Yesterdays sermon on Ephesians 5 took us deep into the challenging world of sexuality. It’s probably the most offensive topic, whether it be a neighbor sleeping with his girlfriend, a capitulating “non-struggle” with pornography, or whether homosexuality is “cool” with God. If you question these ideas, you will most likely get dealt the “don”t judge me” card.
But there is a difference between struggling/wrestling or admitting struggles in such areas AND “Let’s not go there.” The latter is a non-Christian response. But there are is also a difference betwixt struggling/wrestling with sexual sin and actually admitting/confessing sin. The former demonstrates that Christ is working in you. If there’s no struggle, then you’ve arrived at Heaven. And I’m not sure folks in Heaven are reading this blog-though I can’t prove that. And it would be pretty cool if they were. But that’s a bit tangential.
I think the latter, actually admitting/confessing takes belief one step further.
Most Christians-and I’m in that category-tend to limit sin struggles to very generic terms like “pride” or “lust.” Duh….thanks for letting me in; tell me something I don’t know!
The specifics are hard. When those specifics comprise sexual sin, they are much harder. When those specifics involve same sex attraction, that is REALLY hard. When one is a pastor, that is REALLY, REALLY hard.
Vaughn Roberts, and I are close. If by close you mean I met his sister at the National Outreach Conference in San Diego back in 2008, and I have one of his books God’s Big Picture, yes we are close. Recently he agreed to an interview about his struggles with same-sex attraction.
Do yourself and those around you a favor. No I’m not talking about wearing deodarant or flossing your teeth: read this interview. Here’s a snippet:
Julian: Evangelical Anglicans are widely reported as saying there shouldn’t be gay clergy. What does that mean for you?
Vaughan: The press is often very misleading here. There is no objection to people being church leaders because of a homosexual orientation. The focus of the argument is over teaching and practice. Evangelicals say that clergy should uphold the Bible’s teaching that sex is only for heterosexual marriage in teaching and lifestyle, both of which I do.
Julian: You might not be meaning to say anything fundamental about your identity by acknowledging that homosexuality is a personal issue for you, but there are many who will hear you in that way and are likely to label you accordingly. Would it not have been better to have kept silent?
Vaughan: I have been very grateful for the friendship and wisdom of my Advisory Group (Peter Comont, Jonathan Lamb, Will Stileman and Pete Wilkinson), who keep me accountable and provide much needed counsel. They, along with close family and friends, have known for a considerable time that I experience same-sex attraction. We have thought through these issues together and, although the words in the preface are very low key, I didn’t take the decision to write them lightly.
In fact, I included some personal references when I first wrote the chapter on homosexuality six years ago, but I removed them before it was published because we were all conscious of the potential dangers of unhelpful labelling and of the pressure for me to engage increasingly in a single issue ministry — something I’m very keen to avoid. I felt it right to include the new preface, however, with their support, because of an increasing conviction that there does need to be more openness in this area among evangelical Christians, given the rapidly changing culture we live in — and the resulting increased pressure on believers who face this battle…….
Julian: What advice would you give to those who have not felt able to share their experience of same-sex attraction with other Christians?
Vaughan: I would strongly urge them to take a first step and think of at least one mature believer they could trust and be open with. We haven’t been called to live as isolated Christians, but rather as members of God’s family in local churches. Churches are imperfect, just as we all are as individuals, but they are the context in which God means us to grow together as disciples. Many of us have found that honesty about our struggles with trusted brothers and sisters has not only been an encouragement to us, but has also made it easier for others to open up to us about their own battles. Parachurch organisations can also be a useful resource. The True Freedom Trust (http://www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk), for example, has been a great help to many.
I’m glad Vaughan chose NOT to take this particular struggle out of his book since the title of the book IS Battles Christians Face. Christians do face this battle. To admit such a struggle takes serious some serious spiritual cojones (I know that’s crass but “gusto” just doesn’t do this act justice). It takes some serious belief in the gospel. Remember, you can confess and admit struggles if you believe that you are ALREADY clothed in the righteousness of Christ. You can admit your struggle with depression, same-sex attraction, pornography, eating disorders, or whatever other struggles are taboo for church folks.
Thankful for the gospel centric honesty from Vaughan. Probably a fantastic pastor.