Homosexuality in CONTEXT. Take it out of its box!
God demands that we struggle against sin, not that we, of our own strength,are victorious over sin.
The need for confession.
Letter to a prisoner.
A response to a prisoner who told me about a pastor in his youth who stopped talking to him after he asked questions about same sex attraction, and asked counsel. We must put sexual sin in the proper context, and understand the need and reason for struggle against all sin. (Formats: DOC HTML)
The most important thing – is SHAME on that pastor! He was a coward, and not a true pastor. He was limited by his theology. He basically “ghosted” you. Protestantism does not deal well with problems. You will see something in this letter by Deacon Athanasius that addresses this.
There is nothing that you cannot talk to me about, ask me, or dispute with me.
The proper answer to your questions should have been teaching about struggle and repentance, and the purpose of life, and encouragement. True Christians do not “encourage’ with a two-by-four!
Sexuality is not something in a box, with our other stuff in another box. The human condition causes all sorts of temptations, and any of them that bring us farther from God must be fought. We can learn which by reading the Gospels and praying, and struggling to obey God regarding what we know. We fight, and sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose.
True Christianity is not absolutist about behavior, or inclinations or orientations. We are all weak, and none of us can have perfect behavior, inclination or orientations. The true Christian church IS absolutist about repentance and effort. We must struggle against our sins to be saved. We provide the struggle, and God provides the strength and ability, and even the endurance and the victory.
The whole issue of sexuality is framed in a legalistic way by those outside the church or influenced by thoughts outside of her. All we need know about sexuality, or gossiping, or lying, or violence against our brother, or laziness, or any other sin, temptation, orientation or weakness is that God has called us to perfection. Anything short of perfection is sin. We are to struggle against sin to fulfil our destiny. We are not responsible for success. God will help us.
I personally do not care if a person changes the way they think, or their orientation, or what attracts them or repels them. Perfect peace in the soul, and perfect compliance to the law of God is something that few acquire in this life. We have little control over the things we desire, until God sees our effort, and helps us. Some are able to change their desires, or “orientation” (take this latter, “loaded” word in the context of *anything* we are “oriented” to) in this life, but many will not be able.
We are much more able to change our behavior than our orientation. We are responsible for doing that which we are capable of. For example, if we are inclined to anger, we can learn to not swear, or yell, or throw things when we get angry or feel anger rising within us, but for some of us, that little seed of anger will always be something within us, that we must suppress by an act of our will. A person with same-sex attraction may be able to stop this orientation towards sin, or may not, but it is very much within his or her power, with the help of God, to honor God’s commandments, and to refrain from fornication.
We are responsible before God to believe His words, and because we love Him, striving to keep His commandments. The one who “makes excuse with excuses in sin” – about sexuality, or pride, or avarice, or any other sin – will not be saved, but the one who struggles against anything that God’s law forbids will be saved.
Heterosexuals must also struggle against sexual temptation. A man may be “oriented” towards buxom, leggy blondes, and feel an intense attraction to them. A single person may desire to have sexual relations. A committed couple, in love, but not married, may have intense sexual desire for one-another. These people are bound by the same commandments as the homosexual. We have a higher calling. We serve the spirit, not the flesh. The “flesh” is not just our physical bodies”, but all that we are – our thoughts, priorities, desires, “orientations”. Everything must be submitted to the Spirit.
Here are the wise words of Fr Athanasius, a former Baptist minister, who knows about the desert he came from and the oasis of grace he has found.
I had a very disheartening Facebook conversation with an old preacher friend the other day. He was talking about someone who had come to him for counsel. The man was obviously guilt-ridden by his sin. My friend's advice to him was for him to not worry about it, that the sacrifice of Jesus had covered all his sin.
I pointed out that when we were all Baptists together we paid a terrible price for not having the sacrament of confession, a Bible-based tradition of the Holy Church to deal with post baptismal sin. I could have quoted I John 1:8-9 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness." This seems to directly contradict his advice to the man to disregard his imperfections and concentrate on Christ's perfection. Such erroneous advice may sound good. It may make people feel good, as the gushing comments from others seemed to reflect, but it contradicts the consistent counsel of Scripture. For the Scripture also commands, (and this is the verse I did quote him), "Confess your trespasses to one another and, and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16 I also urged him to read the whole verse, including the part about the righteous man.
The preacher tried to play one of their "get out of jail free" cards on me which is to call someone a legalist whenever they disagree with you, especially when they back it up with a Biblical command you cannot answer within you own theology.
I responded to him that I had talked throughout about healing, which is the point of confession, that man might find healing for his sin against God, and asked that if a man told me he was worried he had a physical illness and I told him that he should see a doctor, does that make me a legalist?
Confession is a command of Scripture. To say Fuhgetaboutit fails on both the theological and practical levels. Look at the verse again. Isn't the Biblical command (not a suggestion) to send the spiritually sick to a righteous man? And to call this legalism and claim it is the opposite the Gospel is perhaps the most personally dangerous advice a man can give. According to Scripture it imperils the counselled and the counselor. Jesus says, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:19
I guess now my old friend will need to stick Jesus with the title of legalist as well.
But his advice also fails on the practical level. What do you think his advice will be to his young son who tells him he is thinking of taking a gun to all the bullies at school or to his married son who says he is contemplating adultery? Do you think he will say, No problem? The blood of Jesus already covers all your sin? Don't think about your imperfections but only Christ’s perfection?
Of course not.
But that was essentially what he advised this man. Don't worry about your imperfections. Concentrate on Christ's perfection. You see, the most effective heresies have a grain of truth to them. We absolutely should concentrate on the sufficiency of the love of Christ. But we must also concentrate on keeping the commands of Christ. And that means concentrating on our sins and doing something about them.
And wonderfully, the Holy Church has a righteous man to whom we can go when we mess up. We don't have to carry all this baggage around until it we can no longer stand our "Samsonite" existence. And for this reason, in obedience to Christ, his Holy Church has this gracious and Biblical sacrament of healing: Holy Confession.
By the way, St. John Chrysostom says that be called least in the kingdom of heaven means to not be in it. Be very afraid of accepting heretical advice. But be terrified of giving it. Deacon Athanasius.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2016 This and other Orthodox materials are available in from: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas, http://www.orthodox.net
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