Thursday, March 4, 2010

Overcoming Sin, Part 2

I received the call in the midst of the overwhelming response my testimony generated after being published in a Christian magazine with world-wide distribution. In the months following "Once Gay Always Gay?" which detailed the lives of three people who had converted to Christ from the homosexual experience, I received over 600 letters asking for help and several phone calls. The call mentioned above invited me to speak at a breakfast being held in honor of graduating high school seniors within a church about an hour from my home town. I found the invitation unusual but decided that the nature of my sin did not negate the reality that the freshman year of college can be a minefield of regrettable, even potentially explosive decisions for any young adult. I would encourage them to hold fast to their faith in the midst of temptation.

How utterly naive I was! The only person who smiled was the youth leader who had contacted me. Following breakfast, I took the lectern and while my delivery probably revealed my discomfort adding to the awkwardness of the encounter, the body language of my audience was nothing short of stiff chagrin.

Since that article, I have been much less open regarding my experience with homosexuality. First and foremost, our children would start entering the local public high school in two years following the article; my wife and I decided they need not have to deal with defense of their father in that setting. (They are all now adults and have given their permission for me to share.)

Second, I have discovered the topic is difficult for some groups to handle openly when it is presented in first person terms. An abstract discussion in third person over the politics, social ramifications or spiritual aspects located in a Sunday school classroom is sterile. A live human being exposes everyone to an encounter with fears or sometimes loathsome emotional responses.

My own fear as a young Christian kept me from ever, ever talking about what I felt with anyone. I came close on two occasions to speaking about the feelings with a youth pastor but could not manage the risk of rejection. I dealt with the feelings by attempting suppression of them while pretending to everyone I was straight and dating as socially expected. Alone, I prayed, "Deliver me!" However, my prayer was spiritually immature and in hindsight, dishonest.

This series is about the journey of overcoming a life-dominating sin. Sin that is one's very being. This is the first lesson I learned in that battle. God doesn't take away anyone's desire for sin.

Once I recommitted my life to Christ and sought spiritual understanding of my own soul as a young man walking away from the homosexual life, I remembered those early prayers for deliverance. I began to understand: God doesn't take anyone's "flesh" away. By flesh, we often mean our sin nature. It is important to realize, I think, when dealing with the issue of original sin and the nature within us which is set against God, using the term flesh as a euphemism for our sin nature may mask from our spiritual insight the truth of sin as inherently tied to our physical bodies. We accept the body, our biological abode, as somehow spiritually neutral, while it's that sinister, ethereal flesh that gets in so much trouble. (More on this later.)

Asking God to take away our sin nature sounds like a good, pious prayer. However, it is utterly useless and self-serving. We experience no active faith in God, if He acts to remove from us our love of self. (He would literally have to take away our bodies to answer this prayer, which is a bit impractical.) He will not answer this prayer as we suppose He should, because the answer we seek removes from us any responsibility for our own actions. He provided for our condition when He sacrificed His own Son. If we have no flesh or sin nature which is our other choice in place of Him, then to choose Him is no choice, and therefore, no love can be known.

To know love as He defines love is among His goals for us, no?

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