Question: We have several questions that have come in related to the topic of same-sex attraction. One of the questions that Christians are asking is should I feel nervous about counseling someone of the same gender who has same-sex attraction?
Heath Lambert: Let me say this at the very beginning, we have to admit that every single thing about the question you just asked is controversial. There is a very narrow slice of the population that is not going to be offended by a couple of different elements in that question.
First of all, the question assumes that same-sex attraction is a problem that requires counseling. It is a minority position to argue that it’s a problem that requires counseling. Secondly, it’s very, very controversial that counseling would even help such a thing. This is a very debated issue and the popular view, certainly on the part of LGBT persons is that counseling doesn’t help because it’s an innate characteristic. There are all sorts of evidence that it is not true, but that doesn’t change that the popular opinion: that it is true. Then you’ve got the issue of the question that could sound kind of prudish: “well, what’s the problem with having these kinds of relationships?” or something like that.
The question as its asked is one of the most controversial things that we could talk about on the podcast. And yet, we do believe as biblical Christians agreeing with 2,000 years of church history, agreeing with faithful exegesis of the text of Scripture today that the Bible does teach homosexuality to be a sin. And that homosexuality is one of the realities that is addressed in the work of Jesus Christ to pay for the sins of people and to purchase change for people. And so, we do have to ask the question, and for people who agree with that worldview, there is some nervousness. I have talked with many church people who have received the opportunity to be in a counseling or a discipleship relationship with someone of the same sex who struggles with same-sex attraction and they’re saying “should I be in that relationship?” And they asked the question not because they don’t want to help somebody, not because they are nervous, or not because they struggle themselves, but they ask for the very same reason that they would ask about counseling someone of the opposite sex. They want to stay above reproach. They don’t want to be a stumbling block and so they wonder, should I do this? And my answer to those questions is always, yes, you should be involved in those kinds of relationships.
One of the most important realities that a person who struggles with same-sex attraction needs is to be in relationship with same-sex persons where those relationships are not going to be sexually charged. And so, one of the greatest ways that we can serve people who struggle with same-sex attraction and who want to change, is by being in a relationship with them where we are going to be approaching it from a standpoint where that’s not a temptation for us. That’s not a struggle for us and that is actually very helpful to them.
Question: So, then what would you say would be the kinds of topics that should be addressed in that counseling?
Heath Lambert: This is a huge issue. We can’t deal with that on one podcast but let me just say this: so many people and I know this isn’t what you think, but so many people treat homosexuality, if they address it as a problem at all, they address it like it’s a special problem. People who struggle with the problem of homosexuality, there’s something, especially troubling about them, and they need a very special solution so they can reach a special goal. And I think, as Christians, we just need to admit that so many ways, there’s nothing special about homosexuality at all. Homosexuality is one sin. There are many, many sins that human beings can struggle with, and many sexual sins, many non-sexual sins, and Jesus Christ died to pay for the penalty of all those sins and to purchase purity for all of those sins. And the Bible has revelation that is intended to help Christians lay, hold of that grace to change in all of those difficulties.
And so, homosexuality is not some special category of sin that requires some special solution, that’s not true of other sins. We use the graces that are in the word of God to address homosexuality, which we would use to address any sin. We want to deal with repentance, we want to deal with drawing near to Jesus. We want to deal with trusting Christ that his commands are good and loving. We want to deal with being selfless and sacrificial in your relationships. We want to deal with uprooting lust in the heart. And we want to deal with pursuing purity in all of your relationships. So, there’s going to be all kinds of things that you would talk about. I talked about some of them in a book that I wrote with Denny Burke called Transforming Homosexuality. But the thing I want to emphasize here is, we pay attention to the change process that is revealed in Scripture. The change process that works for every sin in the Scriptures is the same change process that’s going to work for homosexuality.
Question: So what if in the context of that relationship, that person expresses attraction for you? What should you do then?
Heath Lambert: Well, first of all, we need to be honest, and I would want people to hear me say this very carefully that that can happen. I mean, attraction develops for same-sex attracted persons the same way attraction develops for opposite-sex attracted persons for heterosexual people. And so, it won’t surprise us that in a relationship like a counseling relationship, a discipleship relationship where you’re talking very openly, you’re talking very honestly. There is a lot of very intimate details of your life that are being exposed and you are engaging in a helpful conversation, you’re trying to be sensitive and caring and all the things that a good counselor, a good discipler needs to be, it doesn’t surprise us that attraction would develop in that relationship for somebody who is same-sex attracted.
And when that happens as it sometimes will, a person who is on the receiving end of that attraction should not feel threatened in any way. In fact, I think that they should just see this as another opportunity to serve this person and to love this person that God has placed in their path. I think that you could make a couple of things, clear.
Number one, that you are glad that they told you this, that relationships are founded upon candor, and you appreciate their honesty in that regard. I think that you should recommit to them your intentionality to honor Christ and your relationship, and to pursue a relationship with them that is completely pure. You’re not threatened by that, you’re not tempted to quit being their friend, you love them as much now as you did before, but you want to love them with all purity like a brother or like a sister in Christ. And then I think you need to help them deal with that. Like, hey you being attracted to me is just one issue in our relationship that we need to deal with, there will be others. Every relationship has things come up in it, that we need to deal with. And so, what we need to do is work on it, the Bible says and Romans chapter 12 that we’re transformed by the renewal of our minds. And so, then I think we just do the work of Christian discipleship. How do we take that thought captive? How do we renew that thought? And how when you begin to experience lust in your heart for me, how can we take that thought captive, uproot the lust, and in order to change in a way where your thoughts are connected to purity and not impurity?