If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed~ John 8:36 NIV
First, I have an unwritten but firm rule against criticizing Christians and Christian leaders by name in my blog posts. On the rare occasion I do feel the need to say something critical I generally stick to criticizing positions, actions and ideas, rather than individual people. With one notable exception (that I still feel kind of bad about) I do not believe I have ever criticized another Christian by name in this blog. Personal attacks get clicks and generate Internet traffic but do not help me sleep at night.
For the record, I am really into sleeping at night.
Secondly, I am not much of a planner when it comes to writing. My typical “writing schedule” is as follows: The idea fairy comes calling sometime late Monday or early Tuesday. I begin writing on Tuesday (sometimes Wednesday) and do my best to be done by Friday (sometimes it’s more like Saturday). I publish on Sunday night. Because I never really plan ahead, I rarely deviate from this timetable and once I start a blog I nearly always finish it without making major changes to the content.
I say all that to let you know that this week God changed the plan and I’m breaking my rule (sort of).
It all started late Wednesday when I read an article that got me so irked I was literally unable to continue with a post I had made significant progress on. The writer of said article is a fairly well known Pastor with a large church that I will not name here (on account of the rule). I will sort of break the rule by giving you the title of the article: Can Christians Eliminate Same-Sex Attraction Feelings?
My issue is not with the premise of the article.
Whether or not Christians can successfully eliminate same-sex feelings is a valid question. A question worthy of theological discussion and a well thought out and prayerful answer. My issue is with the answer the author claims to give to those who are grappling with this painful emotional, spiritual and theological question.
He leaves them hanging.
He tells men and women struggling with same-sex attractions that he knows for a fact that they can control their behavior and remain celibate if they really want to (true). However, he makes it clear that he believes feelings are an altogether different animal. He tells them that flat out that it may or may not be possible to change their feelings.
He ends the article with a flaccid “I don’t know” and “what do you think” addressed to the reader of said article.
If this guy is telling the truth about what goes on in his counseling sessions (I pray he’s not), then he just owned-up to a heartless form of spiritual malpractice. Leaving a confused and hurting person to decide for him or herself whether or not they have any hope for real and lasting change is at least fifty different kinds of wrong.
It’s become a popular play on the Socratic method of teaching for spiritual leaders to ask hard questions in both private and public forums and then not to give answers to those questions. Challenging folks to draw their own conclusions about tough questions is an entertaining exercise that works well with pimply-faced young students in an Intro to Theology class. However, it is clearly not the job of a spiritual leader (Acts 20:28, 1st Peter 5:1-4).
The job of a spiritual leader is to lead people to the God who brings freedom from the sinful thoughts and feelings that inevitably lead to sinful actions and behaviors (Matthew 5:28). It is the job of a pastor (shepherd) to teach hurting men and women the truths clearly laid out in Scripture and then to walk them through the steps necessary to get free from whatever sinful bondage they have gotten themselves tangled up in (Hebrews 12:1).
The Bible is clear that freedom from sinful bondage is possible, but not necessarily easy (Romans 6:22-23, Galatians 5:1). There is no tea we can drink or magical formula we can follow to eliminate same-sex attraction or any other sinful desire (sorry).
Freedom from bondage requires effort on our part. The work begins with repentance (a change in our thinking) but also has to include a change in our behaviors and habits (Philippians 2:12). To be completely free from bondage we must train our hearts and minds to think differently about life and sin so that we eventually start to see things the way God sees things. (2nd Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2).
Christian leaders are called to give confused and hurting people the hope the gospel offers. If they can’t (or won’t) they should get out of the game.