Youth Culture Window
Will and Grace, the state of Massachusetts allowing same sex marriages, Rosie O'Donnel's wedding ... let's face it, homosexuality is in the limelight. Our students are asking about it ... or worse yet, they aren't because they've already formed their opinions.
How do we address it?
You're not alone. I recently received this email:
Dear Jonathan, How do you approach homosexuality with teens who are active in this lifestyle and who believe they were born this way, mostly young women. It's sad to say it is becoming a trend here. Please Pray for us and give us some insight on how to approach these young people in love. Thank you for allowing yourself to be used to help so many people.
- Naomi, Atlanta Georgia
The most important truth we must realize about this issue is that two issues exist:
1. Whether it is okay to be gay or not.
2. Our (Christians) reaction to homosexuals.
Unfortunately number two has begun to interfere with number one. Here's why: As Christians, we have failed miserably in area number two. We have been so unloving ... dare I say hateful, that we have created a distance between the gay community and the Christian church.
Ironically, some of the church has gone about fixing number two by changing our stance on number one, when that isn't the answer at all.
So what's the answer?
Glad you asked.
Whenever I deal with this issue, I start with issue number two, our response to homosexuals.
When I was a kid I used to sing a camp song around the campfire with the words, "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love ..." If only those words were true. Unfortunately, if the secular world were to fill in the appropriate lyrics based on their perception of many of us, that song might sing, "And they'll know we are Christians by our condescending attitude, by our red angry faces and clenched fists ..."
I find it funny how many Christians think that it's our job to condemn unbelievers. Some of us take passages about "rebuking and correcting" and assume that those verses must be referring to the sinner. And not the normal sinner who cheats on his taxes, speeds on the freeway or peeks at naughty web sites every once in a while ... the really bad ones like homosexuals! Yes, it must be our job to correct them. After all, we saw Jesus consistantly confronting the Romans for their ... well ... I'm sure he probably did confront them ... Okay, okay! It's not in the Bible. But we saw him get angry and turn over tables! So he must have done that to people that were going to have an abortion and he must have condemned people that were gay and ...
Sorry. Check your Bible. If Jesus was mad or angry, it was at people in the church who thought that their religion was good enough. And more importantly, if Jesus was showing compassion and grace, it was usually to the worst of sinners: the adulterers, the tax collecters, the prostitutes. Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. (see John 3:17)
We need to focus on the example of Jesus. We need to love others and follow Jesus' example in loving the sinner. Our reaction to the gay community should probably be the same as Jesus' reaction to the sinners of the day. "Love and Grace." (For more reading about this I encourage you to read Yancy's book, "What's so Amazing About Grace." He tackles the issue of grace well. CLICK HERE FOR THAT BOOK)
After dealing with our response, then I move on to issue number one, whether it is okay to be gay or not.
IS GAY OKAY
Before talking about "gay," we must first take a peek at "okay." Statistics vary slightly, but most agree that somewhere between 85 and 93% of teenagers today beleive that truth is relative. In other words, only about 10 percent of kids believe that there actually is a right and wrong. The rest believe "whatever is right for you must be right." That fact makes it more difficult to talk with students today about what is right, because their response just might be, "Right according to who?" (We address this in detail in our "Understanding and Reaching the Unchurched" Training Event. CLICK HERE)
The standard I use is the Bible. Yes, I feel the Bible is clear that homosexuality is wrong. I'm not going to spend time in this article talking about it, feel free to check out the following resources for furthur reading about it:
The online article "A Synopsis of John Stott's Booklet, Same-Sex Partnerships?"
The book "Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy," by Marva J. Dawn
The book "Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality," by Stanley J.
Grenz (CLICK HERE)
The Bible makes a case against homosexuality just as it does heterosexual sin. And how quickly we, as Christians, forget that. I'll never forget a guy I knew who was so against homosexuality, he would picket gay events with a group of "loving Christians." Yet, this guy's own room-mate would sleep with his girlfriend every weekend. I asked him why he wasn't picketing his room-mate's sin. (Personally, I think we should just put down the picket sign all together.)
But homosexuality is wrong. It's not God's plan. It's not the way He designed it. Health issues testify to this fact. Yet students today are growing up hearing that it's okay to be gay and that it's "natural." "They can't help it."
I explain it like this: Sometimes people make me mad on the freeway. They cut me off. I feel mad. I can't help it, it's like I'm made that way. I just want to kill people that cut me off. Is that so wrong!
Or, heaven forbid, what if I like little girls. I mean ... what if I was sexually attracted to 5 or 6 year old girls. I can't help it ... I just am! (I assure you- I'm not). Sick, huh?
Or what if I'm really attracted to women other than my wife. I can't help it ... when I'm walking down the mall I just see beautiful women and I want them! It can't be wrong when it feels so right!
I think that's where we've gone with homosexuality. People really might have these desires ... but it doesn't make them "natural" and undeniably right.
When dealing with this issue, I use scriptures to talk about God's plan for marriage, a man and a woman. When we go outside of that, pain results.
This is actually a great opportunity to present the Gospel.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE
- God loves us and wants a relationship with us.
- But we try things our own way- that's sin. That messes up our relationship with God.
- Jesus has forgiven us for our sin and taken punishment for that sin on the cross.
- If we believe in Him, believe that His way is best, believe His way of purity, and turn our actions over to Him, then He'll forgive us and start cleaning up our lives. Our relationship with God is restored through Jesus.
Our reaction to the gay issue is an opportunity for us to shine for Christ. Dr. C. Everett Koop exemplified this to us when he served as the Surgeon General of the United States. Phil Yancey writes about this in his book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?"
In his role as "the nations' doctor," Koop visited AIDS patients. Their bodies skeletal, emaciated, and covered with purplish sores, he began to feel for them a deep compassion, both as a doctor and as a Christian. He had vowed to look out for the weak and disenfranchised, and there was no more weak or disenfranchised group in the nation.
For seven weeks Koop addressed only religious groups, including Jerry Falwell's church, the National Religious Broadcasters' convention, conservative groups within Judaism, and Roman Catholics. In those addresses, delivered in full Public Health Service uniform, Koop affirmed the need for abstinence and monogamous marriage. But he added, "I am the Surgeon General of the heterosexuals and the homosexuals, of the young and the old, of the moral and the immoral." He admonished fellow Christians, "You may hate the sin, but you are to love the sinner."
Koop always expressed his personal abhorrence of sexual promiscuity - consistently he used the word "sodomy" when referring to homosexual acts - but as Surgeon General he lobbied on homosexuals' behalf and cared for them. Koop could hardly believe it when he spoke to twelve thousand gay people in Boston and they chanted, Koop! Koop! Koop! Koop! "They give unbelievable support-in spite of what I say about their practices. I guess it's because I'm the person who came out and said, "I'm the Surgeon General of all the people and I'll meet them where they are. In addition, I've asked for compassion for them, and for volunteers to go and care for them." Koop never compromised his beliefs-even now he persists in using the emotionally charged word "sodomy" - but no evangelical Christian gets a warmer reception among homosexuals.
First, we need to show love and grace. This will be a testimony to the hope that is within us. And as 1 Peter 3:15-18 says, when they see the "hope" that is within us, they may ask us to give a "reason" for that hope. When they ask us for the reason for our hope, we need to be prepared to give an answer.
Unfortunately, too many of us want to blurt out the answer when people aren't even asking. And why should they ask ... they don't see the hope within us. No hope, no ask. That's why we always gotta have the hope!
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Readers Responses to Homosexuality Article
In the last two weeks we have received some interesting responses to our last EZINE's article "Homosexuality: Dividing the Issues." (CLICK HERE FOR THAT ARTICLE) Below is a sampling of responses:
About a year ago I wrestled with my attitude toward homosexuals. Then something happened. At the annual National Southern Baptist Convention last year I was on my way to dinner with my students when we came upon some homosexuals that were protesting the Southern Baptist stance on the issue. One of my students started to become a bit hostile and I told him to calm down and just listen to what they have to say. We listened and then discussed it over dinner. On the way back another one of my students said that maybe we should ask the young homosexual protestor how our youth ministry could appropriately help homosexuals feel accepted and loved inside the walls of our church. He offered some good suggestions and thanked us for being willing to talk. Two weeks later one of my students who was there came to my office and said that they were a homosexual. This person said that the only reason they felt like they could talk to me is because they saw how I responded to the protestors. WOW! What a lesson I learned that day. Homosexual students are a reality and how we approach homosexuals and the issue in general will determine how effective our ministries are at bringing homosexuals closer to Jesus. -a Youth minister-
This is in regards to the article on "is Gay o.k." I find it pretty funny that you actually feel that loving someone is a sin. You cannot chose who you love. So if you have no controle over who you will fall in love with than how could that be a sin? and I know what you are thinking this poor soul is on the side of the gay sinners, I should pray for him. well thats fine pray for me, and in the meantime I will be wishing cancer on you......in the head.....yes head cancer. -Alex-
Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated what you had to say in your article. I have been trying to teach my youth that I don't hate them because they choose to live this type of lifestyle, that I only hate the lifestyle. I am finding it hard to get them to believe me when I am telling them this though because of other Christians who have hated them because of their lifestyle. I am really interested in reading the book you recommended, "What's so Amazing About Grace". It sounds like a really good book to pick up. So thanks. -Christy-
Have you ever tried to reason with people in the "activist homosexual" community? Have you ever been involved in testifying in a City Council meeting or State Representative's or Senate hearing room trying to present Biblical truth, Biblical principles or just basic healthcare principles to the secular mind on this issue? Based on your article, I think you should try it sometime if you haven't. That's where your "love" for sinners and dependence on God's Holy Spirit will be tested in a crucible hotter than you can imagine.
I'm involved in outreach via legislation to folks here in the Pacific Northwest and have been for 14 years. We live here in the County seat and the State Capital as well. I'm a veteran youthworker of 24 years and I've been around the block. The homosexual agenda is far reaching in its scope and has attracted many participants who have alterior motives and strategies as well. Some are using this movement and issue to further their destructive plans against the freedoms we have as Americans. Our freedom and Constitutional right to speak out against the homosexual activity (or any other form of sexual deviancy) is in jeopardy... I appreciate your article, its very timely. I would add some further insights from me and others who've gone the extra mile on this issue if possible. -Scott-
I just wanted to drop a thought in regards to your online article about homosexuality. You answered the question about "Is gay OK?" by referring to the biblical condemnations of same-sex sexual intimacy, without recognizing the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, and editorial choice that I believe could be potentially harmful for your readers and those they minister to. For many in our society, the term "gay" refers not so much to a behavior, but to an orientation, what some would call same-sex attraction. Too often as evangelicals we fail to draw the distinction between same-sex attraction, lust, and same-sex romantic or sexual intimacy. This is an important disctinction to draw. The scientific community is divided about the causes of same-sex attraction, the tendency to find individuals of the same sex as sexually attractive. Individuals with same-sex attraction have, by definition, an orientation that is homosexual and thus, under some definitions, are gay or lesbian. This is an important and overlooked distinction in your article, because the Bible clearly condemns "active" homosexuality (both in the sense of active, same-sex romantic and sexual intimacy and in the sense of lusting after individuals of the same sex) throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yet, nowhere does the Scripture clearly condemn individuals for a basic attraction to individuals of the same sex, which by definition, is what the homosexual or gay orientation is. Thus it fails to condemn people for being gay or homosexual in the sense of orientation, if they do not allow their orientation to lead them into sins of lust or sexual intimacy. It is commonly recognized in evangelical circles that there is a clear distinction between attraction and lust in heterosexuals, and the same ought to be true for same-sex attraction. I am writing this just to challenge you to recognize the distinctions here, as well as the error in loosely throwing around terms like "gay" and "homosexual" without clarifying terminology. -Micah-
Good article addressing homosexuality, especial at a time with the gay marriage issue is in the forefront of American news. Glad you also addressed the issue of heterosexual sin. I have belived that the church at large has come down hard on homosexual sin and largely ignored heterosexual sin, which is more prevalent in today's society that homosexual sin. The church at large gives a big stamp of approval by marrying couples who live together without repentance and a time of separation. It is much easier to ignore the sin in ones own camp than that of another's. Why doesn't the church complain as loudly about the blatant heterosexual scenes on TV & movies as it does homosexuality? Thanks for your newsletter. You're doing a great job and appreciate you touching on the sensitive issues in our children's lives. -Sherry-
Your article couldn't have been better timed. We got into a discussion on homosexuality at our youth group last week. The kids had very strong opinions about whether it was right or wrong and wanted to know what the Bible said. And, there was the expected debate about whether people are born with a genetic disposition to be gay or whether it's a choice based on environment. We hadn't seen your article yet, but fortunately our instincts were right. We said that homosexuality was not the type of relationship that God intended for his creation, but we didn't belabor the point. We mostly talked about your point #2- love and accept everyone, as Jesus would have done. -Kristin-
Thanks for your article about homosexuality. I have been a Christian for about 30 years now. (I'm really not that old....I was saved at age 8.) But over the years, I have found many of my "Christian" friends have a great hatred for gay people. They talk about them as though they are the "condemned to hell people", as if they are not worth saving. I get my hair done at a salon owned by two gay men that are partners. When other Christians found this out they were like, "How can you go there? They're gay!" But I go to that salon because he does a good job cutting my hair and I want to show him that I care about where he goes when he dies. I agree picketing should stop and loving should start. We need to break out of our comfort zone and be real examples of Christ to everyone, there are no exceptions. -Jane-
Thanks for writting this article. I have noticed that very few youth leaders are talking about it. We have to face the issue on a regular basis because our school system is now ADVOCATING and CELEBRTING same sex relationships. I agree with your statement about the poor behavior and reaction from Christians, however I don't think you understand where and how fast things are progressing. 6 yrs ago - Students must be TOLERANT. 5 yrs ago - Students must PERSONALLY ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALS. This is still called tolerance but the "new definition" implies that allowing someone the freedom to act out what is right for them is not enough, now you have to personally commend and approve of their behavior. Anyone not supportive is a hateful biggot, homophobe. 3 yrs ago - "our" School district hires a staff member who's sole job is "GAY ADVOCATE". This member goes from school to school teaching that being gay is noble and good. Her responsibility is to quickly punish anyone who would dare suggest that this lifestyle is un-healthy. I have students who stand up for their faith and get shred to peices - Where are their state funded advocates? 2 yrs ago - mandatory school assemblys went through our district. They came under the heading of "Celebrate Diversity Day". It should of been intitled "gay recruitment day" as there were homosexual speakers who encouraged homosexual behavior, sharred their stories, and shammed anyone who would differ.
My spirit is not hateful but rather redemptive. See sometimes "love" is pointing out sin. Imagine if you told a student to stop using drugs, and he accused you of being hateful and bigoted. I would assume your intentions we're just the opposite - you love him to much to see him hurt himself like that. Same reason I spank my 3 year old when she dissobeys. I love her to much to see her grow up to be a fool. Facilitating sin never brings fulfillment, but rather a downward spiral toward heartache, perversion, disease, destruction, and death. -Jess-
Thank you so much for finally giving me some practical examples to use when trying to minister to our teens about homosexuality other than the same old "God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve"!! This article and the resources you recommended have made the issue so much clearer to me personally and have given me an easier explanation for why homosexuality is not intended by God. -Carolyn-
What a great response to the question of Homosexuality. You have obviously put a lot of thought and prayer into your answer, thank you for speaking a Godly voice into this culturally relevant issue. A year and a half ago I left a wonderful youth pastor position to work for Exodus International. www.exodus-international.org Our mission statement is "proclaiming to, educating and impacting the world with the biblical truth that freedom from homosexuality is possible when Jesus is Lord of one's life". We offer resources for parents, pastors, homosexual strugglers and their friends and family in addition to a network of over 130 ministries, therapists and counselors throughout the U.S. & Canada that deal solely with the topic of homosexuality. -Tim-
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