“Why would you EVER want to leave homosexuality?”
This is a question we’re often asked. Some ask it out of genuine interest. They want to understand the ones we minister to, as well as the impetus behind our ministry at Outpost. Others ask it out of ignorance, never having conceived the possibility that it could happen. Still others, wishing to skewer and disparage our efforts, ask out of animosity. In any case it’s a question we often wrestle with, and we want to give an appropriate response to each person.
We’re motivated by Peter’s admonition in 1 Peter 3:15-17 (NIV, throughout),
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.)
Peter’s instructions not only offer motivation for answering, but also suggest the modus operandi by which we go about it—gently and respectfully. This implies masculine strength under control—or meekness (which is a by-product of living by the Spirit). It is masculine precisely because it requires that truth be clearly spoken.
At any rate, here’s a brief explanation of the hope that we have which is a central component to “our good behavior,” which is more about accomplishing Moral Good than “behaving well,” which tends to focus on not doing certain uncouth things or bad manners.
Peter rightfully teaches that we first begin with setting apart Christ as Lord. And this is essential to our ministry here at Outpost. We often say, we’re not here to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals, we’re here to turn men and women’s hearts toward Christ. We assist people in their journey toward imitating Christ more clearly. We want them to be just like Jesus!
But what of this “lordship” that Peter writes about? Lordship implies worship, submission and dependence. My pastor is doing a series of sermons on the “True Christ,” and why obedience to Him is so compelling. The series’ text is from 1 John 5:21, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” Here the Apostle John is writing to believers who have become discouraged in their faith. This is his parting comment.
In classic Johannine fashion, he calls them his “dear children.” Clearly, this is a reference to how he feels about them. It is a term of endearment. But we must also understand that throughout the previous five chapters, he has carefully and lovingly described what the “children” of God are. And that is, those who obey, believe and love Jesus. This obedience, faith and love is particularly evident when they’ve lost their confidence. And the three of these together describe the true believer. If one is missing, perhaps one is not worshiping the True Christ. Any object of worship who is not True, John calls here, an idol.
Certainly, these days, most Americans don’t have little statues they worship, but many do pledge their allegiance to a “god” who cannot possibly be true, and they do this for a number of reasons—most often for convenience. We know these “christs” are false because there is a breakdown in obeying, believing and loving in the life of these believers.
Though we don’t have the space to develop these ideas fully, I will summarize three false christs many worship:
1) The pushover magic wand christ is not smart and can’t tell what’s real. If you say the magic words, he’ll wave the magic wand, and you’ll go to heaven when you die, but he won’t touch your real life now. You can keep your gossip, lust and sin. This christ never calls you to obey, love or believe, let alone pick up your cross and follow him. “It’s all cosmetic,” says this christ. “I won’t touch any part of your real life. I don’t care about the way you treat your neighbor, who you love or how you love. And your sexuality—well, do what you want! It doesn’t matter to me!”
The problem with this christ is that we need (and want) a God who knows, sees and cares about the daily struggles of our lives!
2) The tyrant christ is the one who says, “One false move and you’re dead.” This is like the abusive parent whom one obeyed so that he or she didn’t get smacked. But this is obeying out of fear, not love. And by our definition, this is a false christ because, it’s obey, believe AND love that mark Christianity. There’s a disbelief that God’s good, gentle or loving, so one guards his heart and anesthetizes himself from this christ. Unfortunately, then his outsides will look different from his insides. He becomes a hypocrite, and God can’t touch his heart.
The problem with this christ is that it’s not real. The True Christ is a loving father who does not abuse his children, but by “his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
3) The tame Christ is “the Lamb of God.” Whew. We can live with this. But he is not just a Lamb. And if you live in that, you will be destroyed by the Lion that he is, too. A relationship with the True Christ is an invitation to marriage with him, not just to have and hold, but for better or worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health. If you don’t get this part of what marriage is, you don’t get who He is. He’s not here to cuddle you, hug you and make you feel safe. Jesus is on a mission to destroy the works of the devil. “Come join me for the ride of your life. Let’s do this together. You better bring your faith and courage and love. Comfort? Yeah, but if this is what you want most, maybe you should marry another guy.” And if all you got was comfort, maybe you “married” someone other than the True Christ.
Jesus is many things, including love, but he is not tame. Not passive nor predictable. His highest priority and passion is not just that we all be comfortable in the suburbs. This relationship is a marriage—the adventure of a lifetime. This requires tenacious believing, bold loving, etc. This relationship will not teach you how to play it safe. Jesus is not the play-it-safe kind of man. We’re the bride, but do we have any idea who this groom is? Jesus is a bit of a wild man. Do you feel any energy next to him at all? You can’t get close to him without feeling some heat.
Dorothy Sayers said that we’ve tried to tame him by “trimming his lion’s claws.” But we can’t tame him, really, so we simply redefine him—tell ourselves he’s different.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, the little girl asks of Aslan, the lion, “Is he safe?” “No, but he is good. You can trust him,” is the reply.
We have trouble wading into the masculine strength of God, because we’ve experienced abuse by it from disordered men who crush, abuse and misuse people.
The real danger of a christ who is tame is that this christ will never turn your muscles into water, never ever stir you at the depth of your soul with passionate desire to love, obey, serve or listen because this christ doesn’t ever call you to that. This false christ has light, but no heat. He has no power to change reality. Nothing could be more boring than living a pious life, tipping your hat to this christ who doesn’t even exist.
“Let’s just hug.” “No! I am about destroying the works of Satan, wanna come with me?”
Jesus bids us, “Marry me! Come die with me and I will give you the ride of your life and give you your life back!”
Can you feel the heat, the strength, the passion, the love?
Whom do you want to marry? Someone nice? Some milksop mollycoddle like Casper the Friendly Ghost? Or would you rather marry someone like George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, who has some passion, who has vision and goals, places to go, people to meet?
Who IS this Jesus? John 5:20 affirms that He Is the True God! He has called us to follow him and to partner with him in his quest to destroy the works of Satan. He stirs in us a passionate desire to obey courageously, to believe tenaciously, love boldly, to follow faithfully, serve gratefully, and, maybe even someday, to die willingly for Him.
And it is for this reason, this person, this Jesus the True Christ that I might die to self, leaving behind my false homosexual self.