'The Church should treat homosexuals with love'
Some Christians like to refer to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as they bring down the wrath of God on those who are known to be involved in same-sex relationships.
Some even go to the extreme by shunning those who they suspect of indulging in that practice if they visit their place of worship.
When 'throwing stones' from the pulpit, the opportunity to win a soul is totally lost as their intended target suffers from their condemnation and righteous indignation.
Family and Religion reached out to the Reverend Darren McKoy, national youth director of Church of God in Jamaica, who weighed in on the matter.
"Homosexuals have all the right, as any human being, to visit anywhere he or she chooses to, especially within a place of worship. Not being able to visit your place of worship would suggest that there are forms of discrimination within the Church, and by its standards, that must not be," he said.
McKoy pointed out that the very root word for church in the Greek, ekklesia, speaks to a "called out set", which signifies that the Church is called to reach out to, assist, and minister to the needs of all who come.
"Therefore, our treatment of homosexuals, as a church, must be one of love and acceptance of the individual and not necessarily one of judgment and condemnation," he said.
According to McKoy, the Church should never separate itself from any group of people.
"The word says that though we ought not to be partakers of the things of the world, we are, however, in the world. This suggests, therefore, that we will find ourselves in the company of persons with different belief systems, cultures, backgrounds, etc. However, it is how we deal with these persons who we come across that will be the challenge," he said.
Pertaining to those who love to use the scripture to utter condemnation, McKoy recalled Ezekiel Chapter 16: 49-52, where God clearly states His reason for destroying Sodom.
Explaining the much-used story of Sodom and Gomorrah against homosexuality, McKoy said that the scriptures show that God clearly outlines that Sodom was arrogant, overfed, did not help the poor, did not attend to the needy, and did detestable (sexually immoral) things in the sight of God, and so He destroyed them.
"So though homosexuality may have been high on the list of sins that they committed, it was among many others that they did. Still in verse 53, he highlighted the fact that He would restore Sodom and bring her back to where she was, which speaks to the whole idea of mercy and redemption," he said.
For McKoy, if Christians separate themselves from gays, then they should also be separating themselves from idolaters, adulterers, and liars (which is an abomination to God) as well.
McKoy also points out that the Church cannot condone sin as that would suggest tolerance and acceptance of the sinful behaviour. "However, it must be noted that as a church, we do not in any shape or form condone homosexuality or any sin, for that matter. The idea of being a part of the worship experience is determined by the person's acknowledgement of the sin, the understanding that the act is not in accordance with the principles of God, and that there is a desire and willingness to change," he noted.
If a definite change has been observed by the individual in question, then McKoy said restoration through participation must be on the agenda of the Church.
"A church must never punish or put to death the ministry of an individual who has a desire to change and is seeking help to do so after making it right with God. It is on this basis that participation must be considered," he said.
Addressing the harsh and hurtful words that are used in reference to gays, McKoy gives a reminder that the Bible says that we ought to love our neighbours in the same way we love ourselves.
However, he said that instead of love being shown, they are treated like intruders, outcasts, and villains of society.
The solution in being kinder towards gays for McKoy is operating in love.