A few years ago, I began attending a series of lectures at a local Christian college on the general topic of homosexuality. The presenters ranged from non-Christians who couldn’t imagine Jesus ever condemning homosexuality, to serious Christians who believed the Bible required them to be celibate. After the lectures, I asked a few of the audience members who I assumed were gay, based on the questions they’d asked, if they’d have a cup of coffee with me. I told them I didn’t want to argue the issues with them, I just wanted to hear their story growing up gay, what their families reaction was when they “came out” and how their church treated them. I left troubled and sad.
Not all homosexuals are alike, but we Christians treat them as if they are. One of the mistakes we heterosexual Christians make, is lumping all gays into one category. They (we) assume all gays are sexually promiscuous, live a gay lifestyle, are proud to be gay and if they claim to be Christians, have simply dismissed the clear teachings of the Bible against same-sex.
But, not all homosexuals are alike.
And the reason it’s important to understand that, is because our attitude and approach, and that of our churches must be different with each group. I’ve found it helpful to think of homosexuals in these general categories.
Christians who have felt same sex attraction, all their life
Christians who did not always think of themselves as “gay,” but fell into a same sex relationship(s).
Christians who believe they must be celibate and gay marriage is not an option for them.
Christians who believe the Bible allows, same sex, but loving, life-long, monogamous relationships – married or not.
So, let’s discuss how we might approach each group. 1. Non-Christians. Paul says this about non-Christians in 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.’”
Because non-Christians do not have the Holy Spirit to help them understand, why does it surprise us that they’d reject God’s commands? In fact, the Bible teaches that their hearts are darkened and cannot understand. Therefore, don’t expect them to understand God’s commands. Yet we’ve all seen Christians on T.V. with signs like “God hates gays” which is not only untrue, but unkind. Our primary goal should be loving them and introducing them to Jesus, not behavior modification. Without salvation through Jesus, their sexual activities are the least of their problems.
2. Christians who have felt same-sex attraction, all their life. By middle or high school, this group of teens know they are different, but don’t always know who they can trust or talk to. They know their parents, relatives and most Christian friends will be ashamed of them. Therefore, most young Christians will wait until college or after college to “come out.” But once they find other like-minded or “open-minded” Christians, they will be indoctrinated in a theology that fits what they are feeling, sexually.
The gay, but celibate Christians I’ve met with, have made this observation. “The only chance the church has of winning the minds and hearts of young people who know they are gay, is by providing “safe” adults as youth group advisers with whom they can speak confidentially, while they’re still in high school. Those mentors should love them, give them hope, teach them God’s will for human sexuality, and prepare them to live godly and celibate lives, until and if, God chooses to free them from same-sex attraction. If you don’t, young gay Christians figure out pretty quickly that they’ll never be accepted in most evangelical churches. The church is actually driving them into the arms of inclusive, or liberal churches. You need to get on this early!” Great advise!
Can’t God “heal” them, if they repent? Yes, of course God can and has healed gays and removed their same sex-attraction. I’ve always understood there were very effective ministries, which helped homosexuals lose their same sex-attraction. However, the statistics aren’t good. One of the largest ministries in the U.S. helping homosexuals was Exodus International. In June of 2013, they made a stunning announcement. They admitted that they have deceived the church for many years. They admitted they’ve had very little success in freeing homosexuals from their attraction to the same sex. As a result, they have closed their doors. This link will give you the full story as reported in Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/june-web-only/eulogy-for-exodus-international.html
Here’s the point, while we should encourage every homosexual Christian to beg God to free them from same-sex attraction, we should not assume that if they “were serious about it,” they would be set free. It happens, but I’m told it’s rare. If we don’t understand that fact, we’ll go on assuming that all gay Christians are just stubborn, unrepentant and unspiritual. As several gay men told me, “I’ve begged God for years to remove this attraction from me, but he hasn’t yet. But, until he does, I still have no choice biblically but remain celibate.” So let’s view this group with a bit more sympathy and be proactive in shaping their theology and lifestyle choices early.
3. Christians who did not always think of themselves as gay, but fell into a same-sex relationship(s) I just recently met with a woman who attends my church who never was attracted to other women. However, she grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. Her lesbian coach in college “loved her” and she actually had to overcome her revulsion to same-sex, sex, but was willing to do so to receive this love. She assumed that because of this, she was gay. Later, she was told by a spiritual friend, “you’re not really gay. You just got into a behavior the Bible prohibits. Repent of it.” And she did. She is now married to a fine man and has two children.
I’ve since heard many such stories. And because taboos on same sex, sex are dropping, young people are experimenting with it and therefore, have come to believe “they’re gay.” So, if you meet a person who believes they are gay, you may find it helpful to ask this question. “Have you always felt this attraction or did it come later in life?” In either case, their sexual behavior is still a sin. However, this group must and can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, stop these behaviors.
4. Christians who believe they must be celibate and gay marriage is not an option for them. One celibate gay Christian told me, “Clare, the evangelical church is driving conservative gay Christians out of the church. Let’s face it – you’re creeped out by us! We would never be allowed to hold office or serve anywhere. Evangelicals are afraid of us. So, we end up in theologically liberal churches because they value inclusion or in a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) church. I don’t think that was Christ’s design for the church, to be organized around a social issue. Besides attending a church like that is even greater temptation for me.”
I told him I was unaware of a single, celibate gay or lesbian Christian in my church. His first observation was that most have probably already left my church, or are married and have kept their sexual orientation a secret from their spouse. This group will probably never “come out” for fear of losing their spouse, family, friends and church.
So, is my friend right? Would your church, would you, personally embrace as a friend a married, Christian homosexual who is faithful sexually, only to their spouse of the opposite sex? What about serious, celibate and single homosexual Christians? Would you be their friend, or advocate for them to lead a small group or be a deacon or elder? If not, what is it that biblically disqualifies them? Do we disqualify heterosexuals, who are tempted sexually at times? (like me!)
I’m committed to bringing this issue to the elders of my church and begin the dialogue of educating our congregation to be more open and welcoming of celibate gay or lesbian Christians. I can’t imagine Jesus being anything but proud of us.
5. Gay Christians who believe the Bible allows loving, life-long monogamous same-sex relationships, married or not. Simply holding to the belief that same-sex, sex for loving, monogamous relationships is a serious error. So, we should do everything possible to help them understand the Bible’s prohibition to those kinds of relationships, so they will not fall into such a relationship themselves, or tempt others to do so.
On the other hand, any homosexual who identifies themselves as a Christian, who is, or has been engaged in a same-sex relationship, should be treated by the church, exactly like we would treat any other sexual sin in the church. In my church, people known to have had unbiblical sexual relations (hetero or homosexual) are confronted and if it’s found to be true, are asked to confess and repent of their sin, with the expectation that it will not happen again.
On the other hand, if they continue in that sin, eventually they are asked to leave the church. If your church would not confront, and try to restore an adulterer, they should not treat any differently a homosexual for having sex. Both should be confronted and restored by the church and celebrated when they are, and disciplined if they refuse.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
So, as you prepare to lead others in a general discussion of homosexuality and the Bible, examine yourself. Have you lumped all gays into the same general category and now that you know differently, how should that impact your thinking and behavior?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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