Hope for Homosexuals
Several friends in their late 20's are talking to an elder of a local congregation which they all would like to begin attending. The elder sees his responsibility to make sure that they understand the Bible definition of sin, their need for repentance, and the mercy and power for goodness that is available from our Father in heaven.
The group is very serious and open: all of them realize that their present lives have been going nowhere.
John knows he needs forgiveness: he supported himself by stealing for over two years. It became such a habit and compulsion, that he stole a few more times even after he was caught and served his jail sentence. However, he has resisted and not stolen any more during the last three yearsthough "easy to steal" situations still tempt him.
Paula has had drinking problems even since high school. She has lost three different jobs because of her drinking and has been in and out of numerous programs with varied successes. She has stayed away from alcohol during the past nine months that she has been studying the Bible, but it has not been easy.
Mark was always getting into fights during school years. When people insulted him, he could not resist letting them know "who was boss." Later, he joined the Marines and was sent to the Gulf War. He still remembers how hot he was in his chemical-weapons resistant suitand how he gunned down three surrendering enemy soldiers to vent his rage. His commanding officer yelled at him for doing it, but since there were other enemy soldiers shooting at that moment, the issue was quickly forgotten by everyoneexcept Mark. His life is calmer now, but when someone offends him, much of his temper is still there.
Jackson never wanted to fight anybody. He always had something interesting or funny to say There were always women that were happy to date himand sleep with him. He no longer remembers exactly how many did. His lifestyle made a sudden change when he spent two months in a hospital fighting a life-threatening sexually transmissible disease. There, he began to study the Bible and to realize that he had to live differently. He has had only a few partners since that time.
What would you do if you were the elder talking to these people? Hopefully, you would encourage these people to continue in their struggle against sinto repent, be baptized, receive the holy spirit, and to use the power of our Savior to live a righteous life. We would hope that all of them would be welcome in your congregation as long as their past sins did not resurface and cause major difficulties for your congregation.
After the others had left, Anna continued to talk with the elder:
Anna had a difficult home environment growing upto this day she does not want to talk about it. Nevertheless, she was a bright young lady and did very well in college. Young men would occasionally ask her for a date, but they always seemed like such oafs to her. During her junior year semester break, she had her first sexual experience with another woman at college. It was the first time she ever felt really close to another human being. For the remainder of her college stay, she moved into the sorority building where most of the practicing gay women lived. After college, she found the business world would treat her much better if she kept her practices secret. But Anna was forced to reevaluate her life last year when Janet, her best friend and "lover," committed suicide. Janet had the job of her dreams, but Janet's boss had found out about her lesbianism and found a legal way to fire her. Nearly all of Janet's friends deserted her, too. Anna wants to live by the Bible, but is now more fearful than ever that she will be completely rejected if people find out the way she is.
What would you do if you were the elder? Would you tell her she is not welcome at your service? Would you quote the scriptures to her that say homosexual acts are punishable by death? But would you have told Mark and Jackson that they are not welcome because murder and fornication are punishable by death? It is amazing how many people will easily accept a known fornicator or adulterer into their congregation who claims to repent, yet will reject without any further discussion a person with homosexual problems of any kind. (Members of one Sabbath-observing group seemed quite willing to continue to let a man lead them who had been video-taped committing adultery only a few months beforesee SN March-April 1996, p 23.)
New Testament scriptures show that people living a homosexual lifestyle will not be in the Kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9, Rom 1:26-27, 1Tim 1:10). Anna must overcome her problems to be in that kingdom. But these same scriptures show that John, Paula, Mark and Jackson must also overcome their problems or they will not be there either. The Eternal is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2Pet 3:9).
Why do so many of us treat homosexual sins as so much worse than other sins? Probably because most of us are not tempted to commit such sins. We therefore have little empathy, and it is easy to simply condemn people with those problems. If several married (supposedly converted) men are together and one of them makes a comment about how he would like to "spend a little time with" a beautiful woman that they see, they might laugh it off or one of them might gently remind the other that he is married. But if one of those men were to seriously say that he might like to "spend a little time with" another man, they might be ready to "beat him up" or abandon him as a friend. Most of us understand heterosexual temptation much better than homosexual temptation.
But we are told "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John 7:24). There are many sins that were punishable by death in the Old Testamenttemptation to commit one is little different than temptation to commit another. Punishments were applied only when someone acted on the temptation.
Why do people have homosexual tendencies in the first place? The answer is not simple. The gay movement insists that people are born that way and it is the duty of society to recognize it. Anti-gay people often claim that homosexuals are simply the worst kind of "perverts." But both of these positions do not reflect reality. The largest majority of homosexuals seem to come from families where one or both parents are overly dominant or controllingand not very loving. They just never had good role models to see normal man-woman love in operation. Some are forced into it against their willusually when they are young. Other people appear to become homosexual simply because they had friends that were and decided to try it. People who have had many heterosexual partners (and little or no true love) often try homosexual acts simply because they are bored with heterosexual ones. A very small percentage have a fairly normal childhood, but just never develop normal heterosexual feelingsjust as some people are never able to learn to read very well. Finally, there is a very small percentage on the opposite extreme: people who thrive on homosexual acts because they seem evil and perverse.
Most people reading this article have read about some of the extremely perverse and unsanitary practices of homosexuals. While gay activists may lobby to make these practices considered normal and socially acceptable, they do not represent the entire homosexual community. When some people read an article about perverse homosexual practices, they assume that anyone they meet with homosexual tendencies must have done all of those perverse things. Most of the time, that is not the case.
Should People With Homosexual Tendencies Attend Your Services?
Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and other scriptures contain the general principles for deciding when to refuse fellowship. We should refuse fellowship only to people who pose a real threat to our congregations, not to people who simply have different temptations than we do. There are three major points that congregations should keep in mind:
1) Refuse fellowship to people who pose a threat to the congregation. Among other things, this includes:
a) people who have ongoing problems with killing or injuring others.
b) people who repeatedly steal from others
c) people who seduce or force others into illicit heterosexual acts
d) people who seduce or force others into homosexual acts.
If someone is involved in any of the above practices, the person who knows they did itand ultimately the whole congregation, if necessaryshould demand that they leave until they have been free of the problem for a long time.
2) Refuse fellowship to those who bring a bad name on the congregation by sinning openly. The last thing you want your congregation to be is a place where practicing gays come to find a homosexual partner. It should be a place for people who have acknowledged the error of their life style to receive help.
3) Help those who want help. When a person is really seeking to obey the scriptures and live by the power of the holy spirit, then congregations should help themno matter how difficult their problems are and no matter how long the overcoming takes.
What about AIDS?
Some will ask, "If we encourage people who have homosexual difficulties to attend our congregations, won't that increase the chances of someone coming and spreading AIDS?" Should people with AIDS be allowed to attend? We can answer those questions with a question: How do you know that there are not people with AIDS attending your congregation now?
The growth of AIDS cases is now actually higher among the heterosexual population than the homosexual population. However, since people with AIDS are often assumed to be homosexual, and since people with homosexual problems are largely unwelcome at Sabbath-keeping congregations, most people who have tested positive for AIDS keep it a secret. Also, we must realize that tests for the AIDS virus are not 100% accurate. There have been people who have tested positive, and then later tested negative. Should a person become an outcast because of results from a test that could be faulty? If you tested positive, but had no idea where you could have gotten AIDS, would you want to keep your test results secret until more research could be done?
If a congregation declares that they will not let anyone attend that has tested positive for the AIDS virus, they are saying that they will not let the forthright and truthful people attend, but they will allow to attend those that simply never tell anyone. This is probably the opposite of what they want. It is up to the person who has tested positive for the AIDS virus to decide who he or she will tell and when. Obviously, if someone has tested positive for the AIDS virus, there is a very good chance that they have it and they should not engage in any kind of activity that might transmit the disease. If they do so knowingly and carelessly, they are guilty of murder! (See Ex 21:29.)
Homosexuality is somewhat like alcoholism, drug addiction, and other severe mental-physical disorders. There are some things the person with the problem can do to help themselves, but the power of the holy spirit is usually needed for a lasting solution. To be healed of homosexual desires, people may need to follow all of the instructions in James 5:14-16:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
The confessing of sins to others and requesting prayers can be an important part of the healing processes. Sin just does not seem as bad when only we know about it, or, only we and our heavenly Father. When other people knowit seems awful. (Notice that there is no command to confess sins to ministers, priests, the entire congregation or the world, but to "one another"some of our brethren.) Also, when others know about our sins, they provide encouragement as well as a monitoring system that can easily tell whether we are making progress or not.
All of the Eternal's people need to pray for the healing of other brethrenwhatever the problem may beso we can be the children our Father desires, and so we can be His light to a world that needs light.
Norman S. Edwards
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