Three weeks ago, a very unexpected storm came my way that I just didn’t see coming. I landed in the hospital for three days largely due to complications in combating and controlling my HIV. It was the hospital stay and then two weeks at home to fully recover that enabled me to ponder and visit places in my heart that even today flood my soul.
Today, attempts to divert theological arguments regarding homosexuality rather than solve them are widening. Battles over homosexuality in churches have been raging for decades and continue today. Tragically, Sunday after Sunday, men and women gather for worship as though nothing has happened. Caught in the middle of this dark draft are men and women struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. What are they to do? Where are they to go? Who will protect and defend them?
It is beyond tragic that much of the Church has become ensnared and bound by the false belief that in order to be effective in ministering to an individual with same-sex attraction, they must have struggled with same-sex attraction as well. Frankly, for the majority, this has become a matter of convenience to do nothing. Compounding the crisis is the absence of conviction.
One of my absolute all-time favorite movies, directed by Robert Redford, is A River Runs Through It. It is a story about a Presbyterian minister in Montana with two sons. One son most definitely takes a more conventional approach to life while the other is a bit of rascal. The two men take undeniably different paths in life but remain held together by the bond of family unity and respect. Sadly, at the end of the story, the renegade son is shot in a gambling dispute and dies. At the end of the film, the father is preaching. His sermon comes from Scripture and focuses on the often limitations of love. He says, “Often times those we love are the most unwilling or unable to accept our love. We reach out, but what we offer is not accepted. And, so we find that the help we offer is unwanted – but, we can love them all the same. We can love completely, even without complete understanding.”
Caught in the middle of the spiritual vacuum of “say nothing, do nothing” with regard to homosexuality and related issues, is the repentant homosexual that has not only abandoned the sexual sin of homosexual practice, but a whole network of support and an identity as well. Surrendering unconditionally to the Lordship of Christ, they enter Church (many for the first time in their lives) with nothing. God, having brought them to a place of repentance, feel very frightened, vulnerable and very, very alone.
I freely admit that I remain perplexed and deeply troubled by those in the Church that are terrified, if not paralyzed by the gay rights movement, and want to see any further legitimization of homosexuality stopped dead in it’s tracks but remain hesitant and unwilling to offer ministry to those who desire to come out of the behavior. This makes absolutely no sense.
Today, more than ever, we are in need of churches that will not sidestep truth or grace but offer crystal clear truth on a host of issues, including homosexuality, toward every person. Frankly, this is exactly what the Church was called to be from the beginning and it is exactly what people are looking for today. It is a Church just like this that saved my life.
Over these past 28 years of my new life in Christ, I have shared numerous times the heart-wrenching fact that all those I once ran with are now gone. To this day, their names, faces, their laughs, haunt me. I clearly and vividly remember a phone call with my closest and dearest friend just before he passed away with AIDS. He remained in San Francisco long after God had transported me back to Bakersfield in 1985 when and where everything in my life changed. The last thing he said to me over a phone conversation was, “Phillip, we don’t understand what has happened to you, but whatever it is, keep it up.” Indeed, I continue to be haunted by waters.
Many know and understand the importance and significance of reaching the unreached peoples of the world for Christ Jesus. What about the unreached homosexual population? We, the Christian community, have a lot to learn about bringing Jesus to the gays and lesbians who hopefully will one day knock at the doors of our churches. How about, “If you struggle with homosexuality and feel trapped – there is hope! Come on in to Church and investigate the roots and causes of your struggle with homosexuality. We will walk with you as you look past the surface, deep into your heart and consider God’s will for your life.”
It is the clarity of the Holy Scriptures that should compel each and every faithful follower of Christ Jesus to be a light where there is darkness, rather than hiding our witness from those who need it. Today, no one, with integrity, can continue to condemn a behavior or a group of people while doing so very, very little to see things improve.
Listen. Do you hear the waters?