When Christians Come Out of the Closet
By J. Lee Grady
CBN.com How should we respond when a fellow Christian embraces a gay lifestyle? Do we give him a hug and tell him we wholeheartedly respect his decision? Do we just keep quiet and pray? Or do we grab a Bible and offer a stern lecture?
I know it’s an uncomfortable subject, but I’m delving into it because recording artist Ray Boltz has come out of the closet. The 55-year-old singer, winner of three Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association, told the world last Friday that he just got tired of fighting his same-sex feelings. He told the Washington Blade, a gay magazine, that he now lives “a normal gay life” and feels liberated.
I am sure the gay community rejoiced that Boltz has joined their side of this debate. Now they are waiting to see our response. Many of them expect Christians to yank Boltz’s music off the radio, stage bonfires with his CDs and send cryptic death threats. (Hint: None of these is the right reaction.)
“It’s easy to get angry at the people who are making wrong choices, but self-righteous anger does not produce the character of Christ in us or anyone else.”
Best known for a string of Christian hits in the 1990s including “Thank You” and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” Boltz told the Blade that he disclosed his repressed homosexuality to his wife and four grown children in 2004, the year he retired from his music career. He quietly moved to South Florida and began dating. His divorce from his wife of 33 years was finalized this year.
His confession was brutally honest: “I’d denied [my homosexuality] ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian. I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore.”
When I first heard Boltz’s announcement I felt betrayed, the same way I feel when a famous preacher admits to an affair or when a good friend leaves the faith. I’ll admit I immediately began composing a biblical lecture in my head.
I was upset that Boltz chose to stop fighting same-sex temptation after all those years of marriage. I was sorry to learn that he feels “closer to God” since he embraced his suppressed gayness. Most of all I was annoyed that his decision sends a distorted message to our culture that Christianity doesn’t offer the power to overcome sin.
But as I asked the Lord to share His heart with me about Boltz’s situation, I realized that our corporate response to this is as much about a right attitude as it is about right doctrines:
1. We must weep. The prophets who called ancient Israel to repent for apostasy did so through tears. Not only did they declare the word of God, but they also spoke with His tone of voice. I pray we will refrain from speaking God’s words to gay people until we have wept long enough to internalize His heart for them.
It’s not enough for us to preach to people. We must pray for them first. When they meet us, they need to see our moist eyes, not scowls and pointed fingers. Compassionate prayer bathes our message in God’s mercy. It requires us to humbly identify with sinners as we recognize that each one of us battles some form of brokenness or addiction.
2. We must love homosexuals. Preachers are fond of making grand declarations of God’s hatred of homosexuality, and we are prone to cheer them on. But Tim Wilkins, a recovered homosexual who is now director of Cross Ministry in Wake Forest, N.C., pleads with Christians to tone down the angry rhetoric. He says that every time a preacher makes a demeaning remark about homosexuals in a sermon, he wounds 70 percent of his listeners who either (1) silently deal with same-sex attraction themselves; or (2) have family and friends who do.
A 2007 Barna survey showed that 90 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers believe Christians display “excessive contempt toward gays and lesbians.” Could this be one reason we are not reaching large numbers of homosexuals with the gospel? If we don’t show genuine love, we can expect them to ignore us.
It was Jesus’ offer of friendship, not a sermon, that brought the hated tax collector Zaccheus to repentance. When Jesus called the little guy down from the sycamore tree and said, “Today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5, NASB), He erased all the rejection Zaccheus had endured from the moralizers who had condemned his thievery. (And Jesus didn’t get more popular with religious people when He made this new friendship.) Perhaps we need more hospitality and fewer sermons!
3. We must contend for the faith. Ray Boltz’s disappointing decision represents a national trend. Many people today are embracing homosexuality as an appealing alternative. They are listening to teachers, psychiatrists, talk-show hosts, Hollywood celebrities, sympathetic family members and even some mainline Christian ministers who say sexual orientation is totally genetic—and unchangeable.
These people have bought the lie that says a person who feels same-sex attraction must always be controlled by those desires. Not true! Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we can have freedom from every kind of sinful behavior.
We don’t have the right to compromise God’s Word, no matter how many people decide to come out of the closet. But let’s remember that the message we are called to proclaim to the world is not “Homosexuality is wrong.” That’s a true statement, but it has no power to change anybody.
The gospel we must shout from the housetops is that Jesus loves all of us, no matter our condition, and that His forgiveness can heal our brokenness. I pray Ray Boltz will soon discover that truth in a fresh way—and I hope he’ll write many more songs about it.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
If you or someone you love struggles with same-sex attraction, go to crossministry.org for helpful resources and information about Tim Wilkins and Cross Ministry.
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J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist. He writes a weekly blog for Charisma called Fire in My Bones. Reprinted with permission. © Strang Communications Co., USA. All rights reserved. Learn more at www.charismamag.com.
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