This is a very difficult issue for Christians I know. It is a difficult issue for me as well. But I do want to share my heart on this issue with the hope that along with truth, we can extend grace and love to all people for the sake of Christ. A much needed grace and love in a time that needs it more than ever with a culture that is rapidly changing and as the gap between the Church and the gay community becomes further and further apart.
For this blog, I want to make a distinction between a gay person who is choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle and a person who struggles with same sex attraction who is choosing not to live out that lifestyle. Many people with same sex attraction would consider themselves “gay” and they are proud of that, while some people who have same sex attraction would call it a “struggle.”
I have gained many gay friends from the years of working with and loving the gay community. But do you know what has also happened? I have also gained many friends in the Church who struggle with same sex attraction who reached out to me because of what we do. In fact, when I started reaching out to the gay community, I was actually shocked at how many men and women in the Church reached out to us who struggle with same sex attraction. There are so many. They are in your church too. Does that surprise you?
I am so grateful for these friends who came to me. I have learned so much from them. I gained a perspective that I would never have had. I think that it is vital to talk to a person who has same sex attraction who has a Christian perspective. I value these friendships so much, in fact, I have the utmost respect for them because they are trying to follow Jesus in the midst of their struggle. I hate even describing the pain of the struggle because we who do not have this struggle just cannot comprehend it if we are not in their shoes. I believe it is one of the most difficult challenges to ever go through and that is why I have so much respect for people who struggle with this. I see the pain. I hear the hurt. I see the tears. I even sometimes hear the hate and frustration towards the people who just do not understand; which is mostly geared towards other Christians. Oh Church, these people with same sex attraction in our churches are trying to follow Jesus! In many cases, they are choosing Jesus over their desire to marry and have a family. Many of them are having to keep it a secret because of the fear that another fellow believer will look down on them. Church, we need to embrace them just as you were embraced.
Here is the key thing that I have learned from gay people and people who struggle with same sex attraction. This is vital so please focus on this. In my personal experience, I have never met a gay person or a person who struggles with same sex attraction who chose to have same sex attraction. Now they may be out there, but I am saying that I have never met one. Now, whether they were born with same sex attraction or something happened in their childhood is a whole other topic. But the point is, the people who I have known are not choosing to have same sex attraction. I believe this makes all the difference in the world on our attitude towards gay people or people who struggle with same sex attraction. Now, are many of them choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle? Certainly, but let’s focus on the first part. If they are not choosing to have same sex attraction, should we not give people some grace and understanding? How can we possibly start to judge another person for something that they did not choose to have? If you have the perception that people are choosing to have same sex attraction, then your attitude towards this issue will be greatly flawed. It needs to start here.
As for the people with same sex attraction who would call this a “struggle,” this is no small struggle. Imagine, someone grows up as a child and starts to notice that they have same sex attraction. They are embarrassed, ashamed, and if they are growing up in a Christian household, this only complicates the matter. As they get older, they think they should marry the opposite sex, but they just can’t force themselves to want to. They try and they try to be attracted to the opposite sex but it just doesn’t happen. The older they get, the more people start to wonder if they are gay while the rest of us get married, have kids, and just live the “normal” life. If they are found out, they are looked down upon by so many people. Also, let’s keep in mind that I meet many people with same sex attraction who were sexually abused by someone, even their own parents. Most of us can’t imagine the pain from that. I also meet people who struggle with this who did not have any father or mother figure in their life or had an unhealthy emotional relationship with their parents. So for some people who struggle with same sex attraction, you could even say that it was, in a way, forced upon them. Of course, some people would say that they had great relationships with their parents and still have same sex attraction, but the point is that in most cases it is not a choice and we don’t really know the answers of why people have same sex attraction.
As for gay people who are choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle and do not identify themselves as “Christian”, we need to have grace towards them too. For gay people who are not choosing to follow Jesus, why would they do anything different? They are “nonbelievers.” Should we hold them to a certain standard? If we can accept all “sinners” into the Church, including you and me, can we not accept them? We would gladly let any sinner come into our churches, but why is it different for a gay person?
First off, they probably do not even know about the Biblical standards of the Bible or understand the context of the salvation message of the Bible. I rarely meet any people (straight or gay) outside of the church that do. And if they do not know about Biblical standards, then they are certainly not going to live by them. And before we start to judge people for not living by Biblical standards, is it not our responsibility to go love them and share the story of Jesus? Is it not Jesus’ command to go tell the world about his message? Are we judging them, but at the same time not choosing to love and share with them?
Are we even supposed to be judging those outside of the Church? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.” Jesus says in Matthew 7, “do not judge.” It is a simple saying yet so difficult to follow. We need to know that we are all sinners in need of His grace, which He offers through faith in Jesus Christ.
We need to dig deep and have compassion. Remember that many gay people have faced abuse and very difficult situations growing up. They want love and to have companionship like the rest of us. Are we criticizing them and ultimately denouncing them for desiring companionship and not choosing celibacy? Is this lifestyle that we are asking them to choose supposed to be easy? Let’s take a personal perspective on this issue. What if your son or daughter struggled with this? What if you struggled with this? What if you had same sex attraction and could do nothing about it? Would it be so easy for you choose to be celibate for the rest of your life? Would you choose to not marry and not have children? Because again, is this not what we are asking gay people to do? This is the expectation that is coming from us. It is easy for us to look down on someone when we don’t see their perspective. Where is our compassion?
Do we as Christians want them to live for Jesus and live by the standards of the Bible? Of course we do, but let’s not make the mistake that this is some easy task. It is not and I would say that someone who has same sex attraction and chooses to live for Jesus and Biblical standards is doing something that we should hold in the highest regard. That is sacrifice for God. That is denying their own life and desires for the sake of following Jesus.
Do gay people need to give understanding and some grace towards the Church? Absolutely. To gay people, those in the Church who just hate are one thing, but so many Christians are just trying to live for Jesus and follow the Bible. We cannot fault Christians for that. When Christians are following Jesus and truly loving others, their heart is to reach out to you because they love you and want you to know Jesus because they want you to have a relationship with God and have eternal life. So many Christians sacrifice their own life, desperately pray for you, and lead out in love when others ridicule them, for the sake of this salvation that Jesus gives us. Can we fault people for that? Grace needs to happen on both sides and conversations and understanding need to start happening on both sides.
I get asked a lot about my position on homosexuality, or if I think it is a sin and I happily and unapologetically answer it with truth and the with the key component: love. To the Christians who ask, my answer is this, “I want them to experience Jesus!!!” Hopefully one will see the desperateness of my heart for them to know Jesus and the expression of deep love and compassion on my face. I want them to experience Jesus. Plain and simple. I believe that is the key! I follow the Bible and what it says, but it is not a sin to have the feelings of same sex attraction. If you act on them and choose to live out a sinful lifestyle, then that is a whole different deal, but a sinful lifestyle includes any and all sin, which all of us are guilty of and we are all in need of a savior.
To the gay person, I respond with love. My answer would be something like this, “I want you to experience Jesus (again with an expression of desperateness and love on my face). Plain and simple. If I sit here and tell you that it is a sin because I believe the Bible, then you are not going to listen to me anymore. I want you to experience Jesus! He loves you like crazy and I love you. I want you to experience the Jesus who completely changed my life. And I ask you to allow me the chance to discover Jesus with you.” That is how I answer the question and it almost always creates an openness to learning about Jesus. For the gay person, it is easy for them to dismiss Jesus if they just say, “oh the Bible thinks it’s a sin, so just forget that.” It is another thing to experience Jesus, feel his compassion, his love, his realness, his grace, and then make that decision.
Let’s open up a door for people to experience Jesus and discover what He truly wants for our lives and see what happens. We have to create the opportunity for people to know God through love and friendship. Let people experience Jesus and see what happens. I have facilitated Bible studies with gay men who were all living out a gay lifestyle. Now some people might have disagreed with this, but what is the alternative? Would we rather not have the Bible study at all because they are all openly gay? Or would it be better to have them come around the Bible and learn about Jesus? Jesus met people where they were in their life. He didn’t wait for them to straighten up their lives before they could come to him. If this were the case, none of us would qualify to come to Jesus.
To the straight Christian who gives grace but no truth towards gays or anyone else; are you not sacrificing the truth of the Bible? It is a “nice,” “politically correct,” and “popular” stance. If your goal is to be liked, then that is the stance to go with, but is it truly love if we take away truth? Excluding the message of salvation is not love. If you think about it, leaving out the truth of salvation is the definition of selfishness on our part. Grace and truth go together. We can’t give truth without grace and we can’t give grace without truth.
As for the gay Christian with gay theology; meaning they believe that the Bible was not against living out the homosexual lifestyle and they interpret the Bible differently. You know, I cannot blame someone for wanting Jesus and wanting to be able to love and get married. Wow, what a difficult issue! But there is a truth and I would just say, let’s keep seeking the truth together, not separately. Speaking of the gay theology, did you know that Dallas has the biggest gay church in the United States? Does this not show that gay people here in Dallas are hungry for Jesus? Could this theology be the result of our exclusion of the gay community from our churches? We need to open the doors to them.
Politically, I know it is tough for Christians. Many of you feel like you are being pushed into laws and beliefs that you are not for, which is valid. I am not going to sit here and argue one way or the other about laws. But I do want to challenge you with this question first. Do you care more about the here and now on earth, or do you care more about the eternal? As Christians, are we not to believe that the eternal and the kingdom of God is the only real value that exists? What is more important? That we win a law, or that we bring people to Jesus so they can have salvation? We can care about laws, but if we care more about winning the laws than loving people for the sake of Christ, then people are going to feel rejected and hated. Love them first, then talk about laws. We need to come together.
We need a revolutionary change of attitude towards the gay community and people with same sex attraction because the gap is splitting further and further apart. And this gap is not just splitting gays and Christians apart. The non-Christian world is watching the heart of the Church towards the gay community, which is splitting all nonbelievers apart from the Church!
Join us in loving the gay community. Take some time and ask God to show you His heart. This year we will be continuing to love and reach out to the gay community. Pray if you are supposed to be a part of this. We will gladly walk with you in this.
As you reflect and pray, I want to encourage you to watch this documentary by my good friend Kurt Neale called “Compelling Love.” Watch it for the purpose of listening to people’s stories and seeing life from other people’s perspective. Watch it and ask God for His perspective.
Watch here: http://www.compellinglovefilm.com/film.asp