Can You Have Gay Friends if You Think Homosexual Behavior Is a Sin?

Posted: February 15, 2012 by Alan Shlemon in Do the Right Thing
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A youth leader wrote me: “I would say that the issue of homosexuality is THE #1 BARRIER for teenagers…that keeps them from believing the gospel.” I can see why he said that. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. You can keep your faith or you can keep your friends and family. You pick. Well, the answer for many people is obvious: relationships are more important than a theological idiosyncrasy. So, they either compromise on the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality or they ditch their faith altogether.

Part of the problem stems from the belief that if you keep your convictions about homosexuality, then you can’t stay in relationship with your friends and family who say they’re gay. But this isn’t the biblical view.

The New Testament doesn’t prohibit Christians from friending (I know, I know…that’s so Facebook-ish) homosexuals. Paul, writing about a sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, tells Christians that they are “not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” Notice how Paul clarifies that we don’t have to avoid relationships with non-believers (who he calls “people of this world”). After all, we can’t influence them if we’re not involved at all.

There is a group of people that Paul warns Christians to avoid. Continuing his discussion on sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul explains, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of a brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” The people Paul warns us to avoid are Christians who engage in sexual immorality. Why? Because sin left unchecked within a body of believers is like cancer. It spreads and harms those around them (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

That doesn’t mean we are to end all relationships with Christians who have committed sexual sin. Paul is talking about unrepentant Christians. People who know the biblical standard but thumb their nose at it and continue in the illicit behavior. That’s the context of 1 Corinthians 5.

It does mean that people who claim to be Christian and engage in willful, unrepentant homosexual behavior fall under the jurisdiction of this command. Friends like that can influence us and other believers in negative ways. But this rule applies to any sexual sin, not just homosexuality.

In all other circumstances, there’s no reason to choose between your faith and your friends. Keep them both so you have a chance to be a positive influence in your relationships. That’s the point of being an ambassador for Christ.

  1. Keith Buhler says:

    A helpful distinction.

    Of course, it seems counter-intuitive to say, “You can have gay friends who are in the world, outside the church. But sexually immoral unrepentant self-identified “Christians” inside the church–stay away.”

    Is that what you mean?

    I think the same principle applies to other sins–I have cut off relationships with Christian friends in repeated sexual sins–not because I’m too good, but because I’m not good enough to be around them without falling.

  2. philwynk says:

    Ask the question this way:

    Can a Christian have friends who sin, while they believe that sin is sin?

    Obviously, the answer is “Yes.” And the answer to the question at hand is equally obvious. Of course a Christian can have a gay friend, even if they believe homosexuality is wrong.

  3. Kate K says:

    How about a Christian male leader who has developed a friendship with 2 lesbian women (partners). They know he’s a Christian, they are good friends… now the women are asking him to perform their marriage, not as believers, for they have not become Christians. This leader is considering doing the ceremony as he doesn’t believe that a Lesbian ‘marriage’ has the expectations a Christian marriage has, it won’t be a religious ceremony. He feels if he were to say no, these women would no longer remain friends and he would lose his bridge of friendship into their lives, which he maintains in the hope that they will be won to Christ. Complicated? Yes.. Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

  4. adam says:

    Kate, this male should not perform the ceremony or support it in any way. Condoning homosexuals to marry is saying that God’s institution of marriage(1 man and 1 woman) is not a big deal. He will be compromising his standard and others will see it in him. A strong stance against it is necessary. It is not healthy for a Christian to become too comfortable with sin put on clear display around them. There is difference between being friendly to sinners/proclaiming the gospel and then condoning their actions. Silence is also condoning sin when clearly the NT states for sinners to repent.