The Church’s Ministry to Homosexuals
Lisa Guinness is Director of the Living Waters Discipleship & Healing Trust within the United Kingdom and is a well-known speaker and author. Living Waters is an international ministry that provides an in-depth, Christ-centered program for people seeking healing in areas of sexual and relational brokenness.
The Church is in turmoil over homosexuality because she has allowed her theology to be questioned by the culture and has allowed those with homosexual struggles to plead a special case when it comes to their loneliness.1 Furthermore, the Church is vulnerable because she lacks confidence in the Cross of Christ to deal with actual sins, wounds, sorrows, shame, guilt, or anger; when she doubts the remedy, there is a conflict of grace versus truth, and the Church becomes open to schism. God’s people must remember that, in Christ, there is always grace to receive and live the truth.
Certain myths have complicated the issue of sexual sin, including homosexuality:
Christians are immune from these issues
There are no logical roots to fallen sexuality
God is unable to redeem us in this area because it seems too complex
All these things are set right at conversion or with deliverance
Or conversely, all these struggles will only go away in heaven, and we must tolerate or manage them until then
The adult expression of our sexuality is genetically determined, so it is grossly unfair of a loving God and Creator to prohibit something over which we have no choice or responsibility
Paul and the Corinthians would certainly not agree with any of them. Their testimony was one of redemption and change.2
The Church is also seriously in denial about the extent of sexual chaos and addiction in the culture—and in the Church. By singling out homosexuality, the Church lapses into hypocrisy and makes matters worse.
Creation and Marriage
We have to start any discussion of gender and then sexuality with creation: In the beginning . . . God made us in His image, male and female—with the desire for intimacy, and as “spirit” needing to live far beyond the realms of just our flesh and instinct. This complementarity became the basis of our investing in a relationship that could proceed on into the covenant of marriage, symbolizing Christ’s love for the Church. We must not attempt to appease the culture by modifying this core truth.
The Comprehensive Nature of Redemption
God does not prohibit anything in His Word, whether slander, greed, adultery, or homosexuality, without giving us the full resources of the Cross with which to face it. The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ reassure us that God understands our situation first hand and has provided a significant redemption for us during this earthly phase of our eternal life. The dynamic nature of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives ensures that nothing within us need be set in stone but can be subject to His comfort, counsel, forgiveness, and cleansing—namely redemption.
The Roots of Homosexual Attraction
One key aspect to homosexual attraction is unmet primal needs. At puberty, these become sexualized with the body’s desiring a sexual answer to a non-sexual need—usually the connection with the same-gender parent. This is not to blame parents, but to acknowledge that we will be one factor in the equation and that even our best efforts will have been fallen.
Many men with a homosexual struggle have experienced a deficit of appropriate male affirmation or touch or connection. This may be actual, through an absent or abusive father—whether physically or emotionally—or perceived by a mismatch of personality or interests or sensibilities causing a subtle detachment by either side so that meaningful connection is missed or avoided. Many will remember a key moment of disappointment or withdrawal and a guarding of their hearts thereafter to avoid further hurt. Once any breach in the relationship occurs, it is difficult for real intimacy to be retrieved. At puberty, these deep longings for connection and input from the same-sex parent become eroticized. Our bodies take these basic non-sexual needs for affection and affirmation and (given the current climate of so much being sexualized) look subconsciously for the answer in a sexual way. It’s like being hungry for food, but instead of eating you switch on the computer or clean the car and then wonder why you are still hungry.
God’s original intention for our fathering included his being delighted in us, as the Father was with Jesus. When this is missing, the mother often detects this lack of relationship between son and father, and she may try to compensate, becoming overly involved. Without the father’s encouragement, it may be difficult for the growing son to appropriately leave his mother, and so he is caught in limbo and does not make a clear journey into his male peer group. This mixture of guilt and need is difficult to navigate and may also make women a less than attractive option.
Another key stage in our sexual development is to take our rightful place in our same-sex peer group. Without clarity and confidence in his masculinity, a teenage boy may find this hard or even impossible, increasing the sense of alienation and inadequacy. If feelings of homosexual attraction then arise, they can cause such confusion that he fails to progress on through to a place of maturity and confidence in his masculinity—and the gay subculture is all too ready to welcome him as a new recruit on the very basis that he feels rejected elsewhere. Sadly, a homosexual experience in early teens can be pleasurable, though confusing, and can be taken mistakenly as evidence of a homosexual identity, supposedly fixed for a lifetime.
The strength of the typical male/female stereotype within the culture will be another difficulty especially where teenagers feel they are found wanting. The pressure of this can be a serious factor in blocking ongoing growth and confidence. And the absence of a rite of passage in Western culture makes it harder for young people to join their adult gender group.
For women the deficit that is felt is often earlier and is experienced as a lack of bonding and security from the mother. This can be due to many factors that are usually unintentional. The need to connect as deeply as possible with another woman, and a vain attempt to meet this need, drives the lesbian attraction. This may also be compounded by an aversion or distrust of men.
There is no good scientific evidence that homosexual attraction is genetically determined and the growing figures on homosexual practice would be more attributable to changes in cultural mores than to biological or genetic causes. Indeed for many people with a homosexual struggle, including Christians, it is a huge relief to know this and not be condemned to such an unfulfilling search for intimacy.
The Healing Journey
There are logical roots to these struggles, and there is the same path to healing and redemption as for any other sinful pattern of behavior—namely, through the Cross. This applies to all apparently intractable problems of sexual sin, whether in practice, in fantasy, or “virtually” as with internet pornography.
The healing journey will involve disclosure, and for many this is difficult as some church leaders are confused about how to receive such a confession. We must be ready to accompany people on a trek. We will need to be ready to listen to their story quietly and in Christ. We will discern their key factors, however insignificant they may feel to us. If they have left a real wound in their soul or left them alienated or despairing, we must validate them and prepare to offer these places to Christ. Any perversion mars God’s true image, and we must quietly release them from any ongoing harassment of the enemy.
As they unpack their lives, in Christ’s presence, they will wonder the following:
Can they know true intimacy with God?
Can He heal their broken heart and hear their cries for grace and mercy?
Can they find words to express the emptiness, confusion, and pain within?
Can these things actually be borne by Christ for them?
Can wounds be healed, sorrows mourned, griefs consoled?
Can they be forgiven?
Can they forgive others?
Can they move into a real acceptance of themselves as someone fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God?
Can they find their true masculinity or femininity and come to express it in a fulfilling and righteous way?
(As we review these truths we are also reviewing them for ourselves!)
The Bible testifies to God’s grace to all of us, whatever version of the Fall is evident in our lives. Our hope is that the Church will increasingly minister the gospel she preaches with the relevance and power that a lost and broken world hardly even knows it needs.