“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Paul wrote those words from prison to the Philippians. They reflect a vital New Testament perspective: Opposition to the gospel often creates an opportunity for the gospel. It’s in that spirit that Peter Hubbard asks in his introduction to Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church: “What if the current discussion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is not a threat, but an opportunity?”
A challenging question! Threats tempt us to respond with anger, fear, vindictiveness and desperation. Opportunities lead to optimism, faith, activity and love. Is there a way in which this discussion of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and all the spin-off conversations (even arguments) is not a threat to the church or the gospel, but an opportunity?
Let me suggest four opportunities that present themselves to us. If we’re convinced of these, we can turn from threatened, fight-or-flight responses to confidence in God.
1. This is an opportunity to make the church a safe place for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
In God’s providence, the cultural situation is forcing us to think about homosexuality in new ways. The great blessing that can attend this discussion is the recognition that some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord struggle with this temptation.
For too long they were left thinking that their sin struggle was taboo, off-topic, “other” than everyone else’s. We could leave the impression that grace meets most kinds of sinners—but not that kind of sinner.
Now God is giving us the chance to be used by him to listen to, encourage, strengthen and walk alongside those who previously may have been afraid to speak up or acknowledge their struggle.
That’s an opportunity, not a threat.
2. This is an opportunity to grow in our understanding of the nature of sin.
One of the discussion points has to do with the issue of choice: Did I choose to struggle with same-sex attraction? If not—so the argument goes—then how can it be wrong for me to act on my desires? Christians’ first response might go something like this: Sin is a willful rebellion against God. Homosexuality is a sin. Therefore you chose to be homosexual.
The problem is that, as those who struggle with same-sex attraction will tell us if we listen, that they can’t point to a specific moment they “chose” this sin pattern. The label of choice doesn’t ring true to their experience. What are we to do? Redefine what Scripture says in light of supposedly new “insights” into ideas like sexual orientation? Or insist, even against the testimony of fellow believers, that they really did choose this struggle, even if they weren’t aware of it?
Both of those are wrong responses.