A good friend recently disclosed that he is gay. He is a Christian and shared how he has been struggling with this and begging God to take this away for years. He has never been in a homosexual (or heterosexual) relationship. He is a high-functioning, intelligent medical professional and comes from a loving normal family. He has done a lot of reading regarding homosexuality and has also read theological journal articles on the various approaches to interpreting Scriptures mentioning homosexuality. It has been hard for us to know how to deal with the situation as we are very aware of the complexities involved. We are sure that there are many other people having to deal with similar situations in their families or circle of friends and decided to post our question on Speak Up: How do we deal with this situation? How do we help this friend move closer to God and not away from God? What is Immanuel Church’s “policy” on homosexuality?
RESPONSE: Thanks for your question. Firstly, I would agree with you that the issue is a complex one, and therefore must be dealt with in humility, love, and understanding.
However, we must be careful not to read something into the Scriptures that is not there. From a Scriptural perspective, homosexuality as a lifestyle is not condoned by the Bible. Amongst other Scriptures, Romans 1 gives us a striking picture of homosexuality:
Romans 1:21-27 (ESV)
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
These are important verses because it shows us how we should view homosexuality. It is not something God gives us as a Godly lifestyle option. Homosexuality is the result of God allowing people to reject Him and go their own way. Having said that, I don’t believe these verses are a description of every homosexual person. As your question points out, there are some who have these desires, and yet they love God and pursue a relationship with Him. However, the point remains.
I must point out that there is a difference between homosexuality and a practicing homosexual. A practicing homosexual is someone who has decided to give in to their desires. This is different to someone who has these desires, yet chooses not to gratify them. Your friend is an example of this. Just as temptation is not sin, so the desires, while sinful in nature, are not the sin, but it is the choice to act on these desires where sin is conceived.
What this means is that we don’t condemn the person who has these feelings, and especially one who has not just accepted it, but is actively struggling with it. We need to extend love to all people, and grace to those who come with humility.
Regarding our church “policy”, I would say that there is nothing stopping such a person from attending our services, and nothing that would cause us to withhold our love and acceptance from anyone – no matter who they are, what they have done, or what they are battling with. We believe in restoring people and work to see every believer reach the fullness of their potential in Christ, and this would include this friend of yours. Every one of us struggle with one issue or another, and without making light of this one, there is always hope in Jesus as His rule seeks to liberate us and transform us into the fullness of what it means to be human.
The best thing to draw him closer to God and others would be to get into a community of believers who will love him unconditionally, and walk with him, where he can contribute into their lives and them into his. I believe our church community to be such a place. You can encourage them to not let this battle within themselves isolate them, as the best way to live is always within community.
More practically, the question that needs to be asked, not just in this case, but in all such cases, is: what happens if he does decide to embrace a homosexual lifestyle? How will this affect your friendship? If he had to be in town with his partner, would you have them stay a few nights with you?
The first thing we need to get over is our fear of sin. The Bible never tells us to fear sin, only to fear God. This may seem like an unnecessary distinction, but the difference is important. Our fear of God leads us to walk away from sin. Our fear of sin leads us to walk away from people. Jesus was not afraid in the presence of sin which earned Him the title “friend of sinners”. Because He was not afraid of sin, He could interact with sinners in such a way that made them want to be around Him. I believe we honour the Lord, and we honour others, when we do the same.
However, the situation becomes complicated when the said person is a believer and has chosen to embrace what many Christians would consider a sinful lifestyle. If you also come to the conclusion that a lifestyle of homosexuality is sinful, you will want to make it clear that you disagree with their decision to pursue this lifestyle. Whether or not you continue to have a relationship with them, and how close that relationship can be, depends largely on (1) their attitude towards you and your position, and (2) your own conscience.
I can understand your close relationship with this person, and I can’t tell you what you should do. I encourage you to seek God in a prayerful attitude and hear His direction for the way forward.
God bless you.