. For instance, I don’t think that imprisoning someone who has committed 1st degree murder would violate the “love thy neighbor” principle. That’s because there are other considerations beyond merely “loving thy neighbor” that should be kept in mind.
–Dr. Rich Knopp, Program Director, Room For Doubt; Professor of Philosophy & Christian Apologetics, Lincoln Christian University.