Homosexuality: The Root Problem, Repentence and Growth

See Part 1: What is Homosexuality?
See Part 2: Common Myths about Homosexuality
See Part 3: How Do Homosexual Attractions Develop?
See Part 4: What Does Homosexuality Provide?
See Part 5: The Root Problem, Repentence and Growth
See Part 6: What is a Friend to Do? & References

There is no doubt that those entangled in the web of homosexuality have troubled hearts that are scarred with relational disappointments, misunderstandings, and assaults. As significant as these are, they do not represent the fundamental problem within homosexuality.

The root problem is the same as the source of any immoral, idolatrous thought or behavior. At the deepest levels, homosexual relationships reflect our demand to live life on our own terms. Even when convinced that our ways are wrong, we scratch and claw for autonomy. With two-fisted independence, we ignore the God who designed us to find rest and completeness in Him. Homosexuality is one of many ways to suppress the truth about the One who created us to find our life in Him.

In Romans 1:18-26, Paul made a strong connection between homosexuality and suppressing the truth of God. Paul explained that the suppression of truth (v.18), seen in a proud, indignant refusal to honor and thank God (v.21), is the start of a downward spiral progression that leads to foolish thinking (v.21), loss of moral discernment (v.21), and ultimately idolatry (v.23). Rebellious sexual lust and behavior is one of the ways idolatry is expressed (vv.24-25), which includes homosexuality and many other expressions of independence (vv.26-27).

Everyone is born with the sinful tendency to ignore God and live independently of Him. Before we were ever sinned against, even before we took our first breath, we were inclined to move in this direction: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). In other words, sin is genetic. Because our painful past helps to mold and set the specific directions in which we live out our sinful tendencies, we need to take it into consideration. But our painful wounds are never the root problem.

As difficult as it is, acknowledging the sin of defiant independence as the root problem in homosexuality provides the hope that change can take place. Why? While the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t claim to undo our painful past, it does offer forgiveness for our sinful responses. This releases us to rise above the wounds in our hearts to live a life of passion, meaning, and love.

Any discussion of change has its limitations. It’s impossible to fully capture in words the mystery of God working in the human heart. Nevertheless, the following thoughts are offered to provide some general guidance in the process of change that will occur when we encounter God.

What To Expect.
God offers a pathway to repentance and growth. Receiving His forgiveness and being adopted into His family is immediate. But walking the pathway is a lifelong process. The process will probably be more difficult for those who’ve struggled with homosexuality for a longer period of time. But no matter how hopeless one may feel, the hope for change is real. Over time, the tormenting same-sex attractions will loosen their grip. The desire to resist homosexual fantasies and behaviors will be strengthened because something far more significant will seize a person’s purpose and passion for life.
As important as these changes are, people need to broaden their expectations beyond relief from homosexual struggles. Change also involves the development of an invigorating passion to share one’s heart with God and to love those who bear His image (Mt. 22:36-39). It is precisely the growth of this passion that replaces a desire for homosexuality. Encountering God’s merciful forgiveness provides the basis for this passion to grow (Lk. 7:47).

Encountering God.
Nothing has more power to transform self-centered people into loving people than a growing amazement and appreciation for the gospel–the remarkable story of God becoming a man and then suffering for our sinful rebellion against Him (Jn. 3:16). Nothing has more power to change us from the inside out than to believe that the One who died in our place rose from the dead to live His life through all who trust Him (Gal. 2:20).

In the first century, this extraordinary story not only saved a calculating murderer from the penalty of his sins, but it eventually seized his heart in such a way that he abandoned his malicious persecution of Christians and became one of the most compelling witnesses of Jesus Christ.
That man, known as the apostle Paul, said that enslaving lusts and pleasures will begin to ease their grip on our lives as we encounter God’s merciful kindness and love (Ti. 3:3-5). Jesus taught that freedom from enslaving sin results from coming to know the truth (Jn. 8:31-36). In other words, we meet God’s mercy in a context of truth, not denial.

Those who struggle with homosexuality need to honestly tell their own personal story. This will open the door to the truth, steer them into surprising dimensions of grief and repentance, and lead them to powerfully encounter God.

Telling One’s Story.
Everyone has a story to tell. And it’s important that it be told truthfully. This is especially the case for people enslaved in a struggle like homosexuality. Although it will be painful, they need to tell their story to a trusted friend, counselor, or group of people who care and understand the pain and sin of homosexuality.

In any case, God should hear their personal story of pain and sin. It’s not that God needs to be informed, but people who struggle with homosexuality tend to harbor anger and doubt toward Him. Many are angry with God because they blame Him for “making” or “allowing” them to have homosexual attractions. Others doubt His goodness because He didn’t protect them from past sexual abuse. Unless they honestly wrestle through their anger and disappointment, their hearts will not be open to surrender to Him. Telling God their story creates an opportunity for deep surrender to occur.

Telling one’s personal story also provides an opportunity to piece together how homosexual attractions may have developed from past disappointments or assaults to one’s dignity. While understanding alone doesn’t produce change, it helps individuals place into proper perspective what they are and are not responsible for. Those who struggle with homosexuality are not responsible for the presence of homosexual attractions. It’s not their fault that they were rejected, ridiculed, or sexually exploited as children. They are responsible, however, for ignoring God by pursuing the relief, personal safety, and revenge found in homosexuality.

The details of one’s story may be sketchy and disorganized at first, but careful exploration will expose significant themes. Not everything will be recalled. Some things won’t make sense. They don’t have to. What sets the context to encounter God is not complete recollection or having an explanation for everything that’s happened. But it’s a heart that is open to grieve the deep hurts of life as well as the harm one has caused self, others, and God in responding to those wounds.

Owning Grief.
Grieving is entering the pain over what’s been lost or what never came to be. Most people avoid grieving the deep hurts of life. To many, it seems so senseless. For others, it’s too frightening. Yet it’s the best path to walk. To those who grieve, God promises to comfort, to forgive, and to draw near (Mt. 5:4; Jas. 4:8-10). Instead of leading to greater despair, grief awakens our hearts to a hunger for God that only He can fill.

There is much to grieve over as painful stories are recounted: the ache of never getting a father’s attention or approval, the hollowness of a mother who never cared, the sting of mockery from parents or same-sex peers, the loss of trust and innocence as a result of sexual abuse. But grief must not end there. It’s equally important that a person grieve over his or her sinful responses to being hurt.

Grief over sin is the experience of being cut to the heart with a deepening sadness over the ways our lives are diabolically at odds with what God intended. Instead of loving, many involved in homosexuality have selfishly used the ones they claim to love to get relief from their emptiness. Instead of giving, many have cheated others by avoiding close, nonsexual relationships with the same sex in order to stay safe. Rather than forgiving and seeking restoration, many have sought to even the score against those who’ve failed or violated them.

Hearts should be pierced by the wrongfulness of pursuing relief, safety, and revenge. But even more significant is the core sin of alienating God (Ps. 51:3-4) by replacing Him with an idol and refusing to embrace one’s God-given gender.

As people begin the process of telling their stories and owning their grief, they can start to see the depth of their need for God’s forgiveness. As they grieve over sin and accept God’s forgiveness, the stunning story of how God’s love and forgiveness intersects with their own personal stories of tragedy and sin will begin to capture their hearts. As they welcome God’s merciful forgiveness made possible through Jesus Christ, gratitude and confidence about God’s goodness and love will begin to replace bitterness and doubt (1 Jn. 4:9-16).

The danger in telling one’s story is that it can be misused. People can get so caught up in their painful past that they use it to justify further involvement in homosexuality and other sins. But this is a misuse of truth. The ultimate purpose for honestly telling one’s story is to draw out tears of grief over sin, which can lead to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-10).

A Heart For Repentance.
What is repentance? It is a change of heart that enables us to depend on God. It’s a humble process of giving up our belief in a false god and uniting with the heart and mind of the One who made us for Himself (Lk. 15:17-21).

But repentance is not something we merely choose to do. It is also something that happens to us as God Himself works changes in us that we could never produce in our own strength. Our part is to have a heart for the repentance He gives, to believe it can happen, and to seek it persistently in prayer.
Those who want to leave their life of homosexuality often feel their situation is hopeless. But a heart for repentance doesn’t sigh with despair, “I’m beyond help.” Rather, it hopefully maintains, “I’m wrong and far from the person I was meant to be, but I’m not beyond help. I’ve tasted enough of God’s forgiveness to know He is good. Although He allowed certain tragedies in my life to occur, I’m becoming more convinced of His goodness as He takes what others intended for harm and uses it for good (Gen. 50:20). I’m going to keep asking, seeking, and knocking for God to forgive and renew me” (Lk. 11:9-13).

In His own timing, God will bring those involved in homosexuality the kind of change they truly seek, if they seriously intend to use the change He brings for His loving purposes. Paul stated, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

A Passion To Love.
Encountering God’s forgiveness weakens the powerful hold of homosexuality and gradually creates a passion to love others. Aspiring more to live out the calling to be “imitators of God” who “live a life of love” (Eph. 5:1-2) is what can finish off and replace a struggle like homosexuality. Unless homosexuality is replaced with a growing passion to love, it’s likely that any freedom from the struggle will be only temporary.

Instead of using people, a growing passion to love has eyes to see the dignity in others and creatively considers ways to draw it out. Rather than avoiding close relationships with the same or opposite sex, it risks getting involved, giving of one’s caring strength or tenderness without having to know the results. In place of seeking revenge, it longs to offer the same kind of forgiveness and reconciliation it received from God.

Nothing brings more satisfaction and joy than getting caught up in the thrilling privilege of anticipating each new day as an occasion to know God and for Him to use our lives as instruments of good in the lives of others. A passion to love and be loved is the heartbeat of repentance and growth.
See Part 1: What is Homosexuality?
See Part 2: Common Myths about Homosexuality
See Part 3: How Do Homosexual Attractions Develop?
See Part 4: What Does Homosexuality Provide?
See Part 5: The Root Problem, Repentence and Growth
See Part 6: What is a Friend to Do? & References