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Jesus gives us a bold example of what it looks like to become salt and light to a sexually deviant world.

This post is an excerpt from a longer article in the Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal. You can access the full article here. 

What would Jesus do? The question is popular but dangerously hypothetical.

When we watch Jesus in the Gospels, we can ask a better question: What did Jesus do?

Jesus actively engaged the people of His culture, even those considered sexually immoral. Some of the more famous sexual deviants from the Bible were all associated with Jesus: Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50); Woman at the Well (John 4:13-26); Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:3-11). Obviously, there was risk involved. His reputation was damaged by His social interactions.

We should realize our own vulnerabilities are exposed when we become too comfortable with those far from God.

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Conversely, our pride is exposed when we hold ourselves as too holy to interact with them as well. As Jimmy Flynt (the brother of Hustler publisher and famous pornographer Larry Flynt) once said, “I thought all Christians hated me.” Our mission must reflect the same as Jesus’—seeking and saving the lost. In the course of that mission, we must be known as those who love people toward God and not those who hate people toward the world.

Jesus demonstrated relationships were the pathway to becoming salt and light to a sexually deviant world.

Christians offer hope to those who are trapped between two polarities. The first is a permissive, all embracing culture that defends the freedom of people to destroy themselves and others through pornography. The second is impulse to free the world from “dirty pictures” and all the people who look at them. We should choose the better way of engagement for Gospel transformation with Jesus.

The very purpose of His life was to release people from the power and the penalty of sin.

When considering the pornification of the American culture, one can easily become angry with those on the front edge of creating this phenomenon. The Hugh Hefners, the movie directors, the photographers, the investors and the actors all deserve a little angst. Right? Yet are they completely to blame?

The issue we then face is, “Who will love them if Christians decide to hate them?”

Ed Stetzer Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.

More from Ed Stetzer or visit Ed at http://www.edstetzer.com/

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  • Scott Dossett

    I was very pleasantly surprised by this article. I would only suggest that we remember the freedom God has given everyone in free will (if you’re not a hyper-Calvinist). Finding the middle ground between apathy and control can be a difficult thing if we view them as the enemy or try to deny them the liberty of making their own choices.

    • Algoria

      A good point, Scott.
      I see a similar tension between God’s love for mankind and his hatred of sin. There is no contradiction here since Jesus, as God incarnate, is both absolutely holy and unconditionally loving.

      But it is impossible for us mere humans to even begin to imitate His attitude without relying fully on the Holy Spirit to empower us. It is a lifelong learning process for us to walk in the Spirit and be filled with the Holy Spirit continually.

      God’s love for mankind and His hatred for sin are both clearly described all though the scriptures. For example, the apostle Paul wrote “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” The unbeliever cannot understand this but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  • Jo

    While this article does an excellent job of exhorting the church to take on the ministry to the sexually broken – – – this could just as easily have been written to address the church’s need to reach out to everyone who is broken by this world’s system. It is long overdue for the church to reach out to our world with the great good news of the gospel – – – no matter their mode of lostness.

  • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

    Good article … personally, I think that the Church right overly stresses that Jesus hung out w/ these sinners, yet, they totally ignore the part that He also told them “go, and sin no more”. That second part of the message has been lost in the Church. There is such a rallying cry (and it’s desperately needed) to stop HATING and start LOVING … and to that, I say AMEN. Yet, as soon as you try to say “stop the sin”, we become haters and everything else bad. (which is unfair).

    IF the church can grasp the concept of demonstrating LOVE to the sinner AND a loving challenge to begin turning from the sin, that’s a big win.

    Sadly, I feel like anytime we attempt to confront the sin issue, we’re called out as not being loving anymore.

    Yes, the deviants and sinners were drawn to Jesus — and perhaps they sensed that Jesus loved them deeply, but let’s not be confused — Jesus hated their sin. He still does.
    That’s why he would say “go and sin no more”.

    Truthfully, it’s tough because even the most Godly of Christians has a tough time saying “go and sin no more” because we all sin and fall short every day.

    As for me I just wanna confess that and try my very best, when led by the Spirit, to encourage that person in a loving way so they don’t feel judged or hated, but truly cared for.

    I truly believe God is going to teach us how to be more LOVING to the LOST, yet, in the love, demonstrate a way for them to be free of the bondages they are in. But it starts with us. If we’re walking in the same bondages, the same traps – it’s very hard to do anything except point the hypocritical finger.

    • Scott Dossett

      Where exactly does Jesus tell the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the women at the well that God hates their sin? By contrast, he has numerous challenging words for the Pharisees, representing God with their judgments. I think that is a fundamental problem in the modern church. The issue is not God’s hatred for people’s sin. Instead, it seems to be far more about His love that seeks to draw them out of destructive, enslaving life decisions. In my experience (whatever that’s worth) people are far more responsive when they understand that your concern is *for* them, not *about* them.

      • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

        Scott, no where did I say that we’re supposed to tell them that God “hates their sin” … however, we know that God hates sin. My point was that Jesus loves the people, but hates their sin. I don’t think there is any debating this issue is there?

        I agree – let’s love them, and let Christ’s love be revealed to them. 100%. However, having concern about someone’s destructive lifestyle and sinful behavior *IS* being concerned “for” them … I don’t quite understand the symantics in “for” and “about” — for me they are the same. If I’m concerned about someone, I’m concerned for them. (perhaps “hates” sin isn’t the proper word, but I believe you know what I mean?)

        • Scott Dossett

          I understand what you meant now. Personally, I really struggle with the whole “God hates the sin, not the sinner” mentality, so I triggered on that. My sincere apology. I just think so many people hear that and miss (what I hope is) the intended meaning: “God hates the sin precisely because it can rip to pieces the beloved child you are to him.” Not because it is a theological maxim that he must uphold. Does that make sense?

          • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

            Scott, it totally does. It would help to know that any of my responses are coming from an intense wrestling I’m going through about holiness, what that looks like, and how much compromise is happening in the church. My real pain and grief is not about sinners sinning — I mean, that’s what we do by default — it’s more directed at those of us (myself, as the chief of them!) who continue to walk in willful sin (I’m really surrendering that to Christ more than ever!) and don’t want to be told that what they are doing is wrong.

            At the same time, in the NT church days, I think of John the Baptist saying “repent of your sins” … calling people to stop sinning. That’s what seems to be missing. Today’s culture wants the church to show love, but they do NOT want the church saying anything about “sin”. We’ve got to find a way to do both, in a Godly, winsome way. There’s the rub for me — and clearly, I’m wrestling with it — I don’t have the perfect answers here! :-)

      • AmazingByTheResponse

        If you read the second chapter of revelation. You will see Jesus who hates the Nicolatians. The Nicolatians taught that grace gave you liberty to sin this was their doctrine. Their doctrine allowed to deny their true condition and their need for Jesus. The pharisees likewise did the same thing with the law they thought that through their own efforts they were righteous thus becoming blind to their true condition and their need of a savior. We do the same thing with grace like the Nicolatians. Jesus response for their doctrines and DEEDS Revelation 2: “6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate” . I will point out that Jesus himself rebuked this particular church for their lack of love(charity) and not for hating sinful deeds or doctrines. This tells me that it is possible to both hate the sin and love the sinner. If you had a child that was an addict you could love them but hate the drugs that they are on, the lax attitude of neighbors about the drugs, or the laws that permit them. You could even hate the media that would glorified the drugs because you know that the substance is responsible for your child’s destruction. Even more important is you could hate the addictive personality traits or thinking that your daughter had. This hatred would lead you to push and campaign for change. What often pass as love and patience is really indifference and tolerance(enabling).

        • Scott Dossett

          Revelations does not record that Jesus hated the Nicolaitans, but that he hated *their deeds.* I’m not sure, but I think that may be what you mean in spite of your first two sentences. I certainly agree that it’s possible to hate the sin and not the sinner. However, that phrase is often used in such a way that the image people are given is of a god who is stomping around heaven angry at sin because… well, because. It defines God as elementally opposing sin – as a force in itself – rather than, as I believe scripture indicates, because sin ravages and destroys the ones he loves.

          Maybe you can see how the former view can cause Christians to objectify sin, rather than consistently seeing sin in the context of the people affected by it. And why it becomes tempting for Christians to equate the sinner with the sins they commit and transfer the hate to the individuals who represent them. Hugh Hefner represents pornography and sexual sin to many people, therefore they begin to hate him because of what he represents.

          The “why” of God’s “hatred” of sin is critical. For example, much of the argument behind “God hates divorce” dissipates when we consider *why* God hates divorce – because it was often used as an escape for one party at the expense of the other. However divorce that is due to abuse, neglect, etc.. is still seen by certain people as “sinful” because it is objectified (and viewed in terms of “law)” when in reality it can be (and I make a stand here) better to make the decision for divorce in these cases, because it is freeing the ones being abused or neglected from a damaging relationship.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pierre.a.teyssier Pierre A Teyssier

      Intercession for them first is a prerequisite .. only once introduced to HIS LOVE through prayer can they receive it .. then it is walked out ..also pray that they would be empowered by HIS JOY!!!

      ..Eph 3:14 – 19 Gods Word Translation

      Paul Prays That God Would Strengthen Christians

      14 This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father 15 from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. 16 I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of his glory. I pray that he would give you inner strength and power through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will live in you through faith. I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. 18 This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep his love is. 19 You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pierre.a.teyssier Pierre A Teyssier

      also I really like your article!! It is really wonderful to see and know that other body members are stepping up to bat for the “unloved” of this world. It takes a personal revelation of HIS LOVE for our self in order to to know that Jesus determines to reach each of the lost through us. I haven’t forgot my conversion almost 20 yrs ago and I was delivered out of a “lucrative industry.” It meant the world to me and the one who went to bat for me is STILL one of my greatest friends!! I was drawn to this person because of her lack of fear about me and the love she exuded..(perfect love casts out fear) She prayed for me for a season before she was released by God to speak certain truths to me — BUT, afterwards; I was immediately filled with the HOLY SPIRIT after salvation and knew that HE didn’t want anyone left out of HIS LOVE. Pray for courage and wisdom!! Ask Jesus for HIS strategy (per person) Declare that when you speak it will be as if your FATHER GOD speaking through you –
      ( JER 1:7-10) 7 But the Lord said to me, “Don’t say that you are only a boy. You will go wherever I send you. You will say whatever I command you to say. 8 Don’t be afraid of people. I am with you, and I will rescue you,” declares the Lord. 9 Then the Lord stretched out his hand and touched my mouth. The Lord said to me,
      “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
      10 Today I have put you in charge of nations and kingdoms.
      You will uproot and tear down.
      You will destroy and overthrow.
      You will build and plant.”

      I just couldn’t help myself I just had to encourage you … I can keep writing too … I could go on and on about HIS GOODNESS to us all and the opportunity that he is blessing people with… Be Blessed!! Steffanie

    • Chuky

      I totoly agree with you fmckinnon, god bless you, brother.

  • Algoria

    “What would Jesus do?” (Upgraded in this article to “What did Jesus do?”)
    The catchphrase has been around for a long time, but this kind of surmising has always seemed unrealistic to me.
    Jesus walked on water, declared sins forgiven, healed the paralyzed, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead. He fed thousands by multiplying some bread and a few fish.
    Jesus also called people snakes, hypocrites and whitewashed tombs – to their faces. (Yes, they were Pharisees, but they were still people.) He braided a whip and drove dishonest men from the temple area.
    Jesus was unique. He was, after all, the one and only Son of God.
    Since we usually can’t raise the dead or turn water into wine, better questions might be: “What would you have me to do, Jesus?” or “What does the Holy Spirit want me to do?”
    I realize WWYHMTDJ or WDTHSWMTD wouldn’t look good on a bracelet.

  • Todd

    Algloria…that is classic! Great discussion overall. We were just discussing this topic this morning at men’s group. How do we love like Jesus loved? How does that look practically? The more I try to answer the question – more questions pop up. Lord Jesus, help us to live and love in a balanced, Kingdom influenced reality. Amen.

  • JMartin

    “Jesus actively engaged the people of His culture, even those considered sexually immoral.”
    We do this every Friday night at Celebrate Recovery! I would not be engaged with Jesus today if recovery oriented people from church and CR had not loved me and supported me and taught me. Jesus broke my chains! Recovery pointed me to Him! Hallelujah!

  • Walter Smith

    So do we permit convicted child molesters in our churches? We need to love them/ reach them/extend the hand of fellowship to them yet do we jeopardize the safety/ protection of innocent children to do so? Lessons hopefully have been learned through the Jerry Sandusky case!! Churches are perfect places for sexual diviants to “ply their passion”. We must have measures in place to address this matter and deal with it. What are we doing to protect our congregations from a sexual divient who may be coming this Sunday??

    • ServantHeart2012

      Walter, honestly I’m not sure if your comment is sincere or “tongue-in-cheek” but assuming it is sincere, we do the right thing for both the convicted child molester AND our children. We love them, attempt to reach them, and extend the hand of fellowship to them, and we thoroughly vet them (as we do every single person who comes in contact with children in any way while at church) and subsequently guide them into service in an area where they will not be in contact with children. If you have a sound plan for vetting those who serve children and you are absolutely consistent with it the chance of someone “slipping through the cracks” is remote.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lynn.scott.smith Lynn Scott Smith

        servantheart… [following post written by walter smith on lynn scott smiths account]
        I am absolutely sincere, servantheart… I currently am a lead pastor/ work as a volunteer chaplain with a federal prison with denominational approval and credentials plus I serve as our sectional presbyter [bishop] … Our culture does have those sexual deviants that accept Christ and desire to be assimilated into the local church. We as leaders need to know who is coming through our front door and we must protect the innocent. What better place for a sexual deviant to prey on children, than in a local church.
        So yes we love them as Christ loved them… that is a given. Yet how do we effectively minister GOD’s grace when many of these offenders have stipulations on their parole/ probation that drastically limit their contact with children, youth or others?? Our church has set several practices in place when we know someone is attending that has had charges against them. However, I have had and currently do have individuals that are very uncomfortable that we as a church are allowing sexual deviants to attend our services. I am not saying this is correct but here in central PA, as a result of the Sandusky deal, parents of young children desire church leadership to be proactive in placing as many elements in place to make sure that their children are safe. Classes on this are being offered by many denominations… ours as well… [we sent a team to such a conference early this summer]

        Do we allow them to attend if there is criminal charges against them?
        Or Do we send them somewhere else? If so where?

        Many convicted sexual deviants are not permitted within a certain distance of schools or public places with children. Reporting is mandatory for them and registration stipulations are required. So when young parents with children in the children’s ministry program or youth ministry, ask me, why are these individuals allowed in the local church?? And what is the church doing to protect my children, we need to be prepared with some answers and policies lest something tragic occur.

        As I stated, our particular church places restrictions on known/ convicted sexual deviants as to only having access to the sanctuary and with two designated elders ‘shadowing’ them whereever the individual goes to within the church facility. ie: restroom, hallways, fellowship functions such as dinners etc….

        This is a critical issue that our churches must address in these culturally diverse society.

        Just sayin….

  • MJA

    So the email I received said, “Loving Sexual Deviants Like Jesus” which suggests that Jesus was a sexual deviant. I don’t think that is what you meant.

  • DrIQ

    spot on mr. ed! galatians 5:6: the only thing that counts for anything is faith working through love!

  • Iliesa Turaganisoqo

    To fmckinnon and Scot, have you ever considered the fact that the God of Love we worship is also a Just God?You can never separate the two because they are two sides of the same coin.God loves us so much that He continues to save us through the work of His Holy Spirit who continues to cleanse us from our sin nature.His purpose is not only to remove sin from the sinner but to remove the sinner completely before He can use him for His Holy purpose as a “vessel of honour”. Only God working through His ‘carriers’ can show forth His Love by loving the sinner and hating the sin.

  • Angel

    Good one! Enriching! Informative”