Allow me to show my cards from the outset: I am Christian, heterosexual, and I won't be taking an explicit side on the issue of homosexuality in this post. This issue is far too complex for 600 words. What I do intend, however, is to assert that nobody should hold a strong opinion on homosexuality until s/he has personally interacted with homosexuals. I call this the "Nicodemus Approach."
I grew up in a fairly conservative evangelical community where nobody talked about homosexuality except when sharply condemning it. More accurately, I grew up in a community where nobody knew any homosexuals.* The issue did not concern specific human beings in our community; rather, it was about "them," those hypothetical people "out there." Accordingly, I learned that it was okay to hold conclusive opinions about matters that I knew little about and/or had never encountered in person.
Over the past four years, however, I have learned a different approach. During my four years in Philadelphia I have worked closely with a homosexual youth pastor; was mentored by a brilliant, homosexual chaplain supervisor; and walked alongside a handful of gay peers in Christian ministry. Unlike the former method of judging what I do not know, I came face to face with people instead of ideas. Enter Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees and a member of the religious elite. He belonged to a community that saw Jesus as a sinner because Jesus did things that were contrary to what was written in Hebrew Scripture (John 4:9; 5:16; 9:16). But John's portrayal of Nicodemus is fascinating: instead of remaining in his comfortable, homogeneous community, Nicodemus goes to encounter the man who had stirred up controversy (John 3:1-15). Then, at the end of chapter seven we meet Nicodemus a second time (7:45-52). That Nicodemus reappears in the Gospel is one thing; but he does not return as a static character. Nicodemus advocates for Jesus (v.51)! Here we see the impact of Nicodemus’ face-to-face encounter with Jesus.
We meet Nicodemus a third and final time at the foot of the cross. When all but one of Jesus' disciples had abandoned him, who is there? Nicodemus. The Pharisee who risked his religious identity to meet Jesus in person is the man that is forever remembered for laying our Lord to rest.
For me, this confirms the absolute necessity of personal encounter when forming opinions toward people. It is such a simple method, yet very hard to practice. However, I think that both Nicodemus and, more obviously, Jesus demonstrate this method clearly. Furthermore, the kind of opinion about which I am writing is specifically a strong opinion. I am quite aware that everyone will have an opinion no matter what; for that is natural. My challenge is to go and test your opinion (Lamentations 3:40).
I can imagine a reader asking, "Should we also not take a stand against abortion or capital punishment if we've never personally experienced it?" No, take your stand; for this misses my point. We must be careful to distinguish between acts/events and people. My point is that we ought to take an approach to homosexuality that takes seriously the fact that, in truth, there is no such thing as homosexuality the concept. There is only the homosexual - the person.
* Statistically this statement cannot be true. There must have been homosexuals in that community. However, the issue is that a community can create a statistically false reality (i.e. no homosexuals in a community) through pretense and silence.