July 21, 2012

In Christ

Homosexuality is an issue discussed daily by the media, in politics, in churches, and in personal conversations at the office water cooler and in our homes. Every possible perspective, it seems, is being studied, advocated, and argued about. My own experiences and relationship with Jesus have led me, as a “new creation” in Christ, to the assurance that victory and healing over homosexuality is a reality and is free to all who will proclaim it. It is a powerful gift from God.

In a previous issue of the Adventist Review* I shared my personal story of how God “plucked me from the burning.” He helped me learn that focusing on Him instead of on me makes all things possible. I continue to grow each day in my relationship with the Lord.

Answering the Tough Questions
In my walk with God He has gently provided me with answers to some tough questions, such as “Is there a ‘cure’ for homosexuality?” and even more fundamental, “Is change necessary?”

One viewpoint that some people endorse is that when a person chooses to no longer live an active gay lifestyle, they automatically become heterosexual—but this is not the change that God expects. Our identity in Jesus is not a sexual one.

I have met pastors and congregational members who have assumed that when I was baptized, I went under the “watery grave” gay and came up straight, but that isn’t reality. So what really happens when gay souls submit themselves to Christ?

Sexual Purity
The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality but holiness. This is what God calls us to. Romans 6:22 states it clearly: “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”

2012 1520 page29 linkAAs we grow ever nearer to the end-times and the world spins out of control, sex and sexual identity have been taking center stage. Satan has masterminded deception in a vast array of media, spotlighting sensuality and dismissing the crucial and much-needed focus on Jesus and His holy Word.

Many are waiting for the “magic button” that eventually “cures” homosexuality. To those I say that Jesus is the button, and He is more than magic. He is God. He has promised healing to all, but His form of healing may not be what some expect.

When I give myself fully to God, seek His forgiveness, and lay my soul at the foot of the cross, He fulfills His promise in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Isn’t that beautiful! I’m not identified in Him by my temptations. I am now a “new creation” in Jesus. I no longer identify in the world; I identify in Jesus. The old has passed, and the new has come. Life begins anew with my growing in the grace and purity of Christ.

Orientation is like a compass; I now orient to the cross of Jesus, where I can find continual cleansing and change that will prepare me for eternity. For some, change may eventually bring a new desire for companionship with the opposite sex, but only Jesus knows what is important to our recovery. Our temptations may not change, but Jesus gives us the power to say no to temptation and to live a pure and holy lifestyle.

Many people—including those who identify as heterosexuals—have not developed an intimacy with Jesus. A close relationship with our Lord is the most important factor in moving forward and reaching out to any sin-sickened soul. We can’t share what we don’t have. As God’s representatives we must emphasize abiding in Jesus. Regardless of the sin problem, the solution is the same.

“Truth” Rather Than “Feeling”
When I gave my life over to Jesus, I wondered what it meant to “abide” in Him. Webster’s dictionary defines abide as “to endure without yielding”; “to bear patiently”; “to accept without objection.” That’s a tall order for any Christian, because it asks us to live outside our feelings. But our loving heavenly Father promises us strength to endure. This requires patience and often a great deal of faith and trust, which are based on believing in truth, not in a feeling. We are asked to act and live outside our feelings. This can be accomplished only by burying ourselves in Jesus by Bible study, prayer, and complete dependence on Him.

Reaching Out
So how do we reach out to those who don’t know Jesus and are not living according to His Word? I can think of a number of ways that church people have attempted to win a soul using “improper” techniques. We sometimes think that if we don’t “nail it” (the sin) on our first encounter, the person will not recognize their sinful ways.

But Jesus drew people to Himself by acts of kindness and demonstrations of love. He died for us while we chose to live for our selfish sinful desires. While we shamed Him, He still bled for us. Today it is still His desire that we acquaint ourselves with His truth and let Him bring a conviction of obedience as a result of recognizing His love, even in our sinful state. What an awesome God!

Prayer is powerful! It’s the most important tool for reaching out to others. But it’s a two-part experience. God loves hearing our prayers, but the second part of our prayer requires a heavenly process that we don’t always understand. The answer to our prayers may take time, because only the Holy Spirit knows when souls are ready to receive His promptings and accept God’s direction for their life. Never give up on the power of prayer.

We can do more than pray, however—particularly when it comes to those living an active gay lifestyle. Here are some suggestions:

If you have gay neighbors, invite them to dinner and develop a friendship. See them as souls for the kingdom, not defined by what goes on behind their bedroom door. Jesus’ outreach was not limited because of the type of sin in which someone indulged. He reached out to every soul. If your gay neighbor knows you’re a Christian, they will likely be shocked by your invitation. Christians have rarely reached out to those outside of their comfort zone. You will be amazed at the results of such acts of kindness.

2012 1520 page26Understand that this is an opportunity not to hound them about their lifestyle but to reflect the same love that Jesus has shown you regarding your own imperfections. Eventually you may find that your neighbor is asking you more about Jesus, His truth, and how you worship Him. What a tremendous opportunity to witness!

Perhaps there’s someone you know within your church family who struggles with same-sex attraction. Or those who have recently given their lives to Jesus, been baptized, but are still tempted by their former lifestyle. In these situations church leaders and members often have looked on with skepticism. This places doubt on the sincerity of the person’s conviction, which was introduced by the Holy Spirit. Remember how you prayed for such individuals, that they would find their way to Christ? Alienating and ostracizing them will drive them out of the church, because God’s family won’t seem like a family at all. Instead, generously extend your support and involve yourself with your new brother or sister in Christ. Become their mentor. Pray and study with them. Eat with them. Invite them to spend Sabbath afternoons with you. Families often leave church and spend the rest of the Sabbath together, while single Christians return home to idle time. This is a prime opportunity for Satan to exercise his devious attempts at derailing someone who has made a decision for Jesus.

Places of Refuge
James 5:16 tells us to “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed.” Today churches don’t always seem like safe places in which to admit our failures and inadequacies. We can begin to change that by following the advice Scripture has given us. In this final phase of earth’s history we desperately need to band together in our faith by trusting and believing in the healing power of Jesus. We all need healing. As we confide in one another we learn how to pray for one another; we begin to see the amazing results God will provide.

Be careful with expectations, however. What we as a church community may have expected in the past from someone who gave up a gay lifestyle may be different from the plan that God has orchestrated for this healing soul. Some think that helping this person find marriage will provide the “cure.” While to some onlookers this may indicate a “cure,” it may not be what Jesus has planned. Only through an intimate relationship with Jesus can we learn His will for us.

We are all sinners in recovery. As we become genuinely compassionate and filled with the love of Jesus, we will have the joy of watching change take place. This is the change that stabilizes a relationship with Jesus.

God has blessed my ministry partners and me with an outreach that helps educate congregations everywhere on ways to share God’s love. Sometimes we face skeptics and some from the gay community who view us as “traitors.” We have come to spend a considerable amount of time in the arms of Jesus—the only true safe haven.

I believe God is showing His people how important it is to allow Him to humble us and teach us how to reflect His beautiful, warm, saving love. With God’s grace we can learn how to better share the story of Jesus’ love, redemption, and healing with the people around us, including those living a gay lifestyle.

To learn more about “Coming Out” Ministries and Wayne Blakely, e-mail him at [email protected], or visit www.knowhislove.com.

* Wayne Blakely, “Reaching Out,” Adventist Review, Apr. 15, 2010, pp. 24-27.

Wayne Blakely lives in Vancouver, Washington, and is an account executive for an ophthalmology practice in Oregon. This article was published July 19, 2012.