THE TONY CROSS COLUMN
Article No. 12
An open letter to a gay friend
Dear . . .
I am so grateful and honoured that you have felt you could share with me your recognition, finally, that you are gay. You know that you have a homosexual orientation, and you see no reason why you should not go forward eventually to being intimate with someone of the same sex whom you love, and with whom you will exchange vows of mutual commitment.
I respect your decision, knowing that it is no passing whim or obsession on your part, and recognising, too, that you are sincere and honest in what you tell me. We are all trying to live the Christian life and to follow what God wants us to be and do. May I perhaps, as an older friend who has stumbled through many pitfalls, and gone down many cul-de-sacs, be permitted to offer some advice? Not in any superior sense but as a fellow traveller rather than as a guide? And these are merely twelve suggestions, out of at least a possible fifty! But these will do for the time being!
1 Some years ago you committed your life to Christ, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour – be sure to reaffirm that commitment every day. Be crystal clear about your dependence on Him. Whenever you sense guilt or failure, take it before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Ask to understand why you have fallen into sin, and ask for clarity on how to put things right, insofar as you can, whatever needs putting right. And look for where you need to change – for amendment of life is the core of repentance.
2 Be committed to do whatever God tells you. The Holy Spirit will guide and lead you if you will let Him. Of course prayer is a daily essential in your life. Spend time, within your quiet time, actually being quiet. Listen for the whisper of guidance. Perhaps a name, perhaps a situation. Let God show you what he wants you to do – and then do it. Keep a ‘to do’ list of God-given guidance. Give priority to prayer.
3 Keep yourself informed about the issues in society and in the world. The worst thing a Christian can do is become over-preoccupied with himself, his salvation, his plans, his church etc. Whatever you do, try to avoid letting gay issues become a dominant theme in your life. What work has God got planned for you to do for His kingdom? Are you asking him to show you His plans for your life? Don’t get distracted by the ‘gay scene’. Much of it is as false as the heterosexual ‘scene’. Try to live a balanced life as far as possible.
4 Be as open as you can with everyone. Of course you will probably remain ‘in the closet’ as regards your homosexuality to some people – and maybe to all. Or you may just tell a few close friends. Sometimes we stay deeply immured in the closet for years – even decades! But do try to be as much in the open as you can. Carrying a ‘secret’ around with you does take a heavy emotional toll. Much more than we realise. Of course I am not advocating that you are ‘in the face’ of everyone with it. Be wise, be understanding – some people don’t want to know, even when they do know! Don’t force it on anyone. A wise man is sensitive to other people.
5 At least try not to be ‘in the closet’ as regards your faith. Let people know that you are a committed Christian – and, if appropriate, also gay. There are not a great many people around who are known as both, although the number is growing daily. In part, of course, the absence of gay Christians may be due to the condemnation and rejection by so many churches. It is a revelation to most Christians that a born-again card-carrying Christian can also be gay and blessed by God! They will look for the evidence of the Spirit – let your life be blameless and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5.22.
6 Commit to weekly worship. If the worship in your church is life-less, maybe you should explore other available churches. We all need living worship – both to feed us and to which we can contribute. And with the opposition and pressure you encounter in society, it is desirable that you have a loving, warm and accepting church community who know about you and accept you as you are. That is the ideal, but you may have to be in the closet to them too. Hopefully, there will be one or two with whom you can share your heart. A church should be a community in which you can both give and take. Worship is an essential, not an extra. Don’t neglect it!
7 Encourage others. Especially, of course, other gay Christians who, like you, are trying to live out the Christian life. They too will face opposition from society in general and from some Christians in particular. It is so hurtful when those who should be our loving brothers and sisters in Christ speak of gay people in a disparaging tone. Sometimes they will actually reject you. They erect barriers which you may not always be able to overcome. Then you must practise the patience of Christ, and ask for his love and wisdom. Win them by letting them see the fruit of the Spirit in your life!
8 Paul tells us to shun immorality. That must be the best possible advice one can give, but it leaves open the definition of immorality. For this you must consult your bible, your church, your friends, your heart and the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that Romans 14 is crucial to understanding the freedom into which Christ has brought us, but I will talk about that another time.
It may be that you are given the gift of celibacy. It is not given to everyone. But if the Lord does not ask that of you then it may be that you will fly in the face of conventional church morality in respect of your homosexuality. To some extent that is inevitable, while the church is so confused and fearful of putting a foot wrong and gives no guidance except prohibition. As to how you should conduct yourself as a gay Christian, it is unlikely you will get help from the church, which is still stuck in rigorous denial.
So I suggest you seek to make your life to be like Christ. Start with his instruction : that you must love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself. That affects every corner of the lives of each of us – it has very far reaching ramifications. All the laws and rules and moralities are summed up in these two instructions. It means you cannot use anyone just for your gratification – sexual or otherwise. No one is going to give you rules about this and that, but if you seek further guidance in sexual matters, you might try applying the same standards Christians use between heterosexual couples for your homosexual activity. But in it all – listen to the Holy Spirit within, who guides each of us in how we should conduct ourselves in every situation.
Try not to fool yourself when you are contemplating entering into situations where there is real temptation. If you are uncertain whether an action is wrong or not, it probably is! Ask God to give you courage and constancy, clarity and charity! You will make numerous mistakes, as we all do, but don’t let that stop you going on with Christ.
Morality is concerned with much more than sexual ethics, so ensure that Christ is truly Lord in all areas of your life. Your spoken words as well as your thoughts; your financial matters as well as your bodily appetites. There is much more that needs saying on this aspect, but it will have to wait for another time.
9 Remember that we are all immersed not only in the world, but also in the worldview which we have acquired over our lifetime. As Christians we aspire to a different world view which is called ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’. Unfortunately, Christians across the world differ on almost every aspect of the subject! Women priests, divorce, water baptism, homosexuality, holy communion/mass, contraception, the authority of the bible – the list goes on and on.
Don’t let this disturb you! Hold to Christ. Read your bible daily – dwell in the gospels each day, whatever else you read. We follow Christ, not Paul or Apollos, nor this or that church. Trust the Holy Spirit to make all things plain to you as and when necessary.
10 Try not to be dogmatic, no matter how dogmatic others are to you. Remember that you are bought with a price and that you are precious to God. Have faith in yourself and your own views. Listen to everyone, and test everything. Especially everything that flies in the face of established main-line Christianity. Sometimes we have to stand out against other Christians for what we believe, but, insofar as possible, check everything against the bible, your own experience, reason, and the advice of good Christian friends.
11An important divide exists between the Christians who hold to an interpretation of the bible which tends towards literalism and ‘inerrancy’, and those Christians who think otherwise – who accept for instance those errors of translation can occur. We all believe that the bible is the written Word of God. The living Word of God is Christ – and through His Spirit He shows us how to understand and interpret the written bible for our own day and age. I choose to believe in an infallible Christ rather than in an infallible book. Look beyond proof texts and verses lifted out of context. And try to keep up-to-date on the latest information coming from every source: archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls, psychology and all the other disciplines. Don’t get stuck in an outdated view of the bible.
12Finally, Rejoice! Christ defeated evil at the Cross, and he loves you. He cares for each individual! He understands you even better than you understand yourself! He has a plan and a purpose for you. Despite the fact that half of Christendom may seem to despise you, you are included in the Kingdom of Heaven! Along with tax-gatherers, prostitutes, lepers, the poor and the marginalised, you are treasured by Christ and called to his feast. Don’t let religious people get you down! You have the victory in Christ – realise it! Live it! Rejoice in it! Let your life be a living example of a life transformed by Christ.
May the peace of the Lord be yours, and may He continue to bless and lead you in the way you should go.