Dr. Richard Lee, Pastor of Sugar Hill Baptist Church (SBC affiliated) in Gwinnett County, Georgia is making headlines with a recent sermon apologizing to homosexuals, couples living together, and women who have had abortions. Dr. Lee, who received his doctorate from Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, says that the Christian church has been judging, condemning and has even targeted homosexuals, live-in lovers, and women who have aborted their unwanted child. He says it is now time to make amends.

“For too long, we’re been known for the issues we’re against, not for the God we’re for,” said Lee, 38.

Why is the gospel of love dividing America? The unchurched world views us as judgmental and homophobic,” says Lee. “I don’t think God is going to ask what label we wore. He’s going to ask what did we do for Jesus.”

This reminds me a great deal of a story from Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz Don and his friend Tony build a confession both at a festival called Ren Fayre held every year at Reed College.  In Miller’s account Tony says:

“We are not actually going to accept confessions.” We all looked at him in confusion. He continued, “We are going to confess to them. We are going to confess that, as followers of Jesus, we have not been very loving; we have been bitter, and for that we are sorry. We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and the lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishenss, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell the people who come into our booth that Jesus loves them.”

The point that Donald Miller is trying to make in his book is that in history Christians have often gotten in the way of Jesus. Christians have failed to image God in the world as we should.

However, as I read this article about Dr. Lee, I can’t help but wonder if he is missing the point of the gospel. Does speaking pointedly and biblically about particular sins make one guilty of targeting or profiling? Is it really judgmental to point out that Scripture condemns sexual immorality? Is it condemning to lovingly tell people that if they do not repent of their sins that they will die in their sin and spend eternity separated from a loving God who made them in His image?

Contextually, it is impossible to know what Dr. Lee really is trying to say in this newspaper article. If what Dr. Lee is offering is merely an admission and apology for failing to glorify Jesus in the way that Christian relate to our culture, then I don’t have any problems with what he is saying. However, if Dr. Lee is stating that it is unloving for followers of Jesus to confront our culture with the biblical truth that all men live as tyrants and rebels before God, actively and openly functioning in this world in open defiance of the God has revealed himself to all men, gleefully extending the middle-finger heavenward to God as they  worship created things rather than the Creator, then Dr. Lee doesn’t understand the Gospel. Without this confrontation no person can receive redemption and the forgiveness of sins.

Historically the Christian church has been guilty of failing to love our enemies and neighbors the way Scripture commands. But this is because we have misunderstood that true love extends compassion and mercy in light of the cross. True love is to tell both those who love and hate us the truth about God and His Word, regardless of the consequence to our own personal comfort and safety.

Evangelicals have historically not known what to do to minister to the homosexual community. This is a fair critique. This is equally true for live-in couples and women who abort their unborn children. But perhaps this is symptomatic of the failure of the church to be the church. Perhaps the problem lies within the church and Her understanding of the Gospel and how to relate the Gospel to culture. But to say that the church’s igorance is reason to defy God’s Word and fail to speak of the reality that sin kills – yes, the sins of homosexuality, sexual immorality, murder, pride, lust, greed, slander, hypocrisy, gluttony, self-centeredness, envy, covetousness, idolatry – and will all destory evey image-bearer who refuses to turn to Jesus in repentance for salvation -is even more unloving than the misguided approach to proclaiming Jesus that Dr. Lee is criticizing. A message of tolerance and acceptance (as has been redefined culturally) is not the message of Christ.

I think Dr. Lee’s apology is misplaced. Perhaps he should apologize to those who claim to follow Christ for failing to lead them in a redemptive path that would bring the Gospel to all sinners in a way that is faithful to the message of Jesus as revealed in the whole counsel of God’s Word – not just in bumper-sticker quotes from Jesus which motivates so much of he kind of rhetoric about what a real Christian is and isn’t that we see today.