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Homosexuals and the church

Homosexuality | How can Christians live in a culture that celebrates the gay lifestyle, yet worship among believers who rarely talk about it—except to condemn it?

When asked how Christians can be salt and light to homosexuals, I now recommend two books: Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Crown and Covenant, 2012) and Peter Hubbard’s Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church (Ambassador International, 2013). Hubbard is lead pastor of North Hills Community Church in Taylors, S.C. Here’s chapter 1 of his book. —Marvin Olasky

Gospel

Jim started looking at porn when he was eleven years old. Soon he had migrated from heterosexual porn to homosexual porn. At first the pictures called out to his curiosity, but soon he realized he was being swept into something bigger. Pornography became his own miniature Walt Disney World. He could go there whenever he wanted and visit as many attractions as he desired. These excursions provided Jim with a way to escape his insecurities and troubles. His parents were fervent Christians, and his family attended a conservative church, so his conscience plagued him. When he was fourteen, he gave in. After a particularly convicting Sunday school lesson, he stayed after to speak with his teacher. The dam he had built around his heart opened, and his sins, fears, and shame poured out with tears all over Mr. Connell, his much-loved teacher who had been praying for him for over a year. Jim told Mr. Connell about his porn habit and the weight of shame he carried. He wept over the lies he had told his parents in order to cover up his secrets and the cruelty he had shown toward his younger brother and sister when they would not leave him alone. With Mr. Connell’s help, Jim asked God for forgiveness and trusted Jesus’ death on the cross as his only hope. Jim became a new person. He confessed his sin to his parents and asked his siblings for forgiveness. He felt like his insides had been washed clean, and the load of sin had been removed … for the most part. Yet one thing remained. Like King Saul’s confession before Samuel, he could “hear the bleating sheep.”[1] As Jim plunged into his youth group activities and began participating in his church, he was haunted by his remaining secret. Jim had confessed everything, except that the pornography he had indulged in was homosexual porn. He had been transparent only to a point. Why? I’ve asked a lot of “Jims” why. Why is this one sin so different? Why would a teenager under “great conviction” gush with a confession of lying, lusting, fearing, and fuming, but hold back one sin from his tidal wave of confession?

Several years ago I began to wonder about the testimonies shared in our church. We are passionate about honestly and openly applying the truth of the gospel to deep hurts and stubborn habits. As I look back over what was then almost 20 years of pastoring our church, I could remember people standing up during our open services, confessing their sins and asking for prayer.

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“Please pray for me. I am a religious hypocrite.”

“I have been a crack addict.”

“God has shown me that I have worshipped food.”

“I’ve been addicted to porn for 20 years.”

“My unfaithfulness has destroyed my marriage.”

“I am an alcoholic.”

I’m still amazed when I see our church family move toward the broken like a team of paramedics rushing toward an injured driver—weeping, hugging, praying, truth-speaking. No condemnation. Just love and hope.

But in all of those services, I could not remember one time when someone said, “I am battling with SSA [same-sex attraction]. Please pray for me.” We had heard hundreds of miraculous testimonies of Christ’s saving power, but none of them had included even a passing reference to homosexuality. Our church previously hosted a conference for people who desired freedom from the homosexual lifestyle, and I knew we had men and women who struggled with SSA who had received counseling, but no one had confessed that publicly. I also began to realize my failure as the teaching pastor. I regularly told stories and made applications throughout sermons to help our people apply God’s word to their everyday lives. Yet I could not remember giving an illustration or application specifically aimed at helping those who battle with SSA. Was I simply inconsiderate or homophobic? Maybe I was protecting the kids. Or maybe my silence revealed something deeper.

I see four possibilities for our silence.

Possibility #1

HOMOSEXUALS ARE NOT LIKE US: THEY ARE “ABNORMAL”

Maybe a homosexual is a different kind of person. When we look at people, we often label them normal or abnormal. Addicts, racists, and hypocrites may share their desire for a new life, but not homosexuals—at least not publicly. I saw this several years ago as I sat in my office with a man who was visiting our church. He shared his homosexual story layer by layer, pausing after each revelation to give me a chance to ask him to leave. Finally he just blurted out, “You don’t want me here, do you?” He couldn’t wait any longer to hear me reject him, so he rejected himself for me. He assumed that a Christian church would look at a homosexual as a deviant kind of person, a person who does not belong around “churchy” kinds of people. He saw himself as an invader.

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