Lead Stories

Homosexuals and the church

"Homosexuals and the church" Continued...

book_cover.jpgPossibility #2

HOMOSEXUALS HAVE TURNED ASIDE: THEIR SIN IS “UNNATURAL”

Perhaps homosexuality is so insidious that to admit susceptibility to SSA in the church is the moral equivalent to confessing a fling with terrorism in an airport terminal. Suddenly everyone is unsettled. A peaceful church service has been infected by treachery. Benign sins have associated with malignant. After all, aren’t gay activists responsible for the moral decline of our nation? And isn’t homosexuality sexual sin on steroids? Perhaps we are afraid to talk about homosexuality in the church because we are convinced it is a different kind of vice, an abomination that threatens all we hold dear. Maybe the church members can offer a handshake, but trust and brotherly oneness seem unthinkable. After all, didn’t the Apostle Paul describe homosexuality as the unnatural expression of God’s passive judgment?[2] Sure, homosexuals can be forgiven, but will they be embraced by the family of faith?

Possibility #3

HOMOSEXUALS HAVE A PARTICULAR IDENTITY

Some sins seem to originate outside of us, or at least they don’t seemto easily define us. But as one man explained to me, “Homosexuality strikes at the core of who I am.” SSA does not seem like a sexual choice, but an identity that colors and shapes all of life. The man in the church who struggles with SSA may feel a little like a husband whose wife left him for another man. The abandoned husband doesn’t know where he fits in. He feels he can’t attend a singles class yet, but feels out of place with married couples. He is trying to recapture his identity. An SSA struggler in the church can experience this kind of disorientation without any prospect of relief. Couple that internal confusion with the ubiquitous “gay identity” message inundating our nation, and the result is often verbal paralysis. Neither the struggler, the pastor, nor the congregation knows what to say.

Possibility #4

HOMOSEXUALS ARE WHO THEY ARE: THEY WILL NOT CHANGE

Perhaps people are reluctant to share their SSA struggles because they lack hope for change. We’ve all heard stories of homosexuals who were promised freedom and renounced the gay lifestyle, only to embrace it again. A church might listen to an SSA testimony with cynicism; therefore, the less said, the better. One church constitution I read recently singled out homosexuality as a twisted sin. However, no other personal sin was enumerated in that article. Therefore, an SSA struggler in the church could be tempted to conclude that homosexuality is unredeemable. There is hope for the angry and the greedy, but not for the homosexual.

Whatever the reason for the lack of SSA testimonies, their absence revealed a problem much bigger than homosexuality. How can Christians live in a culture that promotes the gay lifestyle, yet worship in a culture that never talks about it (other than possibly to condemn it)? Is the atmosphere of our church different from the church the Apostle Paul ministered in? He apparently knew people in the church at Corinth who had left the gay lifestyle, and he fearlessly referred to their new identity.[3] Could the way we speak or don’t speak about SSA be an indicator of a deficient understanding of the gospel of Jesus?

Jesus often exposed people’s misunderstanding of his identity and mission by pointing to their relationships with the marginalized, rather than highlighting their score on a doctrinal exam. For example, when he was eating at Simon’s house, and “a woman of the city, who was a sinner”[4] approached Jesus to weep and worship at His feet, Simon murmured against Jesus and the woman. He interpreted Jesus’ association with the woman as a sign of ignorance: “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”[5] Jesus exposed Simon’s lack of love and then described the woman’s extravagant affection as an indication of her robust experience of forgiveness. “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.”[6] The means of experiencing forgiveness did not come through normal religious channels (law-keeping, penance, etc.), but by faith in Jesus—“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”[7]

In the presence of Jesus, the very reasons to be distant from the outcast and silent about her struggle become the motivation to move toward her and speak words of love. The absence of hope-filled words spoken to those struggling with SSA in our church exposed our lack of love, and our lovelessness is not cured by simply trying to be more friendly. Plastic smiles and patronizing handshakes cannot cover up cold hearts. As with Simon, Jesus is using “unacceptable” sinners to invite “acceptable” sinners into the light of his love and forgiveness. As we look carefully at the reasons homosexuals might feel marginalized, we begin to see our own hearts more clearly and the story of the gospel more accurately.

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