My colleague and I were at the end of a long week. Our time at the conference had been productive; book sales were decent, and we had been able to share information about the work of Pure Life Ministries with several hundred Christian counselors. It was now time to begin our 10 hour drive back to the Ministry’s campus in Kentucky.
As we re-packed our display and boxed up the remaining books, a young man—maybe mid-twenties—walked into the room. I recognized him immediately. He’d been singing back-up vocals with the worship team all week. He glanced at the empty floor space where another ministry, well-known for their services to those struggling with homosexuality, had been positioned. But they had packed it in a little early and were long gone.
Having already mustered all the courage he could summon for the occasion, the young man would not be denied so easily. He shifted direction and headed to our table.
“Do you have anything for homosexuality?” he blurted out; asking what is probably the most common question I hear in my travels. He took a step backward as I put a copy of At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry into his hands. His nerves were starting to get the best of him, and skepticism clouded his face as he flipped the pages and quickly scanned the text on the back cover.
I’ve seen that look countless times. This distressed young man wasn’t expecting a book that addressed sexual sin; he wanted something dealing specifically and solely with homosexuality. That’s what the counseling field had taught him to expect. Same-sex attraction, as far as he and countless “experts” are concerned, is a “special class” of sexual behavior, needing its own ministries, its own resources and its own counseling strategies.
“Same-sex attraction, as far as he and countless “experts” are concerned, is a “special class” of sexual behavior, needing its own ministries, its own resources and its own counseling strategies.”
The truth is, virtually every desperate soul the Lord brings to Pure Life Ministries for help sees his or her situation as “special” at some level, regardless of individual background. And that certainly includes the men enrolled in our Residential Program from a homosexual background (which, at any given time, comprises 25-40% of our residential population). While expecting “special” treatment may sound inconsequential, let me assure you it is a major barrier that must be overcome before the Lord can begin the work He needs to do.
Naaman’s Special Path
Perhaps the story of Naaman’s leprosy will help to explain what I mean. Naaman, the victorious commander of the Syrian army, is described as a “great and honorable man…a mighty man of valor.” (2 Kings 5:1ff) But he was also a leper. Upon hearing that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal his leprosy, Naaman quickly set out for Israel, taking with him a persuasive letter from his king as well as gifts of gold, silver and apparel to pay for his healing. The healing was obviously worth a great deal to him.
You probably know the story: the prophet Elisha is not overly impressed with Naaman’s rank or wealth, and sends a messenger to the door with a simple directive, telling Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times and he will be healed. Naaman, however, responds indignantly: “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the…rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away…
Like Naaman, we want help with our sexual leprosy, but we have a pretty specific idea of what the healing process should look like. And we certainly have numerous reasons why it isn’t necessary to go take a bath in the Pure Life Ministries Residential Program; we’ve got plenty of more potable options for help right where we are. When it comes to getting help with homosexual sin, too many turn away, just as Naaman did.
Eventually Naaman’s desperation led him to yield to the instruction he had received, and he experienced a miraculous healing. In the same way, the Lord uses a sexual sin addiction to bring men to the point of desperation, some to the point where they will drop everything and come to a residential program in Kentucky.
Your Special Path
Once here, our approach to helping each one is the same. But God deals with every individual in a “special” way. Let me explain.
In the first chapter of At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, Steve Gallagher describes sexual sin as fundamentally a worship problem:
Every human has the capacity - no, the need –to worship. The objects of that worship are the things or persons (or ideas) which have taken preeminence in the person’s life. Whatever they may be, they cast a looming shadow over all of the other aspects of his (or her) life.
In this excerpt, Steve is talking about the human heart, the center where our affections and desires reside. God requires His people to love Him with all our heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5) For those who resist and pursue sexual idols, the Lord mercifully does what Paul describes in Romans 1:24-25, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”
The more a true son resists, the further into idolatry and sin the Lord will allow him to go, as vividly described in the rest of Romans 1. The hope is that one day, the prodigal will “come to his senses,” become sick of eating the same food as the swine, and return broken and repentant to his heavenly Father. (Luke 15:11-24)
Many given over to same-sex attraction have traveled far from the Father, at least in their hearts. The shame, guilt, and embarrassment associated with same-sex attraction only make the road back longer and more difficult. And to return to the Father, one must face contradictory messages from the culture, and even the Christian community, that same-sex attraction is different or not sin at all.
But the road back is still the same road...for every sinner, same-sex attraction or not, sexual sin or not. As far as we are concerned, the road back begins at the Cross and with a real, life-changing encounter with God. Our job is to lovingly lead prodigals to the Cross, encourage them to turn and begin the trip home, and to prayerfully bear them each step of that upward journey out of the far country.
While our approach to helping everyone is the same, let me assure you, that the Lord does indeed have a “special” way of convincing and encouraging each of His sons on this journey. Only He knows what each of His children really need, and He is faithful to provide it.
“Let me assure you, that the Lord does indeed have a “special” way of convincing and encouraging each of His sons on this journey.”
I explained these things to the young man who approached our book table asking for help to overcome his homosexuality. I gave him my personal testimony of how the Lord had delivered me, not from the orientation, but from the compulsive need to cater to it. I told him that I couldn’t have done it with just a book; I needed the prayers, the encouragement and the loving confrontation I received through the Pure Life Ministries Residential Program. I told him there was hope! I told him that, depending on how much sin he had indulged in and how long he’d been in it, the road to freedom would be long and difficult. Nevertheless, it was absolutely worth the battle! There is nothing more fulfilling than living in the freedom of an intimate relationship with Jesus, devoid of all the shame and hypocrisy of my former life.
Are you like Naaman? Are you determining your path to freedom or allowing God to direct it? I implore you that He knows what you need. And He does have a special path of freedom laid out for you. Take the first step. It’s time to experience freedom and new life in Christ Jesus for yourself!
Ed Buch is Director of Counseling for Pure Life Ministries. He previously worked as a counselor in a nationally known drug & alcohol addiction ministry, and holds a Master’s in Religion from Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has served at the Ministry since 2005.
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