I've been reading on the blogs a great deal lately about how the Church is going to have to come to grips with the homosexual issue in a fashion that will allow us to minister to people who engage in that behavior without condoning such behavior. I agree. We DO need to think things through toward that goal. Not only homosexual activity but adultery, fornication, pre-marital sex and all other sexual behaviors that are clearly unacceptable from a scriptural perspective need some additional thought. There has to be a way to minister without condemning the person or condoning such behavior.
Rather than try to state a solution, which I don't have, I would like to give a bit of a report of my personal journey with one who was involved in such a lifestyle. I am not presenting this as a cure-all or even the best way to handle it. It is simply a word snap-shot of one experience [among many] that I've had with someone I have developed a deep love for and a friendship with in days gone by.
It started years ago when I moved to a new pastoral field. it was my first month or two of ministry. I had concluded the morning message and was standing at the door greeting people. A young college student came by and refused to shake my hand. I didn't know him nor did I understand his attitude. I'd said nothing that I could see as controversial to a baptist crowd much less offensive.
That afternoon my phone rang. it was this young man. After berating me, along with all other baptist preachers, for my rigid views and my ignorance of life in general, he demanded to meet with me that afternoon in my office. I told him I couldn't because I was going to watch the Dallas Cowboys football game that afternoon [I don't do demand well] but would be glad to meet with him the next day during office hours. [Remember I had no clue what his problem could be,] He agreed and we met on Monday afternoon.
AS we started our conversation he once again began berating me in a loud voice and angrily proceeded to question my understanding of all things pertaining to life. I listened. I agreed with some of what he said and told him so. He vented and vented until it was gone and he began to calm down to some degree.
Then, for some reason I still don't fully understand, I asked him "What's her name?" He said, "Whose name?" I said, "The girl you're having sex with at the present time." He got angry again and began the berating all over. But, again, for whatever reason, I said, "I'm sorry, what's HIS name?" He stopped. He stared. He dropped his head. I waited. He then raised his head to proudly say he was in an on-going relationship with a prominent man in the town in which he lived.
That started a whole new direction of conversation as we began discussing whether same sex sex was right or wrong, especially if you believed one was born that way. We met the next day and the next rehashing the same conversation.
Finally, on the third day I said, "Let me ask this, could we agree that what you think or what I think about any issue isn't really our issue? What God says is however, if He says anything about it." So we agreed to search the scriptures and compare notes. [I had already asked him about his relationship with the Lord and he had given as clear a conversion statement as I've ever heard and I couldn't sake him about his belief that he had, in fact, trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. This in spite of my reasoning that obedience is a real part of the true Christian life. His retort was that he believed he WAS obeying and I had misunderstood the scriptures.]
So for two days he searched the scriptures and then came prepared as did I and we both laid our findings on the table as we met again. I told him that I personally had two ideas that I held to and desired to tell him about them before we began looking at the text in depth. I told him no one had been able to shake me away from them yet. He agreed to my stating them.
One was that the scriptures are our ONLY written standard of behavior from God for believers. Culture is not. When the scriptures speak we do or don't do, as the case may be, whatever they speak about. When the scriptures are silent or are less than clear on some issue [non-salvific] we allow for individual views on whatever is being said. Good people on both sides of conflicting interpretations should always give us pause about being dogmatic. Culture may have any opinion it chooses on any subject and it is, for us, correct only in-so-far as scripture does or does not shine light on it.
The second idea I told him I held to is that no christian should ever identify themselves by their bad behavior, if the scriptures truly call it bad, but by what the Lord calls that christian. So I couldn't identify any christian as a homosexual because to do so would be to call that person something Jesus does not. He calls that person redeemed, holy, a new person from what they were before they became a christian. I could only say they were a christian committing homosexual acts. [The same is true for adultery or lying for that matter.] I believe, as a christian, we are to live in light of who we are, according to our new nature, in Christ.
Now it is true an unbeliever CAN be identified with those acts [as with adultery and lying] which is testimony to their need of a fundamental change of heart and a new nature which is produced by God's Grace in a Christ. [Becoming a christian.]
We settled the first after looking extensively at the text. We both had to agree the clear scriptural statement was that such a behavior was sin as was the other mentioned sexual activity also sin. He saw he could believe otherwise if he wanted but not based upon scripture.
When he saw the second, conversation ensued and for hours we talked. He was, in his own mind and conscience, a believer in Christ. So, what were his options? He could live calling himself a homosexual and deny who Jesus says he is...OR...he could live committing sinful acts and grieve the Spirit while living in personal grief himself... [ Like 11Peter 2:7 indicates Lot lived grieved.]...OR...he could choose to repent [change his mind and direction] and choose otherwise. I told him I loved him period and WHATEVER he chose would not change that. But his choices would alter his ability to enjoy the Grace by which he had been redeemed, if he was, in fact, redeemed. I'm able to report to you that he chose to call himself what the scriptures called him, a new creation in Christ, repent, [change his mind and direction] and move on in grace.
Today he is married, [I performed the ceremony] a father, a deacon, and has led praise and worship for some bible conferences I've preached. He is a brother and a friend. Have there been strong temptations along the way? Absolutely. But who he is in Christ was the ground from which he chose each time. Which, by the way, is the same ground for the choices I've had to make in my areas of temptation.
I want to close with this statement. What I'm about to say isn't easy to say because of the self serving ends it could have as motivation. But I choose to trust you as to believing what my motives might be and I choose to recognize it is ALL a work of the power and grace of God.
Things that young man said that made a difference for him.
1. There was a willingness to love him and respect his views on issues without agreeing with them.
2. He was moved by my willingness to hug him after each session. He said he feared being repulsive to christians and was angry assuming they would be. He said he saw I was repulsed by my own sin not his.
3. He eventually saw that were one to really believe that a person is a new creation in Christ and any battle we have with sin is because of the residue of our old "self" [Who we were before coming to Christ and being made new in Him.] which continues to haunt us and will until Jesus comes, one can really live in victory over any sin. [The bible calls it the "flesh."] Who we are "in Christ" is the truth about us personally, NOT the struggles we might have with any kind of sin.
4. I was willing to call him a "brother" as we related and seached the scriptures.
Were we to boil it all down, as I conclude this, I believe what the Church is going to have to have in order to truly minister to people who are involved in homosexuality [or any other sin problem] is a heavy dose of a willingness to believe and express the Grace of God and a heavy dose of the kind of love with which we are loved. That's the power of true love and love really does cover a multitude of sins. The Cross is the place of judgment on sin and Jesus is at the place of mercy today. [The mercy seat in heaven.] Our message is to be the finished work of the Cross and an expression of the mercy we are being shown in our lives by our Lord.