A Virginia megachurch pastor recently tackled questions about how Christians should respond to LGBT activism in today's society, stressing that Christians must "communicate truth in love" and not affirm their friends' LGBT lifestyles.
Gary Hamrick, senior pastor of Cornerstone Chapel of Leesburg, took part in a question-and-answer session on June 8, where he answered a series of questions on a wide assortment of issues from illegal immigration to religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.
During the discussion, one person asked how parents can guard their children against "the push for the acceptance of sexual fluidity in their generation and future peer groups."
"It's unavoidable. All you can do as parents [is] pray a lot for your kids. And it is OK to shelter them as best as you can," Hamrick replied. "You do your best and you trust God to protect their hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus."
Hamrick said parents will often expose their children to ideas of gender fluidity and sexuality too early because they are fearful their children will be too "sheltered" from "the real world."
"You can shelter your kids as best as you can. And they're still going to eventually have to come to grips with the evils of the world. But you don't have to expose them at an early age. That's what's key," Hamrick said. "When kids get exposed to things at an early age, that's where it's much more detrimental."
Hamrick encouraged parents to direct their kids to Bible passages such as Genesis 1:27, which reads, "God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
Another audience member asked: "How should Christians respond to LGBT friends who argue: 'Love is love.'"
Hamrick replied, "if you really believe the Bible is the basis for your belief system, then you are going to recognize that God calls homosexuality sin."
"And if you operate from that standard, from that description, from that definition, then it's a matter of 'how do I communicate truth In love?'" he said.
"Being loving is not denying the truth. That's a very unloving thing. Being loving toward somebody is figuring out a sensitive way to communicate the truth. It's a very unloving thing to say: 'Well, I'm just going to affirm them and not really tell them the truth.' So you're not doing them any good, and you're not being honest before the Lord or to yourself."
Hamrick believes that "the Church has not done a very good job on this topic of homosexuality" because they fall into two "extremes."
"[Churches are] either really harsh against homosexuals, or they're ... really affirming and [claim that] 'it's no big deal and God loves everybody,'" Hamrick said.
"And the truth is, it's really easy to live in the extremes of life and to live in extreme conversations. I mean, that's easy. What's hard is to find that balance in the middle where you're communicating the truth in love. And to affirm somebody in their sin is just lying to them."
Hamrick said Christians might face backlash when sharing the Bible's stance on homosexuality but encourages them to stand strong.
"They may not accept it. … But that's not on you. What's on you is 'how can I communicate this with sensitivity and love, without affirming what is wrong?'" Hamrick said.
He stressed that sharing the truth about the Bible's stance on sexuality can be challenging because "our world and our culture has now affirmed something that God does not."
"It's really easy to confront someone, even if you do it in a loving way, about something that the culture and God both agree on" but challenging when "the culture is saying the opposite," Hamrick said.
"Just the fact that you might hold the belief that homosexuality is wrong, you're going to be labeled a hater, intolerant, a bigot," he warned.
"You can't control that. All you can control is: 'I want to honor God and I want to always be truthful, and so I'm going to look for a gentle and sincere way to communicate truth when necessary when it comes up."
Hamrick asserted that Christians shouldn't "affirm anyone for whatever the sin might be."
"If somebody is a pathological liar, [and we tell them], 'Well, that's OK, everybody lies.' Why are you saying that?" said Hamrick.
"Or somebody is a gossip, or somebody is in premarital heterosexual sex, [and you say], 'Well, that's OK. You know, we all have urges.' … Why are we compromising the truth for the sake of just appeasing people?"
Hamrick's son, Austin Hamrick, the church's assistant pastor, was on stage with his father during the Q&A event and said he disagrees with the phrase "Love is love."
"The phrase: 'Love is Love' is not a very stable motto to stand on. I mean, I love a lot of things that are not beneficial for me. My daughter, she's 4. She loves to run in the middle of the road. And if she just said, 'Hey, love is love. Why would you infringe on what I love to do?' Well, it's because I know that there are harmful consequences to her love for running in the middle of the road," Austin Hamrick said.
"You love Krispy Kreme doughnuts," he said to his father. "Now, to indulge in a lifestyle of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, there might be some harmful consequences to that."
The younger Hamrick said Christians should look to the Bible to find what is truly "good love."
Within Scripture, Austin Hamrick said Christians can discover what "God says [about] how we should flourish in our sexuality and in relationships."
"Love is love means you should affirm everything that I want or desire. … It's not true love. True love is to will the good of another," he added.
As the session neared the end, the Hamricks were asked about being attracted "to both genders" and if same-sex attraction is a sin.
"There are a lot of things that we might be drawn to in our hearts. And the one thing that we have to guard against is acting on it,' Gary Hamrick replied.
"It's one thing to have certain feelings, but the Bible [in] Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he said, 'take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.' So we need to rein in our thought-life."
It is not uncommon for Christians to have "unnatural sinful thoughts," Hamrick continued, but "the main thing" is "don't act on it."
"You don't give in to it. You 'take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.' So at the thought level, as long as you are not taking it to a place of fantasy and lust, … that's not going to be sinful. It's at the behavioral level that it's going to be sinful," he added.
The senior pastor then quoted Martin Luther: "I cannot control the birds flying over my head, but I can control whether or not they make a nest in my hair."
"There are a lot of things that are going to come in my head, and I can't always control that. And some of those desires or thoughts are wrong," Hamrick stressed.
"But the main thing is, don't let it take root. Don't let it nest and don't act on it. That's the main thing. Fight those thoughts and those desires that aren't pleasing to the Lord."