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Who Cheers on the Struggler?

By Bob Van Domelen

Not long ago I received a letter from a man in prison, sharing with me that his struggle with homosexuality was difficult but not impossible.  He was experiencing victory each day over temptations despite his prison environment.

At the same time, he had a very real concern about what would happen when he was finally released.  From everything he had seen on television or read in papers and magazines, his desire for freedom from homosexual behavior was in contradiction to what he saw as the world's view.  Why not, he wrote, give up and save himself the anxiety that was sure to be his?

All sorts of people should be saying to him, "No, no!  Don't give up!  We know that with God's help you can stand firm in your resolution!"  But there are no crowds of well wishers in his life, the number willing to be vocal supporters dwindling in the face of a determined social movement.

Years ago, I looked for answers for my own life's struggle with homosexuality and found little that I understood or could apply.  But at least the few who knew offered prayers of encouragement.  I don't remember anyone  cheering me on back then because those who knew didn't really understand much about homosexuality.  Besides, when I was a boy, we didn't talk about this sort of thing.  We whispered.

The Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and reminded Him of the Mosaic law that such a woman was to be stoned.  Jesus said, "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8.7) No one did.  When all had left, Jesus asked her, "Has no one condemned you?"  "No one," she said.  "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (Vs.10)

Modern day Pharisees respond to the homosexual struggler with signs that say "God hates Fags."  They are more concerned with open condemnation than they are with making any attempt to heal the wounds.  They cast verbal stones and end up driving those seeking help deeper into the choices of their past.  I must take care, however, that I don't condemn with the same self-righteous attitude.

Most people at both ends of the issue on homosexuality act with good intention and  from a foundation of a strong belief system. There is, however, a really large group in the middle who don=t see homosexuality as a viable alternative--certainly not an equal to heterosexuality.

These are the people who might admit their reservations to a very close friend but if called upon to take a stand, they would most probably shrug and say "As long as they don't bother me."  Part of their nature is to find a place in the middle where no one "will get hurt," especially not someone who is known and loved. 

These are also some of the people who deal with same-sex attraction in their own lives, would prefer not to have it, but consign themselves to getting by as best they can.  It is not a life they choose but one to which they adapt.

The man who wrote from prison and the large group of people in the middle are being influenced in the same fashion. They hear and read that  "Homosexuality is genetic.  Those who disagree with homosexuality are hate-filled people.  If they call themselves Christians, they  certainly are not Christ-like in their attitude." 

On another level, the entertainment media (especially sitcoms) almost heralds being gay as a positive, fun-loving option. Any problems gays have are shown to be directly related to societal homophobia or lack of support.

How then does one seeking help find it from people who are being taught no help is needed?  How does one who believes that homosexual behavior is sin come to learn how they might help bring someone out of that behavior if even our church leaders take a neutral or even pro-gay stance?  The answer is quite simple--only with great difficulty or not at all.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2Tim.4.2 Italics mine)

One of the blessings of a support group is that individuals who struggle with an issue can meet others with similar struggles, all parties willing to help each other in prayer and encouragement.  Another blessing is that each individual is able to speak of self-doubts and failings without the fear of being rejected or turned away.

When a individual not expected to win a competition begins to pass those who are the "favorites," people cheer and find themselves caught up in support of the individual overcoming the odds.  The victory is not as important as  the process of moving toward the victory.

None of us wants our sins broadcast to the world, yet there are times when we all wish that more people would stand at the sidelines and cheer us on. We need, however,  to remember that in the joy of seeing a child's first steps we recognized that they were "baby steps" -- not always in a straight line nor without the inevitable fall.  Ours is not to encourage the fall but the desire to get up and keep trying. For in our spiritual walk, those who cheer us on are pointing us to the outstretched hands of our Heavenly Father.

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