Last week I wrote about Christopher Yuan’s remarkable testimony of faith and transformation. Having walked the road that he has, he’s in a unique position to educate the church on how to minister more effectively to people from an LGBT+ background. The reality is that there are almost certainly people within our congregation who experience temptations toward same-sex attraction or transgender identity and yet our words and attitudes can vilify them and communicate that we’re not safe people who can be approached for help in dealing with these issues. I once heard someone say that when they repented of a gay lifestyle they were hated by the homosexual community but often demeaned and rejected by the church. Christopher’s workshop gives advice on how we can avoid that being the testimony of our church. The following are some of the lessons that I learned from him:
1. Avoid a double-standard with regard to sin. We need to make sure we have the right attitude. If we’re going to convict other people about their sin, we need to be convicted about our own sin. The Bible calls homosexuality an abomination but the Bible also calls lying, pride and sowing discord an abomination also. We need to be serious about all sins. We often have compassion for Buddhist and Hindu friends but not for those in the LGBT community.
2. Find a healthy place for singles to thrive in Christian community. Many singles feel isolated in the church. Marriage can be idolized to the extent that singleness feels like a consolation prize at best or a cancer at worse. Continue to lift up the beauty of marriage but not at the expense of singleness. Lift up the gift of singleness from 1 Corinthians 7. Singleness can be tough but we need to remember how challenging marriage can be also.
3. Promote holy sexuality not just heterosexuality. Holy sexuality means that if you’re married, you are completely faithful to your spouse. If you’re single, it means complete abstinence. We think change means going from gay to straight but that doesn’t necessarily happen. We think change means the eradication of our temptations but the Bible never holds out that promise. If an alcoholic continues to experience temptations to alcohol but is able to resist them, we wouldn’t say that he is not changed – and yet we do that very thing with those facing same sex attractions.
4. Be compassionate towards those who face same sex attraction. In any congregation, there are likely those who are tempted to same sex attraction and they’re probably suffering alone. If our only position is, “It’s a sin, don’t do it,” we’re probably not going to be all that helpful. Our goal is to lead people into a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ so they’ll be willing to surrender everything to Him.
5. Be more proactive in fighting the bullying and the joking in our churches. Jokes or insensitive comments about gays whether in elders’ meetings or youth groups need to be cut off. We communicate through this kind of language that we are an unsafe place for people struggling with same sex attraction.
6. Be complete in how we share the Gospel. When it comes to homosexuality, we need to say more than just “Homosexuality is sin.” That is true but it’s only part of the message. That’s like sharing the Gospel without ever getting to the Good News. Our message to the gay community must be that there is hope, forgiveness and restoration on the other side of repentance. Affirm people’s willingness to open up. Tell them that they’re not alone. Remind them that their identity needs to be in Christ. Be realistic and don’t send them somewhere else to look for help.
If you are struggling with same sex attraction or gender identity issues, I’m here to talk. Please don’t feel that you need to battle these temptations alone. And know that there are many in the Christian community who face these same battles while holding to historic Christian convictions in these areas. Living Out (www.livingout.org) is a Christian web-site with a wealth of testimonies and resources that may be an encouragement to you.
Join me in praying that our church will be “full of grace and truth” in ministering in this area.
In awe of Him,