Late one evening I received a call from a friend who said that he needed to talk with me. He was clearly distressed and was having difficulty getting the conversation going, so I worked at putting him at ease. In the middle of one of my sentences he blurted out, “I think I am a homosexual!!” In order to help you understand the context, you need to know that this man was a retired colonial actively serving as an elder in his church. If you happen to have a stereotype of what a man with same gender attraction looks and acts like, that was not him.
As I continued to help him unwrap what it he was feeling, it went back to his early days in the military service, when he woke up in the middle of the night with another serviceman sexually assaulting him. Many years had passed since the incident. He had married, had children and grandchildren. Over the decades, he lived with guilt, shame, and confusion telling no one his secret. Like a cancer, the secret did not die, but was inner conflict of a feeling of pleasure in the midst of an assault, while living, serving and worshiping in a community of high hostility to the homosexual community. In fact one of his closest friends regularly ranted about the “homosexual agenda” with a tone of mockery.
Going back to my first year of full time youth ministry, I recall a young man who came to the church as a young boy when he and his brother were brought by a church family. By the time I had him in high school he was living with another family in the church and attending a private Christian school. His story was tragic! He grew up with no father, and his mother made a living through prostitution, often locking the two young boys in the closet when “johns” came for a visit. As a result of the physical and emotional abuse he and his brother where placed in the care of Christian families.
My relationship with him began to fall apart when I became engaged to my wife Chris. At the time, I couldn't understand why he acted out, and as the wedding approached became increasingly angry and destructive. After Chris and I were married we continued to work with him, it became evident that he was struggling with same sex attraction and was jealous of my relationship with Chris.
Each of these two men had different stories and yet were faced the same struggle. Through counseling and my ongoing contact the first friend, did not come to the conclusion that he was homosexual, though the struggle remained. The second young man came to a different conclusion. We moved away, and he remained in the legalistic environment. Eventually he moved away from the area and began to live an unrestrained sexual homosexual lifestyle.
These are just two of the many men, women and young people that God has brought into our lives who battle with same sex attraction. Responding to them inappropriately can be destructive in many ways. Not only can it taint the gospel, but it will drive people from the church or deeper into emotional and psychological turmoil, and at times death. Like all others who struggle with the deceptive power of sin, God has called to serve all He brings our way.
Reflecting on my own experience, here are some personal challenges for you:
- Don’t ever compromise
on sin! Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is sin. Don’t overlook some and get tough on others. Scripture must remain our final authority in faith and practice.
- Always assume there are people around you who struggle with same sex attraction. Yes, that means sitting in your church on Sunday mornings.
- Be a safe person. Create an environment that does not label people and where it is safe to talk and work through struggles.
- Do a close examination of your heart, and pray that God will give you a love for those who struggle. If you harbor hatred, or prejudice, it will show up in your life and ministry.
- Don’t let your frustration of what is going on in the broader society get in the way of loving those God brings into your life. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV). Taking out your anger about what is going on in our culture on those who God brings into your life will drive people who give bad advice.
- Take time to understand their story and formative relationships. Listen for how masculinity and femininity was presented to them in early in life. Are they rebelling against their own gender or trying to get something they never had.
- Have good counselors who can refer people.
- Provide them with resources: http://www.harvestusa.org/