FIRST-PERSON: A tale of 2 fathers

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Sometime ago I ran across two articles with advice to parents who may have gay children. Both authors identified themselves as pastors. Both appealed to specific Scriptures and to biblically based principles.

The first pastor listed promises he would make if his children came out as gay. We could learn from his compassionate heart, as he reflects on Psalm 139's account of God's formation of our lives. The article became a viral sensation, yet I am among those who would lament his conclusions as biblically flawed.

The second pastor advocated something I've heard more often than I would like to admit: If the child is a Christian, confront them and do so sternly. If they do not repent, he writes, you should alienate them, separate yourself from them, and not even have a meal with them. His advice was based on Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

Both men appeal to Scripture and, in my view, both have missed the mark.

First, let's ask: What is our goal for our children? Mine was always to do all I could to train them up in God's Word. I wanted more than rote recitation of the Bible; I wanted them to understand the principles of God's Word.

I wanted them to know that this world can offer many pleasures and some degree of happiness. But God's plan, though it may seem incredibly challenging, is for a joy that transcends happiness and an abundance that is far beyond earthly pleasures (John 10:10). God offers a peace the world cannot give or understand (John 14:27 and 16:33) yet we can never have all that God wants for us if we choose to live in disobedience.

For the first pastor, his promises to his children included: "I won't pray for them to be made 'normal.' I've lived long enough to know that if my children are gay, that is their normal. I won't pray that God will heal or change or fix them. I will pray for God to protect them from the ignorance and hatred and violence that the world will throw at them, simply because of who they are."

One problem is that this does not take into account the effect of sin on what God has created. We can be very thankful that we now have the capability to correct some of the problems with which children are born and, all the more, that new birth in Christ comes with a new nature with power over sin.

The first pastor's statement also is scientifically flawed since no studies that are scientifically accepted and replicated have ever shown homosexuality to be genetically hardwired.

Finally, some of the pastor's arguments are based on caricatures of those who believe homosexual practices are sinful. He seems to lump together those who disagree with him as "people with misplaced anger issues, who find the whole topic (of homosexuality) disgusting or unpleasant, and who would despise them (homosexual children) and wish them harm, who would curse them to Hell." While this kind of rhetoric may have a certain appeal to our culture today, it ultimately creates more problems than it solves. And it is dishonest.

The statements of the second pastor, meanwhile, whether intended or not, give support to some Christians who have a stern view of homosexuality. At least a part of his recommendation is based on 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 which includes the following: "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -- not even to eat with such a person."

Without getting into an in-depth examination of this and similar passages, let's consider how implementing it as strictly as the second pastor advocates would look.

We could not have Thanksgiving dinner with extended family if any of those family members were guilty of wanting a nicer house or car because certain of their friends had recently acquired those things. If any of our family members had live-in partners, either they would have to be disinvited or you couldn't attend. Perhaps there are family members who are divorced but don't have biblical grounds. Beyond that, husbands and wives might have to eat in separate rooms should any of those conditions apply.

Rather than quibbling over the exact interpretation of such verses, I would simply say that in over 20 years of ministry to those who struggle with same-sex attraction I have never met one who decided to leave homosexuality because someone shunned them. I have met hundreds who were powerfully impacted by a friend or family member who loved them unconditionally while standing firmly on the biblical teaching on homosexuality.

So I would encourage you to seek a better way. Don't demonstrate a compassion that would ultimately put your loved one in conflict with God's Word and, whatever you do, don't turn your back on your child.

I remember a sermon Dr. Huber Drumwright, one of my all-time favorite professors, preached on the prodigal son, which he said should be called the parable of "the loving father." To this day I vividly remember tears flowing down Dr. Drumwright's face as he spoke of this father. The father never showed approval of what his son had done and welcomed him home before his expression of repentance.

I've always thought that the prodigal suspected his father would respond in this way and that was one of the reasons he turned for home. Motel 6 should not be the only one saying, "We'll leave the light on for you."

Bob Stith (bstith777@juno.com) is founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Southlake, Texas. He formerly served as the Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues. In tandem with this column, Stith recommends the book "When Homosexuality Hits Home" by Joe Dallas.
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