Most of us believe that we should “love the sinner, but hate the sin” when it comes to our belief about homosexuals. But when it comes to our actions, we are content to handle hating the sin and leave the loving part to someone else.
Perhaps we do nothing because changing homosexuals seems so hard as to be not worth the effort. Those pictures of lewd behavior by gay pride marchers in bizarre costumes don’t help. While agreeing that homosexuals should be freed from their lifestyle, we are not sure what real change should look like or what we can do about it.
Sadly, while everyone else is talking, evangelical and fundamentalist churches are mostly silent. But the price of silence and inaction, already too high, is increasing. Our children are growing up in a culture flooded with conflicting messages, and we are losing credibility with them.
Ministering to homosexuals can seem like a threat or it can be an opportunity. Peter Hubbard, teaching pastor of North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, sees the opportunity. His new book, Love into Light, is a ground-breaking guide that shows churches and individual Christians how to seize our Holy Spirit-arranged opportunity. His church is successfully modeling this fresh and Biblically faithful approach, and their testimonies of finding and giving real hope are generously sprinkled throughout the book.
Think about this. Suppose that one of your friends, maybe an accountability partner, wants to talk with you. Your friend confesses struggling with same-sex attraction. What would you do? Would he even feel safe sharing that?
It’s likely that there are people with same-sex attraction (SSA), in all our churches. What options are open to them? Some give up. Recognizing that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and seeing no way out of their lifestyle, they turn their backs on the church, the Bible and God.
Others are unwilling to abandon their Christian identity. But finding no help in their Biblical community of faith, they turn to one that claims to be Christian but manipulates Scripture to affirm homosexuality. For example, in early 2012 a group was formed which its website calls “an affirming alternative for lgbt+ alumni and students of Bob Jones University.”
We who do not find these alternatives truly compassionate still must face our responsibility. We dare not ignore the terrible tension experienced by those who genuinely want to turn from same-sex attraction but get the message that their sin is “the last train stop to hell.” They could continue to silently struggle, praying for God to take away the desire completely. That sometimes happens, Hubbard acknowledges, but “is not the norm,” just as it is not the norm for the rest of us to be instantly sanctified of our deep-rooted sins. Our silent strugglers will never grow as disciples of Jesus if they do not receive compassionate Biblical help from their community of faith. Our churches will miss a rich experience of God’s grace.
Hubbard address three groups: 1) pastors, that they would talk about SSA “with awareness of our own sin, biblical clarity and with deep compassion for people,” 2) silent SSA strugglers within our churches, that they “would feel loved, and move toward the light of community,” 3) our churches and each of us, that we would “proactively engage our homosexual neighbors with the same love and the same truth that Jesus is offering to us.”
Hubbard has listened to homosexuals and read widely and deeply about homosexuality from a variety of viewpoints. Most of all, he has thought carefully about what the Bible says and what it does not say about homosexuality. While refuting attempts to make the Bible affirm homosexuality, he uses it not to bang on homosexuals, but to correct both the distorted cultural views and the deficient understanding that many Christians have on singleness, marriage, celibacy, and the role of community. He gives hope to Christians struggling against SSA by showing from Scripture that we are not defined by our desires, but by our identity in relationship with Christ. He is suspicious of easy and simplistic answers on the underlying causes and change of same-sex attraction.
Hubbard acknowledges that his book does not answer all crucial questions that will arise as we minister to homosexuals. But it does give us what we need to begin—wisely, compassionately and Spirit-empowered.This book will help every Christian who reads it.
Love into Light is available in print and kindle editions. The companion website takes up where the book leaves off, with ministry suggestions, book reviews, additional testimonies, links and resources, even a “process for pastors” still under development. But Hubbard cautions us not to shunt Christians struggling against same-sex attraction off to the side to be counseled by “the professionals.” Our goal must be to bring them in as full members of our communities of faith, standing with, and like us, repentant and forgiven sinners.