God is the architect and builder of our righteousness (Hebrews 11:10). He gives us His plan for living as well as the ability to carry it out. Following are principles to guide the church in cooperating with God in building His righteousness into our lives.
Pray for the humility to recognize that there is no hierarchy of persons in the kingdom, some inherently more righteous or unrighteous because of the nature of their sins.
If we take satisfaction that we are free of homosexual sin, and are therefore spiritually superior to a brother or sister dealing with homosexual sin, we have exhibited spiritual pride. If we take satisfaction that we are more loving in our responses to homosexuals than other "judgmental persons," we have exhibited spiritual pride. Thus we have all come under the condemnation of God (Romans 2:1). We are all unrighteous and need a Savior to cleanse us and to lead us into His right way of living and being.
Make the church a safe place, a city of refuge.
Lay down the unrighteous weapons of gossip, criticism and even analysis. Extend Christ's love to the person. Address their sin at the Spirit-directed time. Do not focus only on their sin; focus on Christ. Trust
the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. Know that the Spirit will show you when to speak a word of direction or clarification to the person. Remember, it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The church is called to love persons even when their behavior has been sinful and has contributed to their difficulties in life. Therefore, for example, the
church is called to teach and demonstrate love for the AIDS sufferer. Efforts to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals are contrary to the Spirit of Christ.
Do not apologize for moral and ethical guideposts.
The church should clearly teach that Christians are called to a life of obedience to God's will, and not to a life controlled by fleshly inclinations. Homosexual partnerships are not the moral equivalent of a
heterosexual marriage. Christians should therefore flee homosexual behavior both with anonymous partners and with "covenantal" partners. The church should not encourage or support same-sex covenantal partnerships. Because the Bible is authoritative in the life of the Christian community and clearly condemns homosexual activity, the church is precluded from giving explicit or implicit approval to homosexual practices by offering church membership to those who persist in justifying their homosexual behavior.
It, likewise, precludes ordaining or assigning a leadership position to those who engage in and/or
justify homosexual acts. Congregations who justify homosexual acts preclude themselves from continued fellowship with other congregations in Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
Do not fear persons dealing with homosexuality.
Rather, include these persons among your circle of friends. Seek to give and receive from persons dealing with homosexuality as real people.
Help the person dealing with homosexuality understand that his or her identity is in being a child of God, not in being gay or lesbian.
The concept of sexual identity is a social invention of the last 100 years. Giving someone the label "homosexual" helps create the reality of homosexuality. Those who are uncertain about their sexual leanings now conclude they are homosexual. They then begin to interpret all their experiences through that grid of understanding. This leads to the false conclusion that the most defining aspect of life is sexual orientation. By contrast, those who take their identity as children of God assess their sexual
feelings and experiences as a reality to be dealt with, but not as a defining reality that even God cannot change.
Teach children from the beginning that their identity is in Christ, not in their behaviors, either good or bad.
Make a safe place for children to talk to their elders regarding their concerns and questions about their developing sexuality. Protect children from those who would urge them toward homosexual practice.
Encourage and focus on covenantal intimacy with Jesus Christ.
God is calling us all into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We covenant to love and follow Him wherever He leads. We do not know where this faith journey will lead. But as He builds His
righteousness in us, we begin to see where we next need to repent and be changed into His likeness. We learn that to grow up in Christ, we must respect the Bible, the Holy Spirit and the discerning Christian community of brothers and sisters.
Encourage openness and walking in the light with hopes and fears and failures.
This openness should not be with explicit details of a sexual encounter, but in candor about the nature of the struggle. Knowing that others know all about me, including my sexual sins, and yet love and accept me is a healing reality. Deal directly with such issues as resentment and bitterness which hinder relationships in the body of Christ.
Recognize that the person dealing with any sexual sin may benefit from assistance in various areas including: help to forgive a parent or family member who has mistreated or abused them, deliverance from Satanic oppression or bondage, or healing of memories. Some may benefit from
individual psychotherapy to deal in a focused way with emotional and spiritual issues. For other persons, medications may prove helpful in dealing with depression and other mood instabilities. Some need help to identify patterns of behavior and thinking which predisposed them to sexual sin. Many need help to devise practical ways for "fleeing temptation."
Know that some dealing with homosexuality will become free of persistent homosexual desire. Others will continue with this particular temptation to sin but will learn to rely on Christ's enabling grace and the support of the Christian community to remain free of sexual sin. Be encouraged that Christ is building His church, and He is doing it out of people including those who were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers but who now have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Christ.
(See I Cor. 6:9-11)