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Most Churches Are Welcoming and Affirming

Welcoming and affirming.

To be true, this term has become an intentional and polarizing dividing line between churches that are more enlightened, cool with same-sex sexual relationships, against those that supposedly will not tolerate the same-sex attracted person. If you’re not welcoming and affirming, you must be rejecting and judgmental, right? Pick a side. It works like the term “marriage equality.” Who wants to be against equality? The power of framing.

We might be welcoming, but are we affirming? This half of the term is even more slippery. Do we affirm all who visit our churches? Are we affirming to none? It depends on what we mean by the word. A primary tenant of Christianity is the inherent dignity and worth of the person. Everyone must be affirmed simply for that they are; a never-before-seen, unique fleshly image of the Trinitarian God. This is absolute and to say we should affirm people based on some particularity is actually a violation of equality. People are not valued, loved and accepted because they are rich or poor, smart or dumb, attractive or ugly, fashionable or outdated, a city mouse or country mouse, gay, straight or otherwise but simply because they are. But everyone must make decisions regarding what ideas, actions and self-identities they can and cannot affirm. Therefore, on this question, we must ask, “What was the sexual ethic Jesus taught us?” Christians can only affirm what Christ affirmed. He affirmed all people. He didn’t affirm all sexualities.

When we consider whether our churches are what they should be toward our same-sex attracted neighbors, family members and friends, we must judge ourselves against five truths which are unique to mere Christianity and place all of us in the very same boat, the Great Equalizers.

• Every human being we will ever meet is of inestimable worth and dignity, none more than another. No exceptions.

• Every human being we will ever meet is deeply and passionately loved and desired by God, none more than another. No exceptions.

• Unfortunately, everyone we will ever meet, especially ourselves, is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. None more than another. No exceptions.

• All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him, none more than another. No exceptions.

• Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing and the new life which comes only in surrender and submission to Christ, none more than another. No exceptions.

As we all stand as equals—for good and bad—before the Cross, we must do three things in our churches to be faithful to God and those He brings to us, regardless of their story:

• Eagerly welcome all who come to us without hesitation and reservation.

• Faithfully and lovingly teach and preach the fullness of God’s Word to all.

• Trust the Holy Spirit to convict all (including us) of our sin as we encounter Christ and learn His Word in the community of fellow believers.

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Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of many books, most recently, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor (Moody) and The Family Project (Tyndale).