What would you do if a friend told you they struggled with homosexuality? Would you recoil in disgust? Would you look for an opportunity to change the subject and then speak of it no more? Would you leave your friend to resolve the matter on their own, making every effort to distance yourself from such an awkward relationship?
That's what I always figured I'd do if that happened to me. I grew up in a small town populated largely by good ol' boys and not so good ol' boys. Everybody knew everybody and their brother's business, and you could hardly lie about where you went on Friday night because somebody would always recognize you within a 30-mile radius. Even though it was a small town, we had our various cliques: the jocks, cheerleaders, the Goths, the Trekies, and the drugies (to name a few). There were also those who didn't really fit into any one mold for whatever reason. Often it was because their personalities and mannerisms were a bit queer (no pun intended). These type people were usually avoided and often became the butt of coarse minded jokes.
The underlying assumption was that those who couldn't fit in with a crowd should be left to fend for themselves. Silent, alone, and unloved. Although I wasn't one of the popular crowd by any stretch of the imagination, I was generally respected for morality and kindness. That kindness had limits, however, and I was reluctant to reach out to those whom others had ignored. I didn't want to get my holy hands dirty with downtrodden sinners on the side of the road.
Who would have thought that my Pharisitical outlook would be challenged by attending Union University, the private Southern Baptist college for "rich, white kids." Early on, I developed an acquaintance with a Christian peer. I didn't have much driving experience in those days, so he was always happy to give me rides to and fro, eventually inviting me to become involved in Sunday night small group meetings with a local church. He was always outgoing, and seemed to have no shortage of friends. He was, in my opinion, the model of the "happy Christian." There was just one problem I'd didn't know about: he had lived a gay lifestyle.
This came to my attention one night at our church small group meetings. At the end of the Bible study, he confessed his sin to all gathered together. He later confessed it publicly before the Church, as a testament to his ongoing resolution to flee from sin and trust in the power of Christ's righteous power. I had never prepared myself for how to respond, but that night the Holy Spirit revealed to me that God had bound my heart to do nothing else but respond in godly love. I promised him my friendship, specifically to help keep him accountable to his confession of repentance. Reflecting back on that night, I realize how much God had changed my heart since high school. My friend's confession revealed to me that the addiction of sin isn't just limited to the social outcasts who don't seem to fit in, but even to those whom we call brothers in the name of Christ.
I was really impressed with how people in the church responded to this situation, but I was even more surprised with the effect it had on the way I treated people who were "different" than myself. Before graduation, I learned that there are faithful Christians who struggle with this particular sin. It's easy for evangelicals to say homosexuality is a choice, but that's a gross oversimplification. Acting upon homosexual attraction is a sin, but homosexual attractions themselves may be simply a manifestation of our depravity. Lust is a temptation that will rear its head in many different forms. The suppression of certain impulses may only kindle the fire of other forms of lust. The human heart is deceitful above all things, of course.
The only hope for the sinner is a transformative relationship with Christ, but the Spirit will not work to its fullest ability in the sinner's life without the involvement of Christian brothers and sisters. That's why I was encouraged to read this recent article on Baptist Press (http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=21809). It makes a powerful point when it says, "testimonies of drug abuse or even sins of a heterosexual nature usually elicit sympathy and sometimes smiles of understanding. 'I’ll tell you, it’s not this way when you talk about homosexuality'." It is imperative that the Church wake up to the extent of depravity in our own hearts, for all the pop culture and political controversies are just symptoms of that root problem. And while I have great admiration for those Christian organizations that are specifically committed to homosexual outreach and ministry, there is really no substitute for a local church where sinners can come together to hear the Word of the Lord in all its convicting glory and share their praises and prayer requests. The believer who struggles with homosexual sin needs a community of faith to maintain accountability and receive encouragement from his brothers and sisters. And those who deceive themselves as being more holy than they are will surely be convicted by the honesty of their struggling brother.