Two weeks ago we were on our way to visit a daughter church, Igreja Presbiteriana Semear, at a hotel in Brasília after three wonderful days camping with them. We were intrigued by posters and advertisements announcing a “National Conference of bisexuals, transvestites and cross-gender workers in the battle against AIDS” to be held at the same location. When we got to the elevator, a hotel attendant asked if we were heading the right direction. We went to the place where the church service was about to begin, worshipped and celebrated the Lord’s Supper with our dear friends. Right direction, incorrect timing – the unusual (for Christians, at least) meeting would occur later on. As we were leaving church we perceived a glut of excited, flamboyant, and yes, very vocal men dressed as women, women passing for men and assorted unusually gay “couples”. The aforesaid conference would begin as soon as the Christians exited.

We live in a fallen world with increasingly blatant “sexual preferences”, and I had seen a lot of homosexuality in the workplace and even among people linked to family and friends, but never so many, so showy and so noisy in one place. It was no time for an uncertain snicker or muffled laughter. I’ve been remembering those faces and expressions since that day.

Several years ago a church shepherded by a friend of ours fired their organist and music director for her unbiblical sexual activity, and she promptly sued the church for its bias – and won.  Recently Brazil’s legislators have proposed making a crime of “any expressions of homophobia”, with view to inclusion and positive distinction of gay and lesbian educators from elementary to university level. When he was Minister of Education, the newly elected governor of the State of São Paulo became known for his “gay kit”, in which school children were advised on the importance of “sexual diversity” and told to never discriminate against any boy or girl who made “different choices” from those traditionally learned in their families. The “educational material” was so blatantly biased toward homosexuality that it was rejected at the time, but new similar proposals are high on the state and national leaders’ agendas. A spokesperson who was heralded as defender of homosexuals has proposed a new definition of family which excludes “the union of a man and a woman” as a marriage and prefers the definition “consensual union of any person or persons with another (or others) of either sex”. This will have profound impact on Christians, churches and institutions.

When I worked as case manager for people with HIV in the early Nineties, 80% of my clients were gay. My goal was to reach out to people who suffered, without questioning how or why they were infected. In a non-religious institution, we were not allowed to “preach” the gospel or opine as to personal faith – but my clients knew I was a Christian and were conscious of my non-approval of their lifestyles. They also knew that I respected them as persons created by God, accepted them as friends, and yearned for them to know what reconciliation with the Lord is all about. I’d never said it in so many words, but they sensed genuine love.

One time when I was doing pre-HIV test counseling with a drug-addicted girl who had just answered, “Five minutes ago” when asked when was the last time she had injected and sold herself in order to finance her habit, all I could think was, “Once you were a beautiful, innocent (even if fallen) baby with none of your habits and hangouts. How God loves you! How Jesus invites you to enter His fellowship and be free!”

I listened as my clients told of their fears and foibles, as they asked why -- questions about life and death and disease and said I would answer some of their questions outside the workplace. They were welcome and respected, though I never condoned their lifestyle, which was much more than “risky behavior”. My husband supported me in that work, and we invited my Portuguese-speaking HIV clients into our home for supper. One thirty-three year old man asked if God could forgive and save him, and he came to our church. Lau baptized him when he bore witness of becoming a brother in Christ. After returning to Brazil, he died of AIDS as a Christian.

Back in Brazil we started Santé, an organization to support and offer assistance to people with AIDS, and initially it was perceived as primarily a ministry to homosexual people. Over the years we have met and ministered to people from all walks of life, many of which have made depraved choices in their personal lives. One such person asks: “Can God accept someone who has lived like me?” – we ask back: “Can God accept a repentant thief, a repentant adulterer, a repentant murderer? The writer to Corinthians said: “the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God... that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” ( I Corinthians 6:9-11). Any kind of sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexual acts, thievery and swindling – forfeits God’s kingdom! But we are saved by grace through faith – not by our works. People who think living with a boyfriend without marrying is okay, or idolize rock singers, sports stars and hundreds of other idols, or are consummate deceivers and tellers of lies are just as guilty as those who partake of homosexual acts. God does not make a list of   “less sinful” or “more sinful” behaviors – even our non-consumed sinful thoughts are sin (Matthew 5:28). Actually, our condition as sinners is not so much from what we do (though we end up doing what is contrary to God’s Word) as what we are – totally depraved, and, when without Christ, totally lost (Romans 3:23; 26). Before a just and righteous God, heterosexual promiscuity is as serious an offense as homosexual marriage!

Speaking of which, many of my friends in the USA live in states that approve gay marriage. That does not mean you have to condone it or, if a pastor, perform such a wedding ceremony! To begin, homosexuals are not gay in the classic definition of “happy, fun-loving and full of joy”. Same-sex attraction most surely entails much anguish and uncertainty – even when “coming out” of the closet is accepted or condoned by society. A dear person close to our family decided to “embrace” homosexuality – he did so with more than a sense of damnation and despair and is too enmeshed to believe Jesus can set him free. Another person, a girl, decided to “marry” her female lover – and discovered that it is a howlingly empty “marriage” and the lover loves only her own self and selfish desires. They have tried and tried again – like the Samaritan woman who had five marriages and was presently living with someone else’s spouse (John 4). Jesus – only Jesus can do so – offered her living water that quenches eternal thirst.

We have seen several cases of people in Christian leadership who end their ministry by embracing “gay rights” for themselves. Like any ministry shipwrecked by sinful behavior, the only solution is REPENT and RETURN to the Lord (Isaiah 55:7 NKJ: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”! What a breathtaking promise! Someone said “you Christians are always talking about sin – how dreary!” But admission of sin implies the possibility of redemption – you can’t be saved if you don’t have anything from which to be redeemed!

The subject is vast and full of serious questions, but in a nutshell, I would affirm:

1.       The Bible, from Old through all the New Testament, condemns homosexual activity, as it does many other sins (Romans 1:18-32);

2.       Our Christian ethic includes both loathing of sin and love of sinner – this balance is exemplified by the only perfect God-Man, and should extend beyond what society or culture or status propose;

3.       People who demonstrate prejudice and discrimination against any who are or are perceived as different from themselves – must repent of lack of compassion such as Jesus showed to the woman caught in adultery.

4.       People who are engaged or enticed by any form of sin, whether “unacceptable” or socially “accepted”, must repent, return and convert their hearts to the Lord.

5.       There is NONE Righteous. All our self-righteousness is like dirty rags!

6.       There is NOBODY who can not be saved if called by the Lord Jesus.

If  your heart is disturbed by this blog, turn to the God of Comfort; put on the righteousness of Jesus and don’t live for yourself – above all, don’t die because of what you call bad choices and God calls sin – die to your selfish self and live unto the Lord!
Beth Gomes

1 comment:

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