Andrew Marin has written an insightful book. Just like an anthropologist can help us increase our cultural intelligence, Marin gives us insights into the GLBT community that can increase our ministry intelligence. In his book Love is an Orientation, the author challenges the evangelical church to engage the hurting lives of the GLBT community with the love of Christ in tangible and intelligent ways, so that they may be drawn to a life-giving relationship with the Savior. In order to do so, Marin provides us with a ministry framework that understands the nuances of language, the stereotypes about Christianity, the theological perspectives, the fears, and the behavioral trends that characterize much of this community in American Society.
I enjoyed this book and I agree with its premise. Marin’s main argument is that what people in the GLBT community need the most is a thriving relationship with God in the embracing Body of Christ. In order to pursue that goal, my first step should not be to preassure them to change their sexual orientation. Rather, I must attempt to introduce them to the love of Christ through tangible ways that show a caring and compassionate heart. Once the person has found Christ and is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, then I need to trust that God will guide the person through the process of sanctification in His time and His ways. I just have to be willing to walk the journey all the way, no matter how long it may take or to what destination it may lead.
As I reflect on the reading of these past two weeks, I realize that they speak to a key area of pastoral leadership. As a pastor, God calls me to minister to people with grace and truth. However, doing so is more complex than what it seems because of its unique nuances. I think that reducing this call to simply saying that “Jesus loved everybody and so should we” does not capture its complexity. My concern is that a simplistic view in this area may lead us to sacrifice truth for grace or grace for truth.
There are two areas that bring light into this complexity. On the one hand, it requires discerning the difference between judging and being judgmental. On the other hand, it requires discerning the role that the audience plays in my response as a Christian leader. Thus, I want to ask two key questions as I reflect on my call to minister with grace and truth.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUDGING AND BEING JUDGMENTAL?
Through many real-life stories, Marin reveals a sad picture in which many churches stand ready to stone the person who is experiencing same-sex attraction even though Jesus warned us not to judge others. In fact, both Jesus and James tell us that we should not judge. However, Paul also tells us that judging is part of our Christian responsibility. So, should I judge or not? Does judging make me judgmental? A good way to discern the difference between judging and being judgmental is to think about my driving experience. If I am speeding (which happens often), my wife normally says, “Pablo, the speed limit here is 55 not 65. You may get a ticket if you do not slow down.” By telling me so, my wife is judging—she is reminding me that I am braking the law. Now, imagine that my wife tells me instead, “Pablo, you are speeding. Stop the car so I can give you a speeding ticket.” In that case, my wife is being judgmental—she is giving me a consequence that is not for her to give. Only the police can do that. In the same way, I am called to judge—to confront people with God’s design, but it is not my role to condemn or to treat a person with an attitude of moral superiority—that would make me judgmental.
My concern is that confusing judging with being judgmental causes some leaders to forsake our God-given responsibility to judge. After all, the New Testament often calls us to confront, exhort, warn and correct. All of these actions involve judging. Yet, in our attempt to love with grace, we can forsake loving with truth. However, grace without truth is distortion and truth without grace is legalism. When Jesus looked at the adulterous woman he did not only tell her, “neither do I condemn you,” but he also said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” When Jesus loves, he loves with grace and truth. He judges without being judgmental.
WHO IS MY AUDIENCE?
The second element that shapes what loving with grace and truth looks like is my audience. When Paul instructed the Corinthians to confront the man who was engaged in a sinful sexual practice, he distinguishes the responsibility that we have towards the world from the one we have towards the church. The main difference between the two is one of accountability. Paul says, “I wrote to you in my letter 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. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.” Can you imagine having to call a fellow believer wicked and kick him out of the fellowship of the church? Thankfully, we know that this man repented after being confronted, and everybody forgave him and embraced him in the church family once again. It seems that sometimes love gets tough, and it may look judgmental because it gives labels and consequences; yet this kind of interaction only makes sense if we understand the role of accountability in the Body of Christ.
Even though God has created everybody in His image and therefore everybody deserves to be treated with dignity, the Apostle John tells us that God gives us the right to become God’s children only when we believe in Jesus. In contrast to popular thinking, everybody is God’s creation but not everybody is God’s children. Yet, once we become God’s children, we are now accountable to God and to the Body of Christ in a unique way. Marin’s book focuses mainly on our responsibility towards the world. The world is not accountable to our standards. They need Christ. But once the person is in Christ, we keep each other accountable to God’s call to obey Him (this call was powerfully captured in the last testimony included in the book).
My concern is that confusing grace with lack of accountability may cause some leaders to forsake our God-given responsibility to keep each other accountable as we grow in the image of Christ. Loving as Jesus loves requires a balance between loving with grace and truth, and that balance is better achieved when I distinguish if my audience is the world or the Body of Christ. Each one demands a different response from me as a leader.
Marin shares many moving stories in his book. One of them still resonates in my heart. A man with a wounded heart sent him this email, “Had someone had the courage to tell me that promiscuity of any type is wrong, that it is OK to not marry or being gay is not the end of the world then I might have been spared a great deal of trauma and pain in my life.” This person was crying out for a caring Christian who was not afraid to love him with grace and truth. I pray that God will give me the courage to be that kind of Christian.
 Malachi 2:6-8.
 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
 Marin, Andrew (2009-10-25). Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Kindle Locations 752-754). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.