I try to be a sensitive guy. My conscience sometimes bothers me after I say something because I’m afraid I came across as insensitive. As a pastor, I make a living using the oral and written word. And with lots of words come more opportunities to offend. Now, don’t get me wrong. As a minister of the gospel, I am fully aware that the message of the gospel, the exclusive news that Jesus alone is the way to God, is necessarily offensive to unbelievers (and sadly, also many people who consider themselves Christians). That’s the kind of offensive I have to live with. Even so, I don’t like being offensive. I remember one pastor saying his pastoral philosophy is “feed the lambs and shoot the wolves.” That’s sounds harsh, but a pastor’s got to protect his flock from her enemies.
But compared to pastor Peter Hubbard, I’ve got a looong way to go in the sensitivity department. His book, Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church, is the most gentle treatment I’ve seen yet. Surely Hubbard has developed such a gentle witness to people who experience Same Sex Attraction (SSA) through personal ministry experience. Bill Thrasher of Moody Theological Seminary concluded the same: “Both gentle and full of mercy as well as pure, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.” Hubbard has given the church advice that delicately walks the line of faithfulness to the natural offense of the gospel and to the Bible’s command to love your neighbor.
Relying on the counseling model developed by Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), which tries to keep a tight focus on the gospel, Hubbard structures his book accordingly. The chapter titles are:
As you can see, the book is for all Christians, but especially pastors, elders, and ministry leaders who have a greater ability and responsibility to shape the ethos of the local church. The goal is that people struggling with homosexuality do not feel they are unwelcome in a church because they are somehow untouchable. Hubbard and others have rightly recognized that most congregations are unsafe communities for openly sharing the fight against homosexual temptation. They are the new lepers. Yet Jesus calls us to touch, befriend, minister to, listen to, humanize, and love lepers. Not to approve of sin, but to accept all sinners who long for purity in Christ. In other words, repentance and faith are not only for people who used to struggle with SSA, but are also for people who continue to struggle with SSA. The church ought to be the safest community in the world for sinners of all kinds. Hubbard is on a mission to make that happen in his congregation, and to help other like-minded churches move in that direction.
His Gospel chapter argues convincingly that many Christians don’t really believe the gospel applies to homosexuals. Using the redemptive-historical gospel categories of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, he shows us where believers often fail homosexuals in their gospel presentation. What are these misunderstandings? These are the lies we are tempted to believe:
- Creation. Homosexuals are not like us. God created them different by nature.
- Fall. Homosexuals have sin that is not like ours. It is more icky, more condemning, less tolerable.
- Redemption: Homosexuals are defined by their sin. People who murder don’t need to find their core identity in being a murderer. But people who experience SSA are at their core homosexuals.
- Restoration. Homosexuals do not and cannot change. God is able to change the hearts of other sinners to turn from their sin and experience moral purity. God is able to change homosexuals too, but he does not.
The gospel, if we believe it applies to every sinner, including those who fight SSA, tells a different story. What is true of all of in Jesus? These are the gospel truths that can set us free:
- Creation. We are all, including homosexuals, created in God’s image. This gives us all dignity and unity. After the fall, we are all marred image-bearers.
- Fall. We have all, including homosexuals, turned aside from God and his good plan for our lives. We are all equally sinners by nature. All sin is twisted.
- Redemption. We all, including homosexuals, get a new identity in Jesus when we begin to follow him. We are no longer defined by our particular struggle against sin. Jesus gives us a new identity, and we are all united to him and each other in faith. Homosexuals can find a new identity.
- Restoration. We all hope in future grace. No one has arrived at the victorious Christian life. Homosexuals and heterosexuals hope in grace together.
Throughout the rest of the book, Hubbard builds on these foundational gospel truths, and gently reminds us when we are tempted to believe a lie. Chapter 2 (Heart) addresses idolatries, fears, lusts, and pride, exploring how these bear on the person who struggles with SSA. The Bible chapter interacts with the several biblical texts that bear directly on homosexuality, and the common objections to them. The Climate chapter tackles the various ways Christian individuals and church communities foster sinful attitudes toward homosexuals. Hubbard notices we are silent, creating an environment where the subject of homosexual sin is taboo. We talk about “those people” which objectifies homosexuals and those struggling with SSA, putting them in a category where they feel like carnival freak-show attractions. We refuse to confront sin as sin, overcompensating by moving homosexuality from the “hit list” to the “protected species list.”
Hubbard only fits his basic message into the book. There is much more to be said. More situations and particular people with unique circumstances and life stories for whom the gospel must be applied. As a minister with a history of helping SSA strugglers, he has been documenting his thoughts and conversations with others on his website Love Into Light. Check it out for more resources, including FAQs, testimonies of grace, and helpful sermons, books, sites, and articles.
About the book
About Same-Sex Marriage