Reprinted from The Journal: News of the Churches of God, April 30, 2004.  Subscribe for $28 for one year or $49 for two years by going to www.thejournal.org. 


Mr. Harris, here writing under a pseudonym, is a member of the United Church of God who receives E-mail at michael9776@cs.com.  A related article, by the same writer, follows this one.
 
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Editorial: Pain, lonliness dwell deep in my memory


By Michael Harris

In recent months magazine articles and Web-site commentaries have appeared from some of the Church of God groups focusing on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The article you're reading is an open letter to the brethren of the Church of God from a member who has experienced the struggle of conflict between homosexuality and his Christian calling into the Church of God.

What I write about here, dear brethren, is the human side of homosexuality.


Emotional Controversy

I have been in the Church of God a long time.  I have also had a longtime struggle with homosexuality.

As we all know, recents events in Massachusetts, San Francisco and other cities have ignited intense, emotional controversy about the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  We have seen anxiety and anger expressed in recent weeks as the controversy spreads across America.

Some have emotionally declared their belief that homosexuals have chosen to be homosexual and harbor an agenda to bring down society through their immoral behavior.

Others have countered that they were born biologically gay and that they deserve "equal rights" as a matter of fairness.

In reality, the truth is somewhere between these two diametrically opposed views.


Did not choose

I know, as a member of the Church of God who has coped for many years with my personal struggle to live as a Christian, that I did not choose to have a homosexual orientation, or same-sex attraction.  I remember having these feelings since I was a boy.

As a young man, as called me into the church, I endured an excruciating struggle to stay out of the gay lifestyle, as I so urgently craved closeness and affection from another man.  The intense pain and loneliness I carried during those early years in the church lies deep in my memory.

The controversy surrounding homosexuality will not go away.  Too many people are much too emotionally conflicted and pained for that to happen.

It has been said that "our children" are our future.  Homosexual men and women grew up as some of society's "our children."

Like me, many of them grew up in a heterosexual family.  I have deep respect for marriage and realize that the heterosexual family is God's natural building block for a stable and civil society.  Yet I remember stressful and traumatic events in my own childhood heterosexual-family environment that may have contributed to my struggle.  Do homosexuals sin?  Yes, they do, and sin brings pain.  But so does contempt and rejection.

I remember how things were for me in my early years as I struggled to be a Christian.  I don't have contempt for homosexual sinners.  My strongest feeling toward them is one of empathy and compassion.

Many people in our society who struggle with homosexual attraction, sometimes called same-sex attraction, or SSA, sincerely try to live as Christians.  Two years ago I joined an Internet chat group created by some Sabbatarian Christians to enable members of the group to give and get Christian support and encouragement to stay out of the gay lifestyle.


The church's loss of credibility

I want to share with you my reply to a female member of the group while we discussed the issue of homosexuality in the mainstream Christian church.  I have edited my comment here for clarity and confidentiality.

In a message dated Nov. 3, 2003, the Internet-group member wrote expressing her opinion of the controversy over homosexuality in one of the Christian church denominations.

"See," she wrote, "I think the church (and many others) lost the right or, rather, the credibility to speak into the lives of its people when it began to allow divorce and remarriage for any and all (or no) reasons.  It was afraid of 'enforced' celibacy for its straight members--priests and bishops included.

"Gay people, not being stupid, have realized the 'pick and choose' attitude of this over the decades and wanted what others had: a life mate and all that involved.  Fast forward to 2003: There will probably now be two churches.  Again I ask: To what end?..."


My reply

Here is part of my reply to the group member:

"Your post started me thinking about the ongoing debate in the church.  I believe that the controversy within the Christian church over the issue of homosexuality will be with us for a long time.  I perceive it as a 'perfect storm' kind of thing.

"Many conservatives believe the issue should be framed primarily as one of morality, and many liberals feel it emotionally as an issue of recognizing equality and fairness.

"So I see the current state of affairs in the Christian church as being in the middle of a perfect storm of ongoing theological debate in which the only thing sure to come is more anger, mistrust, polarization and pain.

"Just like the ill-fated fishing boat (in the movie
The Perfect Storm) had no chance to escape the Atlantic's whirling waters and went down, Christian churches have no chance to escape the whirling controversy without a better (and compassionate) understanding of what homosexuality is, and also unless all people who call themselves Christain become true followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

"The question is: Why is there a perfect storm?

"A big part of the reason is the traditional religious misconceptions about 'homosexuality and sin' that many churches have held in years past and some still hold, and the ensuing way they have historically treated homosexual men, women, and youths.

"Over the years misconceptions and hearsay about the infamous story of Sodom and Gomorrah have led to an extraordinary demonizing of homosexual sin and sinner that individual homosexual people did not and do not deserve to have to carry.  Over time, these traditional shame-based attitudes created the cultural concept that somehow homosexuality was the worst sin.

"As we know, most homosexual people (at least that I have known and met) do not consciously choose their sexual and emotional orientation.  Yet until recent years the cultural conditions created through traditional religious ideas compelled homosexual people to live in shame, self-loathing and fear.

"As these religious misconceptions prevailed, mercy and compassion were subjugated by contempt and disdain for homosexuals.

"To use a phrase that I first read here on our Internet group, homosexuals have been 'condemned without understanding.'

"How many countless times has the following scenario, or something like it, happened in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s or 2003?

"Sometimes, as a child grows up, his or her unmet need for same-sex love, bonding and touch can become sexualized.  At some point he realizes he is gay.  He may be teased, bullied, or mistreated by his peers.  If he dares talk about his emotions, the adults around him will react in embarrassment and shame.

"He is told by peers and adults that homosexuality is wrong and sinful.  He is told 'what the Bible says' and is warned that 'the reason' God destroyed Sodom was homosexuality.  (Even though this is not biblically correct, the people telling him that think it is true, so he believes it.)

"He doesn't know why he's homosexual.  He doesn't know what to do to feel 'normal' like other boys.

"The adults tell him it's a sin, a morals thing, and he feels ashamed.

"He yearns for same-sex bonding, but he doesn't know what to do.  No one offers him any help or solution to cope with his dilemma.  People only condemn him, and he's left to hurt.

"He didn't ask for his homosexual feelings or his pain in conflict or his sense of shame, but he has them all!  He hurts, so he tries and somehow manages to find other gays who understand him.  He can share with them, and connect.

"The culturally induced shame is intense, but the pain of conflict, isolation, and loneliness is worse, and he is glad to find other homosexuals to be with.

"Meanwhile, most of society quitely avoids discussing this taboo.


No solutions offered

"As the '50s move into the '60s, it's generally still not talked about.  After all, in the minds of many it's the unspeakable sin that personifies shame, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.

"No one offers him a solution to his circumstances, just shame-intoned warnings about sin.

"As he becomes a young man, he's left to hurt, and his pain builds.  He's left to look for other gay people who will understand.  They have to meet in secret, and there's much apprehension, but at least they can experience a sense of safety and sharing.

"Society is prudish, even about heterosexuality.  But discussions about homosexuality are almost universally taboo.  As gay men and women try to live in the larger society, the pain builds and eventually has to go somewhere, and time goes on.

"The distress cycle replays countless times.


Police raids

"It's June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York.  The police raid the bar, and many patrons are arrested.  After all, homosexual acts are criminal under New York's civil code.  Something immoral is suspected, so, in the eyes of the police of 1969, the patrons behave like the criminals they were said to be.  They are treated unkindly, even cruelly, without respect for their humanity.  The police are just doing their job.

"But this was in New York, the home of the Statute of Liberty!

"The pent-up pain overflows.  The patrons' anger flashes!

"As the Stonewall Riots ensued, many participants resisted the police.  Thus began the Gay Liberation Front and the present-day gay-rights movement in America.


Churches taking notice

"From 1969 to 2003 the churches began to awaken.  They realized the issue of homosexuality had been so culturally taboo they had not talked about it.

"A sense of embarrassment and shame had always sufficed.  Why talk openly about something that seemed so immoral?

"But now their hand was forced.  They had to respond to the demanding homosexuals.  So the churches did what they knew how to do, first in silent shame, then with open contempt: Their preachers condemned the homosexuals without understanding.

"The winds of Christianity's perfect storm were kicking up.

"But their preachers didn't see it.  Had they sought to understand the human factor of homosexuality, perhaps things might be different.


Began to organize

"
Multiple thousands of gay Americans took note of the angered New Yorkers.  They identified with them and began to organize.

"Their goals?  To be treated decently, with respect; to gain the right to live and love freely without being shamed, judged and condemned.

"The sense of shame was still there, but the pain was even deeper, and they weren't going to take it anymore.

"Most of us on this forum list are old enough to remember those years.  The perfect storm began to form and move across America, Canada, Europe and the rest of the West.

"Back then the church perceived (and some still do) homosexuality as primarily a matter of immorality and preached accordingly.  That has been one of Christianty's most serious mistakes in responding to the issue of homosexuality: preaching about sin and morality alone, without any compassion or understanding, without respect, or help--and without love and even some affection directed toward the gay man or woman experiencing a sense of conflict or alienation.

"Why do we have today's perfect storm in the Christian church and our society?

"Conservative religious folks blame liberals and homosexuals for the mess.  Liberal Christians and many gays blame conservative, strict religion.

"But God places the outreach responsibility where it belongs: squarely on the church.


Spiritual purpose

"Jesus said that those who are well have no need of a physician, but the sick have need.  He likened sinners (everybody) to those who are sick.  The church is instructed to respond in kind, with spiritual purpose, to preach and teach Christ's example of life to mankind.

"In Scripture God commandingly instructs the church to preach the good news about God's love and the saving power of Jesus Christ.  The church is expected--held responsible--to spread a message anchored by love and hope, with John 3:16 setting the tone.

"Moral instruction about sin is essential.  But so are love and respect and compassion.  So are hands-on concern and even appropriate touching and affection to build friendships.

"Some churches still just preach condemnation: feeding the storm.

"Some have gone to the other side and preach gay-relations acceptance, also feeding the storm.

"A few try to find a balance, which involves showing respect for homosexual people as people while reaching out to help them repent and change their lives.

"In our society the pain, anger, mistrust, and alienation run deep and wide.  Until comfort, trust, respect and acceptance replace it,the perfect storm will continue.  I hope that someday that storm will be gone."


One Aspect

Brethren in the Churches of God, thank you for letting me share this with you.  What I described above is one aspect of the human side of homosexuality.  It is a timeline showing how religious, social and cultural cause-and-effect forces in our society have intertwined and melded to create continuing conflicts in relationships and the ensuing culture-war controversy over homosexuality.

In Isaiah I, 2 Timothy 3 and other scriptures, God tells us our entire society is sick.  The psychological and social pathology of homosexuality is only one syptom among many in mankind's cultures and societies that cannot maintain and function healthfully without God's help.

Human beings are simply not made to be self-sufficient.  We cannot convert ourselves, or even sustain ourselves, beyond a relatively short time.  Without our Creator, we are ultimately helpless.

As a young man, I desperately wanted to fulfill my homosexual hunger for male love and affection.  I didn't always do very well during my early years, and during those years the ensuing guilt made my personal burden even heavier.

During these years, I also benefited from some "tough love" from our minister, a concerned pastor who never stopped caring.


Coming Out

For someone struggling with homosexuality, coming out--and staying out--of the gay lifestyle, can be difficult.

Seeing a Christian response, with concern and kindness, can help lead people to embrace and maintain a repentant way of life.

Hearing condemnation alone will result only in alienating many strugglers, who may also struggle to shed a mistrust of Christianity and religion, and will create obstacles for the repentant person struggling to build and maintain Christian relationships.


Church people helping

In recent years, some members (both in the ministry and in the general membership) in the church have recognized the need to provide support, through focused education, to people who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Thankfully, we really do have a compassionate, merciful High Priest who loves us even when we sin.  The grace and goodness of God do, over time, inspire and lead one to repentance, lifestyle changes, and gradual conversion from the old man toward the new man.

As my pastor has said many times, God calls people with all types of trials and problems.  My intent here in revealing some of the history of my personal struggle is not to compare trials but to explain the human dimension of an emotional and controversial issue.  My personal path of experience is just one out of many among the many kinds of trials and challenges in life that God's people experience.


Under the sway

As we know, this world is under the sway of Satan the devil, the archenemy of God and man.  We know the evil being sits at the taproot of mankind's confusion about right and wrong, sin and pain.

Yet we know that the coming of the compassionate Kingdom of God will, over time, resolve the trials and problems of mankind.

We know that Jesus Christ, as Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords, will forgive all repentant human beings and lead man out of his sins.

What a blessing, and a responsibility, it is for us to be called now to have the opportunity through repentance and conversion to become a personal "work of God" preparing for service as we partake in His manificent and compassionate plan of redemption for humanity.


                       
SECOND OF TWO ARTICLES BEGINS BELOW


Editorial Sidebar: Changing orientation can be complicated

By Michael Harris

The answers to the questions in this article are the opinion of the writer. The views expressed are not professional views but are opinions based on my experience in my personal struggle with homosexuality, my experience with repentance and my experience of Christian fellowship in the Church of God.

What is homosexuality?
In our society the words homosexual and homosexuality have taken on varying shades and senses of meaning fashioned from our culture's religous, social, and political influences.  The consequences of these shades of meaning are heightened confusion and contention about the issue.

For example, some heterosexual people believe homosexuality is a "choice" because they perceive homosexuality primarily as a matter of immoral behavior.

Often people with this view refer to scriptures such as Leviticus 20:13 or Romans 1:26-27, which condemn homosexual actvity as sin.

Then, to refute that argument, gays insist that their homosexuality was not "chosen" because they have experienced it as an inherent state of mind that may or may not progress to involve sexual activity.

So we see what has become a polarized debate, a polarization based in part on discussions about aspects of the overall issue.

In my experience a realization of homosexual orientation was not a conscious choice, even though behavior (as for any individual) is.

However, simply presenting the matter of "behavior" in terms of sin and choice--without considering the developmental factors of homosexuality--will not help the homosexual man (or woman) with his (or her) struggle.

The truth is, because of the developmental factors involved in generating same-sex attraction, some homosexual people find it painful to try to resist homosexual temptation.

What causes some people to be homosexuals?
The debate about what causes some people to develop homosexual attraction has gone on for decades.  Some people claim homosexuality is biological, others say it is "nature and nurture," meaning it comes about from both genetic and evironmental influences.

I do believe that genetic predisposition can influence psychosexual development, along with family environment.

As a boy entering puberty, I remember begining to feel homosexual and emotional attraction from the inside out.  I didn't know why.  I just began to realize that my emotions and attraction were centered on other teenage boys (and later men) rather than girls.

The emotions felt natural to me, so I can understand when some gays believe they were born that way.

However, I also clearly remember feeling some gender confusion (although I didn't understand it at the time) when I was growing up, so the nature-and-nurture scenario for homosexual development makes sense to me.

In addition to nature and nurture, sometimes direct sexual abuse, or traumatic social circumstances, can result in "sexualizing" a person into emotinal conflict about homosexuality.

I have talked on the Internet with a gentleman who clearly remembers his early heterosexual feelings.  However, just shortly before puberty he was sexually abused by family members.  So, many years later, he is still in a trauma-induced conflict about his sexuality and has attraction toward both sexes.

Is celibacy a viable option for homosexuals?
Someone asked me recently if celibacy is "more difficult" for repentant homosexuals than for heterosexuals.

The answer is that it's not possible to give a definite yes or no response to the question because the answer is subjective; it depends on the personal circumstances of the individuals who are living celibate.

Often the degree of difficulty one may experience in living celibate is related to his experiences and his state of emotional well-being.

For homosexual people whom God has called to repentance into His church, the options they must consider related to lifestyle are not easy to confront.  Those options are (1) celibacy and (2) dealing with the question of orientation change.

Different dynamics
Sometimes people will compare celibacy for the repentant homosexual with celibacy for the heterosexual.

But the dynamics of the two situations are not the same.

I've been in the Church of God a long time.  As a young man I found that my personal struggle to resist sexual temptation and achieve celibacy was painful and difficult.

It wasn't just sexual temptation; it was also the pent-up emotional hunger for same-sex love and affirmation that was driving the sexual temptation.

Even though I tried to fit in with church brethren, the persistent feelings of isolation, and my secret burden, only deepened the emotional hunger and amplified my temptations to go out and find other gay men who understood my emotions.

In my early years I didn't always do well, prompting my minister to intervene with some tough love.  Now, years later, I have learned to live as a celibate man in a manner similar to that of other single men in the church.

Now I can say with conviction (as many other brethren also can) that my relationship with God, and keeping my calling into the church, is more important to me than sexual gratification.

How can a struggler build Christian friendships?
For someone who has left a homosexual lifestyle, the experience of building Christian friendships is critical to a successful Christian walk.

The emotional road map of prior experiences may result in sensing a psychic distance between the struggler and other brethren in the church, and new social cues may be difficult to learn.

The struggler may not be able to traverse this distance on his own and may depend on the help of the brethren as he learns the social skills involved in building friendships in a Christian setting.

The chance to experience the building of Christian friendships--and a sense of male-to-male connnection with heterosexual men--is vital to achieving and maintaining a solid and stable Christian lifestyle.  A struggler can build Christian friendships.  But it can take time, even years.

The risks
Sharing the burden with others can be risky and can result in reactive judging.

Or, if the brethren respond with calm and concern, Christian friendship can be helpful.

I have had good and not so good experiences.  Some strugglers choose to share.  Others do not.  I can say that being able to share my struggle, in confidence, with a few heterosexual men in the church has encouraged me to maintain diffcult lifestyle changes and maintain my Christian calling.

If a struggler senses only condemnation and contempt, he will find himself lost in pain.  But if he hears words of respect and concern he will be encouraged.

Buddying with other men in the church is not easy for a struggler.  By caring, encouraging and even mentoring (especially with young men), heterosexual men in the church can have a positive influence on the repentant man's determination to remain true to his Christian calling.

Can a homosexual acquire a heterosexual orientation?
The question of orientation change and reparative therapy is one of the most contentious points of debated within the cultural controversy over homosexuality.

Why?  Because it hits at the taproot of the emotional state of being that drives a person's homosexual orientation: the emotional urgency to be loved, accepted, and affirmed by others of the same sex.

Often, when a homosexual is urged to seek therapy to change his orientation, the people advising him see their message as advocating leaving something hurtful for something better.

But often for the person who feels homosexual attration the message received in the mind's eye is: Give up your chance for experiencing same-sex love, affection and affirmation.

Particularly for young men, the thought of trying to change homosexual feelings can seem emotionally distressing because it can emotionally equate to having to give up the hope of ever experiencing male love and closeness.

Since no human being wants to give up the chance for love, they defensively resist.  That's part of the reason some homosexuals find it so difficult to want to change.

I well remember my first contact with God's church, when I first became aware of a conflict between my homosexual feelings and my emerging religious interest in God and His church.

As a teenager at 17 I said to myself: "I'll have to change my feelings."  Then I proceeded to try my own homegrown change therapy without help.

My incessant attempts to block my emotions heightened my sense of gender confusion and increased the emtional pain, leading to mental and physical distress.

At 20 years old I was hospitalized with pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardial sac surrounding the heart.

From my experience, it is my strong opinion that no one should attempt an orientation change solely on his own efforts.

Everyone needs help
Christians in the Church of God who struggle with homosexuality should not have to struggle alone.  For many strugglers it can be upliftling to experience Christian encouragement and support from their brethren.

Also, in recent years the Church of God has recognized the need for developing specific focused support for Christians coping with these issues.

Some in the United Church of God ministry, and some other church members, are involved in producing a publication called
Anchor (www.anchorhelp.com) that is intended as an educational resource to give support and enccouragement for people struggling with homosexuality.

Some of
Anchor's articles focus on "change therapy," which is, as earlier stated, a subject of controversy.  Other articles focus on personal experiences.

I am not currently involved with
Anchor, but I have found its content interesting and thought-provoking.

Personal decision
The question of seeking therapy to acquire a heterosexual orientation is controversial.

The decision of whether to seek reparative therapy is profound and personal.

Some people claim reparative therapy has helped them.  Others say they have been hurt.

No individual should judge or seek to coerce another regarding this decision.  For adults, it is a private and personal decision that must be left to each individual as lives his personal faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.


                     
ADDITIONAL COMMMENTARY FROM THE WRITER

The following commentary is not a part of the reprinted articles from The Journal.  The commentary expresses views of Michael Harris related to his personal experiences concerning his relationship and concept about God, and the Church of God.
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God's Plan, the Church, and Mankind

In my articles to The Journal I mentioned John 3:16.  The next verse, John 3:17,  affirms God's "strategic plan" for saving mankind.  The Church of God is a critical component of that strategic plan.

John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

There are many scriptures that directly focus and relate to God's strategic plan for mankind.  Some scriptures reveal God's mercy to mankind, prior to the establishment of the New Covenant, which began "as a mustard seed" with the establishment of the Church of God on the Day of Pentecost.

Some focus on the work that Jesus Christ personally did for mankind while living as a man.  Others are encouraging, motivating, and also admonishing and warning, serving to instruct the Church of God, both individually and collectively.

God's work in us
Jesus had been performing miracles, as part of his ministry, and as word spread,  the general populace began speculating about who this man was.
 

In Matthew 16, we find Jesus talking with his disciples.  He's inquiring of the disciples about what people are saying.  Then Jesus asks them what they think.  When Peter replies: "You are the Christ," Jesus then blesses him and declares that God the Father has revealed this understanding to Peter.

Jesus then reveals that He would build His church, starting with those disciples, and the "gates of Hades" (or Satan's counter efforts) would not succeed in destroying it.

And that is exactly what has--and is--happening.  The New-Covenant period Work of God (the people of the Church of God) have not been stopped, though we have been seriously hurt over the centuries since Christ died "to build His Church." We (all of the COG fellowships) are a little flock, a mustard seed work, that will eventually fill the whole earth.

God's strategic plan for saving mankind includes us!  How critical is spiritual growth for people in the Church of God to completing this plan?  If Matthew 24 really means what it seems to say, then mankind's future is directly linked to the Church of God's faithfulness to God and to keeping our calling.  Just like the apostle Paul (who directly persecuted Christians before his conversion), when we sin, we remember the mercy and power of our Savior to help us--and we keep running our Christian race for the prize that awaits us.  That prize is eternal life, and the reward of opportunity to be of service to Jesus Christ, as He sets His hand to save mankind.

We are admonished not to quit on our calling, to "hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (Rev. 3:11).  In Hebrews 11 it talks about the faith and vision of the early saints who trusted in God and looked forward to the eternal ressurection described in I Cor. 15.

Concept of God
When God called me into contact with His church, I found myself experiencing what brethren have come to know as a "first-love" excitement.  As I learned about God's plan for mankind, it seemed too good to really be true.

Then, when I learned from the speaker (on
The World Tomorrow radio broadcast) that homosexual activity was sin, my first-love excitement turned into personal distress.  At the age of 17, I didn't know what to do.  I hadn't sinned sexually, but I worried about my homosexual feelings.  The only thing I was hearing about homosexuality (from the broadcast) was how sinful homosexuals were.  The words "queer," "pervert," "Sodom and Gomorrah," and "abomination" are words that I clearly remember coming from my radio 34 years ago.

It was a very heavy load for a 17 year-old kid to carry.  I didn't know what to do, so I tried to block my emotions.  That was a serious mistake that led to many years of emotional distress, and also distorted my concept about God.

The only thing I was hearing was condemnation.  At 17, I was still looking to older adults for guidance.  When I heard the radio broadcast, my first-love excitement from what I was hearing about God's plan, linked me emotionally to the speaker.  He became my "radio mentor," as I took every word to heart.

As a young man, I couldn't separate my emotions from "me."  The speaker said God hated homosexual sin, so (in my mind), that met that God also somehow despised my feelings, and perhaps even me, if I couldn't change them.

As I mentioned in my main article, I tried to block my emotions, leading to years of depression, confusion, pain and physical sickness.  My concept of God was borne of fear and guilt.  It took me years to understand that God really has a merciful, kind nature that He wants to imbue to mankind, by converting man out of carnality and into His divine nature reflecting the fruits of His Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

When my concept of God changed, the misery of my struggle did to.  I'm no longer "motivated" by guilt and fear.  Instead, my motivation now comes from a discernment (that came from God's Holy Spirit) about the righeous, good and merciful nature of how our Creator really is.  This track record of God's mercy, inspiring His stragetic plan for man, is recorded throughout the Bible.  The scripture that says that we love God because he first loved us is a cardinal spiritual truth (I John 4:16-19).

The struggle with homosexuality is related to the need for same-sex love.  But, most of what I had heard, as a young man, was how sinful homosexuals were.  That was also my concept of "me."  Even though I tried to "be in the church," my yearning for male-to-male connection and affirmation was amplified by my uncertainty about God the Father's personal love toward me.

One day, after years of telling myself that God loved me, I knelt down to pray a
"take a chance" honest question to God.  In my mind, over the years, I had always told myself that God loved me.  But, in reality, I didn't feel confident that He did.  I don't remember the exact words I said to God, but it was something similar to this: "God, I've been telling myself that you love me, but I'm really not sure.  If you really do love me, help me believe it."

After that prayer, I began to believe that God really loves me.  Along with that belief came a deeper discernment of God's divine nature.  I came understand better, that God's
very nature is loving and merciful.  In fact, as we all know, that's the basis of His plan for man.

When I began to believe that God really loves me, I wanted to respond in kind.  At some point in time, we all go through that process of coming to discern and believe in God's love for us, and want to respond in kind.  It's one aspect of what has been called "a hunger for righteousness."

Need for love
It's critical to be able to come to believe that God loves us.  One of the reasons why homosexuality is such a controversial issue in our society is because it's rooted in the need for love, yet also emeshed in conflict about cultural values and sin.  Human beings were made to be loved.  We don't give up that search easily--even if we grow up with homosexual feelings. 

Sometimes people think that homosexuals are just "that way" because of immorality.  Actually, the reality of their situation is difficult, and transcends the aspect of morality alone. 

The historical demonization of this sin and sinner, has actually helped create a cultural barrier that makes it very easy for many homosexuals to mistrust religion, and instead, to search to find love, acceptance, and affirmation among themselves.  In a nutshell, that's why the gays-rights movement exists.

The Church of God today has a wonderful--yet sobering--responsibility to follow the lead of our Savior, so we can be with Him when He comes back, to save mankind.  The consequences of not following through can be grim, as implied in Matthew 24, and other scripures.

But, like Herbert Armstrong, used to say: "Brethren, we've seen the end of the Book--and we win!"

To quote the last verse of the Bible (Rev. 22:21): "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen."