Authors Note: I have added a section at the end of this post spelling out what I believe would be a redemptive approach to this sad situation. As Christians, as the redeemed, our duty is to be avenues of redemption and healing.
Okay, I will admit that the title is a bit melodramatic, but it reflects the angst I feel over an issue I have been made aware of in a Baptist College; one that reflects values I consider to be more Pharisaic than Christian. Let me tell you the story, then you can weigh in on whether I am right or wrong in my feelings about this.
It all started when a young man who was involved in the school’s student government went to a member of the administration and asked for help with a problem he was having. The problem was not a small one – he was struggling with homosexual desires, a struggle that had been with him pretty much all of his life.
Let me spell out some background facts:
- He was reading a wide range of views on the topic of homosexuality, including some that said that the Bible did not condemn it as sinful. Is it hard to believe that a young man dealing with this kind of temptation might at least explore those views which say that his desires come from God, not from sin? He was also reading and considering those who maintained the biblical position that homosexual behavior was a sin.
- He was not accused of any violations of the school’s code of conduct. No charges were leveled that he was engaged in homosexual behavior of any sort. The issue was that a) he was struggling with homosexual desires and b) he was reading views that did not conform with the school’s point of view. The issue came not because of his sin, but because of his temptations!
- This young man was an exemplary and inspirational student leader at the school. To go into details would be to expose more of the story than I wish to do at this time.
- He went to the administration to seek help. He wanted advice, counsel, assistance and wisdom.
But what he got was judgment and condemnation. Instead of helping him, the person he approached reported him to one of the school’s vice presidents. The VP summoned him to his office and dispensed discipline. He was removed from student government, an act that led to public humiliation for the young man. (The reason for his removal from student government were known to all in the student government).
Because of this public shame, the young man has transferred from this Christian school to a nearby public school, where he will probably receive a very different message about his struggle with sin. He will be encouraged to embrace his sin and express it. The chances are very good that soon he will no longer be struggling with homosexuality, but will be living in it!
Here is what I think:
1) Homosexual desires are not sin and should not be treated as sinful. Homosexual behavior is sinful, but the desire to sin is NOT sin!
2) This young man should have been honored as one who was battling the flesh and its desires, not treated as anathema. The school got it 100% wrong on this one by putting him under discipline.
3) By expressing condemnation instead of grace, this Christian school has aided the Enemy in leading this young man down the path of sin. While the school and its administration are patting themselves on the back for their “righteous stand against sin” they are not considering the damage that their self-righteousness and spirit of condemnation has actually done.
4) Pharisaism is always present in the church, it is always dangerous. Pharisaism is far more dangerous than a young man’s struggle with homosexuality. The fact that a Baptist school can’t see that is sad.
Have we reached the point where we are treating temptation as sin, sinful desires as grounds for discipline? Are we more interested in demonstrating our judgment than our grace?
What do you say?
What SHOULD the School Have Done?
This post has been up almost 24 hours now, and has certainly engendered discussion here. I’ve spent more time discussing this in private online discussions, which have led me to believe that this problem is widespread and is not simply limited to the way the church deals with homosexuality.
Too many in the church have adopted the ministry of condemnation toward sin; as if sinners are the enemy and need to be destroyed. Sinners are not the enemy of Christ or the church – they are the battleground. We do not fight against sinners, we fight FOR them, against the principalities and powers and lies that have bound this world in darkness.
Self-righteousness is evil. We need to become self-righteousness-o-phobes! We need to fear and abhor that sin as much or more as we abhor abortion, adultery, homosexuality or murder. In fact, self-righteousness does more damage to the church than those other sins!
Now, here is what I would like to see a school, or a church, or any Christian organization, handle an admission that someone is struggling with homosexuality.
1) Assure the person that they are loved and accepted, and that you will stand with them as long as he or she is struggling against the sin. Affirm to the person that God’s love covers sin, that God’s power can make us “more than conquerors” over whatever sin throws at us.
2) Set the boundaries of God’s Word. “We cannot support or condone homosexual behavior, and if you make that choice, then this will become an issue of sin and discipline.” We do no one any favors when we compromise God’s Word just to make them feel better.
3) Offer help, as much help is needed. In the school situation, that would include such things:
- Biblical counseling to work through any personal, emotional or spiritual issues the young person has gone through.
- Enlist a professor of Bible to help the young man work through the theological/biblical issues. Don’t burn books – literally or figuratively. Provide someone who can help him see the weakness of the biblical arguments that are used to defend homosexual behavior.
- Get either a spiritual mentor (an older student, faculty member, etc) and perhaps some kind of accountability group to help him.
- Keep his struggle confidential.
- Worry more about the young person than the perceptions of others. (People will often accuse those who take a redemptive approach toward people struggling with homosexuality as compromisers or such. Ignore them. Jesus Christ died to redeem sinners. Be part of his work. Do not let the self-righteous control you.)
4) Don’t give up. Victory comes after intense battles. This young person has come to you for help. Help him! Help her! If they fail, keep trying. If they fall, help them up. Do not give up.