Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. – 1 Tim. 1:15
Conversations with those in the Pride movement often get stuck on labels. Some feel strongly about using particular labels to describe themselves. Others reject specific labels because they find them too confining.
The typical labels associated with the Pride movement are represented in LGBTQ+. The “+” refers to various additional labels, and one version of this acronym has grown to LGBTQQIP2SAA. Those outside the movement see this as nonsensical, and even Pride supporters admit it is impractical. Instead, the umbrella term they often use is “queer.”
Queer is the first “Q” in the list above. It used to be a derogatory term that the Pride movement has now reclaimed to represent anything that doesn’t fit into heterosexual norms. The second “Q” stands for “questioning,” which is the process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
These two ideas are similar enough that they are often used together as “queer/questioning” and are represented by the “Q” in LGBTQ+. Although these labels can be confusing, the use of queer/questioning may present an opportunity to engage in a constructive way.
To see how this might happen, it is helpful to look at how the Bible uses the term “sinner.” In Jesus’ day, “sinner” described those who repeatedly broke the Jewish ceremonial law, including the laws in the Old Testament. This term defined who were insiders and outsiders of God’s chosen people.
Jesus intentionally did things that would disrupt this social structure. His willingness to eat with “sinners” directly challenged the religious leaders’ enforcement of who was ceremonially clean (Mat. 9:10-11, Luke 15:1-2). In doing this, Jesus showed that “sinner” was a label applied by the religious culture of the time, but not how God saw these people.
Instead, Jesus focused on repentance, which is a change of heart. He came to fulfill the law and offer us forgiveness through faith in him (Matt. 5:17-18). He spent time with people that the religious leaders condemned as sinners and honored their true repentance (Luke 7:37-39).
For Jesus, “sinner” was a label put on a person, whereas “sinful” was a description of what was coming from their heart (Mark 8:38). The language of sin matters for Christians. Language also defines right and wrong for cultural and legal realities in our modern world, and it helps us make sense of the often conflicting feelings inside us.
As shown by queer/questioning, the meaning of labels often changes. We must distinguish between the labels used by society to condone or condemn someone’s actions and how the Bible describes the condition of our hearts before God.
Changing the language of laws has been important to the Pride movement. But, they also want to change the meaning of cultural labels in an attempt to “alleviate feelings of brokenness or unbelonging.” In claiming a label, they are trying to “find communities that they identify with.”
Jesus, who is the Word of God, came to heal brokenness and make us part of his family as children of God (Eph. 5:1-2). He rejected the social pressure to avoid “sinners” and intentionally spent time with those who were outside the social norms and unable to earn approval from the religious elite (Mat. 9:13).
As Jesus’ followers, we are free to ask questions about the experiences behind the labels someone in the Pride movement chooses for themselves. And we should resist the social pressure of other Christians to condemn them as sinners. Someone who identifies as queer/questioning may be open to a deeper conversation about their “feelings of brokenness and unbelonging.”
Our laws and social norms in this area no longer closely reflect biblical truth. As a result, Christians are often labeled as “haters” because of our beliefs, even as Jesus’ said we would be (John 15:18-19). We should want those who label us to know who we really are, even as we should want to know who they are behind their label.
What separates us all from true community with God and others is the sinfulness of our hearts. But God has given us his grace in Christ Jesus to change that (Rom. 3:23-24).
What do you wish someone in the Pride movement would ask you about being a Christian?
Can you turn that into a question you could ask them about identifying with Pride?