For the past few weeks, a group of UK based Christians, who once identified as homosexual or lesbian, have been meeting weekly via Zoom. We are all at different stages of our Christian walk, ranging from being born again for 3 months to one who has been walking with Christ for over 30 years; and what a wonderful, supportive community we are building.
We use our hour together each week to seek to progress our walk with God, discussing a range of topics, but firmly focussed on becoming better “equipped”, to serve God in our own communities and to share our own personal stories to further God’s Kingdom.
This week we will be talking in the group about how to witness to our friends who do not view same sex attraction (SSA) in the same way that we do. This is a complex challenge, firstly as we are often witnessing to others who experience SSA, but who do not share our faith fuelled desire to live differently. Secondly, our message is counter-cultural, so even when witnessing to friends who don’t personally experience SSA, our choices can be interpreted as us being hostile to the gay community, which is simply untrue.
If it’s tough for us, how much tougher for the church in general to engage with the LGBTQ+ community? Yet, how important it remains for our churches to be prepared to engage people exactly where they are at (anything other than this approach denies each person’s reality). It’s time for us to stop focusing on sexual identity and to start loving people as they are, to stop focusing on specific aspects of our sinful lives and to start focusing on the joy of a life lived for Jesus.
And how do we get someone to that point of pure joy?
The best answer I can give to that has been gleaned from the many testimonies I have heard from Christians (both gay and straight) who relate how they were attending church for many months or even years before they surrendered their lives to Jesus. The thing that all these people experienced, was not a community who pointed out their sin, who side lined them because they didn't measure up to some kind of scale of holiness, but a community who welcomed them, included them and loved them regardless. You could say that each of them were “loved” into the Kingdom. How wonderful, they were loved by other flawed, sinful human beings. Christians who recognised that we cannot cast the first stone, we all come with baggage, we all carry burdens and we all need to come to our own unique and personal moment with God, that special moment when we finally understand for ourselves what it is God wants us to do to receive eternal life, and we finally appreciate that surrendering our past to God is going to be the best thing we will ever do.
If we want to witness to others, regardless of their sexuality, let’s ensure that we are not the ones who cause others to stumble, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that includes us. Let us focus on the joy, and remember that given time and space to meet God, there is not one person who is too far gone for our God to redeem.