As Executive Director of OneByOne, I spend a great deal of time educating and talking about sexual brokenness. Specifically, I talk about the topic of homosexuality. What happens at the intersection of real life choices and biblical belief?
Looking back on the recent debacle surrounding World Vision’s policy change-to hire legally married same-sex couples–I’ve struggled to make sense of what seemed to be a giant and easily-avoidable misstep for a billion-dollar organization. Of course the decision was rescinded two days after CEO Richard Stearns made the announcement, but a lot of damage had already ensued. A change that was done in the name of Christian unity brought only more division as those within the Evangelical Church were outraged and began withdrawing their support for children around the world. World Vision hoped this decision to remain “neutral” on this “negotiable issue” would be well-received. As those following the headlines know all-to-well, it back-fired. Somewhere in their decision making process, World Vision failed to realize that the majority of their supporters do not see homosexuality as a negotiable issue, carrying the same weight as baptism practices or roles of women in the Church.
Like the rest of us, World Vision operates in a culture where the term “gay Christian” is becoming more and more the norm. Much of my time is spent on a Christian college campus and I am seeing the tides of change with each passing semester.
As a Christian who wrestled with his own sexuality, and who was in a few homosexual relationships, it’s difficult for me to fathom how someone could consider oneself a Christian and actively be gay. I could never reconcile homosexuality with my Christian identity. It was one path or the other. But many have reconciled the two and they seem so normal that honestly it is impossible to be around them and maintain some of the stereotypes that many of us have of homosexuals. They have jobs in helping professions; they’re involved in their evangelical church. They are not overtly sexual; they speak Christianese fluently, and offer prayer support to those around them. Many of you may be facing similar situations and find it as baffling as I do. You might be asking questions like, “If this is really sinful, why do they seem so much like me?”
With this in mind, I can understand World Vision’s initial move to change their policy regarding employees in same sex marriages. On the surface, it seems like an easy transition. Yet, whenever I thought about it, I was disheartened – not because I think that same sex married couples can’t help World Vision continue to put a stop to poverty, but because it would have diminished the work God has done and is continuing to do in the lives of those of us who experience same sex attraction. In my journey, God reminded me that my identity should be found in Jesus Christ, not in my sexual preference.
We who have been there and for those of us who have chosen to walk away from homosexuality speak from our own experience-it’s a road full of deception, idolatry and more than anything brokenness, disappointment and pain. In choosing to surrender our sexuality to Jesus, God’s power has brought about wholeness and restoration greater than we ever could have imagined. God’s desire is to bring this healing in the lives of all who struggle. Any Christian organization that can’t recognize this work of God has lost something fundamental about our faith.
It is in moments like this where we as Christians who believe in God’s desire to free us from slavery to sin-including homosexuality-begin to feel paralyzed. We have a progressive culture that is relentlessly leaning its way into the Church. It feels like we’re a very small people facing an aggressive and powerful giant.
But if we remember back to our Sunday school lessons, God has a masters’ degree in knocking down giants. It is true that by our own strength we cannot turn this tide, this perception that within the Christian church homosexuality is now a negotiable issue. But God’s presence has not left us and his power has not diminished. The same God who brought Goliath down, who parted the Red Sea, who raised Lazarus from the dead and broke the shackles of sin and death within our hearts; it is that same God who offers power to his people to reach out to their communities, family by family, couple by couple, one by one with the redemptive message that sexual orientation is not an identity, that same sex attraction stems from a world plagued by sin and is not God’s desire for his beloved human creation.
The news about World Vision tempted many of us to anger. It was easy to feel betrayed by a Christian organization that many of us have happily supported. I was encouraged by this command from the book of James, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires…Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (1:19-22) Rather than be driven by anger, we must be driven by God’s desire to bring wholeness to the lives of those around us.
Adam Woods is the executive director of OneByOne, a denominational ministry that exists to educate and equip churches to minister to those who desire freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction, sexual addiction, and the effects of sexual abuse.