Part 1 of 4
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1, 2 (English Standard Version)
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. – First John 3:18 (NASB)
“It is a sin.”
What is your first reaction to these four words when the “it” is homosexuality? Why did you think those thoughts? Why did you feel those emotions? If you are familiar with Judeo-Christian religious tradition, you probably know some of the most often quoted Bible verses (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1, Genesis 19, etc.).
Whether ANY behavior or attitude is right or wrong DOES NOT depend on:
- What you or I think (feel) about it
- What the majority of people think (feel) about it
- What a minority of people think (feel) about it
- Whether it is legal or not
- What a certain church, organization or group teaches about it
- What religious leaders say about it
The deciding factor is what do the Scriptures teach. How does the issue in question line up with Biblical teaching?
(You can find my thoughts on “love the sinner, hate the sin” by clicking here.)
I think the question (“is homosexuality a sin”) is a loaded question used to peg people as being on “our side” or “their side”. Whether a person is going to hell or heaven is not dependent on attaining some level of sinlessness. A person’s relationship with the Lord is what matters. I think it is better to ask more enlightening questions (such as these) . . .
- How do you deal with the moral vulnerability we all have to live with?
- How do you relate to God and His standards?
- What does it mean to you that such a perfect God still wants to be in relationship with imperfect beings such as us?
The resulting conversations are much more productive than angry debates that antagonize and derail potential relationships with each other and God. People who claim to believe and represent the Lord really need to stop short-circuiting the process and stop verbally assaulting others. Our speech should be salty and gracious (Colossians 4:5, 6).
God’s desire for us is to submit every area of our lives to Him and be transformed from the inside out by the renewal of the mind and the purification of the heart. Acknowledging our need for God and acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God are the first steps in the process.
Unfortunately, many Christian communities have downplayed the grace, hope and love that Christ offers to those who have homosexual inclinations. The Lord’s promises of life, security and redemption were withheld. Mercy, compassion and understanding were imprisoned in the hearts of too many Christians and behind the doors of too many churches.
In my experience, the “f-ing faggots” were to be laughed at and to be damned. There was no welcoming smile for people like me. No one to notice my tears and my pain. No one to show me how to piece my heart back together. No one listen. No one authentic enough to really care why I was so lonely and scared.
In the church, there is plenty of room for improvement . . .
So the question many have asked (and I ask today) is – “now what?”
- What more could have or should have been said when you and I were growing up?
- What more could have been done?
- What would have helped us during our battles?
- What can and should be said and done now?
- What can religious parents, teachers and leaders do and say now to help teens and adults who are experiencing (or struggling with) SSA? To effectively engage those who self-identify as gay?
- What can you and I do now?
For too long the church (Christians) have had too little concern for understanding why people behave or think a certain way. It should obvious but people are complex and multifaceted. Stale, cookie cutter clichés are a cop-out. The church has also been most relentless in its condemnation of the unconventional. It isn’t our responsibility to judge, convict and condemn people.
However, given the increasingly downward spiral of the world and in light of the responsibilities God has placed upon the church, Christians can’t hide from this subject any longer. If you are a Christian, think about how the “typical” member of your congregation would respond if he/she were asked these questions . . .
- “Why should I give up my way of life when I love God just as much as you do?
- “Why should I be lonely and unfulfilled; why should I be without a special someone to love?”
- “Is there someone in your church who will spend time with me and help me with my difficulties and fears?”
The church can no longer ignore the desperate needs of church members who are secretly struggling with homosexuality. The church can’t keep turning its back on the family and friends of gay people (who also sit in the pews). No person in our church family should be isolated and fearful.
If all we know to say is, “they are disgusting and they are going to burn in hell forever”, hardly anyone is going to respond in a positive manner. It is correct to be bold and firm with biblical truth yet just as important is a spirit of love, gentleness and respect (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 4:5, 6 and 1 Peter 3:15, 16). We must understand how important it is to share and extend grace.
When it realizes that Christ calls her to address this critical issue in their midst and in society, the church typically see the problem “out there” in the light of offensive behaviors and gay activism. It preaches the fire and brimstone. Yet there is little love demonstrated. Sadder still there is little effort or interest to simply understand, listen and learn.
The character of a church expressing Christ’s love and grace will . . .
- Eliminate all derisive jokes, stereotyping and angry tirades about gays and lesbians from informal conversation as well as formal teaching
- Reach out to (1) members who are struggling with homosexual attractions and (2) members who have friends and loved ones who are gay or lesbian
- Create a climate that says “we will still love you if this is what you are dealing with” and “we want to stand by you through this”
- Devise creative and practical ways to engage LGBT persons
The church needs to become a place where people can share their feelings and struggles with out fear of rejection. Many who experience same-sex attractions (including me) are looking for love and acceptance. Love and acceptance as a person made in God’s image. We want wrestle with questions regarding faith, spirituality and what it means to live as a child of God. We want to do this within the nurturing care of our faith community; our church.
But we have to find ourselves always struggling and anxious to conform on the outside to what the church expects of us: “If they really knew me, they would reject me.”
People of all types and varieties with different “issues” often feel the same way. We all have issues! None of us are perfect. Satan uses fear of rejection to keep us from the wholeness and peace found in Christ.
- We need to see real people, rather than focusing solely on their sexual disposition and behavior.
- We need to be willing to form genuine relationships and be a part of the solution (in the same way Christ would come to the aid of any person in need of His love, grace and salvation).
- And we need to be faithful and firm in the proclamation of God’s Word. Yet, we need to keep in mind that we must practice compassion WITHOUT compromising God’s Word.
A Few Closing Thoughts About Shame:
As the church and as Christians, we really need to stop burdening down our families and friends who find themselves experiencing same-sex attractions, a homosexual orientation or a gay identity. Many of us experience tremendous shame, guilt, and fear. We understand you mean well. But please – don’t pressure us with unrealistic expectations or messages that we are not trying hard enough (or that we don’t have enough faith). Don’t placate. Don’t patronize. Don’t over spiritualize.
Listen to us. Share our burdens; our lives. Offer a realistic and biblical hope regarding our circumstances. Make a determined effort to remove the stigma often associated with this struggle.
Considering the totality of our lives and the cosmic work (and purpose) God is accomplishing, I believe it really doesn’t matter if individuals experience a measure of change in orientation or not. Support us in our growth toward holiness and Christ likeness. We are all in this together.
A Special Plea For My Readers . . .
Please, do not (in your attitude or actions) stereotype all LGBT people as militant, political activists or sexually promiscuous drug addicts. The politics, ideology, behavior or motivation of a few cannot (and should not) be generalized to an entire group or to individuals. Christians MUST acknowledge the legitimate needs and real hardships faced by LGBT people. We MUST offer real-life solutions. And it IS okay for Christians to take a stand against the mistreatment of LGBT people.
Question: I discussed the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” in an earlier post. Name other Christian one-liners we tend to give superficial, lip service to. How can we demonstrate considerate, intentional love and truth to whom the clichés may be directed?
Your comments are welcomed below.
Next post: Sharing the Gospel and Your Faith
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2012.
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