How Should the Church Respond?
Colin said, "I really believed that God could not love a pervert like me… my perception of God had come from other Christians who were supposed to represent Christ to me.”
At church, Dennis heard people say, "All homosexuals should be shipped out of the country--they deserve to go to hell!” He felt condemned by their remarks, and had no idea where to turn for help.
Are Christians and the church responding as Jesus did?
Consider Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. She had been married five times and now was living with a man to whom she was not married. Jesus spoke to her. I would say he spoke kindly to her. He did not call her a pervert for having sex outside of marriage. He did not ask her to leave. He offered her living water that would truly satisfy her thirst.
Consider too Jesus interaction with the prostitute caught in the act of adultery. He told her that He did not condemn her and she could go and sin no more. Scripture says that Jesus was a friend of sinners. Jesus’ combination of grace and truth drew them to Him.
What about the church today? Do the true examples given above show the church is drawing homosexuals with Jesus’ combination of grace and truth?
The church needs Jesus’ combination of grace and truth. We need compassion without compromise. We need empathy for the struggle homosexuals are going through.
Consider how to respond to three broad groups - the militant, the moderate and the struggler. Each group needs a different response.
The militant is most often in the media and aggressively pursues an agenda of unrighteous­ness and intolerance. They are theatrical and very, very angry. But behind the rage of the militant is incredible pain. Gay militancy has its origin in pain.
The truth is the church has horribly wounded them. Examples like those at the beginning of this article have occurred far too often.
Homosexuals realize early in life that to be different is to be hurt. When the church heaps condemnation and rejection upon them, they conclude, "Forget the church. There must be a community that will accept me. I will never let anyone hurt me again over a condition I have no control over.”
So, while we must not be intimidated by gay militancy, neither must we meet their rage with our own. We must respect their pain. We must speak and fight fairly. We must refuse to become what they say we are - bigots. Righteous anger empowers; hatred cripples.
The moderate does not pursue a public agenda. But they want to live in peace as any other person in society. They want to and indeed have made significance contributions to society. Many people within the church will have a co-worker or friend who is a moderate. These church people feel caught between their friendship for their co-worker and the church’s morality.
Jesus approach to people was to focus on their heart, inviting them to open their hearts to God’s love. He did not focus on their sin. We should follow Jesus’ example. Recognize their worth in God’s eyes. Discover what we have in common. Love them into the kingdom and let God do His work of transformation (into Holiness). Rememberthat it is not your job to correct or change them.
I spent a week with a family member whom is gay. I met her gay friends. I went to her gay party. Through the week I treated them with courtesy and friendship. At the end of my stay she said, "You walked into my world. You treated me and my friends with respect. I need what you have. Please don’t abandon me.”
She reinforced Jesus’ lesson that we too are to be a friend to sinners. Godly friendship attracts people to Jesus.
A lesson this family member has taught me is that as Christians we are called to be uncomfortable in order to make a difference in our world. Godly friendship is uncomfortable. When you care enough to draw near to homosexuals and their community you risk a lot. And this will be uncomfortable. You risk appearing to compromise, you risk misunderstanding. Someone else will misunderstand why you are being a friend to a homosexual. And you will be uncomfortable with some of their thoughts, words and actions. This means you will need to listen and discover. You will need to be aware of cultural barriers. There is a gay culture and you will be involved in a cross-cultural relationship (just like missionaries who go to foreign lands). Laugh at yourself and ask questions.
A former homosexual who worked in one of Exodus member ministries said, "If they gave Oscars for the best heterosexual performance, I would get it. But I couldn’t keep it up and I hit the gay bars for years, using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.
Will you find it uncomfortable at times? Yes. When you draw near to homosexuals and their community you risk misunderstanding and appearing to compromise just like Jesus experienced. I am sure that Jesus also found it uncomfortable to be ‘hit on’ by the prostitutes he befriended. But the reward is people turning to Jesus.
I was a struggler. Religious people would say to me, "I love you but I don’t like your behaviour.” Despite their intentions, all I heard from them was "You’re worthless.” Why couldn’t they say, ‘I love you and God loves you.’
When God spoke to me I heard simply, "I love you, I love you.” That’s all I heard and it blew me away. What could I say but, "God forgive me for living my life without you.” We must hear and respond to the deeper things. Abandon your efforts to change them. You can’t. Keep praying and caring.
Respond with support to the struggler who says, "I want God’s best for my life.” It will take a miracle. They have to swim upstream to leave the gay lifestyle, with gay churches and bars and the media’s celebration of gay life. But the homosexual is not beyond the grace and power of God.
Often the homosexual thinks that coming to Christ will make the old desires instantly vanish. They don’t. When the old struggles continue, a new fear emerges. "Maybe I haven’t changed?” Let us not be like Job’s friends and say, "You’re not really born again.”
Strugglers can easily become disillusioned about God and the church when Christians constantly talk about homosexuals in a negative way. We can’t just preach against sin. We have to offer realistic alternatives and support groups. Joe Dallas has said in his new book, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the Gay Christian Movement, "Pastors frame[describe] the problem out in society, yet very few add, ‘Perhaps someone here is wrestling with this sin, as well. Resist it - God will be with you as you do. And so will we.’”
Somebody must make them feel significant and applaud their efforts. Never underestimate the power of friendship. Sanctification comes from an experience of you, me and God.
After the last suicide attempt, Marjorie went to a church and heard a sermon about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment. "If You don’t send somebody to help me tonight I won’t bother You again,” she prayed. As she was leaving she heard a voice, "I’m the pastor’s wife. Can I help you?” Marjorie started to cry, "I can’t tell you because you’ll ask me to leave.” The pastor’s wife said to her, "God wants me to tell you that He can and He will deliver you and set you free.”
Marjorie began sobbing. "That was the first time in my life I had ever heard that there was hope - hope for me,” she recalls.
That conversation was over twenty years ago and Marjorie’s life has changed drastically since then. She says, "God not only saved me, but He has brought healing in every aspect of my life.”