It's one of today's most difficult conversations, but one increasingly impossible to avoid. The spiritual, political, and emotional implications make this topic explosive. How can pastors talk realistically and redemptively with those seeking pastoral guidance about same sex attraction? We asked Stan Jones, who has academic, professional, and personal experience in helping those sorting out their homosexual orientation, to let us listen in on one of his conversations with "Todd," a composite drawn from many of Stan's interactions.
Jones: Thanks for getting together. Tell me your story.
Todd: I am 20 years old, and since an early age, I sensed that I was different from other boys. I just wasn't into stereotypical boy stuff. In middle school I began to experience occasional attraction to other boys. It was in high school when I felt like I was in love with an older boy—a guy I knew was completely straight. I knew I was in trouble.
I couldn't talk to my parents or anyone at church about this. My church only brings up gays and lesbians as the enemy in the culture wars, and while my parents have never been hateful about gay people, I get the sense this would totally freak them out.
I shared my struggles with one woman who has been a good friend, but she is not a Christian, and she just tells me to come out and "be who I am." I also shared it with my closest Christian friend, and while he has kept my secret and initially promised to be there for me, he has since found ways to pull away. I feel terribly alone, and it's rather terrifying to talk about it all.
Jones: How can I help?
Todd: I am totally confused. On Christian radio and certain sites on the Internet, I hear that homosexual attractions can be changed. But professional psychological organizations and pro-gay groups are emphatic that change is impossible, and I should just embrace my gay identity. I hear the stories of ex-gay leaders who go back to the lifestyle.
Some friends say that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and others say it does not. I hear some evangelicals accept monogamous gay marriage, based on the argument that the Bible simply does not address monogamous same-sex relationships, but I hear most evangelical churches insisting that marriage is only between a man and woman.
I've come to the painful conclusion that I am gay, but what do I do now? How do I sort this out?
Jones: Many of our churches have not done a great job of making a space where people can open their hearts to one another regarding this issue and transparently seek God. We need to do a better job of approaching this issue humbly and gently, recognizing that we are all broken creatures, including experiencing various kinds of sexual brokenness.
Fortunately, we worship a God who speaks into the dark areas of our lives with enough moral clarity that we can understand the rough outlines of how he wants us to seek him, in purity and holiness. The Bible has much more to say about heterosexual sin in all its crazy varieties than it does about homosexual sin, but in every place where homosexual conduct is mentioned, most clearly in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9, it is clearly condemned.
Todd: But the Bible doesn't talk about consensual, orientation-based, same-sex love and marriage as we see today, does it?