*** John Copeland is a friend from my church who struggles with same-sex attraction. I first met him in 2005 at the National Campus Ministry Seminar in Norman, OK. He was wearing a shirt that said in big, bold letters ‘I used to be gay – what were you?’ I’m not sure if ‘used to be’ is still the phrase John would use to describe himself or not – I’ll let him explain that – but I do know this man has a heart for people, and through his own struggle God has especially prepared him to help those struggling to follow Jesus despite same-sex attraction. The Crossings Church will be launching a new ministry for just that in the next few months, and John will be leading it for us. Given that same-sex attraction and the church has been a hot topic for the past couple of weeks, I asked John if he would pen a few thoughts for us and he enthusiastically said yes. You will be blessed by his insight. ***
Q: What is your take on the discussion of ‘homosexuality and the church’?
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this discussion. Before I explain, don’t get me wrong. This is great and it is much needed, especially in a constantly changing society. What I mean about mixed emotions is that it is only a discussion.
My fear is that this is where it will stay – a simple discussion, a periodic article in a Christian newspaper, or a few classes at a campus ministry seminar. While this discussion is an excellent starting point, it CANNOT stay there. It needs to move from discussion to action.
I have read many comments and talked to several people stating that this is such a brave step and they applaud the courage of the The Christian Chronicle for addressing such issues. This is true. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to begin a difficult discussion. However, a true test of courage and strength is in what comes next, or, in many cases, what does not.
How many times have we attended classes, seminars, services, or workshops and been extremely convicted about the message that is being presented? We get involved in a discussion that really strikes a chord with us or stirs our heart. On many occasions, while we feel convicted about the lesson we just heard or the discussion we were just a part of, we have a long history of going back to our normal routine and way of life. The way we view people does not change, our hearts stay hardened to the people around us, and we are just as ineffective as we were before.
James 1:22-25 says this:
“Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.” James 1:22-25 (NCV)
We can no longer afford to be part of such conversations and go away unchanged. We have to figure out how to get from discussion to action. This is a great starting point but let’s move on from here.
If we don’t make a change and take action, this discussion is a waste of everyone’s time.
Q: How can ‘church people’ best respond to those that struggle with same-sex attraction?
The best way that anyone, churched or otherwise, can respond to a person different from them is with an offer of loving relationship. God intended for us to be in communion with one another, to know each other, to learn from each other, to love each other. If I had to pinpoint the one thing in my life that has made the biggest impact it would be the relationships that I have. Those relationships have not been easy.
Over ten years ago, before I became a Christian, I was an odd guy. A little rough around the edges and really unsure of myself. I really believed that I was unlovable. I didn’t have many friends because I just did not feel that I was worth anyone’s time or love. That started to change when, for the first time, I experienced genuine love. And it didn’t stop when I decided to be baptized into God’s family. The love kept coming.
This relationship was not born out being told what was wrong with my life. It was born by showing me something different. As if that weren’t enough, the love continued when things got difficult, when I got difficult.
I have made many, many bad decisions in my life and have tried my hardest to give people a reason not to love me. The truth is, they loved me harder and more fiercely when I tried to be unlovable. This is where we will make the most impact – loving others when it is difficult and uncomfortable. It is that love that has brought me back time and time again.
It’s not enough to just learn about God’s love and his truth. Once you experience it, not just learn it, you can’t escape it, no matter how hard you try.
It’s time to stop discussing and to start taking action – not just as a church but as individuals. How do you treat those around you that are different? What assumptions do you make? What are your fears? What makes you uncomfortable? Change starts with you.
You have so much to offer those that are hurting, those that need to know love, those that need the healing that you have experienced in your own life. It’s time to give that love away.
- John Copeland
The Crossings Church
- The Overflow: Homosexuality and the Church
- Christian Chronicle: Homosexuality and the church
- Christian Chronicle: Same-sex attraction – Q & A with key voices