How Will You Respond To Homosexuality?
One night while she was still cohosting the 700 Club with Pat Robertson, Sheila Walsh felt impressed to pray for homosexuals. Honoring the Holy Spirit, she presented the gospel and invited any homosexuals watching the program to pray with her. After the prayer, Sheila encouraged them to go to a church in their area, meet with the pastor, and say, “Sheila Walsh sent me.”
Later, Sheila received a letter from a gay man who had been watching that broadcast. He had asked Jesus into his heart, gone to a local pastor, and shared with him that Sheila had sent him.
The pastor responded, “We don’t have room for fags in this church.”
In his letter to Sheila, this man said he was grateful to her, but becoming a part of the church was impossible. I still cringe when I think of that poor, honest, broken, searching man pouring out his heart only to get slapped in the face by a pastor with a reckless tongue and an un-Christlike heart.
Churches often respond to homosexuality with anger and judgment. Conversely, some churches openly accept homosexuality as a viable alternative to heterosexuality. Both are equally wrong and are inaccurate representations of God’s heart. Most pastors know the truth: homosexuality is not a viable or biblical alternative. But far too often the church has not extended God’s grace to those who are same-sex attracted. For many pastors it is easier to be right that the gays are wrong than it is to love them.
As a teenager I struggled in silence with feelings that I had not chosen. I remember what it was like to sit in the pew and hear my pastor read 1 Corinthians 6:9,10: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” I remember how hopeless that made me feel because my feelings indicated I was homosexual.
I was indirectly condemned to hell by a pastor who did not hold any hope for someone like me. The guilt, shame, and condemnation became so unbearable that at age 18 I vowed I would never attend church again because the church did not offer a life-giving alternative for me. The body of Christ made it easy for me to run bloodied and bruised into the open arms of the gay community. But the gay lifestyle only offered more loneliness, desperation, and death. If the church had given any indication that it was safe, I might have avoided immersing myself in the gay culture.
Thankfully, my brother introduced me to a church that called sin, “sin,” and yet loved people who seemed unlovable. I had only attended there a few weeks when two bold and loving members purposely walked into a gay bar on Easter in 1991 to remind me of God’s love. They were committed to walking with me on the journey out of homosexuality. I repented of my sin and lifestyle and was restored by that church. Their example taught me that change is more than pointing the way; change is taking a person’s hand and walking with him.
I long for the church to be this kind of repentance-producing example of God’s “kindness, tolerance and patience” (Romans 2:4). For that longing to become reality, we must choose to never forget our own desperation prior to receiving Christ. We must overcome our ignorance concerning the roots and causes of homosexuality. Some pastors have chosen to ignore the issue completely out of the fear that they might offend others or because they have the misguided belief that sexual sin does not exist in their congregation.
In reality, homosexuality and those who deal with it live among us. Those who are struggling must be given opportunity to choose Christ and change if they desire. We must not be afraid to offer the truth in love. We also need to remember that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness.
Today, there are numerous resources available. Log on to the Exodus website (www.exodus.to), contact one of its 127 member ministries, therapists, or Safe Churches, and glean from their knowledge. Read any one of the hundreds of books on ministering to homosexuals written from a biblical perspective. I encourage pastors to face the issue head-on, learn all they can about it, and offer what they find to their congregations. By all means, ask for help; it is available.