Arguing may shape the minds of lawyers and legislators, but it doesn’t prepare counselors for their role in the lives of individuals struggling with issues of same-sex attractions. After our debate in class was over, several points were clarified while other arguments were recognized as weak. I realized that no one had moved closer to a heart of compassion to those on the “other side.” So I gave the students a choice. Instead of the usual paper that would clarify the arguments and support one side, they could opt for a paper that clarified the mindset of a counselor who is interacting with a homosexual individual and who wants to help this individual sort out the conflicting issues of his/her life. Obviously, this is not a time to challenge the arguments involved in the legislative debate. Emily Trebolo articulates a mindset that is grounded in godly righteousness, but extends compassion to the person dealing with same-sex attractions. (My blog does not pick up footnoting that was included in her original paper). Weigh in on your own mindset and leave some comments about how you would handle such a face-to-face interaction.
THE DIGNITY OF ALL CREATED LIFE
Emily L. Trebolo
April 7, 2008
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). We are to take the entire Bible seriously. There are not portions we can omit because we don’t like them. We love to focus in on homosexuality being called a sin but leave out the scriptures that tell us we are to give up everything to follow Christ and where our wallet is out heart is also. There is a discrepancy in the way we tell other to live their lives and love out own. The goal of the Christian life is not to force people to do things our way; rather, to live our lives in a manner that others desire the same transformation they see in us. Therefore, this first requires transformation on our own part. The believer, and the Christian counselor, must base their view of homosexuality on both grace and truth, because of the dignity of all created life; and therefore desire transformation for all.
Grace and Truth
We have separated grace and truth. In actuality, one of these terms cannot be understood without the other. Without truth, we do not understand our need for grace. If we cannot grasp that we are sinners, we have no need for grace. I must understand I am fallen. As much as I would prefer not to, I still think and say mean things to people I love sometimes. Because of this, I then have to go to them and ask for their forgiveness- and they give me grace. They tell me that while they did not enjoy the words I told them, they love me and forgive me. However, they want more for me. They want me to continue to grow, and let my knowledge and love for Christ radically transform everything about me. They give me grace; yet spur me on towards becoming better. They have no desire for me to continue to say mean things to them.
Reciprocally, truth cannot be comprehended without grace. If I only understand that I say mean things, yet do not comprehend forgiveness or change, and then the truth is useless. Knowledge for the sake of itself is a dead end road. Grace without a grasping of truth is the same. If don’t know why we need to be forgiven then we have no desire for it. This is a key operating principle in understand the Christian duty with counseling homosexuals.
Responsibility of the Believer
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Before I can understand my role as a counselor; I must first understand my role as a believer. It is my Biblical duty to treat homosexuals like a creation of God. This means kindness, respect and generosity. Even if I consider them my enemies, it is Biblically not my job to judge them. I am accepting that God, whom all people were created to reflect, will also one day judge sin. Therefore, I am not responsible for condemning others. It is not my place. When I attempt to step up into the judgment seat I am sinning and making a mockery of Christianity.
As a believer, it is also my duty to be faithful to the God; and to believe He is who He says He is. This means that I do not turn my head to things that dishonor God. Therefore, as a Christian I am required to have a Biblical perspective on sin. I cannot condone things God has made clear are wrong. Homosexuality is one of these things. Lust, adultery, greed, jealousy, and vengeance are others.
The question then becomes: what is the line? How do I respect all human beings, regardless of their choices, because God has made them in His image; while also not agreeing with a lifestyle that is contradictory of the Bible. Homosexuality seems to have become the bandwagon sin. It is the sin we jump up and down about and point and scream that it is wrong. Why don’t we have this reaction when someone is rude to another? As believers, we must learn to see all sin as wrong, and therefore harmful and not in our best interest. Phillip Yancey says it well when he states “Christians can have firm views about ethical behavior and still demonstrate love.”1 If God, can still love those who practice homosexuality, then how can we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of all, scream and rant about the abomination that homosexuals are. This must stop.
The Christian response to homosexuality is one of the ungodliest things I have ever witnessed. Yancey tells of attending a gay march at Washington and hearing chants from evangelical Christians of “Faggots go home!” “Shame on you for what you do”, and AID’s AID’s it’s coming your way”.2 This cannot continue to be the evangelical response to homosexuality; and then to expect any sort of desire for change from this community. In our fear of gray we have responded in a manner that mocks the God we serve.
I am not arguing that we embrace homosexuality; but rather that we embrace homosexuals. We are to do this because it literally is what Christ would do. If we are going to call ourselves CHRISTians, we must reflect Him in our actions. This does not mean we are to agree with their lifestyle or protest for homosexual marriage. It is okay and Godly to be opposed to things that are not God honoring. However, the manner in which we oppose it must be gracious.
Secondly, our motivation for opposing it must be God honoring. We are not to oppose homosexuality because we think it is revolting and they are sickos; but rather because it is against God’s design. When we do life in a manner that opposes the design He has set up it causes pain and harm to all. We are to want more for homosexuals. We are to want them to encounter the grace and freedom we have encountered because it is the greatest thing we have ever known. God is gracious. We know this because He chose us and called us to Himself. He can transform the messiest of all situations to bring Himself glory. God is a God of the weak and messy.
Our duty as believers is to love those that are hard to love. Loving homosexuals is not easy. It means allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable. We also must be clear that we are not condoning sin. The goal is transformation. However, hate does not produce this transformation.
Applications to Counseling
“Somehow, against all reason, God loves us anyhow. Grace declares that we are still God’s pride and joy.”3 As a counselor, I am basing not only my practice, but also my life, on the belief that God is who He says He is. This means that my practice should center on the belief that all of God’s creation reflects him. This means that there is dignity in all created things. This dignity is not excluded from homosexuals. Finding the balance in a counseling setting seems like a difficult task. We must come to the counseling setting with the view that every client has innate dignity, because of the One who created him.
As counselor, I do not believe we should ever be encouraging or promoting homosexual relationships. But the attitude with which we address the issue is crucial. A client should feel like you are a safe person. Therefore I don’t think it is ever our job to preach at our clients or condemn them. If I had a client who was having an affair I would not help the client to improve the relationship with his adulteress. A similar principle applies with homosexuality. The way to help transform a life is not to shut a person down but rather to create an environment where one can speak openly and freely about their life.
Each client situation is going to be different. There is no standard formula when working with homosexuals. The key principles that apply to every counseling situation are going to still be the guiding principle. Things like empathy, honesty, safety, and positive regard are going to be crucial to creating an environment where change can take place. Once a safe place has been created, it seems that the client will be likely to bring up the topic on their own. If a client is seeking counseling for something unrelated to their sexual orientation, then it seems that the counselor bringing it up may be forced and inappropriate. Once the topic does come up, it would be best for the therapist to ask good questions about how the client feels about the choices they have made and the responses of those they love to these choices.
The beautiful part of counseling is that it is the work of God. He is a God of transformation and healing. It is a privilege as a counselor to be part of this process. It is also a responsibility to take seriously. Our own personal fears and confusions should not filter onto clients; regardless of what decisions they are making.
Lastly, it is crucial for us to pray. One of the privileges of walking through life with others is to also have the privilege to go before the thrown on their behalf. Praying and listening should be done more than correcting.
We must always remember that we are not worthy of salvation. The reason we need a savior is because we are not sufficient on our own but rather we are sinners. There are not different levels of needing a savior. We must remember the grace we need daily before we judge others for their sins. At the same time, we are to spur all on towards holiness and becoming more like Christ. We are to desire no one to stay the same, including homosexuals. The life of the believer, and the counseling Christian, should have a focus on desiring reconciliation for those living in sin. For others to learn the gospel we must live it out. This means we are going to catapult ourselves into a messy gray world of hurting sinners. Fortunate for us, His grace is sufficient for us. My hope is that we would not only begin to shout this from the rooftops for all to hear but that we would also live it out. Jerry Bridges says it well “God glories in calling into His service people who are neither worthy or adequate. He makes them worthy in Christ alone, never in themselves.”4
Bridges, Jerry. Transforming Grace. Colorado Springs; Grand Rapids, 1991.
Yancey, Phillip. What’s So Amazing About Grace? Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing