Simon Foster Speaks out | Ministering Christ to the Gay Community
I applaud the faith and courage of the families of those who are praying for loved ones and friends who are in homosexual relationships and to the person who is finding out that their sexuality is a more confusing issue than they first thought. I also write to the many men and women who work through the daily internal conflict these issues often produce. As you read about my journey into God and out of homosexuality, may you grow in your ability to trust God’s power to work in you and in those you love.
Would you allow me to offer these suggestions for ministering effectively to the homosexual community?
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN SEXUAL BROKENNESS FIRST
It is dangerous for someone who is not aware of his or her own sexual brokenness to attempt to preach to others. We are all in need of God’s grace and healing in every area of life including our sexuality. Instead of communicating the message of the love of God, the homosexual individual will only hear our fears and, sadly, our revulsion unless we speak the language of grace, which is truth in the context of love and mercy.
There are great similarities between the fallen nature of heterosexuality and homosexuality. In fact, one is as sinful as the other. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror before we look out the window.
2. REPENT OF HATRED OF HOMOSEXUALS
Society has chosen the word, “homophobia,” which means a “fear of homosexuality” to describe this form of prejudice. It is really a hatred of homosexuals which is rooted in fear as are all other prejudices.
It is human nature, sinful human nature, to ridicule what is different. Ridiculing and demeaning homosexuals-or anyone for that matter actually means that you fear becoming like them, fear their influence and want to raise yourself above them or feel the need to resist them. The Christian who does has difficulty trusting God.
Sometimes Christians overuse the slogan, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.” Homosexuals know that slogan well and despise it because they do not yet see it as a sin, cannot yet separate themselves from it and have identified themselves with it. They cannot understand how Jesus Christ can give someone the ability to love a person and hate sin at the same time. The people we are trying to reach must be convinced that the way of Jesus is the way of the “wounded healer,” not the way of “holy terror.”
3. MINISTER WITH GRACE AND TRUTH
Churches face an awkward dilemma today. Excluding practicing homosexuals from worship and ministry may push them away from Christianity; but including them in church life may send a message that we approve of homosexual practice.
The morally ambiguous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy does not work in a church setting, either. It satisfies neither side and is a cowardly response. It is better for church leaders to clarify from the pulpit that the church is there to minister forgiveness and healing to sexual sins including homosexuality.
The Christian who cannot yet deal with the issues of homosexuality compassionately with grace and truth should stay silent and away from the front lines of ministry and public debate, including the media. The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God; instead, it only fuels prejudice. Christians should be known for the kind of help that characterized the ministry of our Lord. People need to see that you care before you share, that you are a living example of the good news.
4. EDUCATE THE CHURCH. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW HOW TO LIVE GODLY LIVES
They need to know what the Bible has to say about these issues. Churches should make information readily available about local counselling resources and support groups for healing the sexually broken. This information should be as readily available as condoms are outside the church.
The body of Christ is not just a mouth. There are a variety of ways we can express His grace to others offering practical help and support in times of need. Take an interest in others by spending time and money to meet their needs. These expressions of love are not optional for those who seek to live a truly godly lifestyle.
More than anything, people need human companionship. As relationships of trust develop, they may open up to spiritual help; however, if they are never open to spiritual help, love them anyway.
5. UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MORALITY AND TRUTH
Our culture is rapidly moving away from the notion of any absolute truth. People see truth and morality as subject to the changing whims of those in positions of authority and influence. Westerners have usually been taught to value tolerance more highly than truth.
"The gospel is not ultimately about changing laws, but about changing lives".
If Christians are convinced that God has revealed Himself and His way in His Word, we must place limits on this new tolerance in the interest of truth. Truth is not meant to be applauded but to be nailed to crosses. And we had better know what that truth really is not only by knowing the scriptures but also knowing the character and person of God, the word and the spirit of the Bible. The church must understand the big issues competing for the minds and hearts of people
6. DEVOTE MORE OF YOURSELF TO CHANGING PEOPLE RATHER THAN CHANGING POLITICS.
When it comes to moral issues, many believers find it difficult to distinguish their responsibility as believers from their responsibility as citizens. Too many Christians confuse the cause of Christ with the way of Christ. In practical terms, Christians should be wary of public policy debates that are issue-oriented rather than people-oriented.
I have often observed that those who get caught up in the political aspects of a moral debate wind up adopting a “we-they” attitude at the expense of losing humility, tenderness and integrity. This creates a wall between the church and those we want to reach and causes them to react to our politics first rather than to Jesus Christ. While I do not oppose working through the political process to under gird morality, realize that politics has only a limited, temporal effect. The gospel is not ultimately about changing laws, but about changing lives. His Kingdom is not of this world. Jesus said, “If (it) were, my servants would fight.” (John 18:36 KJV)
Recently, I heard a powerful testimony from an elderly woman who had joined her husband, a psychiatrist, in a lifetime of service to his clients by opening their home to them.
“The kitchen must be the center of love,” she said, “for Jesus is known in the breaking of the bread.”
Those are convicting words for those of us who perceive open homes, unhurried conversation, and table fellowship as nostalgic elements of another generation of Christians. What good is it to march off to fight in the culture war, but on the way, pass by the poor man, Lazarus, at our gate?