Introducing the Why

Jimmy Phillips

writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is director of marketing and communications for San Joaquin Community Hospital.

​Out of the Closet: What I Learned

This past summer I wrote a series of articles discussing how the Seventh-day Adventist Church—both corporately and individually—might address the increasing prominence of homosexuality in society. I never set out to write about this, and I’m certainly no expert. Because of its current top-of-mind prominence and unique challenges, my goal was to use this issue to initiate a discussion that can be applied in dealing with any type of sin.

Along the way, however, something funny happened. I learned a few things (which I’m happy to admit). I thank all those who e-mailed me and participated in the discussions. Whether you agreed with me or not, I found the feedback highly valuable to my ongoing work and personal pursuit of truth. Thank you.

In a few short words, I’ll wrap up this series by sharing some revelations and insights I’ve gained during this journey.

I’ve learned that it’s not wrong to be tempted, no matter how unfamiliar or strange that temptation is. One reader e-mailed me the story of an individual who was fired from a church job because he admitted to having same-sex attractions, even though he was committed to stand firm in his faith and considered acting out on those feelings to be sinful. I’m sure glad I’m not convicted based on thoughts that go through my head. It’s vital that we differentiate between temptation and actual behavior (1 Cor. 10:13).

On a related note, I’ve learned that there might not be a clear-cut reason for an individual’s homosexual orientation. It’s easy for those of us who haven’t faced this to sit back and say, “That’s unnatural.” One reader really opened my eyes: “I have been through reparative therapy twice and it didn’t change my sexual orientation. I may have very well been born this way, for I can’t remember a time in my life when my attractions were different.”

A couple others e-mailed me with similar stories. Their homosexual feelings didn’t come through abuse or another element of their environmental upbringing (although for some that might be the case). The feelings were simply there and remain to this day despite years of fervent pleading with God. Sometimes I think we try too hard to come up with a reason for homosexuality; I know I’m guilty of that. What if there’s no one-size-fits-all answer? Should we really try to change to whom a person feels an attraction? Or, said in another way, change the way they are tempted? I’m not sure that makes any sense.

I’ve relearned that we have to focus on overcoming sin rather than trying to change how someone else struggles. Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work to remove the appeal of alcohol, which may be impossible. In fact, the famous opening greeting, “Hi, my name is John, and I’m an alcoholic,” emphasizes that the struggle is a daily battle, even for those who’ve been sober for 20 years. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for a former homosexual to have a healthy heterosexual relationship; I’m saying that our focus should be on restoration from sinful behavior, not on a rewiring process that may or may not work.

Frankly, I could go on. This subject requires more thought and consideration than a couple 700-word columns. Whoever you are and whatever your stance, I’ll leave you with a couple things to think about:

There’s a difference between condemning a person and pointing out sin (see the story of David and Nathan in 2 Samuel 12).

People on all sides make mistakes, but God doesn’t. Water can be used to foster life, but it can also be used to torture and bring death. Don’t stop drinking the Water of Life because an imperfect person misrepresented the atoning love of God.

As a church, we have to realize that individuals within our walls struggle with homosexuality. We must not shun them, accost them, or drive them away. We have to develop support groups, ministries, and programs that promote the cross-centered theology of 1 Peter 2:24: Through Jesus our sins are forgiven, and victory over them is entirely possible.

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