On this edition of Truth in Love, Dr. Lambert talks about whether or not people who struggle with homosexuality can ever change. Dr. Lambert’s answer is that people who struggle with homosexuality can change because the Bible says that because of the gospel, anyone who struggles with sin can change and be different. Dr. Lambert also gives some practical steps people who struggle with homosexuality can take to bring about holiness in their own lives.
As our culture continues to deal with the chaos caused by the sexual revolution, one of the main issues that we are addressing all the time is the issue of homosexuality. Christians can be controversial in that environment when they talk about the fact that homosexuality is sinful, but Christians can be even more controversial when they insist when people who struggle with homosexuality can change. Today we want to deal with this issue on the podcast of homosexuality and change. Amy Evenson is the producer of Truth in Love and Amy, what kinds of questions are people asking about this issue?
Amy Evenson: So, I think this question that you have raised is very controversial. Many people, many Christians, are wondering the question if homosexuals can really change?
Dr. Heath Lambert: So, we have to decide how we are going to answer that question. We can answer it out of the overflow of our experience, or we can answer it out of the overflow of what the Scriptures teach. Our experience indicates that yes, change is hard; it is not just hard for homosexuality, it is hard for any ingrained sin that people struggle with over a period of time. The Christian argument is not that change for homosexuals is easy but that change for homosexuality is possible. The reason we say this is because we believe the Bible teaches it. The Bible teaches it all over the place, but one passage of Scripture that emphasizes this is 1 Peter 1:14-19. This Scripture says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” This is a passage that teaches that our former passions and our former disobedient behavior has been put away by the ransom work of Jesus Christ. It is a passage that calls us to holy desires and to holy behavior and it is a passage that tells us that those things are possible because of the work of Jesus Christ. And so, because of the grace of God in Christ, any pattern of sinful desire, any pattern of sinful behavior can be changed. That is a statement about the gospel of Jesus Christ and we have to believe it.
Amy Evenson: So, we are going to believe it because the Bible says it, but what does it look like? How do people struggling with homosexual desires begin to pursue change?
Dr. Heath Lambert: So this is more good news about the Bible, the Bible doesn’t just tell us what to do but when you pay attention to specific teachings in Scripture it also tells us how to change. There are a lot of different ways to talk about the biblical path to change, I think what I would say in the context of this conversation that we are having, is that we need to think about the change process in four ways: believing, speaking, listening, and serving. So first, believing. You need to believe the gospel that I just read in 1 Peter chapter 1. First Peter 1 says you can be different because you were ransomed by Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that, then you are not doing the first, only, and best thing that the Bible says you have to do to be different. The first thing people need to do is believe that Jesus makes this possible. If you don’t believe that Jesus makes this possible, then you won’t change. But if you do believe, from the bottom of your heart, the truth of the gospel in 1 Peter 1 then you are on the path to change. I also mentioned you need to engage in speaking. We read about this in Ephesians 4:25, where it says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” When you struggle with homosexuality, you need to learn how to speak the truth to your neighbor. Every single person I have ever known who has struggled with homosexuality, fought a path toward change and then fallen back into it – every single one of those people who’s done that – is somebody who stopped being honest with people who were trying to love them well. They begin to nurture a pattern of deception for all kinds of reasons, thinking, “Oh, I can’t be honest” or “Oh, I don’t want to be a burden to this person” and so they start to not tell the truth. When that happens it gets you in a situation where the people who love you the most don’t know how to help you because they don’t know what you are struggling with. People who struggle have to develop a commitment to honesty in their speech, particularly with those who are helping them. You also need to be devoted to listening. After you speak you need to listen. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” This is the Bible’s way of saying that you need to listen to the words of people who care for you; you need to get around wise people who love Jesus, who love the Bible, who love you and listen to what they have to say. You can’t change on your own, you can only succeed in your path towards change with many advisers. A fourth area is by thinking of serving; you need to serve. In Galatians 6:9-10, it says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This is a passage that teaches us to serve; it is a passage that is written to everybody, but it is a passage that we particularly need to hear when we are struggling with sin. Sin, like homosexual sin, turns us in on our self and makes us self-obsessed. One of the best ways to get out of the cycle of self obsession is to be cognizant of the struggles of others and be involved in helping and serving them. So, you need to believe the gospel, you need to speak the truth to your neighbor, you need to listen when your neighbor who loves you speaks to you, and you need to serve the body of Christ. There are other things that we could say about how to help people, but those are four big categories that you are never going to get beyond.
Amy Evenson: So I think all four of those categories are very helpful, how would a person know when they have arrived at change? What does this change look like?
Dr. Heath Lambert: I think that is a perfect question. If we believe that change is possible and we can believe and agree on a path to change, then the question becomes what does the change look like? What am I pursuing when I pursue change? Sometimes we wrongly believe that change looks one particular way. Sometimes we wrongly believe that I have only changed if I no longer struggle with homosexuality, I no longer struggle with homosexual lust, and I get married and have ten kids. That is change; it certainly is. I know people who have changed in those ways, but that’s not the only way you change. Change also looks like somebody who does develop opposite sex attractions and does get married and does have kids, but is aware that they still battle homosexual lust. That’s real change. But that is not the only kind of change. Sometimes change looks like somebody who never develops opposite sex attractions, they do struggle with homosexual lust and they are committed to living a celibate lifestyle, but as they fight homosexual lust they are fighting the fight of faith. They are putting off lust and putting on love, and that is change too. We would say about each of those three and probably a couple other options that those people have legitimately changed; they have legitimately repented of their sins and are depending on Jesus. Their lives don’t look all the same, but they are characterized by the holiness that 1 Peter talks about.