On Thursday I posted a story about homosexuality that my friend shared with me, you can read it here. If you scroll down to the comments, you will see some honest responses from people who were challenged by the story. To put this follow up post in context, please refer to that post.
There were some important questions raised by you that I want to highlight:
Christians view homosexuality as a sin but what does that mean exactly?
Why is accepting homosexuality so difficult?
When one accepts Christ, is the homosexual attraction taken away and then replaced by heterosexual attraction?
I have a friend who ‘came out’ to me, how do I help her?
Before we go into the answers, let’s all take a deep breath. This is a controversial subject and we all come with our preconceived ideas about what the answer to each question should be. Our answers depend on the lens through which we understand the world. But wouldn’t you agree that, ultimately, what matters is not what we think is the truth (subjectively) but what the Truth actually is (objectively)?
Don’t believe anyone who says that, “There is no such thing as Absolute Truth – there are many truths.” That statement contradicts itself. If there is no such thing as absolute truth then even that statement cannot be absolutely true. You feel me? Every human heart is trying to make sense of life and we are all in search of The Truth of why we are here because that will determine how we are supposed to live.
Let’s lay down our assumptions, preconceptions and even our emotions attached to this. Let’s allow our minds and hearts to be changed if they need to be. The basis of my post today is this:
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
Those were words written by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12:2, The Message ) and it is such a powerful and relevant warning! Most of us have become so well adjusted to our culture’s way of looking at the issue. We have uncritically and wholeheartedly adopted a certain view of homosexuality – the “Christian”, the leftist, the African, the American, the hip-hop culture view… and we have taken our eyes off God.
Each of these answers needs to be read very carefully, as a whole and cross-checked against the original source. If you stop reading halfway, you might miss out on an important aspect. If you pick and choose, you will miss the whole picture. Here are my thoughts!:
1. Christians view homosexuality as a sin but what does that mean exactly?
The starting point for understanding “sin” is that the Bible describes every human being as being in need of rescue, in need of God. We need to be rescued from the things we have made the centre of our lives: money, power, sex, whatever. A look at human history is enough to prove the destruction comes from the selfish pursuit of these things. Money, power or sex are not inherently evil, they only become dangerous when they are loved and pursued above God, when they take the place of God in our lives. The sin that all human hearts have committed, without exception, is that we have failed to “Love the Lord your God [with everything]”, a command from God that Jesus described as being the first on His list. See Matthew 22.
“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” Romans 1:25
The Bible tells us that God created all things, including sex and sexual desire : “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory.” It also makes it clear that in the area of sexual desire we are meant to exercise self-regulation (self control) as opposed to doing with our bodies what we so badly want to do with them *sigh*! 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5 talks about how God’s will for us is that we would learn how to master our desires so that we are not controlled by our bodies – people who know God ought to live in this way. There are clear guidelines given: if you are single, control yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit; if you cannot control yourself, get married.
In the absence of the guidelines found in the Bible regarding our sexuality (and every other area of our lives) anything is permissible, acceptable and good. The thing is, these guidelines are there and we cannot deny them or “interpret” the Bible as we wish. But we can refuse to acknowledge them and disobey them, God does not keep us from doing that:
“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.” Romans 1:28
Greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, gossip and pride are all the result of our abandonment of God and all go against His will for us (Romans 1:29). Along with these, the Bible does not skirt around the issue of “sexual immorality” but refers specifically to people having sex with other people’s husbands/ wives; unmarried people having sex with each other; men having sex with men and women with women; prostitution; even group sex. Some verses that you can consult to confirm this: 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Timothy 1:8-10.
The Bible reveals that homosexual desires go against His will for the way that He intended for us to live. In the same way that a woman’s desire to have sex with someone else’s husband does. But I think there must be a distinction drawn between the desires and the sexual acts- the logic being that if we exercise self control and do not give in to what our bodies desire then we have not sinned.
But we do sin. God’s standards are high and if we are incapable of reaching them anyway, what is the point?
2. Why is accepting homosexuality so difficult?
I am going to approach this question on the basis that this person is asking why it seems so much easier to talk about adultery, hatred, murder, jealousy, prostitution and racism (all of which the Bible says are against God’s will) but not homosexuality. It is difficult for someone who has homosexual desires; for those who love someone who has homosexual desires; for theologians, pastors, judges and politicians. Some people propose that the reason is that a relatively small number of people actually have homosexual desires. As opposed to something like say, jealousy, that everyone can identify with. My only problem with that view is that because homosexuality is such a taboo topic in the Church, and even in the world, very few people have the courage to “come out” and be open about what their feeling. My point is that we might be surprised that more people than we think are actually going through this.
I can only guess that it such a difficult topic because of the way that our cultures have developed. But it is time to change that, it is time to start a conversation.
3. When one accepts Christ, is the homosexual attraction taken away and then replaced by heterosexual attraction?
This question is really about what salvation and Lordship means. What does it mean to “accept” Christ and what are the consequences?
“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us… God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.”
This passage in Romans 3 answers the problem that I raised in question 1: God’s high standards and our inability to reach them. The life and words of Jesus Christ show us this:
i) God loves us, created us for relationship with Him, to love Him and to be like Him in all things, including in our desires and behaviour.
ii) God loves us, but we have forgotten God and put other things at the centre of our lives – this is what is at the core of every sin.
iii) God loves us but because of (ii) we are incapable of achieving (i).
iv) God loves us. And Jesus Christ was executed for crimes He did not commit. Christ’s innocence goes beyond what was written on his charge sheet in terms of Jewish/ Roman law. But in the supernatral sense He was punished, willingly, for the crimes that we have committed against God. This was not in vain: it was so that (ii) could be wiped off our record in order for (i) to be restored.
“God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” Romans 3: 26
With reference to the question, my understanding is that if anyone believes in Jesus Christ and chooses to trust Him, they have become “right” with God and He does not count any thing that they have done wrong against them. This is powerful. But Christ’s death and resurrection is even more powerful in that it becomes possible to live according to God’s standard for our lives. This fact covers every person- the liar, the murderer, the hater, the cheating wife, and the homosexual.
Do the desires go away? I think that it depends. I have women friends who say that they lost all desire to be with women sexually, usually over time as they spent time with God and grew in relationship with Him. Some of them say that they have never had the desire to be with a man and never will; this woman had lesbian relationships for many years, decided to fight and is now married to man. I also know that for other people, sexual attraction for someone of the same sex is something that they still have to choose not to give into, even after years of being committed to Jesus and having a healthy relationship with Him.
4. I have a friend who ‘came out’ to me, how do I help her?
My first response to this question was: Has your friend asked for your help or are you just pushing your help on to her? I think that one of the more frustrating kinds of friends is that friend who is always trying to ‘fix’ you. You know that friend, I can be that friend sometimes. That aside, my short answer to anyone asking this question is two words: model Christ.
What does this mean? Here are my tips:
#1 Decide that even if your friend decides that she wants to be with women, you will love her and will be her friend. One of the things that I find amazing about Jesus is that He invested in friendships with two people who eventually betrayed Him – Peter and Judas. But He did so anyway. His love for them was unconditional. Conditional love says “I will love you if …” Unconditional love can only come from God because it flows, not from who the person is or what they are doing, but from who we are by the power of the Holy Spirit.
#2 Don’t be an armchair critic, put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Christ is the ultimate model of this! God Himself living on earth as a man – it is crazy! He was tempted by the things we are tempted by, suffered physical and emotional pain, just like we do! Christ had the right to claim His “rights” as the bauss and ruler of errthang but He did not- He humbled Himself. We need to do the same. In this context, humbling ourselves means admitting that we do not have all the answers, confessing that we do not know or fully understand what our friend is going through; wrestling with the issue and walking with our friend through the emotions, the heartbreak and the rejection.
#3 Speak the truth in love. Both truth and love are necessary. Christ was not afraid to give His opinion on any issue. He probably felt confident in doing that because it was actually The Truth, not just an opinion. Some people reacted angrily, others could not help but admit that He was right. But Jesus’s motivation was love and His concern was the people He was speaking to. He never spoke the truth just for the sake of it. We need to be the same: guard your heart, check your motivation and watch your tone.
I hope that these answers are helpful. Look out for more stories on homosexuality later this week. Let’s continue the conversation!
Thanks for reading.