Bearing the Homosexual’s Burden

Why is homosexuality different than so many other sins?

Let me be clear. I know avowed gay people. There are some in my family. If you claim that identity, then I love and would like to get to know you. I’d give you a hug if you let me, and I’d wash your feet if I had some water and a bowl. If there’s no bowl, maybe a cup or a water bottle.

But when homosexuality comes up, it gets a different treatment than many other sins. Some sins have a kind of tolerance about them. If a child strikes another child without reason, it’s not that bad. If you say an unkind word to your wife or don’t spend enough time with your children, it’s bad, but not that bad. Even stealing is not so bad, as Solomon admitted, at least a thief who steals for food will not be despised.

Homosexuality is not the only one treated differently. Murder, adultery, rape, probably one or two others, depending on who’s speaking. Did Yeshua die on the cross for every kind of sin or only the big or small ones? He died for all, but one, and I think that one might just be because it is beyond the possibility of repentance. So any sin makes us equally guilty, but there were some sins that were worse than others in God’s sight. For example, when Israel was judged for her sins, four specific ones come up repeatedly: oppressing the poor, adultery, murder, and idol worship. I’m pretty sure if there were those going on, people probably were neglecting things like fringes on their garment, kosher diet, and mixing up their crops too, but those weren’t the given reasons for judgment. Some are more offensive to God than others.

But, I’m more speaking of the way we deal with them down here. I think if you look at those that are ‘not so bad’, there is a sense of justification because we understand ‘why’ it happened. A guy cheats on his wife, that’s bad, we look down on him. But if it turns out that his wife was cold as ice, mean-spirited, and abusive—without justifying the betrayal—some might blame her as well. After all, well-meaning brothers and sisters say things like “take care of your man or someone else will”.

It comes back to bearing one another’s burdens, which is a function of loving your neighbor. Is the unloving wife to blame for her husband’s affair? No. But she is to blame for being unloving. Love looks at what is good for the other person first, and that means personal investment, personal giving in many and all ways.

So rightly we tell women, to meet their husband’s sexual needs. Rightly, we tell children not to annoy each other. Rightly, we tell parents to train their children in the faith. Not that neglecting those things justifies adultery, or violent children, or children leaving the faith, but we teach them because we all have burdens in life and love is helping each other bear them.

So when we get to big sins, we think about people’s burdens in most cases. Men and women, be affectionate to each other so that it is easier not to stray. Give to the poor, so they will have less temptation to steal. Don’t drink in front of a struggling alcoholic. Don’t flaunt your body in front of someone who is struggling with sexual temptation.

But I never hear this come up with homosexual sin. I hear lots of talk against legalizing gay marriage. And I hear the truth being spoken that homosexual acts (as distinguished from temptation/feelings) is sin. But where is the questioning of how we help the ones struggling not to commit such acts? Where is the love that asks, “What is your burden that pushes you to this?”

As in all cases, the sinner is responsible for their own sin, but in a struggling marriage, God’s people rally to help that couple up. Why not this one before it bears fruit?

Let me put it this way. It is hard for a man to admit to other men, that he is tempted by women other than his wife. It’s a shameful weakness. But it happens, and there’s a pretty broad dialogue of support for such men. But how many times have you heard someone say, “I’m tempted with feelings for other boys? Or other girls?”

People are having those feelings. Why aren’t we hearing them? It’s the enemy’s work of course. On one side, we have supposed Christians praising them for their lifestyle, thinking that it is somehow Christ-like not to convict of sin, even though Christ himself said he came to convict the world of sin so that there could be remission of sin.

On another side, you have supposed Christians who truly are afraid of homosexuality. Perhaps, talking about it will “put the idea” into someone’s head. All the church needs to know is that it is sin.

And then there’s the confused or apathetic. Well, God says it’s sin . . . but science says it’s the way God made them . . .  I don’t know what ‘science’, but I’m told it’s there by enough people so it must be true. And even though, heterosexuals have an even longer established tradition of desiring members of the opposite sex, and we expect them to control those passions into a faithful monogamous relationship . . . somehow it would be beyond God’s power to control homosexual passions. It must be an ignorant thing to try and fix a gay person. Just tell them that its wrong until you meet one that is and then just drop the subject and give them up for lost.

I think, we should be bold enough to sit down with the Man at the Well, and talk about the five guys he’s had, and offer him Messiah’s water the same as anyone else. But more importantly, we need to talk about it before it happens so that it is easier for it not to happen.

Do I think gays can be fixed?

I reject the terminology. It implies already an extra gap beyond all other sins. Let me put it this way. Everyone without Messiah is going to burn in hell. There is no larger gap than that, but we don’t talk about fixing them. We talk about loving them and witnessing to them. Second, it implies it is our work to do. That there’s a formula that we can do to make them straight. As if being straight is the goal.

The goal is to make disciples of Messiah. Homosexuality is not a problem because it is distasteful, that truly is bigoted. It is a problem because Messiah came that there might be remission of sin, not acceptance of it as an alternative lifestyle.

I don’t think gays can be fixed by therapy.

I think they can be healed by God.

The hold of sin can be broken by the power of God as surely as he can brake anything that sets itself in opposition to him. But the result is God’s work and in the meantime, we work it with him. And to do that we have to enter the life of the gay person. We have to understand them and have compassion with them the same as we would any sin. Yeshua knew about the woman at the well’s five husbands. He knew that was a problem, but the heart of his message was her thirst. Her need. Her burden.

What is the burden of the person tempted to homosexuality? Or already in it?

I may surprise you, but I do not deny that some men and women have actual, real feelings for members of the same sex. I don’t deny at all that there are some men who feel attracted to other men.

But I do believe those feelings are misunderstood.

If you’re gay, that might offend you. How dare I judge another person’s feelings?

But are you offended because you believe that feelings are unchangeable and therefore to love yourself you have to accept those feelings? I understand that. You feel trapped.

Many affirm that feeling (even people who are struggling with others things that you would probably call sin: alcoholism, a pattern of domestic abuse, pornography). No one would choose to be gay, many say, because of the way they are treated. Even many gays struggle, wanting not to come out of the closet, because they themselves see their own feelings as abnormal.

But then, what does the gay person say to the former gay? You either have to accept that they changed themselves, that God changed them (if you also claim to be a follower of Messiah), that they were never really gay, or that they are still gay and living in denial.

If they can change themselves, then you had to admit that you can as well unless you are somehow inferior. If God changed them, then since he is the one who says that it is sin, then he must be able to change you as well. If you say they were not really gay, then you have to admit that some people would choose to be gay even if they really are not. And lastly, if you say they are simply denying their true nature, then you are judging their feelings: a straight person can’t judge the validity of a gay person’s feelings, but a gay person can judge the feelings of everyone else?

Yes, God can heal a person of their real gay feelings, and he does give the power to overcome the temptation to act on those feelings.

But we as Messiah’s hands and feet, have to be willing to meet those feelings. And I think we need to have more discussion about that. What does the disciple struggling with homosexuality need? Yes, I am talking about the disciple. Those that are without, have no power to change, what they need most is not to become straight; what they need most is faith in God. God will do everything else.

I admit most of my thoughts are anecdotal so far as the rubber meets the road. I simply don’t have many gay people in my immediate circle. I know some, but we’re not in the same circles to get to know each other much. I’m trying to develop a couple opportunities to change that, but it’s not my reality yet.

But that’s one of the reasons, I think we need to have that discussion because we don’t seem to see gay people until they “come out”. We need to recognize the burdens so that we can see it before they’ve already decided to identify with sin, just as we look to help marriages before they are wounded by infidelity.

So what is the burden? I can wonder about it. Doing some spiritual reverse engineering, when a man stumbles into an affair, there are plenty of stories about how the new woman seemed to meet a need lacking in his home (real or imagined). The guy falls for the girl at his office, because she ‘gets’ him. Respects his work. Of course, she doesn’t see him when he lets his guard down, nor vice-a-versa. But the point is, he doesn’t feel he is respected and known and appreciated at home. Not blaming, just observing what might be his burden.

Likewise, the teenage girl who early on gets into trouble with troubling boys, often seems to happen in a family environment where she feels neglected by her father. Perhaps even abused.

In both cases, the temptation is strongest in an area where there is a legitimate need not being met. So, if a man finds himself attracted to other men, is that pointing to a need for male to male affection? I can identify with that. Sometimes, I just want to touch another man. I want to be embraced by someone with strength like mine. It’s different when a woman hugs a man, at least for me, she feels like someone to protect because she is weaker than me. There’s something to be said for being hugged by someone stronger. I know growing up, I don’t have a lot of memories of affection from my Dad. Despite his efforts, even now hugs are awkward. And in that awkwardness, I sense still that I want it. I want to have affection showered on me, but that it be natural and heartfelt.

In the life of our son, I have made it a point for this reason to be very affectionate with him. I want to hug him and kiss him, until he’s full of it.

So taking that back to the gay man or gay woman. I admit there’s a part of me that would feel awkward hugging a gay man in the same way, I might feel awkward hugging a woman who might be attracted to me? But maybe that’s exactly what a gay man needs? To be shown loving affection from a man, that’s not sexual. Just as with that troubled teenage girl, the answer is not that she needs less affection, but that she needs the right affection.

Another thing, I glean from the stereotypes, is that gay people seem to be more in touch with what is stereotypically seen as behavior of the opposite gender. I knew a girl in the Marine Corps. Beautiful young woman, but she had kind of a ‘boyish’ manner about her. I mean besides being a Marine. She was definitely trouble though. On one occasion, I had a dry erase board magnetically attached to my bunk. On it I had a list of names to pray for. She found it, and added her name. I wish, I’d made the choice then to really enter into her life, and do more than pray.

I’ve also met of course guys who were interested in ‘girly’ things like fashion or art or dance.

And I wonder about the power of words. I myself am a writer. And I’m probably one of the most emotional men I know. I cried in front of people more times that I cared to count in my growing up. Even in the Marine Corps, my emotions got the better of me. I’ve cried even more since then. After, Asher died, tears flowed all over the place. I had a hard time getting through a Pixar movie, or anything with kids in it. If anything, I’m more emotional. And in a lot of ways I’m glad, because I’m more at peace with it. I used to let anger come out sure, but tears? I think I’ve grown enough to see that tears don’t come because you’re weak (though sometimes they do), they often come because you care.

But what of the man who doesn’t realize growing up that tears are not a weakness? Or the girl that being tough and liking dirt and liking hanging out with the boys doesn’t make her less feminine?

If I had been called queer because I actually got something out of Anne of Green Gables or that I can enjoy Pride and Prejudice, would I have been tempted to be gay? Or what if looking at Michaelangelo’s Adam of the Sistene Chapel, a man sees beauty in the naked form of another man? If there are real feelings, and they can be misdirected, then certainly having people label what seems important to you as homosexual, could add to the confusion.

As I think about this issue, I am more and more convinced that many are probably gay because we have not loved them enough. We have to stop waiting until it is “too late” (though it is never too late, by the grace of God) to intervene. Stop reacting by either condoning what God called sin from beginning to end, and stop condemning those who are in the world as if they are more condemned than anyone else, and stop interacting with homosexuals only to tell them they are wrong.

And let us not treat repentance like it’s flipping a switch. I’m not claiming, you can just not struggle with homosexuality the next day. Just as I won’t tell someone in a hard marriage, that it will be alright tomorrow. Or that a person who has trouble with sexuality even in the context of marriage, will just wake up fine the next morning. Some wounds go deep, and we don’t know why God allows them or when he’ll make them right.

But in all cases, take that pain or that need to God. I’m right there with you, taking my own burdens to him. My own why-haven’t-you-fixed-this-yet? There are days that I wonder how many years I’ll have to live. I ask him constantly why he lets the hardships in my marriage continue? Why I couldn’t just live a normal life? Why he took my first born son and left me wondering if it was my fault? Why I’ve gone through my life feeling of no respect and cheated? Why I can’t look at one tangible accomplishment and really feel pride in it?

But I keep going by faith, because I believe that in my hardship, my obedience becames more pure. When I persevere especially when it hurts and leaves me aching, I know I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for him. I see now that he changes me more in my struggle than in my leisure. And with those struggles, he keeps bringing back to me that I am not forgotten. The years of frustration are not the end. And if I trust who he says he is, then I know he will make it all right. He will heal those wounds.

We must offer everyone, even the disciple struggling with homosexuality, this hope. That the thirst will be quenched. That springs of living water will follow. That we will find rest.

Do they have to change? The same as any sinner, including me, yes. But let us bear one another’s burdens, even the homosexual’s.

I encourage your thoughts.

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