In this final post of my series on sin and sexual minorities, I will examine an additional major principle that is useful in determining what sins we should prioritize addressing, and I will conclude with a few related thoughts. This principle comes from Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV):
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
This verse discusses the issue of hypocrisy. It directly confronts the common approach of confronting the sins of others rather than our own. This approach is far too common in discussions regarding sexual identity issues. Some Christians often complain about alleged persecution of Christians by sexual minorities and about the promotion of specific forms of sexual sin, while ignoring their own sins of word and deed, sins of omission, and/or sins of the heart that victimize sexual minority people.
Some of the problem Jesus addresses is practical. As Christ says, taking the log out of your own eye allows you to “see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” It is indeed going to be difficult to address the state of a sexual minority person’s heart while your own heart is polluted by self-righteousness and prejudice. In addition, it is already frequently enough believed that the traditional stance on sexual ethics can arise only because of prejudice, and holding that stance while harboring a great deal of prejudice will never convince anyone otherwise.
However, to look at this passage only in terms of the practical details of addressing someone else’s sin is to miss the major point of the passage. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Jesus uses the image of “a log” for one’s own sin and “a speck” for that of someone else. A large point Jesus makes is that you are called primarily to address your own sin, and to ignore your own sinfulness is to miss the point of the gospel. I think this means that we are called primarily to address our own sins, and only secondarily to address the sins of others. Questions of sexual ethics, then, are more important for those facing the questions personally than for everyone else. For everyone else, questions of behavior and attitude towards others are more important.
The question of how to deal with sins of others is not directly addressed in this passage, but I think it mostly comes down to what kind of relationship you have with the person in question. For a sexual minority individual who is in a voluntary accountability relationship with you or who is under your pastoral care, addressing questions of sexual ethics may be critical. If someone discloses sexual minority status to you for the first time, try to discern whether they are being vulnerable or transparent, a distinction Brent Bailey helpfully discusses in “Transparency and Vulnerability.” For a close friend who has decided to be vulnerable, it might be wise to address questions of sexual ethics, as long as you are in line with the principle in my previous post that your love for your friend is the driving force. For those who are not close to you, it may be inappropriate to address their sins, especially as they may not be willing to listen to you anyway. With sexual identity issues in particular, be aware of how incredibly sensitive and personal the topic is for most people.
In any case, always be willing to listen to the stories of others even if they have disagreements with you, and educate yourself before making pronouncements. For too long the questions surrounding sexual identity have too frequently been answered out of ignorance and prejudice. The lack of grace surrounding the topic has also driven far too many people away from the faith. We must do better in order to genuinely show the love of Christ to sexual minorities. Fortunately, I believe that with God’s help, we can work together to do so. I’ve already seen things improve quite a bit in some Christian communities that I’m a part of.
There is more pastoral complexity to these topics than I can adequately address in a series of blog posts, but hopefully the introductory material I have provided in this series is helpful.
Previous posts in this series:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Why I Criticize Christians
- Part 3: Sins of Word and Deed
- Part 4: Sins of Omission
- Part 5: Sins of the Heart
- Part 6: How Doctrine Matters
Jeremy Erickson is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He previously studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Taylor University in Upland, IN.