Part of our Christian calling is to love and help other sinners. If people in our congregations admit their sins to us, would we push them away or love and support them as the overcome their sin?
As I write this article I’m flying over the beautiful plains of the western United States. One of the flight attendants appears and has mannerisms that make me wonder if he’s homosexual. It’s not my first time encountering someone who I knew or thought might be homosexual. In fact in my life I’ve worked with and been friends with several men who have struggled with this. Sometimes I’ve wondered if God hasn’t had some purpose in my knowing these men. While thinking on these things, I thought of a different angle I’d like to share in this article.
I think we all realize the Church has a responsibility to cry aloud, spare not and tell people of their sins; our society embraces sin more and more every day. With the subject of gay marriage so much a part of our national discourse, it’s right for us to take a stand against it in our preaching. We know that God created the institution of marriage to be between one man and one woman, and we should stand up for godly values whenever we have the opportunity. God is against gay marriage, and so should we be.
However, in addition for standing up for godly values, I’d like to ask you to consider another Christian responsibility: how to love and help other sinners, no matter what sin they may struggle with. Believe it or not, we have men and women in the Church who struggle with homosexuality. I’ve talked to multiple men in our Church who struggle with this challenge. I also recently heard of a young man who committed suicide who attended the United Church of God. He was also struggling with homosexuality. How incredibly sad it is whenever anyone feels they can’t go on living. You also can’t help but wonder in those situations if it could have been avoided if the person would have gotten the right kind of help.
We’ve all heard the saying “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” We shouldn’t look down upon people struggling with sin, as if from a position of self-righteousness. Jesus died to atone for the sins of everybody—ours included (Romans:5:8; compare Matthew:9:12-13). Just as our friends and brethren in the Church support us as we strive to overcome, so it should be in the Church for those who struggle with homosexuality. We should give the same love and support for them that we would give to someone struggling with something like alcohol addiction. The Church should be a place where everyone can discuss their challenges without being looked down upon. We should do whatever we can to support anyone who shares their struggles with us. If someone shares that they struggle with homosexual feelings, you might be inclined to avoid them, as you may even fear they are having feelings for you. But pushing them away is the last thing that they need or that God wants you to do. Know that they didn’t choose to be attracted to people of the same sex. Research shows that same-sex attraction typically develops very early in childhood development (see “Hope for Homosexuals ,” The Good News , Sept.-Oct. 2003).
Those who struggle with same-sex attraction need to feel welcome in our Church if God is calling them. We can let them share with us, we can pray for them, we can befriend them, and we can let them know that we don’t condemn them or look down on them.
Without condoning any sin, let’s make sure we don’t have a double standard in this area. We don’t avoid or shun people struggling with sins involving the opposite sex like pornography and lust. Neither do we condone it. We give each other help and support. Some homosexual men even ask others to be accountability partners with them to mutually share their struggles and to hold each other accountable to God’s commands.
We should have the same standard for those struggling with homosexuality as well. We can love, support, encourage, pray for, and befriend those struggling with homosexuality as well. And yes, we can do this without condoning homosexual activity.
If someone does have the courage to share their struggles with you, will you stand up and take on the challenge to help them? I hope the answer is yes.
I hope that our congregations will become a place where more people will feel comfortable sharing their struggles with one another. The apostle James said that we should be willing to “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James:5:16, King James Version). We are not a Church full of perfect people. In fact, it’s just the opposite, isn’t it? Let’s help each other in our individual walks with God, to encourage one another and be there for one another, no matter what challenges anyone shares with us. Along with standing up for godly values, this too is our Christian responsibility.