Where I live now isn’t like where I lived immediately before this. It isn’t about geography, or the population. There are many differences between here and there. One significant difference is its view of homosexuality.
There homosexuality was still in the closet. We knew someone whose son is a homosexual in a long term relationship with another man. Everyone pretty much knew, but they were considered “friends” for the sake of other family members. I really don’t recall seeing any homosexual couples expressing affection while I lived there.
Where I live now is known, so I’m told, as a popular place for lesbians to live. In the last month I’ve seen 2 different couples expressing affection. First, I was picking my family up at the airport and 2 reunited women had a few kisses. I was hoping my kids didn’t notice because I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation that HGTV wants to make me have. Last night 2 younger women made out briefly in the restaurant I went to.
In some communities, particular lifestyles are still closeted. In others, people are quite open. In the church, some sins are still closeted. Peter Hubbard considers this question after realizing that in all the years of testimonies he’d heard, he couldn’t remember anyone including SSA as part of that testimony.
Hubbard has a few theories in the first chapter of Love Into Light: The Homosexual and the Church. He also refutes each of these theories with the gospel.
Possibility #1: Homosexuals are not like us; they are “abnormal.” The church has often made this argument. We shouldn’t wonder why people don’t want to confess this particular sin in our congregations. They are (often for good reason) afraid they will be rejected.
“He couldn’t wait any longer for me to reject him, so he rejected himself for me.”
I’ve had people admit to having an abortion, giving up a child to adoption and addiction to pornography. Not homosexual porn however. I’ve had women admit to me that they’d been sexually abused. But no men (at least with me as their pastor).
I have had a few people admit to profound sins. One recognized at the end of our counseling session that they had crossed the Tiber so to speak. Fearing I’d never look at them the same way, and always have questions about them, they left the church. Right there, right then. One hung around for awhile, but I wonder if they were trying to get me to reject them in the months that came. Or perhaps they assumed I was rejecting them as a result of that confession when other issues were in play. People expect to be rejected and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Possibility #2:Homosexuals have turned aside; their sin is “unnatural.”
It is often placed in a category of it’s own, like terrorism as Hubbard notes. We have taken Paul’s comments in Romans 1 to a place he probably didn’t intend.
“Sure, homosexuals can be forgiven, but will they be embraced by the family of faith?
Possibility #3: Homosexuals have a particular identity. This is the message of our culture, it is who they are at their core. To become a Christian is seen as forsaking their identity, denying who they really are. It puts them and us in a bind.
Possibility #4: Homosexuals are who they are: they will not change. Many homosexuals have not hope for change (which would surprise Paul). Often we misunderstand change. Regeneration does not remove temptation, strong temptations. As an “ordinary” sinner, I still struggle with many temptations. And sins. They will struggle. They may fail. They may never have an attraction to the opposite sex. That really isn’t the point. The point is can they be forgiven, and empowered to live in accordance with God’s standard of chastity outside of marriage?
In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul indicates that there were some who formerly engaged in homosexual sins (along with the other sins listed there). All of those sinners experienced the same thing: pardon and renewal. Those guilty of homosexual sin were not in a different category.
Hubbard then moves into 4 gospel realities that counteract those misunderstandings on both our part and theirs.
Reality #1: Homosexuals are like us- we are all marred image-bearers. He brings us to creation and fall. We are all in God’s image. There are not 2 classes of people based on sexual orientation. Like heterosexuals, homosexuals have been marred by the fall in numerous ways. Heterosexuals struggle with sexual sins too! Homosexuals struggle with more “mundane” sins too.
“True Christianity creates a casteless society, because we see people through the lens of God’s particular creation.”
Reality #2: Homosexuals have turned aside: all sin is twisted. All sin corrupts us. All sin is the result of rejecting the truth for the lie. All sin is a result of idolatry. It is just that my sin seems so normal (sometimes). Other people’s sin seems so much worse. But that is because of the log in my eye. All sin earns death, not just the “really bad ones.”
Reality #3: Homosexuals can find a new identity. All sinners can. All sin is a function of the “old man” (see Colossians 3). Those in Christ have a new identity, they have put on the New Man (Christ) and now begin to put off the behavior of the old man and put on the behavior of the New Man. All sinners tend to find their identity in their sin. That changes, or should, when we come to Christ.
Reality #4: Homosexuals and heterosexuals hope in grace together. Or they can. Homosexuals can have hope in Christ. Together we can live as one body in Christ. We also help one another with our struggles. But we must be realistic about desire, temptation and sin.
Hubbard’s desire is to see the attitude of the church toward homosexuals change into a more biblical attitude. He wants repentant homosexuals to feel welcome, to be honest. But before they can be honest about their struggles, we need to be honest with ours. We have to create a safe place for them to experience the pardoning and transforming grace of God in Christ. Instead, the way we speak has created an unsafe place for them to come to grips with Christ and the gospel.