In this post I will make some general observations about how the church should respond and deal with hard issues like homosexuality, crossdressing, and transsexualism. But more importantly, this post is about how the church should respond to the people struggling with issues like these. Of course these issues are extremely complex, and should be thought through by the church very carefully beyond what I have written here.
1. Safe Haven – The church should be a refuge for anybody struggling with any kind of disorder or deviant sexual desires. The society judges harshly and unfairly but the church should not. The church should understand struggling with sin better than anyone else. The church should be a safe place for people to admit that they struggle with homosexual desires or crossdressing desires, or even pedophilia or beastiality desires. The church should be caring, supportive, understanding, and help people to fight against their temptations. The church should recognize that there is a difference between being tempted and giving in to sin. See my post here – But I was born this way. The church should hold those accountable who are giving in to specific sinful actions, but should not judge people just because they have strange desires. We don’t choose our desires, but we choose whether to give in to them or not.
2. Empathy – The church should make every effort to understand what homosexuals or crossdressers or transgendered individuals go through. Many of the people who have struggled with these things have done so alone. Many have begged God for freedom from their problems. Many feel intense guilt, pain, loneliness, and isolation. Many are continually worried about being found out. They often struggle with suicidal thoughts because they hate themselves so much. The church should strive to understand and empathize with these people. And at those times when its just really hard to understand because its outside a Christian’s own experience, we should continue to love them anyway.
3. Repentance – The church needs to repent for the many times it has harshly judged people with aberrant sexual behavior, whether they be crossdressers or pedophiles. We as the church have criticized people harshly to make ourselves feel good, and swell our own pride. We have made certain sins out to be worse than others. Many Christians see homosexuality as the abomination of abominations even though Jesus talked about self-righteousness and pride far more than homosexuality. Some sins are considered more serious than others in the Bible, but that is not justification for Christians to ignore some sins and point out others. And the church has failed to suffer with those who suffer. We must repent.
4. Forgiving – If people have committed homosexual acts, crossdressed, or even if they have had sex with animals they can be forgiven by God. They should also be forgiven by us, just like we would forgive anybody else who had sinned with adultery, pornography, jealousy, or pride. Jesus said that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us, meaning that true Christians will be people who forgive. It’s unthinkable that true Christians who have experienced God’s forgiveness would not forgive others. The church has often failed to forgive others, which we must also repent for. I think of the story of Jeffrey Dahmer who committed many murders, necrophilia, and cannibalism. He went to prison, but in prison he came to know the Lord Jesus and had his sins washed away in Jesus. But many Christians refused to accept that it was a true conversion. They would rather he be in Hell than for him to be forgiven, because they hated him so much. That attitude is just wrong. There is no amount of sin too great to be forgiven by God. Jesus’ blood is more powerful than any amount of sin in a person’s life. Of course, some people still have to have consequences for their actions, like Jeffrey Dahmer being in prison, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be forgiven by the church.
5. Community – The church should be a loving community, a family, where homosexuals, crossdressers, and others who struggle with abberant behavior, can fit in and feel that they belong. If the church fails in this important task, it only makes sense that homosexuals and transsexuals and others would instead leave the church and seek to find community among other people who share their same desires. The church should not fear homosexuals and others with strange desires. Christians should be open to deep friendships with these people.
6. Healing – The church should provide counseling and care to homosexuals, crossdressers, etc. and their families. The church should provide healing through prayer and support. The church should be realistic knowing that homosexuals and crossdressers will most often struggle with their sinful desires for the rest of their lives, just like most people never lose their desires and temptations to pornography, anger, pride, etc. But the church should give them hope. With God all things are possible. There have been documented cases of homosexuals and crossdressers who have found degrees of healing with the results of diminished inclinations, greater self control, a supportive Christian community that brings peace and wholeness into their lives, a greater attraction to the opposite sex, and even marriage and children in some cases.
7. True Identity – The church should constantly remind everyone, including crossdressers and homosexuals, of their true identity. Our identity is in Christ and not wrapped up in the specific temptation that we struggle with. I am a child of God. Would I really want to go around saying that I am a pornographer, just because I’m tempted to porn? No. Likewise, we don’t need to go around calling ourselves crossdressers, if we are not giving into crossdressing. We don’t have to let it define our identity. Even heterosexual Christians should not find their identity in their sexual desires. It’s true that our looks, our background, our education, our experiences, and our temptations all help to describe who we are, but none of those things gives us our core identity. We are people created by God to love him and enjoy him forever. Our moral behavior in the past no longer defines us, now that we are born again in Jesus. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
8. Celibacy – The church should lift up the gift of celibacy. Some people have this gift, and some people are forced into the life of celibacy such as many homosexual Christians, or people who want to get married and are unable to find a spouse. The church must affirm that it is okay and good to be single. Yes, there are challenges, but you can live a perfectly full and mature life even if you are not married. You will miss out on some life joys and pleasures, but experience other freedoms and joys. Marriage is not the ultimate goal of life, for anybody. We should not make marriage into an idol, and not pressure people into marriage. If the church did a better job of celebrating celibacy, perhaps more homosexuals would see it as a viable alternative.
9. Sexual Rights – Our culture preaches a message that we all have a right to be sexually fulfilled in whatever ways we want. Sexual sin is rampant in our society in a multitude of forms. Yet our culture is inconsistent in that certain deviant sexual behaviors are looked down upon or not tolerated. The church must preach a consistent message, that God has created sexuality, but has given some boundaries in which to enjoy it. We must have self-control and enjoy sexuality the way God intended it. The church must stand firm that giving in to homosexual actions or crossdressing or adultery or fornication or pornography goes against God’s will. The church must no longer have a double standard, tolerating fornication but not homosexuality. The church should be quick to have mercy and give forgiveness, but should stand firm that true Christians should be counseled and disciplined by the church if they keep giving in to a certain sin without repentance and change.
The church should also lift up the gift of sexuality that God has given. It should not be something we fear. Sex is to be enjoyed within God’s boundaries of marriage. Think of it like a fenced in backyard for your children, full of wonderful pleasures like a sandbox, swing set, and sports equipment. God is the parent who wonderfully and creatively designed that backyard for the children to enjoy. But the parents, God, put a fence around that backyard, around sexuality. The parents know that outside the fence there is busy traffic, and no more fun and games. It’s downright dangerous for their kids to go out there. It only brings death. The fence also brings security and freedom and takes away the children’s fear. Without the fence, they wouldn’t be able to have as much pleasure as with the fence there. God has given us boundaries in sexuality, but has done so for our own good, not to limit us. There is freedom in obeying God’s commands. They bring life, not a burden.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.