A controversy recently stirred up in Iowa got me thinking about a workshop I led for the Ignite Youth Leadership Conference in Des Moines, IA back in 2009 – Loving Homosexuals: Truth & Tolerance. I was put in a small room as I think the organizers thought it wasn’t going to be well attended, but both times I led the workshop the room was packed. People were looking for answers.
Some points to consider….
This is first and foremost a spiritual issue, and has been so far, far longer than it has been a political issue. If the church has been more proactive in loving and reaching out to homosexuals we probably would not be facing the political/legal side of this in the state houses and courtrooms. At least as much, I wouldn’t want to say never, but I think things would be much, much different if we had not punted here. Which leads me to my second point.
We are really good at speaking truth, but not speaking it in love (I include myself in this category). Also we often we put the cart before the horse and homosexuals are led to believe they have to change their behavior before coming to Jesus. That’s behavior modification, that’s not the Gospel.
Our culture, in particular, the homosexual community, has linked sexual attraction with their identity. Therefore when we reject homosexuality it is like we’re rejecting them. We have to help youth understand that sexual attraction or temptation doesn’t have to define them. What we do doesn’t make up the sum total of who we are. As followers of Christ our identity is in Christ.
We often, wrongly, elevate this particular sin above all others. Remember we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). We also tend to avoid those engaged in this behavior. How can we reach those we are unwilling to spend time with? When homosexuals only exposure to Christians is in the political realm well there’s something really messed up with that.
Also many youth struggling with this don’t feel any hope, but I’m encouraged by what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth which saw its lion’s share of sexual immorality.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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, ESV emphasis mine).
First notice homosexuality wasn’t the only thing mentioned here so again we tend to elevate this sin as worse. Secondly, I love the past tense. The NIV flows better when it says, “and that is what some of you were.” God can change anybody period, but His process of sanctification is a lifelong one. Which leads me to my last point. God has called us to holiness, not heterosexuality. I have to wonder how many new believers who have struggled with the homosexual lifestyle have been confused when they find themselves still struggling. There are obviously well documented examples people who were homosexual, place their faith in Christ, were completely delivered from the lifestyle’s grasp and are happily married with children today.
Others not so much, and they need our encouragement. The goal isn’t for them to develop an opposite sex attraction, actually the last thing they need is to pursue romantic relationships right away. The thing they need to embrace is God’s design for our sexuality and to grow in their relationship to Him. They also need same-sex friends in church to provide encouragement, support and brotherly or sisterly love.
I wanted to embed my handout from that workshop below as a resource. I am indebted to the work of Exodus International among others who helped shape my thinking and approach. So I have to give them proper credit. I also have to say, I’m still a work in process and by no means do this perfectly, but I have some experience working with young people who have struggled with this issue. So let’s learn together. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.