Suppose a homosexual comes to faith in your church, what next? Perhaps you had some constructive conversations and they realize the issue is SIN, and not “just” homosexuality. They come to see that Jesus has born their sin, all of it. What next?
That issue of change is the next subject of Peter Hubbard’s Love Into Light. The process of change that he talks about isn’t peculiar to homosexuals. He applies the biblical concepts of gospel transformation to homosexuals. But he is also honest about what changes to really expect.
He begins in an unexpected place though. He talks about misdiagnosis, about misunderstanding the real problem. For years the high incidence of depression and suicide among homosexuals were connected to being “in the closet” unable to express who they really are. That has changed in many ways. They are counseled to live out their homosexuality in full view of the world. Yet, the high rates of depression and suicide seem to persist. Perhaps the problem wasn’t being closeted. Though they are gaining cultural power, these emotional problems they were promised would diminish remain.
“… this link is no longer clear since sexual expression and social acceptance do not always alter the levels of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. So maybe the ‘cure’ (sexual expression) is actually part of the ‘disease’.” Ritch Savin-Williams, homosexual professor and researcher
This does not mean that the “antidote” is heterosexuality. This is where many get lost. They think that change means becoming heterosexual. That might not be God’s plan for a repentant homosexual.
“Jesus is not our get-out-of homosexuality plan, but “the way and the truth and the life.” Real change is not simply a reaction t our latest problems, but a miraculous step toward our new eternal identity.”
Hubbard does recognize that spontaneous eradication can happen. There are some people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol that are immediately restored, and no longer struggle with temptation. I have experienced something similar to this in my life. There was one sin that was essentially eradicated at conversion. But similar sins weren’t.
Some homosexuals, perhaps depending on the root cause of their homosexuality, may experience this. I had a friend in college who had come out of the lifestyle. She still struggled with temptation. This is more common.
“And the question we wrestle with is, “Why doesn’t God save us like we want to be saved?””
I think all of us wrestle with that question. There are sins that continue to hound us, muddy us. We wonder why God doesn’t deliver us from them, especially because they are sins. Doesn’t He want us to be holy? Yes, and we will be. But how that happens is as important as when.
Many who do not experience this immediate end to homosexual desire begin to live a life of moral determination. “It is wrong so I’m going to fight it.” They come up with plans and strategies (some of which are wise, but not really the point). They try really hard, is the point. But they are trying themselves: their plan, their power, their timetable. God may have very different plans that include being humble, broken and powerless so we might learn about His power.
Many give up, and give in. I know of someone who did this. They tried to live a biblically moral life. But now he’s actively gay and “married” to another man. The frustration and disappointment builds. Often, because we are seeking to change in the wrong way or have unrealistic expectations, we can just capitulate.
He then shifts into biblical change, and brings us to Colossians 3 to understand it. There tells them, and us, to seek Christ, who is our life, and set our minds on things above. We have something greater than this life and all its pleasures to love. This does not mean asceticism. It means realizing that our life is tied up with Jesus: his past, present and future. United to Him we have died to sin. We are currently seated with Him now and experience life in the power of the Spirit. We will be glorified as He is gloried. It is about Him, not us except as we are united to Him and experience all He has experienced.
“Jesus came to show us that the wreckage is not what defines us. … Paul calls us to look to Jesus to determine who we are.”
Too often we get our identity from our earthly status, our sins or how we have been victimized. Slave, addict, sexually abused. When we view such things as who we are (instead of our role, sins we’ve committed or how we’ve been sinned against) they shape us and create the lens through which we see all of life. If I view myself as a minority, race issues are everywhere. If I view myself as a homosexual, it will shape all my decisions, good or bad.
That is how the “old man” in Adam thinks. It is a darkened understanding, ignorance. The new man, in Christ, recognizes that my identity transcends all those things. As Paul tells the Colossians, they are chosen, a holy nation and beloved. That is who they are in Christ. Christ becomes the lens through which we begin to view all of life and make our decisions.
As a result of this new identity, we begin to put off and put to death the lifestyle associated with the old man. As I heard recently, we need to get comfortable in the clothes Jesus offers us. The polluting “uniform” of the past must be stripped off, and the new robes provided by Jesus put on.
I once hiked a mountain in the remnants of Hurricane Hugo. It is a long story. But we came down and I was drenched, cold and hungry. We had a 3 hour drive ahead of us after dinner. I could stay in my wet clothes or borrow a hot pink sweat shirt from my friend’s sister. It didn’t ‘look’ right, but it was dry and warm and comfortable. The new clothes Jesus provides seem odd at first.
But we have to recognize it isn’t as easy as changing clothes. There is a war within and without. We engage the world, the devil and the flesh as we seek to change. They all show up in terms of desire. And we must fight at the level of desire.
“And these desires have friends. Illicit passion rarely works alone.”
The world confronts us, so to speak, providing opportunity for temptation. The devil provides an endless series of lies to make those temptations seem more powerful and alluring than grace. Indwelling sin is attuned to particular temptations, sometimes silently guiding us to put ourselves into the places of opportunity. Our emotions, disappointments and loneliness can prompt those desires as a way out of the way we feel.
“Putting on the love of Jesus sets us free to love as we have been loved. Everything flows from and to Jesus.”
Back to those clothes. One thing that he mentions is very important: gratitude. Our ingratitude leads us into dark places: bitterness, perversion and more. It blinds us to God’s many gifts. Gratitude gets us back in touch with reality, and grace.
Change is possible. But change is not to be equated with living a happy heterosexual lifestyle. It may or may not include marriage (even if you still struggle with SSA). But it does mean seeking to live with integrity before God in progressive obedience.