I was raised in a Christian home. My father was a minister in the Church of Christ for nearly 50 years. Yet, from the tender age of 12 and during my teen years, and then continuing into my early 20's; while living in the midst of that God centred environment, I secretly lived through the confusion, lonley and preplexing world of being "gay." It was a painful and difficult time that I would not wish on anyone. In my adult years, the hurt, isolation and bewilderment in my heart only deepened. I so desperately wanted to be obedient to God, but felt like I had to fight these battles alone as the Church simply was not a safe environment to be open and transparent about whom I really was.
I am not alone. There are brothers and sisters around the world who still live a life of fear and seclusion in the one place it should never occur; Jesus' church. The fear lies in the knowledge that many have carried their sinful homophobic attitudes that they held in the world, into the church. For the same gender attracted disciple this means that not only was the world not a safe place, but now either is the church. And if Jesus' church is'nt a safe sanctuary, what on earth is?
As a trusted leader, advisor and counselor in your church, you have been given the awesome privilege of helping your Christian brothers and sisters know that they do not need to fight this battle alone any longer; that fear of rejection and being stigmatized is groundless, that in fact, the opposite will occur as you and the others in your Christian family open wide your arms and hearts to show love, compassion and acceptance in a manner that is equal to Jesus.
As we discussed in the previous artice (A Letter to Church Leaders;) I have been under the influence of numerous Ministers, Evangelists, Elders, Deacons, and many, many other "leaders" all with varying titles and levels of responsibility. They all worked hard and I am grateful for the impact they had on my life. But there are only a very, very few with whom I was willing to share my heart, with whom I was willing to be open and transparent in regard to my homosexual past and same gender attractions. These few did not impress me with their stunning oratory skills, or reputations, or level of education, or any other ministerial credentials. Rather, I was drawn to these men because they were kind, compassionate, sensitive, did not think too highly of themselves and were eager to love me even in my broken state. I was drawn to them not because of "who" they were, but because of "how" they were.
To the disciple living with same gender attractions as their every day reality, the following is (in my opinion) a list of the eight most crucial ways you can show "how" you are.
1) Have a conviction that homosexuality is not the worst of all sins.
Although it has often been treated as such by many Christians, the Bible does not single out homosexuality as a "unique sin" that God hates more than any other sin. Some Christians need to go through a cultural shift on their views of homosexuality. While actively being involved in homosexuality is a sin, to God it is just as evil as being greedy, lying, or any kind of heterosexual sin.
You need to have an appreciation for the fact that all Christians have their own unique issues, sinful natures and temptations to work through. Many disciples (regardless of orientation) show their different areas of "brokenness" through sexual dysfunction. Sexual "brokenness" is hardly exclusive to the same gender attracted. (please read: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 6:9-20; Matthew 5:27-28) (Read the article "Christians Like the Rest of Us: Four Myths of Homosexualtiy" by Kris Boyer.)
2) Understand that being attracted to the same sex is not a "choice."
We're getting into the area of causation here, and it is such a complex issue, that there is no possible way for me to do that topic much justice in a couple of paragraphs.
So I'm asking you to take it from me, a Christian man who has been same gender attracted as far back as my early teens; I never consciously chose this, nor have I ever met anyone who did. With the shame, embarrassment, isolation and rejection often involved for those who live with this daily, who on earth would actually choose this, given a choice? I became aware of my homosexual feelings when I hit puberty, just like you became aware of your heterosexual feelings when you reached puberty. It was not a conscience choice, it just was. So do not assume that homosexuality is a chosen sexual preference. It just isn't.
Please then do not think that this is something that someone can change by "trying harder" or just "repenting." Please do not promise healing provided that someone just has "more faith." Please do not suggest that they will "get over it" by just going on more dates. The issues are much more complex and multi-layered than that. Although I believe that God can intervene in a person's life, and change unwanted same gender attractions, He also often chooses not too.
3) Have realistic expectations.
It is not your responsibility to "change" anyone's sexual orientation, nor should it be your goal. If the Lord sees fit to bring about a change in what someone is attracted too, then praise God. But understand that your friend may very well be attracted to the same gender for the rest of their lives, and that is fine. The Lord is not concerned about what we are attracted to. What He is concerned about is how obedient we are in the midst of our different temptations.
The goal for anyone who lives with unwanted same gender attractions is not heterosexuality, it is holiness. Help them to love the freedom they have every day to no longer be slaves to their emotions and temptations, and to choose another path for their lives in following Jesus. Help them in their daily walk to be self controlled, prayerful, and obedient to God, regardless of what their emotions, hormones and feelings are telling them.
4) Help them see themselves as God does.
One of the most challenging things I have had to deal with as a same gender attracted man, is the mountain of negative self talk that I allowed to roam in my mind. Lying is Satan's native tongue. He is called the "accuser" and in my life he did his job well. In a normal day, a common pattern of thoughts for me would be things like; "I can't be loved by God or others being attracted to the same sex," "There is something wrong with me that I can't change this," "God has made a mistake," "If only others knew the real you, they would never love you or be your friend."
When someone thinks like this, they have allowed their same gender attraction to become their identity. You need to help them believe that Jesus is their identity. Their sexual orientation is only a small corner of their life. It is incredibly unhealthy (not to mention unbiblical) to allow it to monopolize and dominate so much of their thought patterns. Also, and more significantly, this is not how God wants His children to think of themselves. To God, all Christians (regardless of their sexual orientation) are known as the "apple of God's eye," "His treasured possession" and His sons and daughters. As followers of Jesus they are as holy as God himself (2 Corinthians 5:21) and clothed with His purity (Galatians 3:27). That is their true identity.
5) Be sensitive and thoughtful in your communication.
Many well meaning Christians have given some of the most ridiculous, un-thoughtful, and simplistic answers to same gender attracted Christians in their attempt to help: "Wear tighter pants," "date more girls," "play more sports," "look at heterosexual porn," "pray harder," "have more faith." I'm not making this stuff up.
Please understand that sexual identity issues are multi-layered and complex. You are helping someone who has a life time of experiences, thoughts and emotions that to them are very real. Naive answers to such emotional and multifaceted issues of the heart are offensive. When in doubt it is never wrong to say something like "I know this is difficult for you. I don't have an answer for you right now, but I do know this; I love you and respect you and am honored that you trust me enough to share this with me. I am here for you and we'll get through this together."
6) Create an environment where it is easy to be open and transparent.
When mentoring the same gender attracted person, please remember that sins and temptations will be confessed to you that you have never personally experienced or even considered; things that you may personally deem abhorrent. It is crucial, let me repeat, it is crucial that you not let your personal views on these acts or thoughts come through in your words, tones, or actions.
Jesus was no doubt repulsed by the sins of others as well, but never did He allow that to transfer over to how he treated the person. If anything, it was these individuals whom Jesus pulled in even closer. The person you are helping needs to know that they can freely confess, and just talk, about anything with you without you pulling away or rejecting them in any way. In fact, there will never be a time when they need to feel your love and acceptance more than when they have laid their heart out on the table like this. They will only feel free to return to you again if they truly believe that you love them unconditionally, and that you are a safe place for them to talk freely.
7) Be Confidential.
If I had any inkling that the people with whom I was being transparent, were either gossiping, or passing along personal information that I was confessing, I would have ended the relationship immediately. You simply must be a safe and secure confidante. If you feel like you need assistance and would like to pull someone else in, you must ask or tell the person you are helping, first. If, in your opinion, your friend is doing something that is hurting themselves or someone else, (or after a period of time just not repenting), then go to a spiritually mature individual to get the help. But, even then, do not do so without informing your friend first, that you are doing this.
8) Teach them what a healthy same gender friendship is.
Men who come from a homosexual past most often do not know how to build and sustain, a healthy, non-sexual friendship with another guy. Many of us have found it difficult to find acceptance, or know how to relate with, our own gender. Some of us have felt isolated and insecure around other men. We've often felt like we don't measure up among our peers.[ii] For me, I really did not know how to build a strong, healthy, pure and Godly friendship with another guy. The "world of men", in how they talked and related to each other, and how they communicated both verbally and physically with one another, was foreign to me. By you welcoming and including your friend into your activities, by treating them as you would any other guy, and allowing them to learn from you as they watch you interact with your friends and peers, will help them tremendously in learning how to fit in and build Godly male relationships.
Guy is not only an Evangelist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, he is also is the founder and Executive Director of Strength in Weakness Ministries. Click Here to read Guy's Testimony.
To book Guy to train your staff and church leadership, or to teach a workshop for your congregation; Click Here.
[ii] "Accountability." Door of Hope. Setting Captives Free. 21 Aug. 2008 <http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com>.