Healing and Growth: Homosexuality and Christian Character
Overcoming homosexuality is so much more than changing behavior. It is a major life change often requiring a radical transformation of those characteristics inside of us that have defined our personalities and governed our behavior for years. These changes go so deep into the heart of our being that they would be impossible to experience without the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. The good news is that this power is available to us, and so we can dare to hope to see such transformations come to pass.
I want to discuss two such areas of change; two very heavy-duty ones that may need to be a part of overcoming homosexuality for many of us. Both have to do with weaknesses we may find it painful to acknowledge. To accept a need for change in one of these areas may require our willingness to come under a heavy indictment. To experience the change, will require that we be willing to embark on a journey that will challenge our most basic fears.
The issues I am going to deal with are a lack of character in men dealing with homosexuality and a spirit of control in women dealing with lesbianism. The men will come first this time. I'll discuss the women's issue next month.
In dealing with a lack of character in men overcoming homosexuality, I want to stress that this is not an issue with everyone who comes to us. In fact, occasionally, men come to us who struggle mightily with homosexuality but have obvious strength of character. I can almost guarantee that they are going to achieve victory.
On the other hand, a lack of character is so common to men from a homosexual background, and the development of character so central to the healing process, I would urge all of you to pay some heed to this article.
Character is a trait we don't hear discussed much these days. Who talks of developing character in their sons; much less Christian character? What is character? It is that trait that reveals an internal and external consistency with a set of values.
A man of character holds to certain beliefs and his words and actions are consistent with those beliefs. He has integrity -- a word that has the same root as integer -- meaning one. He is singular in his approach to life. His internal life is consistent with what he appears to be. His words flow from honest convictions. His actions are determined, not by what is expedient, but by what is right.
To be this kind of man is to be strong, lacking in fear, disciplined, and if the values on which the character is built are sound, strength and discipline operate with gentleness and love. I heard a call to this kind of character in Paul's words to the Corinthians in I Cor. 16:13, "Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
The homosexual man at his stereotypical worst can be the opposite of this. This may not be you, but it certainly was me, and it is many of the men I see. Allow me to use myself as an example.
First and foremost, I was a man pleaser. How common this is among homosexual men. Desperately wanting a man's approval, I did, and said, and was, whatever would win that approval. Rooted I am sure in a lack of affirmation from my father in early childhood, I developed a life pattern of trying to get other men's approval and affirmation. I was not me; I was who I thought others, particularly men, wanted me to be. This was not like Paul's "all things to all men" that was rooted in strength; this was rooted in weakness.
On the other hand, my inner person was quite different. Inside I was ruthlessly self-serving and self-protective. I would use other people, even consciously and cynically at times. I was fearful of men, cowardly, almost totally unable to confront and challenge other men. Outwardly I was a "good boy," later a "nice guy". Inwardly -- I shudder at the darkness and the ugliness that was there. Simply put, I lacked character.
Can such a person change? Is character -- Christian character -- something that can develop in adulthood if it was not a part of our growing up? Yes, I am certain it can once we become a new creature; once we are born again. I have seen it happen in many men; I have experienced it.
For most people conversion is the beginning of change. Suddenly coming into contact with real Truth and with real Power, we can start to experience real change, even such a fundamental change as this. But developing Christian character is a slow and painful process.
The first step in such a development is to accept the beliefs, values and priorities that are the basic to Christian character. This is the easy part. God's word and our life in the Body of Christ will be our ready teachers. It can help if we consciously and very specifically identify the beliefs that are to guide our lives as Christian men. Very likely, we will identify these beliefs well before we believe that there is any chance that we can live up to them. I would suggest even writing out the beliefs that we believe should govern our character. Look at other Christian men, at men from biblical history, at Jesus Himself as models. What beliefs seem to govern their lives?
Then comes the difficult part, seeking to live our lives according to these beliefs. We can only do this if we submit our lives to be hammered out on the anvil of daily experience. In small daily situations we chose to speak and act on our beliefs. We risk offending. We risk being rejected. We take small steps in challenging and confronting. One step at a time, we start to speak and act out of our beliefs. We are not just dealing with homosexual issues here. In building character, character that will be central to our total victory, we are dealing with all of life.
There is, however, a special homosexual side to this process. The fantasies, the cynicism, the bitterness inside us that is inconsistent with the new man are taken daily to the cross. We regularly repent of worshipping at the idol of another man's approval.
The process will be like growing out of childhood and going through boot camp at the same time. However, we won't have a strong directive flesh and blood father or a drill sergeant to provide the strong arm and firm hand that will all but force us through the process. Our teacher will be our Heavenly Father, and the power to bring us through the process will be the power of His Holy Spirit -- as we are willing to yield to it. The process will only succeed if we want God more than we want to avoid the pain that the process of such a change brings. But the process can succeed because we are talking about "the power at work in us able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think." (Eph. 3:20)
In C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce the people who come up out of hell to the outer reaches of heaven are described as ghosts, transparent, but at the same time almost oily. Such were some of us. But through the power of Jesus Christ, we can become solid men, men who are consistent in our thoughts words and deeds, men of Christian character.
To determine the beliefs that should govern our lives and our character will come quite readily. To develop the ability of living our lives in accordance with those beliefs takes a father's hand and guidance. Our Heavenly Father wants to play that role in our lives. What father wants a son who simply does nothing wrong? No, a father's joy comes from seeing his son grow into the fullness of his potential. So it is with our Heavenly Father. Surely His joy comes as we develop into mature godly Christian men abounding in those characteristics which truly stamp us with the image of the Himself. He is the best of all possible fathers. He will make it possible.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (II Peter 1:3-4)
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