What’s the Right Response?July 23, 2004
Today on the broadcast, pastor Robert Lewis tells Christians how to respond to homosexuals.
Today on the broadcast, pastor Robert Lewis tells Christians how to respond to homosexuals.
What’s the Right Response?
Bob: Is it possible for a man or a woman who is struggling with the practice of homosexuality to be set free? Dr. Robert Lewis says it's very possible.
Robert: A true healing of the homosexual will not occur with the cessation of his or her behavior. There must be something deeper, and that deeper must be experienced with an encounter with the Living God, the loving, merciful, gracious God of heaven who has come to us and an equally accepting, loving, and supporting Christian community of people who are not afraid of embracing that struggle.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today about the part churches can play in helping to set a captive homosexual free.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You know, I think we're in a time when a lot of Christians are wondering, when it comes to the issue of homosexuality in our culture, do I stay silent? Do I speak up? Will I lose my opportunity to witness for Christ if I speak out about homosexual behavior? Or should I just mind my own business, you know, and try to live a godly life and let other people live and let live.
Dennis: And, if I do speak, what should I say? And how do I answer the questions? And what if I don't know the answers? So I think a lot of Christians, Bob, a lot of followers of Christ are simply saying nothing. And, you know, you've been a part of some of the focus groups we've done with pastors in a couple of areas of the country – we have asked pastors how can we serve you here at FamilyLife with anything you want or need concerning addressing the sin of homosexuality or of same-sex marriage in your church? And, Bob, I think if there has ever been a time when the church – and I'm not speaking of pastors here, although I am speaking to them as well – but I believe today is the day when the church needs to speak with a clear, loving voice about the truth of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Bob: We've been listening this week to a message from our friend, Dr. Robert Lewis, who is known across the country as the author of a book called "Raising a Modern-Day Knight." He delivered a message almost a decade ago called "Understanding Homosexuality." And the unique thing about this message is that Robert speaks, not simply from the perspective of a pastor or from the perspective of someone who has studied the Scriptures on the issue of homosexuality, but it hit close to home for him. His brother practiced homosexuality until he died from AIDS in the late 1980s.
Dennis: That's right, and since that time Robert has interacted, literally, with hundreds of homosexuals, and I think the reason is is because they feel like he's safe. He's a safe person to talk to. He loves them, and yet he has stood firm against the practice of homosexuality.
Bob: And we've already heard Robert address in this message, the question that a lot of people have about the genetic predisposition toward homosexuality – is a person born gay? He picks up on that theme here, before talking about how we ought to respond as the church, as the body of Christ, to this issue. Let's listen together. Here is Dr. Robert Lewis.
Robert: According to the Scripture, homosexuality is a behavior. How do I know that? Well, look over at 1 Corinthians 6. As Paul is talking to this Corinthian body about sin and about how to live righteously in the age in which they live. He comes to this place where he tells them not to defraud themselves, not to go off on some tangent, and then he reminds them, starting in verse 9 of chapter 6 this – he says, "Don't you Corinthians know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators nor idolators nor adulterers nor effeminate nor homosexuals not thieve nor the covetous nor drunkards nor revilers nor swindler shall inherit the kingdom of God?"
Now, when I read through that list, what jumps out at me is I see behaviors that no one wants to be labeled as an orientation biologically predetermined. The word "effeminate" there in verse 9 is the word "soft," "malakoi." It refers to the man who would take on the characteristics of a woman like transvestites do. And then there's the other that he mentions here – the homosexual who has sex with a man, chooses to have sex with a man. Now, look at those labels. All those labels are there because they're pinned on people. But they're pinned on people because of their behaviors. Now, why do I say their behaviors? Because as I look at that list, I ask myself these questions. When does a thief cease to be a thief? When he stops stealing, right? And when does a drunkard cease to be a drunk? When he stops drinking. When does a homosexual – according to the Scripture now – cease to be a homosexual? When he stops having immoral sexual behavior. That's when he ceases to be a homosexual.
Now, will the thief at times feel the temptation to steal or the drunk who now is sober the temptation to drink and the homosexual a temptation for encounter? Sure, but that doesn't make them that – apart from, according to the Scripture, the behavior.
Letter B – homosexuality as a behavior is sinful. If you'll notice in verse 9, if you're still there in 1 Corinthians 6, he begins by saying that this that he is about to list is unrighteous, it's sinful. But I also want to add, notice, that homosexuality is not placed above other sins in this list, do you see that? It's in the midst of this list. In fact, notice that the first sin, the first behavior, is what we could call today in our world, "safe sex." That's the first one. Then you get to adultery even before you get to homosexuality. If you want to put them like a list of who is number one, I mean, homosexuality is down there, number four. I don't think that's the way it's supposed to be set up, but it doesn't stand out as we make it stand out in our ignorance and our fear sometimes as being the sin of sins, the ultimate sin, the ultimate curse. You're not going to find that in Scripture. It's not presented that way. You say, "Well, I've read Romans 1 and stuff, it's the bottom." No, it's not the bottom, but it's a sin of sins of which we are all guilty. That's what the Scriptures teach.
I want you to notice, homosexual behavior is sinful, homosexual needs are not. The desperate need of the homosexual is love and acceptance. A need he's trying to satisfy in a sinful way. But here is what I want you to know – he can stop that behavior, he can choose to stop that behavior, but that will not satisfy his desperate need of love and acceptance. Just stopping that is not going to be the ultimate cure. That's why a true healing of the homosexual will not occur with the cessation of his or her behavior. There must be something deeper, and that deeper must be experience with an encounter with the living God, the loving, merciful, gracious God of heaven who has come to us and an equally accepting, loving, and supporting Christian community of people who are not afraid of embracing that struggle. You see, they must have health spiritual relationships to meet those normal needs that they are trying to get satisfied in an abnormal, sinful way, and if they don't, they remain desperate and lonely, even when they cease from the behavior, and that's not right.
He's listed that list, which includes homosexuals, and he says all these people who practice these things with no thought of God will not inherit the kingdom of God and in verse 11, he looks at the Corinthians themselves and say, "And such was some of you." The thing that made this a dynamic church is there were ex-gays in the Corinthian church – ex-transvestites in the Corinthian church. But they'd had the liberating force of the power of God, and they had a spiritual community that struggled together in those sins to be redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit. That's who they were. They were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God. That is such an encouraging statement – probably one of the most powerful statements in all of Scripture because according to the Scripture, a homosexual can change.
And here the warning comes – the cultural acceptance of homosexual behavior signals real danger. There are a lot of passages on homosexuality, but I want you to turn back to a small minor prophet, Hosea, if you can find it real quickly, and I want to read you a statement as Hosea lashes out at this wicked nation who is caught up in their prosperity and thinks that they've got it all put together, and they have all kinds of sins being unleashed, and they think it's going to go on that way forever, and Hosea comes along to Israel and tells them it's not going to go like this. Judgment is coming.
And then we come to chapter 9, verse 7, and he makes these statements, and I want you to listen very closely. He says in verse 7, "The days of punishment have come. You don't know it, but they've already come. The day of retribution has come. Let Israel know this – the prophet is a fool, the inspired man is demented because of the grossness of your iniquity." In other words, us talking like this makes no sense to you, because you're so caught up in the rhetoric of your day. And so when the prophet comes, you think he's an idiot. He's a backward, senseless, fundamentalist of a bygone era. He's demented. Because of the grossness of your iniquity and because of your hostility, it's so great you lash out at him. Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet, yet the snare of a birdcatcher is in all his ways, and there is only hostility in the house of God.
Now, listen to verse 9 – "They have gone deep in depravity as in the days of Gibea. Now, if you're a Bible scholar, that should turn all kinds of lights on, because Gibea, in the event of Gibea is in Judges 19 when a Levitical priest comes into Gibea, the city of Gibea, and he's got his concubine, this young lady with him, and they go to house themselves in Israel for protection and when they get there, the men of Gibea come out and bang on the doors and shout and kick in the roof and all of that and demand that the priest come out so that they can have sexual intercourse with her. That story is found in Judges 19. That's going deep in depravity. Where, at this point, all you're thinking about is you. You're into you. Deep in your depravity, as in the days of Gibea, and God says He will remember their iniquity, and He will punish their sins.
Now let me counter that with the following principle in Letter E. The church's acceptance of hurting homosexuals signals real maturity, real maturity. Galatians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." 1 Thessalonians 14:15, "We urge you, brethren, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men, always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men." And it takes a mature church to do that in the lives of struggling, hurting homosexuals.
Three quick action points for you today. First, in our world, I'd put the phrase tolerant and intolerant – that's our stance in the world today. Tolerant in that homosexuals of all kinds need to be treated whether they're radicals or hidden. They need to be treated with dignity. They're not just homosexuals. They're human beings with feelings and needs and abilities, and they don't need to be denied their basic civil rights. They need to have them. Thus tolerance.
Intolerance in that we must stand up against any and all efforts at whatever level that seeks to sanction homosexuality as an approved alternative lifestyle, whether it's you, as a parent, in what's going on in your school; whether it's in the legislature and what laws are being passed; whether it's through intimidation or the spread of myths. Listen, ladies and gentlemen, you've got to stand up. Unashamedly, you've got to stand up and say, "That's not right." We need to get back to that simple statement, "That behavior is wrong." And, let me tell you, it's not going to be easy in the days ahead to walk that tightrope of tolerance and intolerance.
Secondly, in the church we need to be open and caring. Open meaning that we must not close ourselves off to the homosexual community out of fear, ignorance, and the fact that we just want to protect ourselves. That's selfishness from the evil nature, our basic nature, when we go to self-protection and self-promotion, remember?
And, finally, some personal growth points – as a Christian here this morning, can I challenge you to watch your words. As a brother of a homosexual who has died of AIDS, I have winced a number of times in my new sensitivity to comments by members of the body about who homosexuals are. Stereotypical comments that go way beyond anything that's gracious; things that withdraw us; things that scare the hidden homosexual to run even further in the opposite direction of the grace of God. I'm not asking you to be politically correct, I'm asking you to obey Ephesians 4:29 when it says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth except for that which gives edification and grace to those who hear." Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be so articulate that a hidden person, struggling with this issue in their life, would hear us say, "You know, we love the hidden homosexual, and these people are who we want to help," and there's words that are flowing out of us of grace and love and acceptance. That would be wonderful. So watch your words.
Invest in your children emotionally men – hug them, affirm them. Ladies, love them for who they are, not for what they're not, because that, more than anything else, will safeguard their sexual identities. Well, it's a very new world, but I want you to know I have a dream, and that dream is that one day struggling homosexuals could sit where my brother sat right out there but not in the dark, not at night, and not alone. But that that struggling homosexual would feel the freedom to sit here in our midst and be awed by the love of God and would join with the rest of us sinners as he seeks to redeem his nature as we seek to redeem our nature together by the power of the living Christ who has come to man Emmanuel.
Bob: Well, again, that is Dr. Robert Lewis, a message entitled "Understanding Homosexuality," and that dream is one that I know we share, Dennis.
Dennis: It is, in fact, Bob, I think if we are going to speak the truth about homosexuality, we have to be ready to provide the community for homosexuals to come clean and give them the hope that they can get out of that practice and out of that lifestyle. And that's where the Christian community ought to be a unique expression of the love of Jesus Christ. We ought to be the major messengers in this culture of love.
Now, as I say that, there are those who are going to label us because we speak the truth as those who are bigots or have hate in their hearts. And what we need to do is search our own hearts and see how we are attempting to reach out and attempting to rescue and provide hope and healing and grace and forgiveness to the hurting.
But, Bob, I think what we need to be ready as we approach this subject is I think we need to be ready to suffer – to suffer for doing what is right. Because this issue is not going to go away anytime soon, and I think most families in America are going to be touched by it. Somehow, some way, either in the marketplace or at school or with their children, and they need to become students of the Scripture and of Jesus Christ at how He loved sinners. You know what? We're all sinners. It's the love of God that turned me from my sin toward Jesus Christ. You know what? That's the hope of the person who is practicing homosexuality.
Bob: Romans, chapter 2, Paul says, "It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance."
Dennis: And, Bob, I'll tell you another unique group of people we need to be ready to minister to in the church – that's a group of parents who have raised a son or daughter who have slipped off into this lifestyle. Now, all you need to do, as a parent, is to raise a child who has been a prodigal, and if you've had a child who has ever been a prodigal, you know the hurt – that there is no hurt like that. A parent who has a child who has slipped off into homosexual practice, there is tremendous hurt, disappointment, shame, and there is also, I think, Bob, a tremendous fear of sharing the story and of what's going on with others for fear of being rejected.
Let me tell you something, this is our unique apologetic for the Christian faith – that we love people who are broken, and what we have to do is we have to offer grace. We have to offer compassionate love that listens and doesn't condemn and doesn't reject them. Our attitude toward homosexuals is so important.
I have a friend who was with a group of businessmen on a business trip, and they were out in an area where they happened to run across a young man who was gay, and one of those Christian businessmen made a cutting, offhanded remark that was hateful. That man who made that hate-filled remark had no way of knowing that another one of the businessmen in that group had a daughter who had just come home and confessed to them that she was a lesbian. She was practicing the sin of homosexuality. And all that did to that parent is it sent him deeper underground. He said, "I can never share this with my Christian friends, because how would they respond to me? How would they respond to my daughter?"
And, Bob, I think this issue is going to become even a larger issue within the Christian community that we know how to represent Jesus Christ to broken people, people who need love, who need help and hope and grace and peace and restoration. That's our message. We are the only ones that have that message.
Bob: You remember that you and I had the opportunity to talk to Anita Worthen, who was in that situation. Her son was a practicing homosexual, and we talked about what it was like to deal with that as a parent. She had written a book called "Someone I Love is Gay." In fact, we have that book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's one of the resources we're making available this week to any of our listeners who would like more information on how to deal with this issue. We also have Alan Medinger's book, which is called "Growth Into Manhood." Alan practiced homosexuality for a number of years before coming out of that lifestyle and repenting of his practice.
And any of our listeners who would like to order both of those books, Dennis, can get a free copy of either the CD or the cassette of Robert Lewis's entire message that we featured this week called "Understanding Homosexuality." You can contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information on these resources, or go online at FamilyLife.com, and you'll find information available there along with additional resources that are available through FamilyLife. We have put together a small pamphlet that has been handed out in a number of churches. I know First Baptist Church in Dallas passed this out to their members. Other churches have used this as well. It's called "Preserving the Family," a Scriptural guide for your family, and you can actually download the PDF file and print this off for yourself or contact us, and we can make it available to you in bundles to pass out at your church.
Again, go to our website at FamilyLife.com for more information or give us a call at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, and we can get some of these resources sent to you.
Let me add a quick word of thanks here today for the many folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are on the air because of folks like you who appreciate our ministry and who appreciate it enough to support it financially. We depend on those donations to be able to do what we do. So thanks to those of you who write to us or call us or go to our website and make donations to FamilyLife Today.
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Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday when we're going to talk about a – well, a unique approach to parenting. It's something that Tim Kimmel refers to as "grace-based" parenting. We're not talking about letting your kids off the hook anytime they do anything wrong. Tune in next week, and you'll hear what we are talking about. I hope you can be with us for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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