by Carole Lattin
I recently took a test and failed miserably. Though I did not prepare for this test, I thought that I would have absolutely no problem with the questions asked. After all, this test was about a hot political issue and I had heard lots about this topic.
The test I took determined my knowledge about same-sex desires and attraction. As it turns out, I knew precious little about this topic.
Did you know that most homosexuals first become aware of being “different” in childhood? Did you know that a child raised in a strong Christian home can develop homosexuality? Did you know that a person’s family relationships and dynamics, their temperament and even peer pressure, among other things, can affect a person’s sexual identity? Did you know that homosexuality really isn’t about sex, but about relationship? Did you know that the majority of homosexuals are people, much like you and me? People with lives and jobs and relatives and bills and kids and pets and aging parents. They like going to the movies, going out to dinner, hanging out with their families, working out, being couch potatoes and going to farmer’s markets. They are people who have good days and bad days, and people with pain and problems just like you and me. Many are church-goers and in long term relationships. Sure, some homosexuals engage in promiscuous sexual relationships, but then, so do heterosexuals.
Did you know that more than 60% of women who identify themselves as lesbian have been sexually abused? Did you know that homosexuality is not genetic (finally, got one question right) but that most people do not choose to be gay? Finally, did you know that homosexuality, particularly lesbianism, thrives in Portland?
For the past four years, I have participated in a popular water sport here in Portland. My all-female team is 30% gay and our sister team is nearly 100% gay. My teammates – my friends – have put a face on an issue that I have previously avoided because it made me uncomfortable. As I have interacted with them and listened to their stories, I have learned that they are just women, many of whom are in pain.
Because of these interactions, I have been compelled to consider my response. How should one react to an issue deemed undesirable on political, religious, social and moral grounds? What can we do to develop a ministry mindset?
First, we can change. We can personalize the issue instead of politicizing it. Legislation won’t change a woman’s same-sex desires, but a relationship will. Reach out. Make friends. Love them.
When I first joined the team and my reputation as a Christian got out, most of my gay teammates looked at me through narrowed eyes. Perhaps they were expecting me to judge and condemn them? Maybe they thought I would show up at practice carrying a sign with “Turn or Burn” written on it? When I loved them instead, the defenses dropped and they drew near and became loyal friends. Now, I’m the one they go to if they need prayer or a hug.
Mike Haley, chairman of the board of directors of Exodus International, tells “Love Won Out” conference attendees, “I have never met a woman or man who left homosexuality who didn’t do it without taking the outstretched hand of someone else. Because we’re broken relationally, we’re restored relationally.”
Next, we can educate ourselves. Let me recommend Alan Chambers’ helpful book, God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door, as a good place to start. Chambers, the president of Exodus International and a former homosexual offers insight into practical and biblical ways to effectively reach out to the homosexual community.
One of the most helpful tips Chambers gives is to rethink your agenda. What is your ultimate goal and desire for your gay friend? Chambers says “the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. It’s holiness…the goal is to lay down the lesser love of homosexuality and embrace the greater love of Christ’s atonement” (Chambers 122).
Even if your friend walks away from lesbianism, she may struggle with same-sex desires for a while, or even for her lifetime. Leaving homosexuality will not be easy. Don’t give false hope, but do give hope. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 9.9-12 NASB)
In addition, we can listen. It has taken lots of time and effort to build trusting relationships with my gay girlfriends, but it has been worth it. Many now trust me with their stories and as I have listened, my heart has been broken. Wouldn’t your heart break to know that your friend ran into the arms of another woman when her husband rejected her because she was unable to have children? Or that your friend was denied the loving embrace of a father in her critical teen years because the daddy she worshiped died a premature death? If you take the time to listen, I guarantee your empathy for this population of women will grow.
Finally, we can be prepared. I know that in the near future some difficult conversations are going to happen and I am prayerfully considering my response. Chambers recommends the following:
“The issue for me really isn’t about homosexuality. You see, I hold to a biblical sexual ethic, and so I believe that any sexual behavior expressed outside the marital covenant between a man and a woman is not God’s design for human sexuality, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual” (Chambers 189). I would add, “Here’s the main concern for me. More than anything, God is most concerned with a person’s position towards Him, not just their position on sexuality. So the real question becomes, “Where do you stand with God?”
Then, I’ll tell them about a God who loved them enough to die for them.
Let’s develop a ministry mindset towards this people group and let the healing begin.
Carole Lattin is a married woman who is a follower of Jesus whom God has led into places of influence with the same-sex community. She references: Chambers, Alan. God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006.