Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Christians, along with their friends and families, face two big obstacles in the exercise of their faith.
The first obstacle comes from The Bible itself. Some versions were composed in a kind of stained-glass-language which makes it hard for many people to decipher. Too many seekers give up and their Bible gathers dust on a shelf. But as believers we are told, “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of truth.” 2nd Timothy 2:15 NIV. Therefore we need to study a version of the Bible which facilitates understanding for people of our era. The closer we grow to God, the more we realize it is worth the effort to understand His Word.
The second obstacle comes from religious political extremists who charge that GLBT Christians do not exist. “You can’t be Christian and homosexual! Homosexuals are going to hell.” It is sad to think that fellow believers would do this, but perpetuating hate and fear is a million dollar business. There are televangelists and direct mail campaign groups who are getting rich by painting a demonized image of GLBT people. While wrapped up in the self-righteous flag of legalism, they resemble the Scribes and Pharisees who Christ railed against when He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13 NIV.
The first obstacle can be overcome by shopping for a reader-friendly Bible and then studying it. The second obstacle is the result of legalism. You cannot control it, but you can be prepared when legalism rears its ugly head. In any event we can spiritually defend ourselves and free our faith from the closet by practicing the following ten methods of spiritual self-defense.
Method #1: Keep your eye on the mark. While I was learning to mow the lawn, my father taught me the old farm-boy technique which enables you to keep your rows straight. Don’t look down. Pick a spot in the distance which will become your target or goal. Walking directly towards that mark will keep your path straight. Our goal is to be one with Christ. If we maintain a close eye on Him, and ignore the detractors yapping at our heels, we will be strengthened by the very focus from which flows our strength.
Method #2: Study the Word. Our detractors are sure that they know more than we do. Their argument usually goes like this: “Let me tell you what the Bible says about the abomination of homosexuality. I’m a Christian, and I’ll tell you the truth. Society only tells you lies.” We must know God’s Word if we are to refute bigoted interpretations. At the websites listed below you will learn how to answer the typical charges leveled at us by the religious political extremists. But, more than that, if you are not familiar with the truth, you may be suffering from a fear that perhaps God really does hate GLBT people. Rest assured that He does not. See for yourself at these
Method #3: Remain Teachable. Ask yourself “Why does God have me where I am right now? What can I learn from this experience?” We often hear said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” View any confrontation as an opportunity for God to teach you something new. By paying close attention to what your opponent says, you can learn more about him and what seems to make him tick. You may also discover that there are areas of faith and Scripture in which you need added growth. Grow where you are planted.
Method #4: Know where you stand with God. A Bible scholar from the religious political activist camp may be able to twist and reinterpret Scripture to put a condemnatory spin on it, and he may be able to out-argue you. But! He cannot argue with what God has done in your heart! What the Holy Spirit has done in your life is real and lasting. So if you are unsure of your relationship with God, pray for the blessed assurance, the word of knowledge, that you belong to God. Nurture that blessed assurance in your heart, and hold onto it tight. You have got to do this if you want to speak with any authority. If you are unsure of your spiritual health, you can bet that the legalist will pick up on it. Ponder your favorite Scriptures, and ask God for assurance. As a beautiful old woman used to say to me, “I know what I know what I know!” Nobody was going to tell her that she was not a child of the Creator!
Method #5: Understand your opponent. This person hurling Scriptures and insults does not usually see himself as your enemy. If he doesn’t hate you, you might be able to educate him. There are times when it is best to speak of faith, love, and grace, rather than battling with Scriptural quotations. Perhaps he is a legalist and does not understand the concept of God’s love and grace. It is only through God’s grace that we may enter heaven. There are no legalistic rules or achievements we can perform that will earn our place in heaven. Only God’s grace is sufficient for that. “… and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags …” Isaiah 64:6 NIV
Method #6: Seek To Discover Your Own Calling. Let’s rephrase that to say: Seek to discover God’s Calling for You. What if, for instance, you found out that God wants you to help a person find his way to heaven? What if it turned out that the person you are supposed to help save is Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, Ralph Reed, or Donald Wildmon? I bring this up because we must keep our life open to the will of God. If He chooses a mission for us, He will also give us the strength and the tools. If we are ignoring His voice, it won’t really matter how many “Methods of Spiritual Self-Defense” we study.
Method #7: Know what you are. You are a Christian. You are a child of God. Write it down in big, bold letters. Underline it in red ink. Nobody on this earth has authority to tell you otherwise. This is between you and your Creator. So, do not accept your opponent’s definition of you. Do not let him get away with the infamous, “Us versus Them” statements such as, “I am a Christian, you are a homosexual abomination.” If necessary remind him that Jesus is your savior, too.
Method #8: Harden your skin, but not your heart. Remember that this is about survival. Survival of your soul, not your body. The body will die and be gone. But, our soul is eternal. In the battle we often fight, in the onslaught against our body and spirit, a natural result would be for us to toughen up, but we must not allow our hearts to become calloused. If we let our heart and soul become hardened, something awful happens — we will have trouble sensing the voice of God. That is the greatest tragedy of all. Do not let it happen to you.
Method #9: Accept Ambassadorship. If you speak as a Christian, you are, indeed, representing Jesus. This comes with responsibilities. In the same manner that an ambassador from the United States must maintain a cordial and professional image while in another country representing US citizenry, we must maintain a Christian attitude when we speak. Otherwise we lose credibility. Try this technique: imagine you are an author creating an amazing character for your new novel. This character is as brave as she is wise. As the author you must never have that character behave in a way that would depart from her fundamental character traits. Imagine how confused your readers would be if you wrote a scene in which your character behaved in a cowardly or stupid manner. Keep this technique in mind for yourself. Do nothing which will detract from your image as an ambassador for Christ.
Method #10: Take Your Faith Out of The Closet: Be an actor, not a re-actor. This is similar to method #9, except for this difference: you will initiate more dialogue than you may have heretofore done. Perhaps you will become the organizer of Bible study groups. Whatever your deeds, you will be stepping out in faith, instead of being led around by the nose. And when you do this, you will be casting a very positive light on the GLBT community. Many of us have seen those horrible films with titles such as “The Gay Agenda.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to produce a video-tape of GLBT Christians at worship? To be able to say, “Here is an honest depiction of the Gay Agenda!”
As you rescue your faith from the closet, try not to react to everything people say. When, for instance, a legalist says something negative to you, stop and think. Do not react immediately. Do not let their words dictate your reactions. Filter their words and your thoughts through your dignity, your life-experience, your self-respect, and your personal relationship with God. If you choose to offer a reply, let it be something that pleases God.
Jim Bilbrey has been married to his wife Cindy since 1972.