Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When a Spiritual Leader Falls to Homosexuality

Nearly a decade ago, Janet and I were members of a small Bible study group. We had been members of the group for a few years. We were a close group, but we were not as close as we had thought. We did not know each other's temptations and weaknesses as well as we would have liked. We were led by a severely flawed man who kept his sins hidden from us.

Without warning, our leader stepped down from leading the group. He asked me to take over the Bible study sessions. Then he left his wife and children.

We were confused. I tried to contact him, believing that he simply needed a little encouragement to do the right thing and return to his wife and children. He did not respond. A few weeks later, he moved to another city with his homosexual partner. We never saw it coming. We never expected adultery; and we would have never believed that he would leave his family for another man. After all, he was a small group leader in a church dedicated to Christ and to biblical ethics. It did not make sense. We were paralyzed.

While it may not be very common yet, this kind of sin occurs. With that in mind, I would like to share a few ideas about how to handle it.

1. Recognize that the fallen leader is hurting. He has emotional issues that run deep. He may have been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in his development. As Anita Worthen and Bob Davies write in Someone I Love is Gay: How Family and Friends Can Respond, "The roots of homosexuality are mainly emotional and center on issues like envy (I'm not as masculine/secure/aggressive as other men), loneliness (nobody would love me if they knew the real me) and deception (I'll never amount to anything)" (p. 174). He has struggled and failed. He needs to be offered help. Pray that he will accept it.

2. Recognize that the fallen leader has hurt his family. His wife and children are the victims. The church must show compassion and acceptance. The family must not be ostracized. They need their Christian friends like never before. They need the stability of people who care about them and their welfare. They need friends who will stand by them, listen to them, and pray with them.

3. Recognize that the fallen leader's sins are as serious as hell. The man's soul is in jeopardy. As Jude wrote, "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 7). The fallen leader needs love and prayer. He needs encouragement to turn from his sins. He needs to understand that his sins have serious consequences. He needs to comprehend his need for God and his life-changing grace. Otherwise, he is lost forever.

I hope that no one who reads this post will ever go through this kind of situation; but if you do, I hope these words help as you try to deal with it in a God-honoring way.


Anonymous said...

Great advice, Terry.

Terry said...

Thanks, Wes.

Christy said...

Unfortunately, I've seen this first-hand also. There really are no words to describe the hurt it brings so many people. But you know, it's a reminder to all of us that OUR choices do in fact impact OTHERS. My husband has said so many times that our sins don't just hurt us, but everyone around us. If only we truly believed that.

Terry said...

Good point, Christy. Thanks!

Mike said...

I think as a body we must come to the point of being able to share tempations and sin without condemnation. This would be the biggest movement to freedom the church could offer.

Sad to say I have heard too many stories like this.

Terry said...

You made an excellent point, Mike. We thought that we had an encouraging and accepting group, but at least one member did not think the same way. He hid his temptations and fell. I'm not sure exactly how to build trust when I am unaware that I am not trusted. I would have liked to have prevented this sin in some way, but I'm not sure how I could have done it.