As reported by the Daily Beast, a video of ISIS stoning a gay couple in northern Syria has sparked another wave of outrage in the west. It’s not the first time ISIS has publicly executed homosexuals; reports surfaced a couple months ago of ISIS throwing perpetrators from the rooftops as a gruesome form of retribution.
What makes this video unique is what happens immediately before the executions. Prior to stoning them, several of the to-be executioners step forward and hug the blind-folded men.
This act was described by sympathizers of ISIS as “an expression of compassion, a gesture of forgiveness”. Others say that the act of hugging communicates the executioner’s sincere belief that they were acting as servants of Allah, executing his judgement and doing his will. This belief rests behind many of the heinous deeds done by ISIS. Whether it’s the prostitution of captured women, executing spies with a gunshot to the head or beheading apostates, one thing is consistent: the members of ISIS truly believe that they are loving and serving God with their actions, despite how gruesome and heinous these actions may be.
This should make us think twice about the way we “love” those within our borders.
“The truth hurts.” If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a million times. (And I’ve said it numerous times myself.) Some Christians quote it like Scripture. But it’s not Scripture. And it’s also not true.
At least it’s not true when it flows from the mouths of those who proceed to inflict pain in the name of truth. Truth doesn’t have to hurt. We need no further proof than the fact that Truth Incarnate refused to lift a finger against those who killed him. He carried the truth of eternity in his hands and could have used it to hurt everyone and everything. But he didn’t. And from him we learn that truth actually doesn’t hurt.
What does hurt is the people who use truth as justification, slapping it on the table as a “get out of jail free” card for all the grave sins they commit in their service to (so-called) truth. The difference between ISIS stoning two gay men and someone berating a homosexual person in the American blogosphere is not moral standing but technique.
We’d do well to remember that Satan himself used “truth” to attempt great evil. He quoted Bible verses in his temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:6 quoting Psalm 91). Satan’s utilization of Scripture is proof that even the truest truth is a lie when wielded by a hurtful and rebellious heart.
This is a lesson for ISIS. But it’s also a lesson for us.
American Christians have a tendency to lob grenades of truth into culture and call the whiplash “collateral” or (even worse) “persecution”. This is often the case when it comes to the discussion over homosexuality. We have no issue with declaring the truth regarding someone else’s sex life- despite the ramifications it may have for that person. We use atrociously hurtful headlines to champion our cause; we scoff at disproportionate depression and suicide rates among the gay community in our borders; “it’s not our fault that truth hurts so much!” Well, actually, yeah it is. When you stop using a hammer to hang family pictures and instead begin smashing fingers, it’s not the hammer that’s gone awry- it’s you.
The problem is that we hold tightly to the “traditional” and “biblical” verdict regarding homosexuality, so tightly we won’t release loosen our grip enough for the traditional, Biblical teaching of “love thy neighbor” to also find its place. We cannot let anyone say a word on the topic without ensuring we get our “YES! But the truth is that it’s a sin!” thrown in. Every conversation has to include our diagnosis, every blog post a condemning aside and every apology a justification.
From the Reformation to the slave-trade, well-meaning Christians across history have done great harm in the name of “truth.” We prop ourselves up with Bible verses and theological concepts. But our actions do not perpetuate love, they perpetuate pain. And therefore, they are not truth; they are lies used to accuse others in the spirit of the Accuser.
Like ISIS who execute people in the name of Allah, so also we easily forget that the gospel is not propaganda to be delivered with the sword, but love to be delivered with affection and care:
“…to preach the gospel is not just to tell the truth but to tell the truth in love. And to tell the truth in love means to tell it with concern not only for the truth that is being told but with concern also for the people it is being told to.”
The posture of American Christians regarding homosexuality needs to be one of apology; the lesson we need to learn from ISIS is that we’re not much better servants of God ourselves. Christians are called to stand in solidarity with homosexuals not because we agree with their lifestyle choices; when has that ever been a mandated precedent for love? We are called to stand in solidarity with this community because we are called to stand with the marginalized. We are called to love “the least of these”. And what the discussion on homosexuality needs is not doctrine, it’s humility. Truth follows where love has paved the way; if the road is poorly constructed then truth arrives battered. If it arrives at all.
To any member of the homosexual community who has ever felt the painful sting of another’s “truth”, to anyone who’s ever wondered why “God’s will” has to feel like stones falling on their head: I want to say that I am sorry. I am sorry that another person’s truth has equated to your pain. I’m sorry that Christians across the globe do not mourn ISIS’ execution of two gay men as much as they mourn the execution of Christians; and I’m so sorry that people don’t realize these two identities don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I pray for the day when we finally learn that truth doesn’t maim, kill or hurt.
I hope and pray for the day when Christ’s love is communicated through our love to all races, genders, sexualities, religions, dispositions, political parties, reprobates and sinners.
I pray for the day when our love does not name another’s fault, when we don’t live in the denial of sin, but we live together as a community who acknowledges our brokenness and Christ’s grace.
May we all learn a lesson from the heinous acts committed by ISIS. May we all look into the mirror and see the log in our own eye.
And may the world know we are Christians by our truth love.