Homosexuality: Separating the Issues

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HE QUESTION I am asked more than any other regarding homosexuality usually sounds something like this: How can I offer a compassionate response to someone dealing with homosexuality without compromising my biblical view of the issue?

To some, this may seem like a strange question. after all, the Bible deals with homosexual behavior in a straightforward manner. However, while the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior, there are a host of other questions surrounding the issue of homosexuality in our contemporary culture that are less clear. Those include questions of how Christians should respond to political, educational, and media agendas regarding this issue. There are many other similarly big questions surrounding the issue of homosexuality in our culture. Those questions are important.

Yet, most of us are not directly dealing with those larger political questions. instead, most of us are dealing with a person who sits across a table and struggles to tell us about their same-sex attraction, gender confusion, or homosexual activities. We are dealing with siblings, cousins, and friends . . . coworkers and neighbors . . . parents and children. Simply put, we are dealing with real people.

The reason Christians sometimes feel confused about being compassionate toward these individuals in their lives is that our culture is attempting to take all of the big questions and lump them into one giant pile. The only way to bring clarity to the confusion caused by piling all of these issues together is to separate them one by one. only then will we be able to offer a compassionate and uncompromising response to those individuals wrestling with homosexuality.

Separate an Individual’s Story From Our Culture’s Categories

Our culture offers an endless amount of false identities. While homosexual behavior appears to be nothing new, individuals building categorical identities based on sexual practices is a fairly modern phenomenon. our culture is selling us a phantom bag of goods by trying to force us to identify ourselves with labels such as gay, straight, transgendered, and more. The pressure put on individuals by this phenomenon often creates a hyper-anxious desire to “discover their sexual identity.”

Almost all of those who come to me for pastoral care regarding homosexuality are coming out of a confused existence. Yet they feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to squeeze into one of these labels. one of my first objectives in pastoral counseling is to help the individual understand that the pressure they feel to choose an identity is a false one, and the biggest mistake they could make at that point is to give in to it.

In the beginning of our counseling journey, it is important for them to recognize they are neither “gay” nor “straight,” nor any of these other labels. instead, they are confused. Confused people are in pain, and it is my job to care for hurting people.

Likewise, if you are going to respond compassionately to a confused loved one, you will have to separate in your mind that person’s story from our culture’s categories.

Separate Homosexual Attraction From Homosexual Behavior

The Bible neither condemns nor condones homosexual attraction. in fact, the Bible does not offer a category that would be comparable to the current-day category of “sexual orientation.” Everything the Bible says about homosexuality is a condemnation of homosexual behavior. This includes condemning homosexual fantasies (lusting after another person), just as the Bible condemns heterosexual lust.

When you are discussing homosexuality with a friend or loved one who identifies himself or herself that way, remember that the Scriptures are silent on the issue of orientation. So, when you offer sympathy regarding the struggle of same-sex attraction and temptation, you are not compromising the biblical perspective one bit. That means you can draw a clear line on behavior without beating up your loved one for struggling with the temptation.

Separate the Person From the Political Agenda

There is a political agenda in our country pushing to bring about major changes in laws and public policy regarding homosexuals. Redefining marriage, normalizing homosexual behavior, and portraying the current struggle for homosexual rights as being equivalent to the civil-rights movement of the 1960s are among the goals.

Some Christians feel called to fight against this agenda, and it is important for them to do so. However, while all of us are connected to those larger issues, most of us will never directly enter the political struggle.

To compassionately respond to the struggling loved ones in our life, we will have to separate their personal situation from the larger political war that surrounds us.

When we are sitting across the table from a loved one who is struggling with homosexuality, we must remind ourselves that we are not at the moment engaging in a political war. instead, we are engaging in a spiritual battle. The tactics, strategies, and weapons of that fight are much different than those employed in a political war.

To compassionately respond to the struggling loved ones in our life, we will have to separate their personal situation from the larger political war that surrounds us.

Separate Offering Compassion From Condoning Sin

Homosexuality is treated uniquely in our culture, both inside and outside the church. The greatest reason for this is the dynamic of having the larger cultural issues and the innumerable list of individual issues lumped together into one big pile as mentioned above. But we must be willing to offer compassion to the struggling individual without condoning homosexual behavior.

We already recognize this about other sins. We understand we can offer compassion to the addict without condoning addiction. or we can offer compassion to a person who broke the covenant of his or her marriage without condoning infidelity. or we can offer compassion to the divisive individual without condoning hatred and divisiveness. Likewise, when it comes to the sin of homosexual behavior, we must separate offering compassion from condoning sin.

The One Factor Not to Separate

One separation we are tempted to make that should not take place is removing ourselves from the struggling loved ones God has placed in our lives. While there is a biblical precedent for communities of faith turning out a sinning member of the community (1 Cor. 5:9-11), we are not instructed to disassociate from sinning family members. in fact, both Paul (7:12-14) and Peter (1 peter 3:1-2) instruct us to stay with unbelieving family members in the hope they may one day be won over by the way we live.

My oldest brother “came out of the closet” nearly 30 years ago. Since he is a sixth generation member of the Church of God with an extensive ministerial legacy on both sides of his family, as well as a seminary graduate, this came as a shock to all of us. During that time, it was common for pentecostal parents to shun their adult children who were leading a homosexual lifestyle, letting them know they were not welcome to visit the home or attend family events. So, i was uncertain how my family would respond to my brother.

It has been amazing to witness the response that my brother has received from those who love him. The cultural lies we are being fed, and sometimes buying into ourselves, will one day cease. But the love God has placed within us for our sinning loved ones will never fail (1 Cor. 13:8).

Jonathan Stone is pastor of discipleship and evangelism at Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. He writes regularly at www.stonewritten.com.