Reflections on Homosexuality and the Church

“Change without Jesus is just behavior modification, and that is not what those struggling with same-sex attraction need.”

Last week I attended ACBC’s conference on the topic of homosexuality. It was a great blessing, and I honestly wish every person in our church could have been there. But since you weren’t, I thought that I’d simply provide some of the takeaways that I think would most benefit those of us who are living and ministering in West LA. Here are those takeaways:

1. Beware “Christian Sounding” Voices

There are a lot of voices saying a lot of words about homosexuality and same sex attraction. There are lots of voices inside and outside of the church trying to make the case that homosexual practice is not a sin, but their arguments are ultimately unconvincing and require the dismissal of clear biblical teaching. However, to be honest, these are not the “Christian” voices that most concern me.

The voices that most concern me are those that Bible-believing Christians tend to grab onto but are devoid of the gospel. One of these is the voice that affirms secular reparative therapy. The world has known for years how damaging reparative therapy is, and it’s right. Change without Jesus is just behavior modification, and that is not what those struggling with same-sex attraction need. There are also voices that talk and talk about homosexuality as some theoretical ethical “issue” and never put it into the context of ministry and relationship. Without personal application and love for others, those that desire to speak about homosexuality would do better to just remain silent.

Finally, there are also voices that justify a biblical understanding of homosexual practice by appealing to “natural law” or what many popularly refer to as the “yuck” factor. I believe it’s listening to this voice that somehow allows Christians to justify the jokes (Adam and Steve?), rude comments, and ignorant opining that is, tragically, too prevalent in Christian circles. This voice also denies the love and compassion of the gospel, and puts up significant barriers to fellow sinners who desperately need God’s grace. There are many things in the world more disgusting to God than homosexual sex, and I firmly believe that the pride implicit in this voice is one of them.

2. Change is Possible

While reparative therapy should be rejected by Christians outright (which has unfortunately, historically not been the case), that does not mean there is no hope for change for those that struggle with same sex attraction. All of us are desperate sinners, and there’s hope for change in us all. The first thing we have to do, though, as in all Gospel-change, is to define the goal of change. It needs to be said over and over again: heterosexual desire is not the primary goal of change for someone struggling with same-sex attraction. A person may or may not ever experience heterosexual desire in their life. Regardless, the goal of change in the life of a Christian is to become more like Christ.

All of us are ruined by our sin, and all of us have longings and desires that are opposed to how God created us. The only solution for this problem is the gospel of Christ! God sent his Son to pay the penalty we deserve to pay for our sin that we might be redeemed and freed from our sinful, life-dominating, self-focused longings and desires. No matter what the sin issue, or how deeply ingrained it feels, change is possible. It might be slow at times, and it will almost assuredly be difficult and painful. But God promises us that he is changing us, producing in us holiness, self-control, love for others, humility, and purity (as defined by Him in His Word). No matter how acceptable any sin becomes in our world, or how ingrained it becomes in our heart, we should hold fast to the promise: change is possible.

3. The Body of Christ is the Context for Change

This is a point that, in one way or another, every single speaker at the conference hit on with deep conviction. There is no other context God has designed for the process of change other than the body of Christ in the form of the local church. The reasons for this are numerous, but this point could have not been brought home any more clearly than when Rosaria Butterfield (whose 2 books should be required reading) described the beauty, love, hospitality, intimacy, acceptance, and support present in her LGBT community, prior to her coming to know Christ. For many in that community it is an incredibly loving place to live. For many in that community it is the only family they have.

The body of Christ must be a place where messy people can be accepted, loved, and cared for even as they struggle through walking away from their sin. I can’t even imagine the pain involved in walking away from a community as tight-knit and caring as much of the LGBT community is. As Christians, our community ought to be at least as tight-knit and caring, not because this will somehow convince a person that Christianity is better, but out of compassion, love, and appreciation for the difficulty experienced by someone who God has called to leave their family and their life and follow him. As Jesus said,

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Jesus’ promise here is not only that those who leave the people and places near and dear to them for the sake of the gospel will receive “a hundredfold” in “eternal life” (although that is true and is also a reason for joy and peace). Jesus’ promise is that those who leave the people and places near and dear to them for the sake of the gospel will also receive “a hundredfold now in this time.” Paraphrasing Rosaria, if those who leave the things they love for the gospel are going to receive “a hundredfold now in this time,” how else is that possible except through the care, compassion, acceptance, and sincere love of the body of Christ? I so desperately pray that as we all grow in Christ-likeness that we will become more and more and more that kind of church.

Let me add something for those of you who do struggle with same sex attraction: I believe Cornerstone can be, and in many ways is, that kind of church. We’re not perfect, just like you, but we would love to walk with you through the difficult journey of following Christ and wrestling with your same-sex attraction. The truth is, you can’t do it alone. We’ve done it before with numerous people, and I’m sure we’ll do it again. We’re here. I’m here. All you have to do is reach out.