17 Aug Having a Voice About Sexuality: Nuance, Humility, and Dependence on the Lord
Speaking publicly about sexuality issues is not for the faint of heart. Spiritual beliefs have intersected with cultural values and norms to create a war that has taken many victims and hostages: people who are hard hearted and bitter, individuals who have walked away from Christianity because of how they have been treated, churches who have lost their witness because they have cared more about culture wars and politics than redemption, and Christians who find their self-righteousness in their heterosexuality. It has created a mess, which requires much care and nuance if we are going to have a voice which the Lord can use to bring healing and redemption. When I talk to a pastor about speaking at his church, I always tell him that I have the hardest job in the world. Because every church contains such a wide spectrum of beliefs about sexuality, both spoken and unspoken. There is pain, baggage, unrighteous judgement, self-righteousness, misbelief, unbelief, mis-interpreted scripture, unrealistic expectations, and broken families all wrapped up into this one topic.
Everywhere I speak, I expect that there will be the following mix of people. The question is always, what proportion of each? But, I always assume that someone from each category will be in each audience I speak to, and I pray that each person can experience God’s grace and get a better picture of His design for sexuality.
1) The legalistic “homosexuality is the one unforgiveable sin” crowd. For them, I want them to leave with love and compassion for the LGBT community, conviction that they have probably twisted sexuality in the same ways, and the understanding that it isn’t just an issue to respond to “out in the world” but that their own church needs them because there are people in here right now who are deeply affected and need their love and support. I want them to see that God had to hang on the cross just as long for their own sin, as He did for their lesbian neighbor. And that the same idolatry at the heart of someone’s same-sex attraction and homosexual relationship, may be the very same idolatry at the root of their own heterosexual marriage.
2) People who are personally dealing with SSA: This is a big moment for them. They may have never heard this talked about in their church, or if they did it may have been in unhelpful, hurtful ways. There could be decades of built-up pain and baggage. Being given the opportunity to speak to them is something I take seriously and keeps me on my knees praying. I want them all to leave knowing that their sexuality does not define who they are, that they are loved beyond what they could image, and there is so much hope. I want them to see that the fight for holiness in their life is worth it. I also want to be very careful to not build false expectations or make it sound like easy. And know that they are valued and are needed in the body of Christ.
A lot about what I speak on is identity, because LGBT issues is so wrapped up in identity. I want them to see that their identity and value comes from Christ.
3) People who are affected by a family member or friend who is gay (which is everyone, whether they know it or not). I want these people to be better equipped to engage with the LGBT people around them. Some of what I attempt to do is to give them a better understanding of same-sex attraction, realistic expectations of people who don’t know Christ, helping them understand what language is more helpful and what language builds unnecessary barriers, and how to walk alongside someone who is struggling. I also try to level the playing field by helping them more clearly see their own sin and idolatry, especially at the root of their own sexuality and relationships. I try to reframe the conversation from “how to we respond to the world out there” to “how do I respond in my own heart.”
I do a lot of follow up with parents. Many times, they are dealing with deep guilt and shame and need massive amounts of grace. Sometimes they have allowed brokenness and dysfunction to rule their family, and they need repentance (in the context of grace, of course). Sometimes they are a part of the “homosexuality is the one unforgivable sin crowd” and they have inflicted a lot of wounds onto their child, and that needs to be sorted out. Sometimes it reveals deep idolatry of things like image, with the attitude of “I can’t let my child be gay, because what will people in my church think of me?” Those are some of the most difficult meetings I have to navigate, but it is worth it because I have witnessed how parents can have such a great impact on their child, and in the process I get to minister to the parents and help them experience God’s grace at a deeper level.
4) People who don’t have biblical beliefs about sexuality and marriage. The “love is love” crowd. They may not leave agreeing with me. But I want the to see that God’s design for sexuality is beautiful and is given to us because God loves us. I want them to know that those of us who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman are not homophobic, but just the opposite. We want God’s best for people because we deeply love them. For these people, their theological fallacies are probably deeper than marriage, because their beliefs about marriage can be traced back to their view of the Bible, the authority of scripture, the doctrines of mankind and created order. I’m probably not going to fix that in one talk, but it is a good place to start.
5) Out and proud “militant” LGBT individuals. There aren’t very many of these at the churches that I speak at, but there are definitely some of the events especially at college campuses. I always want to respond to them with love, grace, and compassion. Most of them come with a chip on their shoulder, and most of them leave with a chip on their shoulder. But, I am constantly on my knees pleading with the Lord to make sure my words are words that soften their hearts, not harden them more. And at times, I see the Lord use what I have to say to “shine the light of truth in their hearts.”
A couple of years ago when I spoke at NC State in Raleigh, and all of the LGBT organizations held protests because I had been labeled as an “anti-gay, bigoted, hate-speech” guy, I saw God do just that. I got an email a few months later from a student named Levi. He was one of the protestors in the back of the room holding a sign. As the night went on, he says that something was stirring in his heart. He saw me respond to his community with love and grace, even though they were being so hateful and spiteful to me. As he stood there, he said he kept thinking “I’m standing on the wrong side of hate.” He went back to his dorm room, got on his knees and prayed to God to help him experience the grace which I spoke of. By the time he emailed me, he had walked away from the LGBT life and was walking with the Lord.
6) Nonbelievers. People who have not surrendered their lives to the Lord. As I always say, we can’t expect non-believers to live a biblical life. They need Jesus for way more than just their sexuality, so we shouldn’t focus on just convincing them that homosexuality is a sin. We need to help them see their need for Jesus in every area of their life, and show them what a surrendered life looks like. That God’s Word is true, authoritative, and has the answers for every problem in life.
In conclusion, all this to say: There are so many people who are at such different ends of the spectrum or somewhere in between. And it is a heated and emotional issue for about everyone. When I look at this list of people I have to speak to everywhere I go, it seems daunting and impossible. It requires humility, nuance, and dependence on the Lord. But, the answer for them all is the same: God’s grace is sufficient and we can trust in His Word.
My testimony is at my website www.calibrateministries.com. There is also a video of the message I usually give in churches.
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