Eugene, You have been on my mind since I got your letter Saturday, but I needed time to think; please forgive the delay.
First, thank you for your encouragement.
I must tell you that your words turned my thinking upside down, but it's all to the good. I believe you are right that the church has been loveless toward homosexuals. This is sin, and we should repent.
I myself didn't realize that my attitude was loveless till I found myself fond of a guy named Eugene who turned out to be a homosexual. My ducks in a row were blown apart, and it was back to square one. You may recall theologian John Frame's discussion of how the "Existential" perspective (love, the personal) helps to fine-tune the "Normative" perspective (knowledge of God's Word). Ironic how the dynamic plays itself out now: I want to say hard truths differently when I say them to someone I care about.
Someone once presented me with The Inner Voice of Love, by the homosexual priest Henri Nouwen. I have read that book with acute interest during the last few days. My impression is that Nouwen's devotional book is high on the "Existential" (feelings) and low on the "Normative" (Bible)-though there are God-words aplenty. And here I would say that introspection is good, and it is good to search one's soul, but if meditation is left to romp around unchecked (I've been there, done that), if it is unhinged from assiduous study of Scripture, it leads to a vortex of self-deception (Psalm 36:2). God's Word is what is true. God's Word is the anchor that rescues from the black hole of the self.
Nouwen and his ilk do you no favor, Eugene, withholding life-saving Scripture "Norms" (Leviticus 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1; John 3:16; Acts 2:38), while making much of their own pipe dreams ("Existential"). You need solid food. Look 10 times at the Bible for every one time at your "inner voice." Consider the whole counsel of God-which tells us what sin is and what righteousness is. There are things we think are part of our natural makeup that the Bible calls unholy-and when push comes to shove, we must take the Bible's word for it and not our feelings.
I am happy today that I am a widow because I am able to talk to you about self-denial from a position of some credibility. Know that it is not only 20-year-old Christian men with attractions to other men who must deny themselves for the sake of Christ, but you are in a large company-heterosexual women who still have some mileage in them; what we used to call "spinsters"; people in wheelchairs with muscular dystrophy like my friend Diane. Add to that Christians drawn to drink or drugs or sloth, who must daily rebuff desire, and you will start to do the math. But "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).
Here is the good news about "saying no": Do not think about denying yourself "for the rest of your life," but only for today. "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). And who knows, Christ may return next Tuesday and then our troubles will be over, and we will be glad that we had fought the fight and hung on. And if Christ does not return next Tuesday, may He grant us full release from our bonds and replace illicit desires with better ones. We cannot yet imagine what God has in store for those who seek Him with a whole heart.
Remember the book of Revelation, which not once but seven times summarizes the whole of the Christian journey in these words: "The one who conquers" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21)-not meaning something so crass as victory over brick-and-mortar kingdoms, but over the self: "He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32).
Have you checked out Harvest Christian Fellowship, a group of men empowering themselves through grace against temptation? There is an exit. Those who seek to save their lives will lose it; those who lose it find it. It is the same for you as for me.