The news media has been flooded with stories of the historic moment of Jason Collins coming out. He has been lauded by presidents and celebrities as a hero, a trailblazer, courageous for letting the sports world know that they too must deal with the reality of same sex attraction in their midst. They can no longer hide it, ignore it, but it is something that must be dealt with. For years the professional athlete’s ethos of machismo and competition at its highest has mocked any in its ranks that had any hint of “gayness”, in fact in the sports world being “gay” is synonymous with having a complete lack of fortitude and lacking any competitive spirit. It is un-sportsmanlike conduct.
So for Jason Collins to “come out” he was essentially challenging the ethos that a person with same sex attraction cannot compete as an athlete and that the two cannot co-exist. Collin’s coming out party signaled that the stigmas and fears associated with being a teammate of someone who has a same sex attraction must be addressed.
I think Collins would agree that the conversation between professional athletes and homosexuality is definitely an uncomfortable one, but in an age of open mindedness is a dialogue that is very necessary. Like the sports world, the church too has had to deal with the question how do we deal with those within who struggle with same sex attraction.
So how does the church deal with homosexuality?
Recently the church has responded in three ways
- ignore those dealing with same sex attraction
- condone and support same sex relationships
- condemn same sex relationships
I believe all of these methods fall short of God’s standard.
One of the aspects that the church needs to work on is how it restores and supports those who deal with same sex attraction. What resources does your church offer to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Are there any support groups? Are there any avenues that those who struggle with that can go to? How will they be treated? Are they ignored?
One of the greatest pains that those struggling with same-sex attraction feel is the loneliness and isolation they go through, for fear that they will be ridiculed, ostracized if they reveal their true feelings. This feeling isn’t however limited to those with same-sex attraction, it is for anyone who has possesses behavioral tendencies that are frowned upon by their environment. No one wants to be marginalized. I feel one of the biggest challenges and failures of the church faces is that we have refused to acknowledge that there are many in our midst that struggle with same sex attraction. Jason Collins grew up attending church, just as many others who have come out or are still in the closet, but we have ignored them. Frankly if many came out in our churches, I’m convinced that many churches would not know how to deal with it.
The church has a unique responsibility to deal with sin, and yet love and walk beside the person who is interested in fighting and dealing with the sin. We must simultaneously label same-sex relationships as something that must be fought against, just as other sins such as pre-marital sex, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction without stigmatizing those who are struggling with it as aliens from another planet.
Too often we see churches go along with culture and tolerate open acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” as loving those with same sex attraction. The problem is not the same-sex attraction, its the engaging in a sexual relationship. We must do a better job of communicating that being attracted to someone of the same sex is not necessarily sinful, but it is the acting out on that attraction that is sin. The church cannot condone nor endorse any sin, for it is sin that separates us from God. It is for sin that Christ died. Paul says it best in Romans 6
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Every Christian deals with sinful habits, its part of our old nature. It comes natural. We are born with it. Just because we are born with sinful tendencies we cannot just give ourselves to them.
So Paul echoes this thought again later on speaking on the death and resurrection of Christ
10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.12 Do not let sin control the way you live;[a] do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
So I cannot love my brother and endorse him to live in sin. That would be committing sabotage to his walk, so for those churches that openly endorse any sin, they are in direct violation of God’s law, and are spitting on the cross.
I’m convinced the church needs to really do a better job of living in Galatians 6. What does Galatians 6 say?
Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
There are many great points in this passage that I don’t have time to deal in depth with. But here are few things to consider.The word translated “caught” here is actually a greek word “prolambano” meaning to learn something by surprise. In other words if you discover someone is having difficulty with sin, maybe something they were trying to hide and you notice, you have a responsibility to them.
- we are charged to restore our brothers
- we are charged to be bear the burdens of our brothers.
- we are charged to do this humbly
- we are charged to examine our own sinfulness
This is meaty right here. Anytime we are in sin, its like a weight. We aren’t meant to carry that weight alone. Any member should know that if at any time they are dealing with something that’s bearing down on them, that there are brothers and sisters who will come alongside them and deal with the issue. They will lovingly help restore them and carry their burdens. Its a shame that there are thousands upon thousands of believers who go around beating themselves up, hiding, putting on masks when they are carrying humungous burdens inside. There are people dealing with porn, dealing with same-sex attraction, with sexual fantasies, things that they are too shameful to share. They are dying under the weight, when Christ has called us to walk along side them in humility.
Every church has a Jason Collins. The Jason Collins is the person who is struggling with porn, and can’t share, the one who is cheating on his wife and doesn’t know where to turn, the person dealing with addiction and no one knows. There’s a freedom sometimes when people are caught, simply because they don’t have to hide any more. So how do we treat the Collins in our midst? Do our churches ignore them, condone them ,simply judge them or look to restore them? Let us all do our part in learning how to create an atmosphere where we welcome and challenge sinners of all sorts.
One way to start is by creating small groups or a safe environment where those struggling with the issue can meet and discuss their challenges. Just as we have Celebrate Recovery for addicts, I believe we need small groups for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
I want to close with something from Paul. Notice how he deals with sin, he acknowledges it, he acknowledges the consequences but he gives hope at the end.
This is Paul from 1 Cor 6:11
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,c 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Church we must communicate this fact, we will never overcome our sin if we always identify ourselves with our sin instead of our identity with Christ. Paul identifies that the church was filled with all kinds of sinners, who probably still “struggled” with some of those same sins, but guess what, If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Whenever your sin starts speaking to you remember this, you were washed, you were sanctified and you were justified, Christ has got your back, church lets pick up the slack.