It would be an understatement to say that the conversation between the Christian community and LGBT community has gone poorly over the past few years. Grace and understanding are both in short supply, which is why a book like Caring Beyond the Margins is so important. Guy Hammond, founder and executive director of Strength in Weakness Ministry has written a courageous, easy to read book that provides intelligence and insight for a conversation that Christians need to be better prepared to have.
Guy shares his story, and his struggle, as a man of faith dealing with an unwanted same-sex attraction. He explains that the Christian community is often missing the point of biblical instruction on human sexuality. “The goal is not heterosexuality. The goal is holiness [through Jesus.]” (p. 35) Guy explains that the Bible teaches that each of us is tempted in various ways to make “idols” the focus of our identity. Your looks, your real (or imagined) professional hockey career, good food, popularity at school, sex, anything other than Jesus will fail if you try to make it the ultimate point of your existence. Idols will always fail to satisfy. He writes that, “having a heterosexual orientation is hardly a prerequisite to salvation … the goal that Jesus has for [same-sex-attracted person] is not that they live a problem-free, temptation-free existence, but rather that they have a relationship with Him.” (p. 69)
Guy defines his terms carefully, which in turn helps to clarify the debate. Guy describes himself as “a person with unwanted same-sex-attraction” and he subsequently defines a person who is “gay” as a person with same-sex-attraction that celebrates a homosexual lifestyle as a way that leads to human flourishing. This distinction clarifies the situation immensely. Guy goes on to explain that the Bible teaches that an actively homosexual life is sinful but being attracted to the same gender is not. An opposite-sex-attracted person (married or otherwise) must also manage unwanted sexual attraction every day with people they are not in covenant relationship with. They resist these temptations because they violate human design. If these temptations involve someone whom they are not in a covenant relationship with, indulging them will not lead to fulfilling intimacy. It is a broken cistern, a source of satisfaction that will not ultimately satisfy. The same is true whether the attraction is same-sex or opposite-sex. Guy’s point however is clear: temptation is not the sin, indulging it is. The goal is not opposite-sex-attraction, the goal is a life of holiness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this, Guy adds, “God is not ashamed or embarrassed of same-sex attracted Christians. Their value and worth to him and his church are not based on that criterion.” (p. 15)
In addition to providing thorough biblical teaching on human sexuality Guy also provides practical advice for how to address a same-sex-attraction in your own life in a way that glorifies God and also how opposite-sex-attracted believers can support same-sex-attracted believers honour their commitment to Jesus. I highly recommend this book for Christian leaders and educators. Faith communities everywhere are bound to have members who are struggling with this issue. In addition we all have opportunity to “give reasons for the hope that we have” with our broader community. Our hope does not lie with our sexual orientation, whatever that may be, but rather in Jesus.