What does "Gay" mean to you?
When you say the word "Gay" a lot of different thoughts come to mind, and those thoughts have nothing to do with old English. Say the word "homosexual" and even more thoughts come to mind. We often associate things like "depraved, disgusting, and damned to hell", to these words. We may also think of TV shows like "Will and Grace". Attributes like "flamboyant, militant, girly and effeminate", are often closely associated as well. There are so many stereotypes that people think of, that it can be difficult to separate "fact from fiction" and "person from stage". It is hard for some people to think that there are people in our fellowship who struggle with Homosexuality, and yet, we do exist. Not only do we exist, but we are also no different than the rest of the fellowship, and yet because of common held myths about the man or woman who struggles with homosexuality, it can often be hard to be a part of this fellowship in an honest and meaningful way.
Homosexuality is a topic that is shrouded in silence and where there is silence there is misunderstanding and secrecy. The Bible states that we are not to live in darkness, and yet it seems as if when its homosexuality that is involved, the unspoken command is to "sit in silence". When people do not know how to behave, or what the truth really is, then it is hard for those same people to act in a compassionate way towards those who live lives and struggle through issues that are hard for them to understand.
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:5-7).
We are charged to live transparent lives that are holy. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (Ephesians 5:1-4).
We are also charged to live lives that don't even have a hint of impurity, greed, foolishness, and coarse joking. Because of these verses, we need to have an environment in the church that is both loving and challenging so that there is no hint of impurity. Of course foolish talk that takes the form of stereotypes and myth should also be taken out of the fellowship as well.
So what are these Myths that need to be brought out into the light? There are four myths that I want to expose and reveal for the lies that they really are.
There is no one who struggles with homosexuality in my congregation
Back in 2005 I was looking for help. I was tired of my struggle with homosexuality. I felt like there was no one else in the entire church who struggled with this issue. It was an incredibly lonely time in my life. I finally decided to seek help outside of my church family circle. What I found was that I was far from alone in my struggle, and that there were many believers in Jesus who had the same feelings that I had, and the same desire for something to be different in their lives.
It was good that I went outside of our church family for help, but at the same time I felt like there should be others in my church family who also had the same struggles. I thought that surely the larger churches should have ministers who could help. I had a friend who was part of a very large congregation and he checked with the leadership of his church for me. The answer I got was that there was nobody in that congregation that struggled with homosexuality. This viewpoint is not uncommon. Many church members believe that homosexuality does not exist in their congregations. Part of the reason is that it is unfathomable that a brother or sister would struggle with that particular sin after being baptized. After all, "once you are baptized, you should no longer struggle with homosexuality". The problem with that particular point of view, is that we do still struggle, and that view inhibits or blocks those who do struggle to not only not get the help they really need, but also to grow in their relationship with God in the unique way that those who live with same gender attractions are able to.
The simple fact is that every church has somebody who has been impacted in some way by homosexuality. They struggle, or a parent does, a sibling, a distant relative, or a good friend is homosexual. Whenever I have taught a class on homosexuality (in various contexts), is that there are always at least three or four people who have come forward and identified themselves as someone who comes from a homosexual past, and who still battle same sex attractions. Every single one of them has told me that they thought that they were the only ones.
I would be willing to bet that one of our sister Restoration Movement congregations, whose membership is over a thousand and is located in a city like San Francisco or Toronto would have at least 75 members who struggle in some way with homosexuality, and at least triple that number who have somebody in their family who is openly gay. I would also bet that a congregation of equal size in a city the size of Chicago would have at least 60.  I only bring this point up to say that Homosexuality is an issue in our culture, and it will become a bigger issue in our churches if we are really reaching out to the communities that our congregations reside in. The fact is that as homosexuality becomes more acceptable in society, it will become more prevalent in our church and we must equip ourselves to deal with this issue in an honest way that allows our members the full freedom of confession, repentance, prayer, and healing. Without these things the Christian who struggles will never know the true feeling of "leaving Egypt for the Promised Land."
There is only one kind of Homosexual, the effeminate kind
I cannot begin to explain how offensive stereotyping is. Not every gay man walks around with a limp wrist, sings, acts, lives in drama constantly, and talks with a lisp! It is so offensive to walk into a church and hear/see a brother mocking homosexuals by walking around with a limp wrist and talking with a lisp! I'm sorry but I don't do speak with a lisp. I might not be too happy with how high my voice sounds, but I certainly do not slur my words and nor do I enjoy wearing women's clothing. The fact is that people who struggle with homosexuality are as diverse as the general population. There are athletes who are gay. There are politicians who are gay. There are church leaders, Evangelists, Ministers, Elders and Deacons in the church of Christ who struggle with homosexuality. In the Exodus ministry that I am a part of, I can count on one hand how many of the men there fit the stereotype that is believed in the Christian church. The rest of the men there you would have no idea that they struggled with homosexuality if they didn't speak up and say that they did.
Remember the Ephesians quotation in the introduction? There should be no coarse joking or slander in the body of Christ. This stereotype and the belief that it is ok to mock homosexuals, must be "gotten rid of", or excised from our congregations, if we are really going to do ministry with people who are either part of the homosexual culture, or people who are leaving homosexuality. I don't make fun of fellow Christians who struggle with alcoholism, and I certainly don't make fun of brothers who battle with pornography. So, why then is it acceptable to make fun of homosexuality?! We do not live in a "Will and Grace" World. It is NOT OK to mock other people and their struggles. It is also NOT OK to lock people away into a little mental box. People are as diverse as creation itself. God made each and every one of us unique, and to use a cookie cutter approach to classifying or generalizing a whole group of people where such generalizations are not called for is at best "un-Christian" and at worst, a Hypocrisy that must be rooted out of the Christian church.
It is impossible to change
The myth that change is impossible, is possibly the most damaging and unchristian myth of the four that we are dealing with. This myth is Antichristian because it is a denial of Christ's mission on earth. Christ came to reconcile the world and we, as stewards of this world, are called to be a holy people who strive to be like Christ. This myth is a denial of the power of God to act in our lives and it is a denial of who we were created to be. This myth allows Christians to look on people who struggle with homosexuality or who are Gay as people who are trapped with no hope. If change is impossible then why should we share the gospel with people in the Gay community?
The simple fact of the matter is that the Gospel of Christ transforms people's lives. People do not come away from the Gospel unchanged unless they are unresponsive to the promptings of the Spirit of God. We know that the early church had changed lives. We know this from scripture like 1 Corinthians which says, "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom. Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Paul gives the Corinthian church a list of different sins that also constitute different ways of living and he states that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul then turns around and points out to the church in Corinth that they all fell into these classes of people, including homosexuals, but now they are no longer in that life. They were changed by Christ.
It is not that this change is instantaneous, though I have no doubt that if God wanted to, He could completely remove the struggle from a believer's life in answer to prayer. It is my experience that we walk out our relationship with God through becoming more and more like Christ. Our justification is only the beginning of the work that God is doing in our lives. "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel." (Philippians 1:6-7). God starts the work through His grace and because of His grace and the fact that we are active participants in His grace; God continues to do a good work in us. To be partners with each other in Grace is to actively walk out our relationship with Christ in our relationships with the people who are around us. To actively walk in grace is to learn how to both receive and give grace.
This is not the only passage where we find a biblical author speaking about the continued work of Christ and his spirit in the churches. Peter writes in his first epistle that, "Coming to Him, a living stone - rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God - you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5). We are being built into a living temple to worship God! We must be holy and in order to be holy we must be set apart by the blood of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit by God for God to be a light to the world. As Peter further says through a quotation from Isaiah "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 peter 2:9). We are chosen and holy. We are special and we must believe that God will not allow us to continue to live as if no change or call has ever been present.
Finally we come to a picture of what change looks like practically for the disciple who struggles with same sex attraction. Real immediate change means the ability to say no. "For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works." (Titus 2: 11-14). The grace of God teaches us to say no to all unrighteousness. It teaches us to say no to temptation not for the sake of saying no. It teaches us because of the hope that we have in the second coming of Christ. Christ came to give Himself in order to cleanse us so that we can be a people devoted to good works, devoted to the Word of God. All while we hope in Christ's return. Without this hope our struggle is for nothing. It is hope that our faith in God and His grace produces in us and it is that hope that should motivate us to strive to be like Christ.
Homosexuality is the worst of all sins!
I still cringe every time I hear homosexuality used as an example from the pulpit of an especially heinous sin. In fact it is usually used set apart from all other sins in these particular examples. This was one of the things that I learned from my mom's churches growing up. The message that I got, that the gay community still gets, is that God hates you and there is no hope. You are in a class all to your own; no one else even comes close to your depravity. While I have rarely heard preachers blatantly say these things, I have heard it in congregations voiced by various members, in different circumstances, always with reference to these examples in sermons. The problem with this thinking is that there is no "special class of sin. Sin, is sin, and while some sin have more serious consequences than other sin, that still does not change the mitigating factor that sin is sin and sin will do as sin does.
"For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life." (Romans 6:23) It is not one sin that leads to death, but all sins that lead to death. "But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15) All sin is conceived from desire, and there is not one person who is immune from desire. All sin has a natural progression towards death. It really does not matter which sin it is. The consequences for various sins do not change. Why, then, should our attitudes toward sin be changed from one sin to the next? Not to be trite, but there is no "hate the sin, but love the sinner." That is a phrase that was developed as an answer towards homosexuality! It should be "hate sin and love God and let your love overflow for those around us."
We should be free to learn from the example of Christ when we deal with sin. Christ never condemned. Christ called the people around Him to live a life of holiness to God. He called people out of sin, telling them to go and sin no more! It was a call to live a righteous life that he brought to all people, and he fellowshipped with all people regardless of what they had done. Look at the disciples, there is some speculation that Judas Iscariot was a rebel against Rome, based upon his name. Peter was prideful and violent; Mathew was a tax collector, a collaborator with Rome. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, and Mary was anxious and a little OCD. Jesus' disciples were described as gluttons and drunkards! Yet, Christ took the time to train and teach these people to be disciples of him. Christ didn't go after the self righteous who felt that their lives had no sin. He had no time for those who were busy putting others in their place. This should serve as both a warning and as an example to the believers, to show equal compassion to all believers regardless of their struggle, holding nobody above another based off of whose sin was the "worst of all sins."
It is dangerous to have a hierarchy of sin where one does not exist in the Bible. To have a hierarchy is to have exclusion. I understand that Christian faith is very exclusionary, but it is not exclusionary of repentant sinners who are looking to God for salvation. Scripture certainly does not outline a different standard for the person who struggles with homosexuality to live and convert to Christianity. There are no special rules or mitigating circumstances that call for a different treatment of homosexuals from any other group of people. There is also no difference in the call to repentance, and no need to create extra steps for those who struggle with homosexuality. Yes, people need to be called out of that struggle into God's marvelous light. Yes, people do need to repent, but repentance itself is no different between believers based upon what they struggle with. In fact, the strong are called to bear with the weak. I have heard of disciples who struggle with homosexuality who have fallen into sin as disciples, and instead of being lovingly restored to the fellowship they have been condemned and thrown out into the world. All this is happening as brothers and sisters who have fallen into sin with each other are given a slap on the wrist as a warning and told not to do it again. Why is there a difference in church discipline? Both sinners should be treated the same.
There is so much more that can be written about the last two myths in discussion. It is my intention to follow up with more detailed articles on a "theology of change" and "homosexuality a sin like every other". Let it be sufficient to say this, that in the Christian community we are called to be the body of Christ and this body is full of broken people. Just as Christ was broken upon the cross, so is the church body itself made up of weak people who desperately need the power of God in their lives to overcome the weakness that are in their lives. Paul boldly proclaimed, "But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for the power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. So, because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures, for when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Corinthians 12:9-11). Let us make every effort to love all in our fellowship and dispel every rumor and myth. Let us work to bring about a Christian community that brings healing to all people regardless of their struggles.
 I arrived at these evidences using the conservative findings of roughly 3% of any given population struggles with homosexuality or is homosexual. In the case of San Francisco that number might be too conservative given the cultural environment of that church. There it would probably be better to use the liberal understanding of 10% so there should really be about 250 people who struggle in that church.