Homosexuality Creates Problems – For Me

It seems the more I talk to people who are not theologians or ideologues the more I struggle with the issue of homosexuality.

For example, I sat in on a Small Group discussion yesterday (a Sunday morning group) where the topic of the day was homosexuality. The group was using Adam Hamilton’s “When Christians Get it Wrong” (Asbury folks might remember that I had also used that book on a sermon series not long ago – so I was familiar). The discussion reignited a struggle within me.

Here’s the problem. I fancy myself to be a fairly adept theologian who begins his work in the Scripture. I have done some work regarding this issue. I even have an unpublished blog post where I thoughtfully and biblically lay out my perspective on the issue of homosexuality. I believe I have solid answers to the arguments proposed by many these days. Suffice it to say I come down on the conservative side of the issue. However, that is not to say I condemn those who engage in that kind of relationship. I do not.

Here’s the problem I have. Some in the group were okay with full acceptance. They fall on the side of a more progressive understanding of Scripture (Hamilton leans this direction pretty heavily in my opinion). Others could understand the argument, but see the issue as a “victim-less” sin, if it must be considered sin. Others struggle to see it as acceptable based on Scripture (I tend to lean that way). All of the people in that room were loving people striving to honor God and love others – and as a pastor and leader in the church I struggle with how to handle such broad ranging opinions with grace and righteousness.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was known for his willingness to hold things in tension – specifically grace and law. He believed we are called to be holy as God is holy, but he also knew that sanctification – being made holy – is a process. I am struggling to understand where to best hold the tension.

I am struggling because my first instinct is to say that those who are engaged in homosexual relationships are to be loved and accepted with the firm knowledge that God is at work to bring them to a greater sense of holy living. But, as I sit in groups like I did yesterday and I listen to loving people with a differing perspectives, I have to ask myself – is it “those” people who God is needing to bring to a new place, or is it me?

I am thankful for the New Beginnings class that brought about this wrestling within my soul. I do know this – where I struggle and wrestle and look to God, God works to bring me to a more holy place. I am anxious to see where that place will be.

How about you – do you find yourself struggling with God sometimes, in this issue or even in some other area? Do you see that struggle as beneficial?

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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12 responses to “Homosexuality Creates Problems – For Me

  1. The struggle to know God better, to do God’s will, and to show love how God would have us all show love is a daily challenge. Thank you for being a part of that journey with me, and thanks for sitting in with New Beginnings yesterday.

  2. One of the meta-questions I have is: Is it possible for us to approach the Bible in such a way that we find it telling us we are wrong – in terms of our beliefs (and more strongly, what we take to be certain knowledge), our feelings, our practices, our desires, our perceptions?

    I consider myself to be a Bible person. I strive to be, like Wesley, homo unius libiri. I take it as my authority, greater than Wesley himself, greater than the Book of Discipline, and even greater than myself. I am committed to remaining in a place where I am always subject to correction by the Bible.

    When it comes to sexuality (and I often wonder if we begin to err when we take up these phenomena in such abstract categories), I think there has always been a tension – sometimes a very strong tension – between what the Bible has to say and what the dominant culture has to say. Erasing or minimizing tension is what we humans really enjoy – especially in this area where we are inclined to do pretty much whatever we want to do (and can get away with) regardless of what the Bible says. Those who seek normative status and institutionalization for homosexuality, polygamy, polyamory, divorce, all find challenges in the Biblical text. As I read documents from and studies of other cultures, I see that some of the tensions we feel from the Biblical text are absent – or different – in other texts and cultural contexts. Homosexual practice, for example, was taken for granted in Greek culture. In Plato’s Symposium one of the characters argued that it is best for like to love like. Sure, men need women to reproduce, but real love is a man to man thing.

    If we live in an era in which affirmation is the central value, we are likely to find ourselves in trouble. I understand the need to accept oneself, but see possible danger on the horizon. At the same time, the church has often used the Bible to “engineer condemnation” for people, an equal and opposite danger.

  3. I understand your struggle. A lot of us are feeling that. I also can defend the traditional Christian position on same-gender sex. But, in conversation with gay friends and acquaintances, I begin to wonder…

  4. My first thought is that it is not a victimless crime. I think God sees most of our sins as crimes against ourselves. That being said, I don’t believe God has deemed me with the right to judge others for their behavior. I’m having much too much trouble watching my own step to worry about whether another stumbles. I do believe He puts me in certain places to catch someone that reaches out for a steadying place.

    We change so much as we mature and my thoughts of a sexual nature have changed a great deal. One of the most profound revelations I have come to at this point in my life is that the thing foremost on peoples mind (sex) throughout the younger and middle aged crowd has disappeared when you reach the golden years. Those decisions based on sexual matters, in hindsight, can be judged on their own merit which for the most part, you’ll find, should never have been considered. Most of the really bad decisions we made in youth dealt with sex or ego. I smile to think God actually took away those vises. Younger people need only look at the seniors to recognize the folly of their thinking.

    It’s just further proof that love-making was creating for reproducing and when you are no longer of child producing age, God just said zap, you can go on your way without that burden to distract you.

  5. I echo Craig’s sentiments. I generally say I am uncomfortably right-of-centre on this issue. I have yet to be convinced that how I have understood scripture is wrong, but there is a part of me that wishes I could be. I had someone in my life that I suspect was gay and she was (and still is) a profound influence on me, and I really can’t believe that she is other than a very godly woman.

  6. If you are accepting comments from the peanut gallery, I think it is great that you are engaging different views in a loving environment. Probably others in the class are also at critical points where they see this issue isn’t black and white.

    Have you engaged with PFLAG? Is there one in your town? Hearing stories and engaging parents and friends of people who are gay is a fascinating (and often heartbreaking) experience that shakes you up. Reminds me of Peter in Acts 10 being told to embrace that which Scripture tells him to avoid…a shaky experience indeed!

    Praying for your courage on this journey!

    • Thanks for the comment. I am always ready to engage in discussion rather than shut down the wrestling and working out of our faith. As our culture continues down its current path it may take as much courage to hold fast to conservative standards as it has in the past to move in more “progressive” directions. In both situations the question becomes, is that the place God calls you to be courageous? Could be there is a harder step to make – either in how you choose to live and witness to the power of God to overcome our human condition (such as one dealing with the issue personally), or how you choose to love and witness to the power of God to work in spite of our human condition (such as one in fellowship with those who deal with the issue). The challenge we face is that both witnesses are valid. God has the power to help us overcome (which is about how we live and not about having a change of desire). God also has the power to use us in spite of our struggles (meaning if one lives out their desire God can still be at work).

  7. It really reaches into our being and asks what we seek. What is the pleasure that we place before the joy of loving God? Essentially, what is our yoke. And He actually shows us, in the long range, it is for naught because its not what you’re going to want for the rest of your life.

    Ultimately, no excuses and no camouflage. He does say to love your brother but He doesn’t say to lead him astray or help him in his error. Love your brother for the love of mankind and that’s not a physical love.

    I believe there is as much sin of heterosexual as homosexual.

  8. Herein lies one of the key points on the issue for me. Richard H’s third paragraph illustrates the point that we are to be IN the world but not OF it. If most of the rest of biblical society accepted and even expected homosexuality, that may be one of the exact reasons why the Bible conveys that we are to abstain from it. Jesus didn’t come to Earth to show everyone how well he could fit in with society, but how doing things differently can be better. If God created sex for a union between man and woman, I have to believe that’s the better. The whole Bible is full of ways that God-followers could contrast the normal society (idol worship, anyone…?).

    I see this as another way to choose not to involve yourself in activities that distract you from God’s will. By no means does this only apply to homosexuality, though— “normal” (loosely worded) people are admonished to actively choose to keep sex within marriage. Some people argue that homosexuals are wired differently and can’t help their feelings- but they can help their actions, the same way Jane Doe and Joe Schmoe can stop themselves from sleeping with each other despite their feelings for each other. Those people who aren’t tempted by extramarital relations, homo- or hetero-sexual? They have other temptations and distractions to actively choose not to pursue. (Gambling, drugs, love of money or material things, love of recognition, laziness, too much activity, insincerity, etc… insert your own trials here) It’s not our job to judge others by what temptations they face; it’s our job to make sure our own temptations don’t lead us to be judged poorly when we meet God.

    I would love to say I don’t judge homosexuals (but that wouldn’t be all true). I see several daily, and once I got over myself, I recognized that they are normal people, just with different choices in their past. Looking at it that way helps me not be as awkward as I might have still been otherwise. What I don’t want to be, though, is the person that gets in their face about their choices and makes them want to choose a life away from God just because of my bad influence. It’s trite, but it’s true- hate the sin, but not the sinner!

    • Kristi – Your comment would seem to be in line with my sense of the fallen-ness of creation and our need for restoration and transformation. I do appreciate the reminder that we all have our own temptations to deal with, so judging others is not our main task. This subject is so many sides and touches so many tangential issues that it’s just not easy to grab hold of.

      I do agree in principle with the “hate the sin” idea, but my greatest heartache lately has been for those who struggle with something in them that others say they hate. How hard it must be to deal with this “orientation” and maybe even begin to hate one’s self because of one’s inability to overcome it. I think that is part of my struggle, actually. How do I phrase this and think about this in a way that communicates love most of all? How do I love those who struggle with such a personal and often times ostracizing issue? As you said, how do I love them and walk with them in a away that doesn’t cause them to choose a life away from God?

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Your thoughts have been helpful.

  9. I guess it all comes down to what I perceive as us picking and choosing our sins. For example, if I was in a relationship right now and having sex outside the bounds of marriage, no one would be picketing outside and calling me names (well, privately a few names) or in the Scripture it says for men not to shave their sideburns, or to get tatoos….I don’t get why this one sin is worse than the others…just accept and move on…and know that we cannot figure out all that in Gods mind, we are too small, insignificant and yes, petty for that….

    • Glenna – I mostly agree. But I will say this – if you were in such a relationship, and it were known, you would not be serving as a pastor or leader in the church. The struggle comes for us today in that many want to say it is not ungodly but quite the opposite – created and acceptable to God. We do not seem to be having the same discussion about sexual relations outside of marriage. You are right, there are many things we do that we shouldn’t. However, we don’t accept them as much as we acknowledge them. We must see ourselves as sinners in need of grace. As Paul says, just because grace always abounds greater than sin, that is no reason to sin even more so that grace abounds even more.

      Thanks for being honest and open and allowing others to do the same – it is a real gift.

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