Finding Common Ground

After my last post, it seems like an appropriate time to bring this up. This post has been in my draft file for a couple of months. I am hesitant to post it – afraid for what is lacking in my words and concerned about the potential damage of comments as others express their thoughts.

The ideas expressed here are simply my thoughts as I consider this topic. I am not an expert about anything.  I approach this from my perspective as a married middle-aged woman. Please forgive me if you find the expression of my opinion to be hurtful in any way. That is not my intention.

The final thought in my former post was about how the church can embrace people who struggle with sexual orientation. Ted’s situation puts a face on the current conflict and confusion about homosexuality in the church.

As it stands, there are only two opposing poles.  There is unavoidable tension in the conflicting positions.  Can this conversation be anything but polemic? There is positive movement toward love and acceptance of homosexuals in some parts of the church. What does love look like in this situation? Is it conditioned on approval?

I hate what has been done and the rejection that is communicated to the homosexual community in the name of Christianity.  Struggles with sexual orientation should never be a reason for exclusion from the community of believers.

What is my stand? The only stand that I am willing to make is that as we choose to follow Christ, we enter into the ongoing process of salvation.  Salvation is the process of restoring our hearts to wholeness.  That process is unique to each individual and orchestrated by the Spirit as we willingly submit ourselves to His loving hand.

The sin in our lives is a symptom of broken, damaged places in our hearts that need to be made whole.  We are all broken in areas of intimacy.  The underlying sense of separation, rejection, and abandonment is the nature of the curse and man’s original fall.  This brokenness can be expressed in many different ways, but it is often expressed sexually.

Transformation is a work of the Spirit in a person’s heart.  Shame has never been an effective motivation for transformation.  In fact, it is often the greatest hindrance to true freedom from the bondage of sin.

Our relationships with one another cannot be change-driven, and our relationship with the Father cannot be change-driven. As we focus on the sin in our lives, we become hopeless in our inability to will ourselves to change. Yet as we focus on Jesus, he can bring healing and change in the process of restoring our hearts to the wholeness that He intends for us.

I am convinced that it is damaging to identify and label ourselves according to sexual orientation.  We are so much more than the product of our attractions and desires.

The fundamentalist christian position is repressive about the spectrum of attraction that people experience.  Yet the fundamentalist homosexual position is adamant that one must identify themselves and live according to those attractions. I don’t recognize the voice of Truth in what I read from either side.

Whatever you deal with as far as attraction, are you willing to let go of the label that society insists you take? What would sorting through this look like if you simply saw yourself as male or female and didn’t attempt to define yourself according to your attractions?

On a purely physical level, there are more ways to be stimulated sexually than I have probably even heard of. The quest for fulfillment can take you many different directions. Wrapped up in beliefs about attraction and orientation are myths of chemistry and magic. The myth of chemistry suggests that the pursuit of one’s attraction is the only way to be satisfied.

What if in the upside-down nature of the kingdom, the ultimate in sexual fulfillment occurs in the act of giving pleasure to another? If the objective is the pursuit of one’s own satisfaction, perhaps we always end up off track. By using the lens of self-fulfillment, we set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Let’s talk about attraction and desire. Attraction is complicated. Not very much about human attraction is actually biological. Whether we are discussing lust or same-sex attraction, attraction and desire is about personifying the fulfillment of our needs. Within this person, we imagine the fulfillment of our longings for excitement, passion, intimacy, acceptance, etc.

We need to look beyond a base chemistry level and ask ourselves about the why of our attraction.  What does this person represent to us?  What are the needs in our life that we believe they will fulfill?

One thing that I try to teach my kids is that they will never find their identity, acceptance, or approval in another person. In fact, it is not fair for them to bring that demand into a relationship. We have to know the love and intimacy of the Father in order to be healthy in our relationships with others.

As believers, both male and female, we are all on the journey to knowing God.  Part of that journey is the transformation of our hearts and lives to the wholeness that He intends for us.  Whatever a person’s struggle with sin or sexuality, we are to be a source of love and encouragement to one another, not judgment.

Homosexuality in my brother or sister’s life is sin of no greater degree than lust is in my life. Both indicate areas of unwholeness, areas of unfulfilled need, areas of hearts yet to be restored.

I know that the view of homosexuality as brokenness is offensive to some who struggle with same-sex attraction, yet I humbly believe that it is less than what God intends for us. Even though that is my understanding, it is up to each person to find their own place of conviction in the process of their journey toward knowing God.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, please be extra-considerate in how you express them.

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40 thoughts on “Finding Common Ground

  1. “What if in the upside-down nature of the kingdom, the ultimate in sexual fulfillment occurs in the act of giving pleasure to another? If the objective is the pursuit of one’s own satisfaction, perhaps we always end up off track. By using the lens of self-fulfillment, we set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction.”

    I have NEVER heard anybody bring up this angle in the context of this particular subject (and I have read and discussed it extensively!). I’m very impressed!

  2. Since sexual orientation is such a core component of our being, one cannot be totally objective about it. Sexuality is a “squirm-in-your-seat” topic, even to those that claim they are theologically correct or hedonistically liberated. It’s such a primal aspect of our personhood. I think the church (in general) has been less than charitable in handling this topic. It has spoken out in condemnation when it shouldn’t have, but didn’t speak up loud enough when certain abuses occurred within its own ranks.

    Such a volatile subject will indeed elicit strong response from those on both sides of the aisle.

    I cannot reconcile homosexual practice with my understanding of God’s purpose for sex, His intent for separate genders, His design of our anatomy & reproductive capacity. Yet I cannot relegate all homosexual practice as being inherently evil in & of itself. That is just part of my own journey at this time.

    If a convinced homosexual is indeed pursuing God with all their heart, mind, soul, body, then I would have to believe God would reveal to them His purpose for sexual expression. If they are convinced they were created with homosexual urges & have no guilt associated with it, are happy, emotionally & psychologically well adjusted, have a loving & supportive network of family+friends, then I would say they are indeed the exception. If there are no past issues with abuse, gender identity, unstable home environment, etc., then I would also think there is something to the idea that homosexuality can be like, well, being left-handed. That is definitely a physiological wiring issue & only a small portion of the population is left-handed. And fewer still ambidextrous. But I also know sexuality & dexterity are not the same in how they affect our self awareness or emotional health or how it is determined deep within us…

    God’s grace is amazing. And powerful. Could be a homosexual can have a good grasp of that part of the Christian journey. Dealing with people, however, can be an entirely different experience. If there has been no Holy Spirit conviction or guilt associated with their sexual orientation, then I certainly will not begin to heap any upon them now. If, however, they have a history of confusion, guilt, or outside influences pressuring them one way or the other, then I would say those issues would need to be addressed separately. We are not to be unwise when dealing with our past & that nagging sense that something was just not right about certain circumstances, actions, relationships or behaviors.

    I can honestly say that every one of my sexual urges is not wholesome. They just aren’t. Not according to what Jesus said. I don’t feel odd or evil because of them. But I do need to deal with them according to my understanding of what God desires for me. That’s the key. Sin cannot be sin if we don’t recognize it as such. If I have adulterous thoughts then I have to deal with that. I don’t call them a primal vestige of my simian ancestry & then seek out all willing females to copulate with. I have to have an understanding of what God meant when He created sexual identity. Now it could be my understanding was warped by over-zealous religious taboos. Maybe I was repressed. Maybe I was sold a lie. Yet I’m the one that has to seek out God’s purpose, not rely on The Kinsey Institute for sexual & spiritual guidance…

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Grace, and especially thank you for the open, generous, kind manner in which you present them. If Christianity as a whole were half as gracious in approaching the gay “issue”, there would indeed be much less shame, hurt, and animosity between gay and lesbian people and “traditional-family” Christians.

    With that said, I wanted to challenge you on a couple things that you said:

    the fundamentalist homosexual position is adamant that one must identify themselves and live according to those attractions

    Perhaps I’m not exposed to the same “fundamentalist homosexuals” that you are, but this doesn’t resonate as true to me when thinking of the gay and lesbian people that I know. I don’t know any gay people who would disagree with you that they are “so much more than the product of our attractions and desires”. Those that I know are no more reducible to their attractions than I am (as a straight guy), no more willing to be defined solely by sexual preference or desire.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. My hypothesis is that with much of the social stigma removed from being gay, some of the excesses of the “out, loud and proud” crowd in the seventies and eighties are being dulled to the point where a “gay lifestyle” is really quite…well, ordinary.

    What if in the upside-down nature of the kingdom, the ultimate in sexual fulfillment occurs in the act of giving pleasure to another?

    I love this! The question, though, leads to another: is there anything that necessarily precludes gay and lesbian individuals from that experience – that true agape that comes in seeking the good of the other? Is that not indeed what same-sex couples are looking to be included in by desiring to participate in marriage?

    I understand and respect your view of homosexuality as “[indicating] areas of unwholeness, areas of unfulfilled need, areas of hearts yet to be restored”. I’ve come to disagree (though I was raised to believe the same), but am very thankful for your sensitivity and acknowledgment of the humanity of those involved. That is sadly lacking in much of the conversation around this topic.

    I love that you stand firm on this:

    What is my stand? The only stand that I am willing to make is that as we choose to follow Christ, we enter into the ongoing process of salvation. Salvation is the process of restoring our hearts to wholeness.

    May we all continue growing ever closer toward this goal of shalom.

  4. daniel,
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify and explain.

    I did not mean that gay people are reducible to their attraction. What I mean is that there is a homosexual fundamentalism that insists that if a person experiences same-sex attraction, their only authentic expression of sexuality is to be gay. This has been the primary reaction of the gay community to the Ted Haggard story.

    What I am attempting to communicate is that perhaps it is not necessary to label ourselves according to our attractions.

    Thanks josh and joseph for sharing your thoughts also.

    I appreciate the considerate tone that the three of you have set.

  5. A couple of weeks ago I let a friend cry on my shoulder after being rejected entrance into a bible college because he was honest enough to admit he has homosexual attractions on his entrance test. The guy doesn’t even believe that they are right, but that didn’t matter to the people in the following interviews.

    I felt two things. I felt so much love for this guy who had been rejected by the Christian establishment for something so inconsequential. I also felt very angry that someone would do this. The guy was a wreck (it came on top of a few other things and destroyed his plans for the year).

    I don’t really give a stuff about what people thing on the issue. But can we please remember that it is not just an “issue”. There are real people involved. There are people for whom homosexuality is not some theological curiosity but a real source of confusion and pain in their lives. I’ve heard a lot of Christians make a lot of assumptions and thoughtless comments about the subject. I’ve heard people go as far as to link homosexuality with pedofilia. What’s with that?

    God help us. I honestly don’t know how Christianity should approach this “issue”. But I do know how we should deal with people. We should love their socks off. Our agape love should make eros lust look infestimal by comparison.

    Thanks Grace for this post. I think you made a good effort to be as considerate as possible.

  6. Exactly Adam, bottom line is that when we talk about this “issue” we are talking about individuals. The most important thing is that each one is a person that Jesus loves and they can know His love. However this “issue” gets worked out in their life is between Him and them.

  7. As usual Grace, you put into words what i haven’t even been willing to try to write out. so very well said.

    I think, based on the mental, emotional and spiritual contortions i experience over the consideration of homosexuality– and on what I’m reading and hearing from others like me– that our culture is moving towards a point that it isn’t a totally polarizing subject. We aren’t there yet, but I’m seeing signs of hope. The comments you’ve received thus far go towards confirming my thoughts.

    I think the most important point you made that has also been affirmed by comments is that sexual orientation isn’t the point. Our common humanity and common need for God is.

    I love what Adam wrote: “God help us. I honestly don’t know how Christianity should approach this “issue”. But I do know how we should deal with people. We should love their socks off.”

    That is where the church needs to come down on this issue. We aren’t afraid to say “I don’t know” about a million other subjects addressed biblically, why then are we so afraid to say “I don’t know” about this one as well?

  8. Cindy,
    A lot of the tension comes in people wanting to sincerely know God’s position on this issue. I think that is best worked out by the individual in their journey to knowing God.

    I worry about the fact that when a young person, like Adam describes, struggles with same-sex attraction, they are only given two alternatives – fearful repression or declare yourself gay.

  9. Homosexuality will remain to be an ‘issue’ for as long as the church community’s focus is that of ‘sin’ rather than of ‘grace’. I certainly don’t have the solution to this deep-seated conflict, but I am sure of this – it begins with grace, not sin.
    It seems to me that as Jesus went about His exemplary missional ministry on earth, He extended grace to the point where the recipient became aware of either the possibility of, or the reality of a restored relationship with the Father. it was only then that Jesus would instruct “Go and sin no more.” I always saw this as a gentle voice of encouragement as opposed to a harsh word of correction.
    The only group He appeared to be ‘short-fused’ with were the sin-focused legalists who laid heavy burdens upon the ‘sinners’ (their term) and wouldn’t lift a finger to help them.
    The ‘hot-button’ issues in Jesus’ day were prostitutes, tax-collectors, and cripples. Jesus dealt with grace in the crowds of people He loved. All of them. Even the ‘hot-button’ issue people. His love and grace knew no bounds.

    But … Jesus dealt with sin alone – on a painful and cruel cross. There was a very ugly part of me hanging there with Him that day – but by His grace, I never had to experience it. To pick up my cross daily is to leave that ugly part there. A very real part of that ugliness is self-righteousness.

  10. Grace, do you think that perhaps some of the reason folks can become so intense about “knowing God’s position” about homosexuality is the fear that if they aren’t thinking correctly about this particular issue then a whole systematic theology comes crashing down around them? I think all systematic theology has that risk- that’s why i have learned to so disdain the “If A then B and then C” approach to faith. If our faith were about rules it would be fine, but as Ken said so well- our faith isn’t about rules but about grace and grace isn’t so neatly arranged because grace is about real people and not words.

  11. Some additional ponderings…

    I honestly believe homosexuals are not automatically destined for hell. No, I don’t believe homosexuality is the ‘unpardonable’ sin. And the related issues: divorce & remarriage. I don’t believe divorce is unpardonable. I don’t believe remarriage is a constant state of adultery either. All sin that I am aware of is forgivable. And Jesus knows all about the ones I’m not even familiar with.

    I do not want to play self-righteous games that ignore the person at the end of pointed fingers. I don’t want to be that type of Christian. I have enough issues I deal with as we all do. Mine are no less important or more important in the eyes of God. One thing about God: we all have to be ‘straight’ with Him. He doesn’t like any kind of false pretense since He already knew all about us before we were ever aware of any of our own issues.

    I don’t think that attraction to people of the same sex is proof of homosexual orientation. I think there is much to be appreciated about our gender. What is the attraction? There must be elements of genuine appreciation included. I can’t think we are so wrong to see attractive elements in others of the same sex.
    What is it that we want to do with that attraction? I liked my friends in grammar school that were boys. There wasn’t anything sexual in the attraction until I reached the threshold of puberty (7-8th grade). Then I had to consider what it was that I was feeling. Suddenly I was noticing both boys & girls in ways I had never even considered before.

    There must be something missing in us if we feel unfulfilled. If we are not content as the bible expresses it, something is not quite right. And I know sex is a very complex issue, but if we are not safe or secure in our sexuality, then something is wrong. That wrongness isn’t sinful. It may not even be serious. But it must be something we need God to help us sort out.

    We can engage in quite a wide variety of sexual expression. Does my concept of desirable sex really establish the standard? Is my secret sexual fantasy meant to be fulfilled by God? Is He the Author of that yearning? Why does it have to be complicated? And so deeply seated in our being? Why can’t there be a little switch inside us that could simply be turned on or off? Why does God create this incredibly strong desire associated with incredible physical pleasure & place it in frail people that struggle with its grandeur? I wish it weren’t so powerful a force. I wish it were easily contained. I wish it could be easily turned on at the appropriate moment & turned off after.

    But it seems each of us must deal with it individually. Many are dealing with a high level of sexual intensity. That’s how they are. Many have little or no sex drive. That’s how they are. Some have to deal with same sex attraction. That’s how they are. Now we must find out what God wants us to do with our sexual component…

  12. cindy,
    I think that theology and rules is the main concern for some people. For others, it is a sincere desire to know. If sin – brokenness, missing the mark of God’s intentions for us – results in damage to our life, most of us don’t want to put ourselves in opposition to His will for us.

    What I do know is that His desire is for our wholeness. If His “position” is that this is damaging for us, then He has something ultimately better for us, and His love can bring us to that place of wholeness in every aspect of our being.

    And as joseph said, God can sort it out. To be honest, I don’t think it can be sorted out without Him.

  13. Allow me to share another taboo…

    I am in my early 30s and I’m a hebephile, that is, I am intensely attracted to girls 12-16. I have no desire for women my own age whatsoever. I have always controlled myself. Perhaps I was born with this desire, but that does not mean I have no responsibility to control it. I understand men in a large part of history, and still today in a large part of the world, marry girls this age, and it is taken as absolutely normal. So then is it just a cultural thing? If I lived in the Pacific Islands, the Middle east, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and I took a 12 year old to be my wife, her parents would celebrate. In America, well… it would be ugly indeed. Here’s the irony though; I am chaste, and would never have intercourse with a pubescent girl if I had the opportunity, UNLESS I was married to her. Our Patriarchs were all hebephiles, Isaac and Rebekah are an extreme example, a 40 year old man marrying a 9 year old girl (bordering on pedophilia, and some scholars debate the ages still, but the Rabbis believe my stated ages as the most likely to be correct), and so was Joseph, Mary’s husband. So then, is the stigma attached to being a hebephile ONLY cultural? Is there anything Biblically wrong with a man my age marrying a pubescent girl? I can’t objectively that, because I would obviously be biased. Nor are these urges merely sexual. My thoughts go to marriage and starting a family. It is NOT a sexual attraction alone, and I certainly would never have intercourse outside of marriage no matter any opportunity that arose.

    I have talked to many guys my age, older and younger, who all when I confide to them that I find such girls attractive in a sexual way and would like to marry one, 9 times out of 10 they admit the same. I wonder just how widespread these feelings are. My conversations lead me to believe that most men are hebephiles, though most will likely publicly protest such a claim.

    Pedophilia on the other hand, is clearly an abusive situation and I won’t even go there. That repulses me, thats abuse. I have no attraction to non-pubescent girls.

    Hebepholia is never talked about, or when it is discussed, is labelled as pedophilia. It would be nice to be able to share and learn from others without being judged as something I am not. The homosexual should be thankful he has things as good as they are. If he thinks he is victimized by society, trying walking a mile in my shoes.

  14. It seems like there are several different aspects to this subject.

    One aspect is personal: between me and the Lord, what is the right context for sex? It seems as though the consistent message of the Bible is that the only context for sex which God blesses and approves is within marriage, a lifetime union of one man and one woman (this appears to be the ideal).

    If that is the consistent message of scripture, and if scripture really is God’s word, and if I love God and seek to do His will, then I realize that sex for me will be blessed and approved by God only within a marriage between me and a man (since I am a woman). That rules out every other variety of sex available and approved of today (and in the New Testament days too, let alone the surrounding cultures of the Old Testament).

    The next aspect is societal. If I believe that sex within marriage is God’s only right and appointed way, and I also am responsible for guiding the laws and mores of my society (as a person in a democratic state would feel), then I am going to press for laws which protect sex within marriage of one man and one woman, and discourage sex outside of marriage, as defined above. It is a matter of conscience.

    If I were not responsible for guiding laws and mores, then I could have a clean conscience in not trying to press for laws that protect sex within marriage and discourage sex outside of marriage. It would be up to the governing authorities, whoever they are.

    The next aspect has to do with the church. If I believe that sex within marriage, as defined above, is the only blessed-and-approved-by-God kind of sex, and I know that those who teach (and lead) will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1), then I will want my leaders to follow this sex principle, and will not want my leaders to follow any other sex principle.

    I believe that it is within the context of these aspects of today’s post that have caused such rift and pain in our body. Christians, who are also voting citizens of the U.S., and of their states, and who are voting members of their church, who believe that the Bible’s consistent message is that sex is only blessed and approved by God within the marriage of one man and one woman, will seek to protect that message. It is a matter of conscience.

    At the macro level, society and church leadership, it seems appropriate to follow one’s conscience and sense of responsibility, and trust God with the outcome.

    At the micro level life gets a little more messy. There are many, many kinds of sins, as we all know. Pretend illustration: I might wish this person over here would be convicted of gossiping, but she isn’t. She feels perfectly fine about gossiping and yet claims Christ. Because I am frustrated about what I see as a lack of movement towards holiness in her life, I move in and try to be the Holy Spirit, convicting her. This is not a new problem. I believe Jesus addressed this problem in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul addressed this problem in Galatians.

    Lack of conviction on a matter does not mean that the person is not sinning. It just means they don’t feel convicted. The Pharisees did not appear to feel convicted about their behavior. But they were still sinning. Leviticus actually has almost two chapters devoted to sacrifices that can be offered for sins done in ignorance.

    What we do in a case like this, when we feel very sure that a person is sinning, yet they insist that they are not, and not even the whole body of believers with whom they are in community can convince them otherwise, then the Lord says we are to treat that person in the way we treat a pagan or a tax collector.

    Interestingly, it was a tax collector who recorded Jesus’ words in Matt 18:15-20. The way Jesus treated tax collectors was to honor them above everyone else by going to their house and eating with them. He called them to be close to Him. He hung out with their friends and went to their parties. He gave them love, friendship, respect and, most importantly, the whole gospel. Jesus was the friend of sinners (whether they felt convicted or not).

    I don’t have conclusions, just these observations.

  15. wow — i was just having this conversation the other day with someone. I had been reading a wonderful book by Bill Williams called “Naked Before God: The Return of a Broken Disciple.” In it he deals with our rather wacky view of sin as being merely an action. However, sin really has a much broader meaning in context to all creation and to humanity in particular. It is a brokenness and “unwholeness” of being, as you say. God’s plan is not merely “getting us saved” but really bringing us into a process of healing and making us whole again. It is gradual and incremental, and it is not completed until after death and resurrection. We have made issues of sin and salvation so damnably transactional in the sense that you “committed a sin” and now you must “get saved.” It would be better described as: we are hopelessly broken, and we need him to put the peice

  16. (cont.) It would be better described as: we are hopelessly broken, and we need him to put the pieces back together again. I think this is really what I see John describing in his first epistle describing how the human race dwells in darkness and confusion over the reality of their brokenness, and how Christ brings us into the light of love to show us who we really are – not for judgment, condemnation and damnation – but for love, healing, and wholeness.

  17. Grace, Thanks for your response and clarification.

    I did not mean that gay people are reducible to their attraction. What I mean is that there is a homosexual fundamentalism that insists that if a person experiences same-sex attraction, their only authentic expression of sexuality is to be gay. This has been the primary reaction of the gay community to the Ted Haggard story.

    What I am attempting to communicate is that perhaps it is not necessary to label ourselves according to our attractions.

    I understand and agree. I think it’s unfortunate that some in the gay community are so insistent that Ted needs to come out as gay. There’s nothing to be gleeful about in the destruction of a decades-long marriage.

    The closet is an ugly place. It can’t always go as amicably as it did with Gene Robinson.

  18. hey grace (remember me!)

    my views on homosexuality have been changing over the last couple of years. This is revealed in my blog posts which have become bolder in shifting to a point of view that homosexuality, for some, is a biological reality. I am no expert, and I honestly cannot debate as thoroughly as many others can on the various viewpoints. But I did write a paper for an ethics class exploring the question, Ought a Christian Support Same-Sex Unions? In my research for that paper I came across some interesting and compelling data that got me to cross the line.

    I am no longer comfortable unequivocally judging homosexual orientation to be a broken, defective or deviant condition. Some people are gay. Some are straight. Some are not even sure. The waters of sexual identity are murky at best and muddy all of the time.

    If you or any of your readers are interested in reading my paper I did post it on my blog. The link is

    http://godmessedmeup.blogspot.com/2008/12/same-sex-unions-ought-christian-to.html

    Also, for any who are so inclined, in my sidebar in the list of archived posts, look for Sex Stories to read all that I’ve posted that has anything to do with same-sex attraction.

    (and, btw, I mentioned you in my blog post today. You’ll be glad to know that it has nothing to do with sex either.)

  19. This is very interesting indeed. In Corinthians – Paul dealt with this matter – it was – go to the person – demand repentance, if there is none – then DIS-Fellowship the person. However – here’s where we’ve really missed it. After the person is DIS-Fellowshiped by the group – that in itself causes so many problems (sorrow for the person) – that the group is later told to confirm their love towards this person. The RE-Fellowshiping of the one in sin – is such a wonderful inclusion (for them) – they are ready to deal with the issue now.

    Without close relationships – we can’t effectively even begin to deal with the sin problem. The solution – Confess your sins one to another – pray for one another and you will be healed. This is in context with the ecclesia – the gathering of the saints – and Christ coming to dwell among his people (in that gathering).

    These should be very special times indeed – when the power of God is made manifest to deal with the frailty of man. Yes – this is grace indeed – and how wonderful it is that our God restores and redeems the sinner. The Lord is good and upright, therefore He instructs sinners in the way.

    But — the “Saul System” makes a mockery of the true gathering of the saints, and the restoration of the sinner. Sure – it DIS-Fellowships – but there was never really any “fellowship” in the first place – so in reality – it DIS-members. Ouch – cut Harrard off and throw him away. Amputation is hardly healing. But the “Saul System” has no other answer.

    As Joanne said in the previous post – God never created the KING position for man. You either fall into witchcraft like Saul (controlling and manipulating people thru guilt, intimidation, and fear) – or you fall into sexual sin like David. Go read Samuel, Kings, Chronicles. The miracle is – a king that doesn’t fall (Josiah maybe???)

    The solution is get rid of the position of king – and bring everyone (on the same level) into true fellowship with one another – and be gracious and caring for one another. Forgive !!!

  20. denny,
    Thanks for sharing your personal experience here. Since I don’t know you -and won’t be emailing you:) – please know that I want to be careful in my response to you. Take whatever is helpful and forgive whatever is insensitive.

    I am not shocked at your feelings, and I appreciate the maturity you have used in understanding these feelings. For this discussion, it provides a good example of attraction.

    In considering your situation, I wonder what would happen if you let go of the label hebephile and no longer looked at yourself through that lens. It seems like based on attraction, we set out to “diagnose” ourselves so that we can put a name on the “condition.”

    There is probably a valid reason that you experience this attraction. I think that attraction is a pretty complicated mix of both healthy and unhealthy factors from our past, our experiences, and our personalities.

    In saying this, I am not attempting to dismiss the reality of the attraction that you have experienced, but there is so much more to you, your life, and your circumstances than those feelings.

    Consider the thought that you are Denny, a male, created in the image of God, gifted in a variety of ways, broken in a variety of ways, loved by the Father, and in the process of being shaped into all that He intended you to be for His glory and for your joy, happiness, and fulfillment.

    There is nothing wrong with understanding our attractions. But we must consider that apart from a loving relationship, attraction is simply the objectification of another person from a self-seeking perspective.

    Our source of life is from God the Father. Love is our decision to commit to another person, to put their needs before our own. To approach a romantic relationship solely based on attraction is destined to lead to failure. But within the context of following Christ, we can find the place where love and attraction converge.

    I believe that attraction is often given too much weight in our attempt to understand our true identity. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t think that God sees us through that lens.

    Thanks again for your vulnerability.

  21. joanne,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with much of what you said.

    Individually, I believe that one should vote and participate in civic issues according to their convictions. However, I don’t believe it is the role of the church to collectively attempt to shape the laws of society.

    My perspective is that we are a unique kingdom society living within our nation, with a different allegiance and a different way of engaging with the culture. Our witness to the culture should be one of love, not laws.

    When the sinners, whoever they are, can look at the church and say, “those are the people who love us,” we will be on our way to being what the church was meant to be.

    To be honest, I think we would be much better off if everyone who considers themselves a homosexual got it right with Jesus and never changed their sexuality, than for them to not know Jesus at all.

    alex,
    Love these thoughts, particularly the example from John and the expression of the good news as the light of Jesus that brings love and wholeness.

    pam,
    Of course I remember you. If I remember right, our first email conversation was about this topic for an article that you were writing.

    I hope you know that I respect you even if I don’t share your conclusions.

    This I disagree with:

    Some people are gay. Some are straight.

    This I agree with:

    Some are not even sure. The waters of sexual identity are murky at best and muddy all of the time.

    My thesis, if you want to call it that, is that we were never intended to be identified based upon sexual orientation, but that we are male and female with a wide spectrum of sexual attractions.

    As believers, our pursuit should be following Christ, submitting all of our attractions to Him, and allowing His Spirit to sort through the needs and desires that those attractions represent.

    jerry,
    I think most of the scriptures about dealing with sin among ourselves were based upon much closer relationships than we experience in churches today. The right to speak into someone’s life is dependent on an established relationship of mutual love and trust.

  22. Grace- right on. We all exist on a continuum of sexuality – no one (hate to say this, but it’s true) is exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but rather we all tend towards one side of the spectrum or the other. And you guys with the big man crush on some other guy you really admire just need to see it for what it is and deal with it :)

    Sexuality is formed in the crucible of early experiences, sexual awakenings and unmet needs- and knowing that we should have compassion on all , because we all struggle in this area. Just some of us in ways less socially acceptable. No- no one chooses to be homosexual- or heterosexual for that matter. And none of us are born that way either. And though we all don’t faces the challenge of homosexual desires, we ALL have to struggle with an orientation that points us towards things we can’t do as followers of Jesus. It’s just a part of being broken human beings.

    “The fundamentalist christian position is repressive about the spectrum of attraction that people experience. Yet the fundamentalist homosexual position is adamant that one must identify themselves and live according to those attractions. I don’t recognize the voice of Truth in what I read from either side.”

    That’s gold.

    And Pam (HI from across town!)- I support civil unions for everybody (including heterosexuals) and see the issue of legal rights as distinct from biblical morality and acceptable behavior for a Christ follower.

    Denny- Thanks for being open- the question I had when I read your story was even if you got what you wanted… what happens when she’s not 12-16 anymore?

  23. Bob wrote: I support civil unions for everybody (including heterosexuals) and see the issue of legal rights as distinct from biblical morality and acceptable behavior for a Christ follower.

    I think if we want to be ‘Christian’ about this in the pluralistic society we live in, then I must support the concept of civil unions for both hetero & same sex couples. That being said I would also resist expanding that definition to anything broader than 2 people or the elimination of minimum age restrictions. The state should not be in the business of granting ‘marriage’ licenses, only civil contractual agreements which is its secular right to define, limit & enforce (as it does now). Seems to be a reasonable concession for even the most vocal sides of the argument. Once a civil contract/union is registered then have the union ‘blessed’, recognized, authorized, verified, formalized, categorized, etc. by any group as a marriage according to the definitions they establish. However, this civil union cannot be used as a club by some to force acceptance or compliance by religious groups that do not recognize your civil union as ‘marriage’. If there is going to be acceptance from both sides of the aisle then we must choose to play by rules that allow for the narrowest definition of marriage. Religious organizations & businesses that establish their definition of marriage cannot be forced to recognize all civil unions as marriage. The existing laws prohibiting discrimination based on the current criteria sufficient to protect this civil union arrangement I would think.

    And Bob included this: Denny- Thanks for being open- the question I had when I read your story was even if you got what you wanted… what happens when she’s not 12-16 anymore?

    I too wondered about Denny’s transparent proclivity regarding his attraction to pubescent females. What does happen when they, well, continue to grow up? If it is simply age fixation, marriage will not be the cure all then, will it?

    There are some groups here in the USA that believe not only in marrying off young women, but having multiple wives. Within this tight group it is not deemed unnatural or abnormal, but actually God ordained. And as you pointed out, simply moving to another country where it is acceptable to marry a 12-16 year old seems to be an easy way to avoid any legal or social taboos you may feel unfair. Just wondering…

  24. “what happens when she’s not 12-16 anymore?”

    What happens you your wives when they are not 22 anymore? Do you dump them when they are 45? 55? Or does agape love not take over from any physical attraction.

    Put another way… the 20 year old has zero interest in a 40 year old woman, but when the girl he marries is 40, he does not get rid of her or lose interest in her. Or shouldn’t. You don’t go asking 20 year olds what they are going to do when she’s no longer the pretty 20 year old he met in college.

    So your question really is without cause, as it applies to everyone. Love for the person extends far beyond the initial attraction. I just feel it’s Biblically correct and normal to marry someone of this age, that does not mean I am going to lose interest when they get older.

  25. Denny, completely aside from the question what would happen when the hypothetical young girl you’d want to marry is past her pubescent stage and the initial attraction is gone, I just can’t imagine that any girl in that age group would have the necessary maturity to consent to such a relationship and have the sufficient judgment to make this kind of committment to a man twice her age.

    And I don’t believe the biblical examples you mentioned are setting any real precedent since those cultures hardly fit your context and motivation, nor are they ever mentioned as God’s ideal (otherwise polygamy could be defended just the same way).

    If you truly LOVE (not just desire) a young girl like that and seek nothing but her best interest, I believe you already know in your own heart that getting married when she is ready (and probably to someone closer to her own age) would be better for her.

  26. I’m taking some liberty here. I joined a rock and roll band when I was 17. I played in the bars at least 3 nights a week, sometimes 6 nights a week. I did drugs, regularly got drunk, and slept around as normal part of my existance. I really saw nothing wrong with any of that — except I was totally devastated by one realtionship after another. One night – My childhood sweetheart – whom I happened to be living with – came home drunk with another guy – and I woke up to sounds of them partaking of one another in the other room. My first “overwhelming” reaction was to kill both of them. That night I was faced with my humanity – and with something that was far beyond my ability to handle. Having been brought up in a Christian home (but mostly having rejected it) – I cried out “Jesus – help me”. From the time of that encounter – until about a year later – the Lord started revealing Himself to me. On the last day of college – the day of my last final exam when I graduated – I went out and partied all night long – we smoked 3 or 4 joints – and split a fifth of gin before the bars opened. Then we were at the rock and roll bar all night – then getting high at friends house until 4 a.m. the next morning. Problem with that night was – I never got high, I never got drunk – that stuff didn’t touch me. I came home about 4 a.m. – and the Lord fell on me – I fell to my knees and I was born again. I never had ever heard that term before that moment.

    Early on – I had an increditble hunger for scriptures – one night I read the following:

    Jer 30: 14 – 18 All your lovers have forgotten you;
    they no longer look for you, for I have struck you like an enemy would, with the discipline of someone cruel,
    because of your enormous guilt and your innumerable sins. Why do you cry out about your injury? Your pain has no cure!
    I have done these things to you because of your enormous guilt and your innumerable sins. Nevertheless, all who devoured you will be devoured,
    and all your adversaries—all of them—
    will go off into exile. Your despoilers will become spoil, and all who plunder you will be plundered.
    But I will bring you health and will heal you of your wound /this is/ the LORD’s declaration—
    for they call you The Outcast, that Zion no one cares about.

    I cried for almost 5 hours that night – the Holy Spirit was so all over me wtih the conviction that I’d lived a sinful life. And that much of my past behavior had really brought devastation to me. But it wasn’t – “Jerry you’re a scum bag” – it was “Jerry – you really messed up – but I (the Lord) – am going to heal you” – and “don’t go back to that life style – please retreat until I can get you help”.

    I’m sorry – there is a thing called sin – there is sexual immorality – and it will hurt you real bad. But thats not the end of the story – there is a Savior who will run all of your accursers away – and not condemn you – and who will set you free. And yes – you can be healed, delivered, whatever you want to call it. I don’t want those things anymore. No, not at all.

  27. P.S. I am happily married now (21 years) – with a wonderful wife – and 4 awesome boys. But it is so totally different – there is a huge difference between now and then. God doesn’t take away – He gives abundantly – but He makes corrections all along the way to help you out – so you won’t kill yourself. He really is good.

  28. bob,
    I really appreciated hearing your thoughts about this. I find very little written in the christian blogosphere that reflects my thoughts on this issue, which is the main reason I decided to put this out there – that and the fact that I had considered it for 25 minutes and came to these conclusions. ;)

    Love this…

    we ALL have to struggle with an orientation that points us towards things we can’t do as followers of Jesus. It’s just a part of being broken human beings.

    Exactly. And if we were “true to ourselves” by following through with every attraction, we would all be a mess.

    denny,
    You don’t have to defend or explain yourself beyond what you are comfortable with. I don’t agree with your claim that this is the “biblically correct” pattern.

    As josh said so well, marriage is a love relationship that desires what is in the best interest of the other person. Attraction is the pursuit of our own interest.

    Amen jerry, preach it brother!
    Our sin is never the end of the story, thank you Jesus.

  29. The respectful tone of both this post and the discussion have amazed me. I just wanted to thank you all for that because it really touched me deeply watching the respectful dialogue go on. It truly has astounded me and I feel like I’ve received this huge gift from it.

  30. Bob, thanks for those thoughts. I have felt for many years that todays homosexual community can be likened to those in New Testament times for they who society distained and marginalized. And yet those were the ones Jesus hung out with and touched during his ministry. Why not us as a church? Seems so strange we go along with the status quo. Just last fall I returned to California to visit with some Christian friends and was exposed to the Proposition 8 ban against same sex marriage. They were adamant and hateful in their championing of the legislation. How very unChistlike yet how very typical.

    Ive never really looked into the theology or scriputures of it all but ive learned more than enough from the fear or hatred from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Ive just had this deep sense that if the gay community are the ones that are the focus of the churches distain then I bet they are the ones that are the focus of Jesus’ love and affection and grace. Again, I just think that we would find Jesus in a gay bar hanging out and making friends or marching in Pride day in some major city or even a small town.

    Ive put my words to action……I volunteer once a week at a local aids hospice by making dinner for the clients. I bring one of my kids each time and introduced them and allowed them to dine with them. They arent pretty! In fact some of them are undergoing chemo others have disfigurments. They all though have had mothers that loved them and a Creator that died for them and loves them all the more. Ive spent time out of the hospice with some of the gay care givers and their partners. We laughed together and my mouth has dropped open at their stories of gay bashing and spending a night in the hospital as a result. Two weeks ago I had dinner with a lesbian friend. She was married twice to men but somewhere she gravitated towards her same sex. She doesnt know why she just knows its they way it is. I listened. I met her on her ground as I did the gay couple at dinner and those at the hospice. I guess I am thinking thats what Jesus would do.

    Im glad to bring my kids along. I want to squeeze the homophobia out of them. I want them to have a reference for when they are older and their peers start to make fun of gays and then they can think back to the guys they helped daddy make dinner for and then ate with them side by side.

    Thats the way Im seeing it and living it.

  31. chris, you inspire me!

    someone at my church here in portland has an opportunity through their job to help organize a team to march in the annual Pride parade here in June. She asked some of us if we would want to join her. My evangelical conscience said, “What?” My heart said Yes. And my 15y old daughter is very enthusiastic about the idea and is asking if some of her friends can join us…I took her to a same-sex commitment ceremony a few years ago of two women we knew who wanted to “tie the knot.”

    When I publicized this decision a long-time friend who lives in another state chastised me quite strongly. Eventually, she likened my decision to attend this ceremony as the same as attending “a satanic blood ritual.” Her words, not mine. And so, she could not endure my softening stance towards our brothers and sisters who are homosexual and the friendship, after nearly twenty years, dissolved.

    But my daughter is one of the most loving and non-judgmental people I know. Her compassion is a deep well of sweet water that refreshes so many around her. She makes me proud. And yes, we will march in that Pride parade for we want to put our feet to the ground of what is in our hearts.

    Thanks Chris for reminding me that my choices are not just about me, but also my kids. And my community. And the kingdom of God, which I believe is a kingdom of love and grace.

  32. Thanks for sharing your experiences Chris and Pam, powerful examples. When the church approaches this as an “issue” we fail to see the faces of the people we are talking about. When we are face to face with people, our only legitimate response as followers of Christ is love.

  33. grace wrote: What if in the upside-down nature of the kingdom, the ultimate in sexual fulfillment occurs in the act of giving pleasure to another? If the objective is the pursuit of one’s own satisfaction, perhaps we always end up off track. By using the lens of self-fulfillment, we set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction.
    I would resist the tendency to ‘over spiritualize’ sex to the point of it becoming a detached effort focused solely on another’s pleasure…

    I do not wish to rob sex of its inherent sacredness nor imply that sexual expressions are not sacramental. I just don’t want to paint sex as being more than what its primal roots were intended for: mutual physical pleasure & erotic enjoyment. Can’t say I would settle for a totally detached lover not interested in my desire to give as well as receive…

    By its very design it was intended to be enjoyed together or else there would not be the attraction factor or the physical response mechanisms in both the male & female genders. Sex should be earthy, not spiritual. Erotic, not religiously ecstatic. Visceral. Intense & enjoyable & all those things it can & should be. But do not remove it from the simultaneously pleasurable arrangement it seems it was designed to be expressed through.

    I think sex the best way to keep us grounded. We reconnect with our animal nature & behave in a, well, unique way (no other illustrations necessary ;) ). It is unlike anything else so I try not to make it into a Song of Solomon allegory. I like it for what it is: raw. Exciting. Sensual. Erotic. All the intensely physical adjectives that communicate its primeval origins.

    However, it is in this sexual arena that our brokenness shows forth the most. So much guilt & shame & abuse & misapplication & exploitation & manipulation associated with it & all the resulting damage in its wake…

    That is one concept I do not quite understand fully. Unfortunately, in this life we may never get to the place where sex is rightfully redeemed & we are released & made new to enjoy it to the fullest. And supposedly in the next life sex is not part of the heavenly experience. Many sincere Christians go through life never healed/released in this area no matter what their confession is, length of journey, married partner, etc.

    Certainly God is the only One to sort it all out, but it appears it is not done to any great degree in the majority of saints today. Not sure what a “sex life to the fullest” would really be like. Maybe we are not to know what it would be like if sex just a type or shadow itself. Dunno…just more musings on a rather intriguing subject…

  34. joseph,
    I was referring more generally to the relationship. I believe it is true that when we selfishly pursue our fulfillment in a relationship, we ultimately end up disappointed. I don’t know to what degree this applies to the physical aspect of the relationship, but I believe the principle is applicable without overspiritualizing the act of sex.

    The beauty of sex is that ideally there is a reciprocity where giving and receiving can no longer be clearly delineated because in the mutuality of giving pleasure we also experience pleasure.

    I agree that it is a tragedy that there is so much pain, brokenness, and shame surrounding this topic.

  35. grace

    Yeah…I figured. My point as I was progressign through my own thought processes settled on the brokenness factor that is so obvious & easily understood by most people. Our personal sexual experiences the most visceral & capable of the worst damage to our sense of well being.

    We do pretend to be okay when really we are not. We go through life defensive, closed off, timid, shamed, etc. And it seems God none too quick to make this all better in the poor saints that seek Him out for the wholeness He promised…

    No. I do not agree that the “life to the full” Jesus mentioned is a common experience in the here-and-now for most saints. No magic wands to wave. No magic powers to restore. No fix-it incantations or rituals or prophetic forthtellings will put Humpty-Dumpty back together again…

    I think we can agree only God can do it, but He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry does He?

  36. joseph,
    I think that broken sexuality is only a symptom of the brokenness in our soul and the brokenness that brings into our relationshipships. I think God is as anxious to bring healing in this area as He is to restore our hearts to wholeness in every way, and that we will typically find that as the wounds are healed the symptoms of dis-ease are cured.

  37. I think that what you’ve written is a must read for people. You’ve done an excellent job of showing the problems at the poles and how the Kingdom approach is much different. I dont’ know many, if any, people, once you get to know them, who aren’t broken sexually (or, as you say, have expressions of their broken nature in their sexuality). Whether it is the wife who uses sex as a controlling rod over her husband, the man who struggles every hour with lust, (I apologize for the stereotypes – but these are strong examples), the man who has a secret life of sexual addiction, etc.

    Praise the Lord that He can redeem us and make us more to the image of Christ even through our sexual sin. I can definitely see in my life a story of redemption in this area.

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