KOH2RVA: Day 248

tearsI can’t imagine a more beautiful day has ever dawned on the city of Richmond than this one. I’ve just come in from a run on Monument Avenue, where the light was golden, the world was in bloom, and the love of God was in the air I breathed.

Last night was a different story.

Because of some confusion among our members about the intent of my April 28 sermon, I stood before the deacons last night to explain that I am not on a crusade to turn First Baptist into a gay church, that I am not planning to ordain a gay minister, and that I am not hoping to perform a gay wedding. What I am is a pastor, and because I am I often sit in my study and listen to people pour their hearts out, often through tears, and sometimes what they tell me is this: “I’m gay.”

But here’s the problem: because I am a pastor I can’t share that secret with anybody else. I can’t talk about the person; I have to talk about the issue. And when I talk about the issue people sometimes assume that I have a gay agenda—that I’m trying to turn First Baptist into a gay church, or that I plan to ordain a gay minister, or that I hope to perform a gay wedding, when the truth is that I’m thinking about _______________, who sat in my study with tears in her eyes, wondering if the church would still love her if they knew the truth about her.

I wanted to say, “Of course they would!” because I know the people of First Baptist Church. I’ve never known a more loving congregation. If I told her story from the pulpit they would rush to put their arms around her and reassure her of their love and our deacons would lead the charge.   But homophobia cuts both ways. It makes people afraid of homosexuals and it makes homosexuals afraid of people. They keep their secret to themselves.

Because not everybody is so loving.

I tried to explain all this to the deacons last night. I don’t think I did a very good job. During the question and answer period someone asked me if I were planning to do a gay wedding. I said no. He told me later that it wasn’t really his quesion.  He doesn’t have a problem with gay people.  He needed to ask, he said, simply because so many people had been asking him. He wanted to have an answer for them. “Tell them this,” I said. “Tell them I’m a pastor. Tell them that I care about people, and that some of the people I care about are gay.”

But they aren’t the only ones I care about.

I care about the ones who have a real problem with this issue, the ones who have been sitting in my study nearly every day in the last few weeks telling me they just can’t ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality. I tell them I can’t ignore it either, and that this is what makes it so hard for me. I would love to tell homosexuals they can do whatever they want, but I can’t, not anymore than I can tell heterosexuals to do whatever they want. The Bible won’t let me. But the Bible also won’t let me hate. I have to love. I have to love people who are gay and I have to love people who flinch at the very mention of the word.

I’m a pastor.

16 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 248

  1. One of the many, many reasons I stood to applaud you after Sunday’s services. Thanks for being you, and thanks for being my pastor.

  2. I respect your difficult position. I am sure it is much more challenging than I can imagine. However, I also understand that the bible was written by people. These people were influenced by the societal norms of their time. This is why they mention the acceptability of so many marriages that we do not consider appropriate today. When I am struggling with reconciling the message from the bible and our societal needs, I ask myself one thing. What did Jesus say about it?

    What did Jesus say about homosexuality? Absolutely nothing.

  3. I wish this were not so hard for you. I feared what the Deacons might say. Even though I am inactive at the moment, I am an ordained Deacon of FBC. I have sat through issues that I could not believe were raised. I was an active Deacon when I was divorced. You know I believe that we cannot assume the role of judge and jury. That’s God’s job. I do agree with Elilsabeth that Jesus had nothing to say about the gay issue. He told us to love one another. I believe that you do that better than any pastor I have had the privilege of knowing. Stay with it. We are all the better for having you here.

  4. Please keep on raising these types of issues and forcing us, as Christians, to think about them. It’s a difficult issue for many, but we should still be able to respect and extend the hand of Christian fellowship and charity to everyone regardless of their circumstances. I’m pretty conservative on most issues, including theology, but firmly believe that we need to be respectful of and embrace those with different life experiences and viewpoints. That is one of the things that really attracted me to FBC in the first place — it is not the typical Southern Baptist congregation of my youth in the 1960s and 70s — it is a vibrant and diverse congregation and that diversity makes us stronger and better able to minister to the community around us.

  5. What a blessing for FBC to have a pastor who loves all of us! Be assured, Dr. Jim, you are much loved by us! I, as Jen, am feeling sadness and love regarding this issue.

  6. I thought you did a very good job of explaining your position last night at the Deacons’ meeting. Thank you for sharing with us.

  7. I am so proud to call you my “Pastor”. I admire and respect how you lead our congregation in controversial subjects hitting them head-on and all the while keeping Christ’s love and forgiveness for us all at the center. Sometimes I wonder what group of individuals will be the next “unclean.”

  8. You truly are a blessing, Dr. Jim. And the folks at First Baptist are lucky to have you.
    Alice, as much as we all seem to love that phrase, I don’t believe that Jesus ever said that. If you find it in red, please let me know where you found it.
    I think maybe He didn’t say it because He knew how hard it would be for us to do it. Because, try as we might, we seem to fail miserably whenever we attempt the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ behavior. We just can’t seem to separate the action far enough from the person to avoid deeply injuring the person. Given that, I believe we are compelled to follow Jesus’ model – and err on the side of love. Time after time, he showed us how to treat people – sinners and saints – as equals…the same…absolutely no different in His eyes – with love, care, compassion, mercy, and grace.
    I also believe that no matter what you want to call it, hating the sin of another is called ‘judgement’…and I’m pretty sure that is reserved for God – and that He is perfectly capable of handling the task without our help. I would submit that our time would be much better spent judging our own sin(the sin we are responsible for) than on looking at any sins in others (Matthew 7:5, Luke 6:42).

  9. Thanks Margie. You are absolutely correct. Here is some information that I found about that phrase: It’s from St. Augustine. His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” The phrase has become more famous as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner” (the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography).

  10. Wow – the gay topic is sure a layered issue- and thank you Dr. Somerville for loving people first. One person I know gave this example – What would you say to a man (or woman) that came to you and said they were born with a gene that makes them crave a different partner every week. It is called the cheating gene – or the need a fresh partner gene – and they claim to have it – and so they keep cheating – or do not commit to anyone because they have to follow that craving – um, I mean that innate wiring for new partners – they claim it is in their DNA and it consumes their thoughts and they do not feel they should smother it- and it is the only way they find true pleasure – and so they just have to accept it and come out – and sleep with a new person every week. Or what if that desire was for animals – or children? Sorry, but this was the example given – and many times people are immersed in porn and other things that feed a burning desire for the same (or both) sexes.

    Well I know there is a lot more to every single homosexual story (yet find it interesting that almost every single gay person has been sexually molested or has had some type of childhood trauma in their past (check this out for yourself)- and actually now, it is almost becoming trendy for girls in certain high schools! Trendy! But come on now, when you think about the human body – male and female’s were designed to “fit together” – and when things are aligned right – that fit is designed to be the superglue that binds the oneness can be the most refreshing part of life – a physical union that takes years to cultivate (Larry Crabb talks so eloquently about it in his book Men and Women Enjoying the Difference).

    Being gay has to be one of the biggest assaults against a person from the enemy. I once heard a pastor mention that it is part of the enemy’s agenda for numerous reasons – because it screws up the ultimate joy they could experience – and so often the seeds are planted when they are young – with trauma – porn exposure – and with just being around and exposed to sexually charged jokes, movies, pictures, stories, etc. (demonic….).

    So I agree – we HAVE to love our gay brothers and sisters – and I think we do that as the Lord leads. There may be a time to speak up and confront, a time to cut ties, or a time to just love who God has put in our circle – and see how/when He opens any doors to share Christ. Now not to open a can of worms here, but it confuses me when certain Christians argue about gay marriage (even though if I were a pastor I would not be able to do their wedding). But instead of arguing about this – We should be witnessing to them and sharing Jesus – not telling them they have to get married a certain way. If they marry heterosexual and are still unsaved is that any better? For some people it is. Do people sleep a little more comfortable because that unsaved couple is one man and one woman? They are unsaved, but whew, at least their sexual preferences are more in line. What? Our focus should be to first love them (I agree with the many that said this) and to share Christ’s love as He leads…. because homosexuality is a spiritual issue and the only thing to break the bondage that goes with it – is the blood of Jesus Christ.

    There are more and more emerging stories of folks that have been delivered and set free from homosexuality. Back in 1988 I worked a man named Gill – he was a former homosexual man that found Jesus and was now telling everyone the good news!! He found the truth of Jesus and said he found the deep longing he had searched for in all the wrong ways.

    Any path is empty and void without the Lord in one’s life – and it starts there – it starts with having Jesus – and directing our brothers and brothers and sisters and sisters to the Word of God – and then praying for them throughout the day – because it is a spiritual issue (that is especially strong in this culture) – and issue that can only be addressed by the power of Jesus Christ.

    And so when people reveal to me that they are struggling with gay desires and gay pulls, well if they stay immersed in the secular stuff of the world, it will only feed and breed their thoughts – I remind them -of Ephesians 6:12
    “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” and then I ask the Lord to show me how to pray for them, what my role may be in their life – and that God would put the laborers across their path that they need.

    Thanks again Dr. Somerville….
    oh, and here is website (about people who have left the gay lifestyle) for folks to check out….

    http://www.peoplecanchange.com/stories/index.php

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