How should a pastor counsel a repenting gay man…
…for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – 1 Corinthians 7:9
Let me take you through a pastoral counselling session with a gay man. This is just a fictional account, but it pictures how we go about bearing one another’s burdens here at Clearnote Church.
A new man in the church sets up an appointment to talk to one of the pastors. The day arrives and the two men sit down together. The pastor has noted this man’s vanity in mannerisms and appearance. He’s effeminate, so the pastor is not surprised that, after some small talk, he confesses he has been going to bars on the weekend and having sex with other men. He says he hates what he does and wants to stop. He knows it’s wrong and God will judge him for it, but he can’t stop. The two men pray and talk for an hour or two getting to know each other and settling into the deep issues of habits, insecurities, sexual history, family history, job, living situation, and faith and spiritual life.
There develops a sincere affection and trust between the men, and the pastor leads the man towards some steps into Christian fellowship and intimacy, the disciplines of the godly life, and the fruit of repentance (always varying from person to person and never being limited to the sex act, alone).
This man holds membership in his home church back in the town he grew up in. When he went off to college, he stopped going to church. He’s just moved to Bloomington to do a masters at the Music School. He’s gigging quite a bit, so he’s travelling a lot. Pristine in his appearance with impeccable social skills, he was baptized as an early teenager back in the church his mother still attends.
The pastor asks the man to set up a time for him to meet with a couple elders, and when they meet, the elders get to know and love the man, also, warning him away from his sin and asking him not to participate in the Lord’s Supper until there is some evidence of the Spirit’s work—particularly sexual restraint and purity. Their meeting with him goes well, and again affection grows. Right away, the man is enfolded in a small group where he’s able to build relationships and participate in fellowship with other singles, families, and children in the common life of the Body of Christ. He’s with us in worship and his home fellowship group every Lord’s Day. Everyone loves him and things are going well, except.
He continues to commit sodomy with other men every weekend or so. He sheds many tears over his sin and the harm he’s doing other men emotionally, physically, and spiritually, but he says he can’t help himself. The elders and pastors keep loving him and meeting with him and praying for him and hugging and kissing him. He’s in their homes and at their tables and playing with their children each Lord’s day during our weekly home fellowship groups, but he hooks up regularly. There’s lots of instruction and counselling. Sincere friendship with Christian men, older and younger. He’s fully integrated into the church’s family life, yet he keeps giving himself to sex.
How is the repenting gay man any different from other repenting sexual sinners…
Now, in fact, this man is similar to other women and men in the church who are struggling with different forms of sexual immorality. For some it’s pornography on their smartphones and laptops. Several couples who are engaged are fighting fornication. There are others in the church who have confessed sexual sin as this brother, also, has confessed sexual sin. He’s not much different from a whole host of souls who come into church and hear the Gospel Sunday mornings in any university community. If there is a significant difference, it is that this man’s usual form of sexual sin is not able to be normalized by marriage. Sodomy and lesbianism can never be right since God made Eve for Adam, not Steve. “From the beginning, He made them male and female,” said our Lord.
Now look at each of these individuals and consider how the pastors, elders, and Titus 2 older women should lead them?
It’s clear how to lead the couple that is engaged and struggling with the temptation to fornication. Everything else being as it should be, they should be challenged to put an end to their temptation and sin by getting married. There’s good reason John Calvin and his fellow reformers in Geneva didn’t allow couples to be engaged for more than a few months, requiring them to marry quickly. The pastors of Geneva used the civil magistrate to force the couple to marry, and those magistrates applied serious penalties if the couple refused. Back in the 16th century, John Calvin, his company of pastors, and Geneva’s city fathers took their marching orders from the Apostle Paul’s injunction that it’s better to marry than to burn, and so should we.
Despite the inevitable parental pressure to hold off on marriage until the son or daughter has finished their degree and even gotten established in their career, we officers and Titus 2 women of Christ’s church ought to honor the Apostle Paul’s injunction by encouraging (and sometimes requiring) those in danger of, or committing, fornication to get married right away. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul said that it’s better to marry than to burn.
What about the woman or man in bondage to various forms of impurity in the privacy of their smartphone or computer? What sort of leadership should pastors and church officers give them?
Well again, since they’re burning with lust, if possible they should get married. Everything else being as it should be, these women and men should find a spouse and marry. Yes, they should be counselled and disciplined for their sexual immorality exactly as the pastors and elders discipline couples and other singles and married men and women who fall into various forms of sexual sin, including perversions, but marriage is a remedy for precisely this sort of sin and this remedy is commended by the Apostle Paul. This remedy is recognized across church history in confessional documents such as the Westminster Confession which says:
Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.
“The preventing of uncleanness.” Clear as day. It’s better to marry than to burn.
The Apostle Paul’s injunction doesn’t mean those believers who are burning should remedy it by marrying unbelievers. There are other Biblical commands to observe in addition to the command to marry to remedy burning. Those commands must be taken into consideration, pastorally and personally. For instance, the Apostle Paul’s injunction doesn’t mean sexual sinners should hide their immorality from the man or woman they begin to court. Marriage vows founded upon misrepresentation are wicked.
There are other considerations to be taken into account, also. For instance, the Apostle Paul’s injunction doesn’t necessarily lead us to judge that John Calvin’s fellow reformer, William Farel, was right to marry for the first time at sixty-nine a woman at least fifty years younger.1 Calvin was furious with Farel, warning him that his conduct would cause scandal across Europe.
It is better to marry than to burn…
Now then, let’s turn to the man committing sodomy. How ought pastors and church officers to lead this soul?
Well, again, the Apostle Paul said it’s better to marry than to burn.
“But, you can’t be serious!” you might respond. “The sodomite can’t marry. He’s gay! He doesn’t like women—he wants men.”
Right here is the one thing missed by pastors and church officers today. Gay men are attracted to and have sex with women.
In their 2016 survey of the literature “Sexuality and Gender Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D. and Paul R. McHugh, M.D. reported on a
a survey of men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, which asked about their sexual attractions and self-described identities at different stages of their lives. The survey found that 35% of self-identified gay men reported experiencing opposite-sex attractions in the past year, and 10% of self-identified gay men reported opposite-sex sexual behavior during the same period. Additionally, nearly as many men transitioned at some time in their life from gay to bisexual, queer, or unlabeled identity as did men from bisexual to gay identity.
Mayer and McHugh conclude:
Here [is] one more reason to consider dispensing with the construct of sexual orientation in the context of social science research, as it seems that whatever it might represent, it is only loosely or inconsistently tied to empirically measurable phenomena.
The entire premise of gay advocacy groups such as Revoice is that homosexual orientation is a hard fact of life with overwhelming empirical support for its existence. But this is not the case. Men and women with no Christian commitments or faith who study sexuality deny the very political “construct of sexual orientation” saying it is “only loosely or inconsistently tied to empirically measurable phenomena.”
How does this bear on pastors, elders, and Titus 2 older women counselling gays and lesbians?
Contrary to what they and their advocacy groups such as Revoice tell outsiders, gays and lesbians themselves know they are often attracted to the opposite sex and that many, if not most, of them have had sex with someone of the opposite sex and are quite capable of doing so again. And again. And then again.
In other words, many if not most gays and lesbians lobbying the church through Revoice are entirely capable of marrying and raising up a godly seed for the Lord.
So why don’t they? Or rather, why won’t they? They never stop reporting on their homosexual desires, telling their fellow Christians how difficult it is for them to have to remain celibate, but that they do it for the Lord. Why don’t they marry and raise up a godly seed for the Lord?
If you ask them, they’ll likely get angry, and tell you they can’t. They’ll say they thought you knew they were gay, acting as if that settles the matter: they are incapable of marriage, sexually.
Greece and Rome’s gay men had wives and children…
But now you know it doesn’t settle the matter at all. Likely they are capable of marriage, just as all the men in ancient Greece and Rome were capable of marriage. They had homosexual relations with young boys on the side, but that didn’t stop almost every last one of them from having a wife and children.
The same is true today. The men who report being gay to the Church are almost all capable of (excuse me for putting it bluntly) getting it up with a woman, so they are precisely the souls that the Apostle Paul commands to get married rather than burn with lust. It matters not if the lust they burn with is homosexual or heterosexual or some proportionate or disproportionate combination of both. The Christian man or woman who reports same-sex lusts is very likely to be capable of marriage sexually and emotionally, and also capable of raising up a godly seed for the Lord.
Why is this important?
Let’s assume fifty percent of the men of Revoice are immediately capable of sexual intercourse with a woman, and therefore of courtship and consummating a Christian marriage. (This seems like a sufficiently conservative estimate to have the support of the literature.) Why are pastors and elders not regularly saying to gays and lesbians who burn what the Apostle Paul said to gays and lesbians who burned in his own time, that it is better to marry than to burn. In other words, why aren’t pastors and church officers commanding those men and women who talk about their homosxual lusts to marry and raise up a godly seed for the Lord?
We might say we don’t do so because we don’t think it’s right for women to have to suffer in a marriage in which their husband has temptations to wander, but is there any other kind of marriage? Didn’t even righteous Job make a covenant with his eyes?
So here, we might respond something like, “yes, but it’s one thing to know your husband will be tempted by lust for other women and another thing entirely for him to be tempted by lust for men.”
True, but how does this sideline or invalidate the Biblical command to those who burn that they are to marry?
The real issue is responsibility, which is to say manliness…
Back then to our man in the congregation who is hooking up with other men every week or two.
Ask him if he’s able to marry?
He’ll likely respond that he thought he told you he’s gay?
Say to him that you know he’s gay, but you’re asking if he’s able to marry? And if you must, ask him if he’s capable of having sex with, and impregnating, a Christian wife?
The conversation could take off in any one of a number of different directions at this point. He may be open to marriage and begin to explore what this would mean for his future. On the other hand, he may get angry, and while admitting he is physically capable of heterosexual intercourse, tell you to stop harassing him. He may play the victim and say your talk is unhelpful—even hurtful. He may even walk out on you.
Right here is where faith and wisdom are needed. For many Revoice gays, the real issue isn’t whether or not they are physically capable of being a Christian husband and father, but whether they want to be a Christian husband and father.
Why would Revoice men not want to be husbands and raise up a godly seed for the Lord?
Sure, there are a minority who may have physical or psychological problems getting an erection with a Christian wife—not sometimes, but ever. In the majority of cases, though, the reason they refuse to consider marriage is that they are effeminate. Isn’t this what they themselves have told us? They tell us they’re different from other men by the way they dress, the way they do their hair, their interests, the music they listen to, the parts of the city they hang out in, the things they study and write about, their spiritual friendship living in covenant with a man rather than a woman, and so on.
If you were meeting with a man who refuses to work, instead staying home as a house-husband/father and living off his wife’s income from her full time job, would you not command him to go to work and bear the responsibility for providing for his children and their mother? Why are gay men any different?
Why don’t we repeat the Apostle Paul’s command to them, telling them to marry?
Pastoral care is dead…
I’m not sure about this, but I suspect the reason we avoid these conversations is that we never have any conversations like this with anyone in the church. We never warn from house to house, day and night with tears as the Apostle Paul did. If we don’t probe into heterosexual softness and laziness and irresponsibility, why would we probe into, let alone admonish, homosexual softness and laziness and irresponsibility.
In the church today, it is allee-allee-in-free with every form of sin, but no sin as much as effeminacy. Guys refuse to work. Guys change jobs all the time. Guys play video games in their parents’ basement, refusing to court anyone or leave home. Guys who are married use condoms or get snipped. Guys buy toys they go off and play with on weekends. Guys don’t love their wives or children. Guys aren’t intimate with their wives and children. Guys look at strange flesh and masturbate. Guys primp in front of the mirror. Guys spend their wealth and time primping their hair. Guys work out in the gym, then parade their obviously artificial muscles. Guys are narcissists and avoid responsibility like the plague.
Guys are effeminate—we’re all gay.
Why should Revoice men be any different? On the authority of God’s Word, command them to marry and see what sturm and drang you’ll stir up. And if I were a betting man, my money would be on effeminate men who are strictly heterosexual being the first ones to defend gay men saying “no, I refuse to even think about marriage!”
We all need to learn manliness…
Biblical manliness is in short supply today.
But this is precisely what we command and teach here in Clearnote Church, and have for decades, now. Sure, we’re all guilty of the same sins the rest of our brothers in Christ in North America and Europe are guilty of, but we work hard to correct, admonish, rebuke, and encourage each other to hear and obey the commands of God recorded in His Word.
And so there are married men from and in our church who, repenting and turning to the Word of God in obedience, have repented of the Revoice sins and are married and raising up a godly seed to the Lord.
They won’t be anywhere near the Revoice conference. They’re way too busy bearing responsibility.
|↑1||Historical sources put the age of Farel and his bride at various years, but whatever the age difference, it was so scandalous that Calvin declined Farel’s invitation to attend the wedding.|