Answers to "Ask Mike"
9. Would a person wrestling with homosexual temptations and tendencies be accepted in the Christian Church?
This question came from a young man facing same sex temptations. His letter reflected the pain and hurt of rejection, actual and potential. Although recognizing the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, he admitted a need for acceptance, encouragement, and understanding as he dealt with this temptation. In a congregation the size of First Christian Church, there are undoubtedly others facing the same issue. Furthermore, there are silent families trying to handle the heartbreak of watching a child or relative reject biblical values or reinterpret Scripture to justify homosexual conduct.
I would like the think that someone wrestling with homosexuality would be as accepted as an adulterer, thief, or gossip who repents and seeks to overcome their besetting sin. At the same time, many Christians find homosexuality especially reprehensible because it seems to affect one's identity, outlook, and perspective on life. Some seeking to overcome homosexual desires pray for God to remove them, seek help in spiritual counselors, or seek answers in faith healers or exorcists. When nothing works, they conclude God has "made them that way" and begin the process of rejecting believers who condemn the behavior assuming that they will be personally judged as well.
I have found that while rejection does occur, many Christians accept the individual while seeking ways to help him or her overcome the temptation. Joe Miller, who has since died of AIDS, found this to be true of a congregation in Cincinnati. Joe left a denominational ministry along with a wife and children for an alternative lifestyle. He found it a destructive lifestyle and renounced it repenting of his sin and returning to Christ. In the congregation he attended, he found both acceptance and rejection just as would anyone returning from a life of sin. He married a fine Christian woman who knew his weaknesses and tried to serve God to the best of his ability. Just like any of us, he continued to face temptation. Satan never stops his assault.
Would I counsel someone trying to overcome any sinful tendency to announce their struggle to everyone? No. I counsel every believer to become part of a small group, perhaps an accountability group. While it takes time, such a group, when the members are honest with each other, learns to trust each other and to bear one another's burdens. Develop non-sexual relationships with others, allow those relationships to mature and deepen. Then, when the time is right, share your burdens, your temptations, and your fears. Once in awhile, you will learn that your trust is ill-founded. That can happen in anything. In most cases, you will find acceptance, concern, and a willingness to help. The very fact that you have shared can give you new freedom. Believe me, "your secret is your sickness." The longer you keep all your struggles secret, the more ingrained the sin becomes. Do this before you succumb to the temptation if at all possible. Once you engage in sinful behavior, it becomes harder to reject it, to repent of it, and to leave it behind.
Just remember, God never permits you to face a hurt or temptation he cannot use. Provided you handle your temptations positively, God may use your experiences to help others dealing with the same struggle. Remember, too, that no believer is perfect. We all struggle with our weaknesses, our prejudices, and our fears. All too often, we need the same grace and acceptance from you that you want from us.
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