Making Peace With My Homosexual BrotherJuly 21, 2004
On today's broadcast, Robert Lewis, Sr., pastor of the highly recognized Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, talks about making peace with his brother after Charles was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.
On today's broadcast, Robert Lewis, Sr., pastor of the highly recognized Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, talks about making peace with his brother after Charles was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.
Making Peace With My Homosexual Brother
Bob: Charles Lewis and his brother Robert grew up in the same home in Reston, Louisiana. Their lives, however, took very different paths. Robert became a pastor and a speaker and an author. Charles was a part of the homosexual community in Houston, Texas, until he died from AIDS in 1990. Here is Robert Lewis.
Robert: He was never really fully able to come out of the closet, as homosexuals like to use that phrase. I discovered that after he died, as I settled his estate in 1990. The fact is, actually, my brother had two closets – literally, two closets. When I went to clean out one it was filled with, I remember, as a boy, with his shirts and his suits, but then there was another closet. When I opened it, it was filled with evening gowns and slips and wigs and dresses and all kinds of photography showing his life within the gay community there in Houston. And I think the closets were a metaphor of his life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 21st. We'll hear a message today from Dr. Robert Lewis to help us understand homosexuality biblically and to respond to it compassionately.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. As you know, one of the dominant issues being addressed in the culture today is the issue of whether marriage ought to exist between two people of the same sex. And that issue has caused Christians to pull back, once again, and to remind ourselves of what the Scriptures teach not only about marriage but about homosexual activity and behavior, and then to say, "How do we respond to friends, business associates, neighbors, or family members who may be involved in the practice of homosexuality?"
Dennis: Bob, I think it's one of the most difficult issues for Christians to speak out on today, and the reason is, is when we speak with truth there are those in the culture who would label anyone who would speak about homosexuality being a sin as being a hate-filled message. Well, personally, I don't believe that just because you take a stand on behalf of something being wrong, that doesn't mean that you're filled with hate. You can be a loving person and stand on behalf of truth and be very much filled with love.
When I raised my two-year-old and kept him out of the street I said, "You know what, son, you don't need to be stepping in the street. I love you enough to keep you from getting hurt." And I think that's what God is saying in the Scripture when he points out certain behavior as being wrong, whether it be adultery, lying, stealing, cheating, or that of the sin of homosexuality. Certain things are wrong according to a standard – that's God's standard – no matter what the major networks may say or some secular talk show host may say as well.
Bob: It's one thing for us to stand for truth in kind of a detached way, you know, to stand on the sidelines and say, "I think this is wrong." It's another thing for someone to stand up and stand for truth – well – when it has hit home, when it has come close. And we're going to feature, for the rest of this week, a message from a pastor who had the issue of homosexuality hit home for him.
Dennis: That's exactly right. In fact, you might consider this message a FamilyLife Today classic, because we have featured this on our program before, but because of the events of the previous few months, we felt like it was time to dust this one off again from 1994 and to bring it out, because the truth represented and the story represented by Dr. Robert Lewis, is a timeless one. Dr. Robert Lewis has, for a number of years, served as a senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is widely known across the country for his work with men in a ministry called "Men's Fraternity." He has also helped fathers turn their sons into young men, as well, through his ministry, "Raising a Modern Day Knight."
And Robert gave a message at our church one Sunday that, well, was a compassionate message and a unique message, Bob, because his life had been touched by homosexuality but in an unusual way. His brother, an attorney in Houston, was a homosexual, and I'll not spoil the rest of the story for you, but this is a compelling story and a story is one – if you can hang with us for the rest of this week – is one that I think is going to equip you as a man, woman, husband, wife, father, mother, to be able to better address the issue of homosexuality in your workplace, in your community, and with your family. The thing I like about it, Bob, is it's a compassionate approach to this subject.
Bob: Here is Dr. Robert Lewis with part one of his message entitled, "Understanding Homosexuality."
Robert: It was December of 1988, and on a very cold Thursday night, I sat in the sanctuary by myself, except for my brother, Charles. And we sat there alone in the darkness there together. And the fact that we were there in this sanctuary of the church meant that our relationship had taken a real turn for the better.
We had not been on the best of terms for a number of years, part of which was because of distance and ideologies and things like that, and we had come in that distancing to believe certain things about ourselves, some of which may have been true; some of which was conjured-up stereotypes. He had come to view me as a closed-minded, somewhat heartless, senseless, fundamentalist. I had come to think of him in terms of being a laissez faire Libertarian, so to speak, who drank too much, who partied too much, and whose values were the direct opposite of my values.
The year 1988, in this building, we sat together in this church. Our journey began, to get to that moment, a year-and-a-half before, in 1987 and shortly after my dad's death. It was at that time that my brother, on an evening, took me aside with a friend, and told me that he had contracted AIDS. Perhaps I should have been shocked, but I was shocked. I mean, my brother did not have the characteristics that are generally associated with an open homosexual. He was a corporate lawyer for an oil company in Houston, Texas. He had served honorably for four years during the Vietnam War. He had a lot of friends, and I'd known him as a brother, but I was really shocked.
And in the moment of that incomprehensible statement that "I have AIDS," I believe that in God's grace God gave me some inspiration that forever changed our relationship. I got up off the chair, and I walked over to my brother. I put my arms around him, and I just hugged him. And I said something to Charles that I hadn't said in a long time. I said, "I love you." And we sat there and held each other tightly, and this new relationship began between him and I.
You know, it came about that a year-and-a-half later, as he began to suffer from the AIDS virus, his body began to change, he began to lose weight, that we began to converse regularly. Sometimes it was awkward. There was a lot of anxiety sometimes in our communication. We were cautious. But because of that relationship in December of '88, I asked him to come and stay with us for Christmas, and he accepted. He wanted to stay in a hotel, but I insisted he stay at our house.
That week really forever changed our perspective of one another. It was a wonderful visit, and one of the scenes that I will vividly remember with my brother – he was then pretty thin and frail; had to have moments where he just sat down and rested; was in the kitchen with my children. I was in the family room, and he was in the kitchen, and they were drawing faces. My brother was a very talented artist. And as they drew those faces, and they were laughing, and they were hugging on Uncle Charles, it was in that moment that he became my brother again – just my brother.
He no longer a sexual preference, he was a human being. And shortly after that, I asked him if he'd like to see our church, and he said, "Yes." So we came over here, and there we sat. I here, and him there, and it was quiet, and though I had had my moment of alteration, I think he had his moment of alteration here. He sat there, and I could feel all kinds of feelings going through him, even from a distance – of who I was, of what an evangelical church was, who God was, and what all that meant for him.
Over the years, I've interacted with all kinds of homosexuals and lesbians, people who have struggled with that lifestyle and that behavior, and many of those are in a group that I would put my brother in. I call it "those who are committed to the lifestyle but coping with it," and those that I call committed and coping who spend most of their time wrestling with and exploring and trying to define, in some way, who they are in light of these feelings and pulls that are so powerful within them – what being a homosexual means, which can become an all-consuming task.
My brother, for instance, as I learned through my mom in those years, had spent years in therapy with counselors, in support groups, going to a very liberal church, seeking some kind of affirmation for who he was. And, he like a lot of his friends, spent a lot of time escaping into alcohol and even into alcoholism. My brother was not one for the radical side of homosexuality. He wasn't into that part. He was just into himself. That's what he was into.
Struggling to cope like thousands of others who are in this group a conclusion that he had come to about himself – that he was homosexual –a definition that would define him and ultimately his destiny. And though he had committed himself to it, he was never really fully able to come out of the closet, as homosexuals like to use that phrase. I discovered that when, in the trips that I made to Houston over and over again to care for him and to care for the situations that were going on around him and to interact with that whole community that was there in inner city Houston, I discovered that there were closets that weren't open for me, after he died, as I settled his estate in 1990.
The fact is, actually, my brother had two closets – literally, two closets. When I went to clean out one, it was filled, as I remember, as a boy, with his shirts and his suits and his shoes shined. He was very organized and orderly, and everything was in its place. But then there was another closet. When I opened it, it was filled with evening gowns and slips and wigs and dresses, a girl's cheerleading uniform, and all kinds of photography showing his life within the gay community there in Houston. And I think the closets were a metaphor of his life.
There was one closet where he declared himself gay, and he was open about that. But then there was this other closet about what gay means, and it was still closed, not only to me but, I think, in part, even to himself. And that's the struggle of a large number of homosexual people. They are committed, they're a group – one group of several groups – but they're just coping, trying to make sense of it all.
I want to stop for a moment, and I want to talk about another group within the homosexual community – the group that most of us talk about, are familiar with, and react to. And so I'm going to go to the far left for a moment – not the committed and coping here in the middle, but on the far left, those who are called "radical" and "open" and pressing for acceptance, because I think they need a discussion as well.
These are the ones who organize, and you see them on TV all the time. These are the ones who are radical and hostile and angry, and you see that. They want educational programs that affirm homosexuality as a valid lifestyle and homosexual behavior as a valid behavior at every level of public education starting in elementary schools on up. They seek to intimidate and legally punish, through all kinds of legal means, any organization or person that refuses them entrance or, in any way, would refuse to endorse them.
There is a third group, though, and this group catches us by surprise, because here's the radicals; here's those who are committed and coping; but at the far side of the radicals is another group, perhaps even the largest group, and those are the ones that I call "the hidden and the hurting." They don't like feeling gay. If they could, they would get out. They're not committed to it at all. They have the quandary that those feelings have put them in, this double jeopardy that they feel, of dishonesty, all the time in their life. Some have been periodically involved in some homosexual behavior. Others have never, ever committed a homosexual act but the feelings are there.
Those in this group, and there are many, feel intensely lonely. On occasions, I've had the opportunity to interview them and ask them questions and ask them what it feels like to be in that particular place under those particular conditions. Let me just read some of the quotes they've given me. One said this to me, he said, "Robert, whatever disgust you feel for me cannot even begin to compare with the disgust that I feel for myself." Another said, "I live in constant fear of exposure and a constant state of loneliness." Another said, "The energy it takes to maintain my double life leaves me exhausted and wanting some way, any way, out of it." And then one said, and this is probably the most powerful of the quotes, he said, "The most wretched thing about this condition is that when you look ahead, the same impossible road seems to continue indefinitely. You're driven to rebellion when you think of there being no point in all this, and you're driven to despair when you think of there being no limit to what this behavior might mean."
That's the hidden. Those are the hurting. And I personally believe the church, evangelical church being part of that, has abandoned this group of people, these strugglers. The church, the evangelical church, perhaps has provided no real safe places for this group of homosexuals, the hidden homosexual, sits and listens to the conversation and, oftentimes, what will come up in those discussions is a caustic remark about gay radicals that is not put in that kind of terms, it's just that all gays are like that. They're all pedophiles, they're all child molesters and, in the midst of that kind of derogatory statements it causes them, who are already overly sensitive to rejection, to shrink back, and they say, "There is no room in this inn for me here. Not here."
In the midst of those kinds of exaggerations, there is no place for confession to be healed because confession would only stigmatize me for a lifetime with the people that I desperately need to love me. I think today's struggling homosexual, this last group, would be the counterpart in the 1st century of those that we call lepers. Remember the lepers? They were asked in the 1st century to live outside the city. They couldn't even come into the city, and wherever they went, they had to shout as they went, "Leper – unclean, unclean." In many ways, that's how the hidden homosexual feels. It feels outside the church, even when he's in it. And deathly afraid to announce his struggle because if he did, it was too dangerous, and he's too unclean to be embraced by these righteous people.
Bob: Well, that is Dr. Robert Lewis with part one of a message that we're going to continue with the rest of this week – a message to help us understand the issue of homosexuality, and, as you mentioned, Dennis, this message is a classic. It was actually recorded more than a decade ago. As I listen to Robert talk about those who might feel ashamed or embarrassed of their homosexuality, I thought, "I wonder if that's still the case in the culture today." I wonder how many people who deal with homosexuality are embarrassed by it? It has become so culturally acceptable that I wonder if the embarrassment or the shame factor is still there?
Dennis: Bob, I think you're right, if you're speaking about the culture. I think they, indeed, have come out. However, as it relates to the church, which is how Robert was applying that idea of a homosexual feeling like he has leprosy as he relates to the church, I think that's where they may be afraid to come out. Because they're wondering what will be the response of the Christian community to my sin? Well, all of us have got sin. All of us have issues we've had to come out about, and we have had to confess and receive forgiveness and be a part of a community that brings healing, hope, and grace to our lives.
I think what's needed today within the Christian community is to properly hold intention, truth, and love. We must speak the truth. We dare not be silent. On the other hand, as we speak the truth, we must, we must, we must speak it in love and with love and with compassion. And that's what I so appreciate about what Robert did in the first part of his message, and we'll hear the remaining parts of his message over the rest of this week.
But, you know, Bob, I just want to read a passage from 1 Corinthians 13. Paul said, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." The point is, as we speak the truth, we must have love in our hearts, and the church must be a place, the Christian community must be a group of people that welcomes those who are struggling with sin.
Bob: You know, when our team put together the pamphlet called "Preserving the Family," that looks at this question of God's design for marriage and why same-sex marriage does not meet God's design, we tried to strike that kind of balance between truth and compassion and kindness, and we've been encouraged. There have been a number of churches that have ordered copies of this to pass out to folks. I think we have to keep reminding one another in the body of Christ of what God's Word has to say about how we ought to respond with kindness and compassion and yet, at the same time, stand for truth, and that's what we tried to capture in this pamphlet.
We have copies of this in our FamilyLife Resource Center, if you'd like to order a quantity to use in your church or study group, or you can actually download a PDF file from the Internet and print it off yourself, if you'd like. Go to our website at FamilyLife.com for more information or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY.
We also have available a couple of books we'd like to suggest to you. One is written by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies – it's called "Someone I Love is Gay," written from the perspective of a mom whose son embraced a homosexual lifestyle; and we have the book by Alan Medinger called "Growth Into Manhood," where Alan talks about his own experience in homosexuality. And, of course, we have the message we've been listening to today available on cassette or CD as well. In fact, if you order both of the books I just mentioned, we'll send you, at no additional cost, your choice of either the CD or the cassette of Robert Lewis's message on understanding homosexuality.
Give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY. Someone on our team can help you with whatever resources we can pass along to you, or go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and you can order online or get more information from our website. Again, it's FamilyLife.com.
Dennis, I want to say a special word of thanks to those folks who help support our ministry. They make it possible for us to, in a timely way, respond to the kinds of issues we face in the culture related to marriage and family by producing these brochures. Actually, we're trying to get them out to as many folks as possible. That's the reason it's on the website. It can be downloaded for free, or we'll mail it out to you at something close to our cost.
These resources are designed and created by a team that is supported by you. In addition to helping support this daily radio program, you also make possible the resources that are available on our website and all of the outreaches of FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate your ongoing financial support. You can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY. You can also write a check and mail it to us, and if you need our mailing address, just come by our website or give us a call, and someone can pass it on to you.
Now, tomorrow we're going to hear part two of Robert Lewis's message on understanding homosexuality, and if you have heard some of the arguments or the suggestions that homosexuals can't help their behavior, it's simply how they were born, tune in tomorrow as Robert speaks to those issues. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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