Introduction: Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. As these teachings are shared worldwide our prayer is that God uses them to transform lives with his radical love. If this message makes a difference in your life, we'd like to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. In this series called Jesus Loves People, we learn about God's love for all people from all walks of life. Today there isn't a more controversial topic than homosexuality, and tempers run hot when it's mentioned. In the message "Jesus Loves Homosexuals," Skip shows us how Jesus was compassionate towards all sinners. Let's turn to John, chapter 8, as he begins.
Skip Heitzig: You'll be happy to know that at last a perfect preacher has been found. I don't know the person, but here's the description: "He preaches exactly fifteen minutes"---so, I'm out. [laughter] "He preaches exactly fifteen minutes against sin in such a gentle way that he never hurts anyone's feelings. He works from six in the morning till ten every night in every kind of work possible. He can clean the church if necessary. He helps overhaul the cars of the congregation and is an expert in almost every field. He always dresses in the best clothes, buys the latest books on every subject, has a well-dressed and well-behaved family, drives a late-model car at all times, gives to every charitable fund, and gives $40 to the church from his $100-a-week salary.
"He is twenty years old and has been preaching for thirty years. [laughter] He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and he spends all of his time with older folks. He smiles all the time with a straight face, because he has a good sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He has a glowing personality with deadened feelings and iron nerves." The reason I preface my study this morning with that little quip is because I have a feeling that no matter what I say on the subject I'm going to speak on, that I'm going to offend someone. It is not my desire to do so. I speak to you not as anything but a pastor with love in my heart, knowing that I'm dealing with a very delicate subject. A few years ago one of our previous vice presidents named Al Gore put out a film called An Inconvenient Truth.
I'm not here to talk about it. I never saw it. I'm not here to discuss politics, except to say this: there are some truths that are inconvenient truths to hear and people don't want to hear them. One of them, especially among church folks, is the topic of homosexuality. According to one study, homosexuality is one of the top ten issues facing the church today. The Barna Research Group has noted that few pastors will speak on such controversial issues because they worry about losing members and about diminishing tithes. Frankly, I've never done a message by this title, "Jesus Loves Homosexuals." It's not that I haven't dealt with the text before. We've gone through the entire Scripture and at appropriate times we have dealt with those biblical passages.
But I've never done one as blatantly as what is the title of this message today. And I want you to know that I do this message, I preach this message, I teach this message with a little bit of fear, with a lot of respect, and with all of the love of Jesus Christ in my heart. You know, one of the reasons that you don't hear messages such as this one is because, frankly, it's a difficult subject. And it is made more complicated in this day and age because of the heightened rhetoric in the political arena, because of the media spin that goes on whenever this issue is tackled, and because voices on both sides have been raised and people are very animated about what they believe in regarding this. Some don't like to talk about it, frankly, because some don't like to think about it.
They just sort of not want to not deal with it and they-they move on. They can't even fathom thinking about such things. For other people it's just too painful. They've had a son or a daughter approach them and that son or daughter has announced, "I'm gay." "I'm homosexual." "I'm lesbian." And immediately thoughts of, "I'm a failure as a parent"---all of that is dealt with. It's just painful to go there. For other people it's painful because of all of the bashing they have heard throughout the years by a number of preachers. They've had Bible verses flung in their faces without an iota of love or concern for the individual. I've asked you to turn to John, chapter 8, which might seem like a strange passage at first, because it's not about Jesus encountering a homosexual.
You'll not find such a passage in all of the New Testament. There isn't one. That's because it wasn't the issue then that it is today. It was assumed in that culture of Judaism that heterosexuality was the pervasive norm. However, what you find in John, chapter 8, is a woman being brought before Jesus because of a sexual act that she committed, sexual sin that she was involved with. And we are going to understand and see as we read how Jesus dealt with her. Let's look at our text. In John, chapter 8, the first verse actually begins to the previous chapter. "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." The thought begins in verse 2:
Now early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?" This they said, testing him, that they might have something of which to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, as though he did not hear.
So when they continued asking him, he raised himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"
She said, "No one, Lord."
Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
The first thing I want to consider with you is just how candid Jesus was with all people. He was always honest. In verse 2 we are told that Jesus was in the temple and he was teaching. Now, in case you don't know this, and I'm sure most of you do, that is the activity that we find Jesus doing most of in the New Testament, teaching people. Yes, he was healing, and, yes, he was doing other things, but by and large the four gospels---Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John---have a whole chunk of red words in them. Those are the words of Jesus. He taught people on virtually every needful subject for them to hear. He told them about God. He told them about creation. He taught them about divorce and marriage. He taught them about love and peace and joy and how to get to heaven.
And when he taught he was always honest. He was always candid. How do we know this? Well, because many times when Jesus taught things, people didn't like what they heard. He was so honest it actually offended people. There are what theologians refer to as the "hard sayings" of Jesus, or the difficult statements. Things like, "If you're going to come after me, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me." In John, chapter 6, when Jesus was giving one message, the crowd reacted and some of them said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" It doesn't mean it was too hard to understand, it means it was too hard for them to tolerate. Let me translate it another way: "I don't like this preacher. He just offended me." It was hard because Jesus was always honest.
Here's one. You remember when our Lord was at the well of Samaria with a woman and they're dialoguing? And he finally says, "Go, call your husband." And she said in a very kind of smart, curt way, "I don't have a husband." And Jesus said, "You're right. You don't have a husband, you've had five of them, and now you're just living with a man and cohabitating with somebody who's not your husband." You think she'd love to hear that? That just cut her to the heart. Well, he was always honest. He's teaching people in all honesty. And notice how honest he is with this woman. In verse 11 he says, just the last part, "Go and sin no more." Now he just used a word there, a term, the term "sin." And he is referring to her behavior of adultery as something that is sinful.
Notice that Jesus didn't say "your mistake," "your hang-up," "your propensity," "your alternate lifestyle." He called it a sin. What he did in using the term was frame for her how God views her action of adultery. He's not condemning her sexuality. In fact, he's not even referring to her preference. He's referring to her practice, the sin that she committed. Now, this is important, because instead of condemning her as a sexual being, what Jesus is doing is denouncing the way in which she chose to express her sexuality---i.e., committing adultery with some man. Let me be candid, according to statistica.com, a statistical research website, two in every one hundred males in America claim to be gay; one out of every one hundred females claim to be lesbian.
Now some will dispute those facts, say more or less, but the Williams Institute translates this into about eight million adults in the United States that consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. Question: How do we respond to that? Short answer, before I give you the long answer, the short answer is: We should respond to them at least in the way that the God we say we follow does. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life." If God loved the world, then we should love the people that are in that world as well. Jesus loves people---that's the theme of this whole series. He loves gay people, straight people, prostitutes, thieves, drunks, atheists, agnostics, religious people, and even you and I.
It doesn't mean he loves adultery---he loves adulterers. It doesn't mean he loves prostitution---he loves prostitutes. It doesn't mean he loves homosexuality---it means he loves homosexuals. But in loving them, please notice, because Jesus was honest, he was candid, that one of the most loving things you can do is to tell people the truth. And Jesus did that. There are some inconvenient truths in Scripture. Now, I say without shame that I believe in the authority of Scripture. I make no apologies for it. I believe that God has spoken through his Word and he has spoken on issues of morality and sexuality, sexual practice. Homosexuality isn't mentioned a whole lot in the Bible, but it is mentioned seven times, seven different passages.
Genesis 19; Leviticus 19 and 20; Judges, chapter 19; Romans, chapter 1; First Corinthians, chapter 6; and First Timothy, chapter 1---all have something to do either directly or tangentially with the practice of homosexuality. And the Bible's teaching on it is clear. According to the Bible, homosexuality is sin and it is contrary to God's plan and God's design for humanity. Now, I hope you will not switch me off at this point. Hold on, there's more to this message. I realize that in making the statement that I just made that I am considered by the vast majority of our public to be "narrow-minded." I'm not dumb. I understand that. In fact, not only am I considered narrow-minded by my view, I am considered to be "intolerant" by my view. And, after all, we live in a culture now that worships tolerance; you have to be tolerant.
There's only one group you don't have to be tolerant with, and that's Christians, in this culture. I also understand something else, that in saying what I just said one day I could end up in jail for saying that in our culture. That could be labeled as something that would imprison a person. But I sort of feel like what the apostles felt as they stood before the council in Acts, chapter 6, when Peter said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge . . . But we must obey God rather than men." You see, we-we can't just simply handle biblical prohibitions irresponsibly. We can't shape them around our personal or cultural preferences. We can never think that God will bless what God denounces.
No matter what culture tells you, no matter what your body chemistry or a genetic study will tell you, no matter how you feel, the Bible, I believe, trumps it all. Because you know what? I've had all sorts of "feelings" in my past and was predisposed toward a number of behaviors, that if I acted on them all, I would be not alive or be in jail. It wouldn't be right. Just because someone has a "preference" for something, doesn't make it morally correct in and of itself. But I want you to differentiate between something here. I keep talking about "practice." Jesus said, "Go and sin no more." He was talking about her practice, not her preference. There's one thing to note that somebody has a preference or an orientation or a propensity or a proclivity, there's another thing to practice it.
This woman in our story had a preference. She was attracted to a man outside of her marriage. And she yielded to that temptation, that urge, and it became an act, thus it became sinful. A few months ago I was in a restaurant and it was just a remarkable time. I was seated by a waitress. She introduced herself to me. She said, "You don't remember me, do you? You invited me to one of your Easter services some years ago." And she said, "I did not go, but I did come to your church after that, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ and he's changed my life." But then she said something, and my whole family was there, it was quite remarkable how candid she was. She said, "You can probably tell by looking at me that I'm a stereotypical lesbian." I'm just going, "Okay, I'm all ears." [laughter]
And she said, "You know, I have lots of people around me who tell me, 'Either change the way you look, or just hook up with someone.' " And then she said something that was so profound, I wrote it down. She said, "I'd rather struggle with my desires and remain single than to give into those desires." She goes, "I trust that God will change the rest as time goes. But I have chosen to make a decision, my choice, to remain celibate rather than to give into those urges." She admitted that she had a homosexual preference, but she no longer was practicing it. And here's the point I want to make: a sexual orientation does not have to define you when a spiritual orientation can define you. And that is the choice that she made, that she would be defined by her submission to God no matter how she felt.
I know it's cliché. I almost shun to even say this. However, it is true and we must demonstrate it, that-that God loves the sinner, he may hate the sin, but God loves the sinner. Romans 2:4 tells us it's "the goodness of God that leads [a person] to repentance." And you know what? Jesus came to remove the debt of sin from all people, from all unbelievers, all undeserving people. And he condemns all forms of sin, including hypocrisy, which is what I want you to notice next. So, first, Jesus was candid with all people. The second thing I want to make note of is Jesus was confrontational with all hypocrites. You see that throughout the New Testament whenever Jesus encounters people like these scribes and Pharisees.
Look at verse 3. "Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst"---I just want you to picture that. "The scribes and the Pharisees brought this woman, set her in the midst, and said to him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.' " I can see them smiling almost when they said that. " 'Now Moses, in the law, commanded that such should be stoned. But what do you say?' This they said, testing him, that he might have something---they might have something to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, wrote on the ground with his finger, as though he didn't hear." I love that. "When they continued asking him, he raised himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.'
"And again he stooped down and he wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." Okay, scribes were people who copied the law by hand. They were like professional secretaries. Pharisees were the legalists who claimed that they kept the law. So picture the scene: The sun is rising. Jesus is sitting down in the temple teaching. Suddenly there's a commotion and everybody looks over their shoulder, and these religious leaders are dragging a woman right into the church service, right into the temple and plopping her down. Can you imagine how embarrassing, how shameful to be treated that way?
She's brought before the crowd and put right in the middle, so humiliating. And they say, "The law says stone her." Now, there's some problems with this. Problem number one: they hadn't stoned anybody in Israel for over a thousand years as this point. They had long interpreted that to be something relegated to the wilderness and it wasn't practiced in Israel for over a thousand years. Number two, they quote a Scripture to Jesus, or refer to one, and it's a one-sided misinterpretation. Listen to what it says in Leviticus 20. "Both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." So what's wrong with this? They're just bringing one person. It takes two to tango. If she's caught "in the very act," where's the dude? They're very one-sided.
And, number three, they were not at all concerned about morality; they're concerned about mortality. They want Jesus dead. They're looking for a way to trap him so that they might "accuse him," we are told. So, they don't bring this woman because they hated adultery; they brought this woman because they hated Jesus and they're looking for some way to trap him. Verse 6, Jesus just stooped on the ground. Isn't that funny? He's not like---he's not even listening, he's just moving his fingers. We don't know what he's writing, by the way. Doesn't tell us. But listen to this: it's the only time we ever find Jesus writing anything. The word Jesus wrote on the ground is the Greek word kategraphen, which means to write an accusation against someone.
One source believes that what Jesus was doing, and there's no real way to tell, but because of that word is that Jesus may have been writing the names of those religious leaders and the secret sin that he knew about next to it. Wouldn't that be interesting? "Shlomo---greed. Avi---lust. Jason---texting while driving his camel." I-I---you get the idea. [laughter] Look at verse 7. He says, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Now, this statement our Lord raises the issue from a legal issue---which they are making it a legal issue---to a spiritual issue. He's saying, "Well, you know there's only one qualification that would allow you to be the one condemning her and stoning her; and that is, you have to be anamartétos, without sin." Actually, it means one who has not sinned, one who cannot sin.
"If there's one of those people among you, great, then you throw that rock. Pick it up. But you have to be one who cannot sin, one who has not sinned." You see, self-righteous judgment always becomes its own gallows. You've heard it so many times before, that when you point one finger, there's three pointing back at you. That's the case here. That's the case here. If we were only in touch with our own fallenness, our own desperate need for God, we would be much more compassionate with all unbelievers, gay or straight. David Kinnaman, who wrote for the Barna Research Group, in his book called unChristian writes this: "Outsiders say our hostility toward gays---not just opposition to homosexual politics and behavior but disdain for gay individuals---has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith."
Now, make no mistake, the Bible has some strong things to say about homosexuality, but do you know the Bible has also strong things to say about divorce and about lust and about adultery and about greed and about gossip? Listen to First Corinthians 6. Here's one. I'll talk more on this next time. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders"---unfortunately, people don't read the next verse---"nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God."
So, Jesus was candid with all people. Jesus was confrontational with all hypocrites. And here's the third principle: Jesus was compassionate with all sinners. I love the end of verse 9 where everybody leaves and there's just our Lord facing this woman alone. I love the idea of Jesus dealing one-on-one with a person's need and with a person's sin. When Jesus raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.' " There's a lot in that statement. I don't have the time to exegete it. I have before. But the implication is repentance, "Go and sin no more." The implication is faith and repentance.
Notice he calls her "woman." That sort of sounds like a---um, a snubbing remark today, but it was a term of respect. Jesus called his own mother "woman." At the feast of Cana he said to his mom, "Woman . . . ," a term of dignity, "the hour has not yet come." From the cross our Lord said, "Woman," to his mother, "behold your son!" So, what our Lord was doing by calling this adulterous woman the same term he called his mom is giving her back a little of her dignity that was lost in this whole fiasco. He didn't dehumanize her. He didn't have adulterous jokes to share, no slurs, but dignity. "Woman, where are your accusers?" You see, this is love, and love is the heart of the gospel. Jesus is bold, calling it "sin," confrontational with the hypocrites, but very compassionate with this woman. I wish we were.
Do you know that scores of people---outside the church as well some inside the church---feel a sense of shame because of same-sex attraction, feel a sense of alienation, and feel uniquely condemned because of the feelings they hold? A few years ago when Hugh Downs, 20/20 interviewer on television, was interviewing Dr. Billy Graham, the interviewer wanted to ask him a pointed question about the gay lifestyle. And so he turned the interview around and he said, "Dr. Graham, if you had a son who was a homosexual, would you love him?" Billy Graham said immediately without any hesitation, "Why, I would love that one even more."
Now, I want to give you, as we close, four little, quick things to walk away with based on the word love, L-O-V-E. Here's an acronym. The L in love stands for the first way to show love; and that is, to listen. Listen. Don't give advice before you've heard the story, the background. You know, it's been estimated that people listen to about only 10 percent of what somebody tells them. Have you ever talked to somebody, and you're trying to pour out your heart, and their eyes are shifting around and they're looking at who else is in the room? And they're moving, their body language they're saying, "Hurry up. I have an answer for you. Just listen to my answer. I don't care about your question." Don't do that. Listen.
Second thing, O, love, L-O will stand for offer support. "I'm there for you. I will pray for you. I will pray with you. I will stand with you through the ups and downs. I'll wrestle through the tough issues." If they make any movement, especially toward the cross, offer support. V, here's the third, L-O-V, voice God's truth. Voice God's truth. At some point in the relationship you have, you need to share what the Bible says about the activities that are going on. Don't ever be embarrassed by what the Bible says. That's God's Word. That's God's plan. Voice God's truth. However, I will say this: watch your tone. How convincing is this? God loves you! [laughter] Does that just win you over? Watch your tone. Paul said in Ephesian 4, "speaking the truth in love." Truth and love are married. "What God has joined, let no man separate."
Some people are all about truth, but their tone betrays and belies that there is no love. Some people are all about love---"I don't need to share the truth. I just want to love you." No. You need love and truth. Voice God's truth, but in love. So listen, offer support, voice God's truth, and the E stands for esteem. Every single person, no matter who they are, no matter what they have done, all humans deserve respect for one simple reason---we've all been created in the image of God. That alone should cause respect and esteem. I believe that the church should be a refuge for struggling people, not a museum for perfect people. If you're a perfect person, go find a place that's perfect, because you---this ain't it. I found a poem yesterday and I just sort of thought about it.
And it really wasn't written about America, it was written about Asia, so I rewrote it a little bit. But as I read it, a poem by Alfred Kilmer, doctored up a little bit by me, I looked at the poem and I thought, "Lord, I pray this will never happen here." "Whenever I walk through our city with skies so big and so blue, I go by a great big church house with people so strong and so true. I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but today I stopped in for a minute and looked at that church, that tragic church, the church with no love for me in it." I pray that our love for people will be as radical as the gospel itself. It's a radical message.
Father, our hearts turn toward you, because we think of that list that we briefly saw and will look at in depth next time in First Corinthians, and that statement, "and you were just like that," "such were some of you." How thankful we are, Lord, for your grace in finding us. Whatever stones, Lord, we may have carried in that are in our hands, I pray we would quickly drop because our consciences are convicted. Amazing to think that the only one qualified to throw stones didn't. The only one without sin, Jesus himself, didn't throw anything, was so tender telling her what she had done was sin and it needed to stop, but his approach was significantly so filled with tender love and compassion. All we can say, Lord, is help us, in Jesus' name, amen.
Closing: Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of love on the cross. He loves all sinners, so that means we should too. How will you go out of your way to show love to your neighbor this week? Let us know. Email email@example.com. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.