No Closets in Church

I forwarded “My Interview with a “Not Ex-Lesbian” Child of God,” to man at our church who identifies as a gay Christian. He came out to my husband and me a couple years ago and is one of our dear friends.  While we chatted on Sunday, he shared that he too desires to make church a safe place for those in the gay community.  And then he said something that I haven’t been able to shake.  He said, “When I started attending church, I had to go back in the closet.”

Christian friends, there shouldn’t be any closets in the Church.

Whether it’s a secret porn habit, idolizing food, a critical Closetspirit, infertility, a crumbling marriage, the loneliness of a single life, a broken childhood, bitterness over a past hurt, the gaping wound of a lost child, a battle with depression, or fear of the future- we have a natural tendency to stuff our struggles far out of sight.  But when there is a closet in  our life, the Enemy finds us in that dark place and whispers lies to us about our worth and belonging.  “No one else struggles with this.”  “They wouldn’t love you if they knew about…”  “You had better keep this a secret or else…”  Entertaining those lies pushes us further into isolation and the cycle intensifies.  So the masks go on, smiles in place, and we allow others to see only those rooms of our life that are swept clean- while we starve inwardly for someone to know all of us, the precious and the ugly.

Coming out of our closet doesn’t mean that everyone has to tell everyone everything. It does mean that everyone should be telling someone everything.  The whole “confession brings healing” thing?  It’s real.  That “bear one another’s burden” thing?  It’s a command.  “Spurring one another on to love and good deeds” requires… one another.  We all need a tight group of people within our church with whom we can be completely vulnerable and transparent. Friend, if you are doing church alone, it ain’t church.

This kind of authentic community requires maturity.  First, the maturity to set a guard over our mouths so that others feel safe placing their struggles, burdens, losses and weaknesses in our hands.  Second, it requires that we willingly recognize and confess our own sin to others.  Third, it involves faithfulness and long-term commitment to one another, underpinning an environment of relational safety.

My gay Christian friend is able to talk with a few people at church about his story, but he doesn’t yet feel complete freedom to share all of himself.  I’m praying that through the words of the Child of God we all would risk bringing into light those areas of life that have been concealed.  And I pray that the church would be worthy of that costly gift, hold it gently, and allow every member of the Body to shut the door of our closets for good.

Also see “But, what is the Church?” and “Since when did homosexuals become the church’s public enemy number one?

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19 thoughts on “No Closets in Church

  1. Thank you for such a frank post. As your friend’s comment has stuck with you, so also it is sticking with me. It is a stirring reminder that we all have fallen short of the glory of God and that our compassion shown towards other sinners oughtn’t be inhibited by any particular sin that they are struggling with.

  2. Good stuff. Church should be a place where we’re honest and spilling our stuff, not hiding it behind pretenses, which God hates anyway.

  3. Can I get an amen? (Amen!)

    Seriously. This is spot on. The most regretful decisions of my entire life came about as a result of feeling trapped with my secrets, especially around the church people whose approval I most craved (and whose good opinion I was most terrified of losing). “Perfect love casts out fear,” and the Church is called to be a place of love, where no one has to be afraid of rejection.

    Some argue that this sort of behavior “condones sin,” but so often sin is a symptom of pain. What better way to ensure we act better than to provide a safe haven, a place of openness where everyone is allowed to heal from the roots up?

    Thanks for posting this. So glad someone did.

    • Thank you thank you for your comments. I know that I would be LOST without my faithful groups of girls with whom I can share the most desperate and ugly things in my life. May the church universal be known for her mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

  4. Such a meaningful and salient post! The solution is two-fold. 1. Christians need to be honest with each other about their struggles. 2. Christians need to take care not to be too judgemental, so that #1 is not stifled. We still need to call a spade a spade, but church is a community, and if a secret porn addict for example, suspects their church friends will distance themselves if the secret is known, then it’s likely to remain a secret. Ive been in a church service when the topic of two men kissing each other was raised, and sounds of “eewe” emerged from the congregation. The response of the congregation matched the Bible’s rejection of homosexual activity, but even a celibate same-sex attracted person present, would have interpreted the message to mean that it would be more pleasant for all concerned if a closet remained in operation. Too often, church community comes with little more sense of support than non-church community. I suspect that the original Biblical church community was much more like family – supporting each other towards holiness through thick and thin, practically and emotionally, day and night, warts and all.

    • Agreed agreed agreed. Vulnerability cannot exist without security. Security involve faithfulness. Faithfulness is a component of love. Love cannot exist without truth. We have to do it all.

      We can’t just have one aspect of this paradigm or we lose the healing, redemptive power of the gospel.

  5. What wasn’t stated in the “gay Christian” identifier used to describe this friend was whether or not this is a man practicing homosexuality without intent at repentance from the sin. Justifying homosexuality, accepting it as a legitimate expression of life style, while adding the moniker “Christian” to it is just ambiguous. Christians aren’t asked to be anti-homosexual. They are commanded to be against homosexuality. They aren’t judgmental about homosexuality because the position isn’t theirs to make a judgment upon. God already pronounced his judgment on this particular sin. So what precisely is the author presenting to us other than vague notions of communication, love, commitment, community? Those are all true and wonderful. What you do with the details beyond the vagueness is where the real question of how to live, the hard question of how to love within the Christian community comes into play. This blog sounded wonderful. Unfortunately it didn’t provide any practical steps on what the love concerns. Loving someone for saying they are homosexual? Loving them in spite of their sin while being unafraid to call them out, personally and confidentially, about the need for repentance from that sin? Love isn’t an adjective. It is a verb. So what precisely are we called to do in love?

    • Hi Gregory, thanks for your comments. Those who are familiar with my blog know that I strive to walk that fine but necessary biblical line of zeal for God’s Word and zeal for His sheep, those of this sheep pen and those who He has not yet brought in. I emphasize the worth of people, regardless of how they identify, and I also stand on the indisputable truth that homosexual conduct is incompatible with the true Christian life. If you would like more details (and if you have an hour or so) my post “Is being gay a sin?” and the following comment spells it out.

      To answer your question, my friend mentioned in the post above identifies as a gay Christian and is seeking a life of purity through celibacy. I want everyone in the church who knows him to throw their arms around him and invite him into their family. Many have the heart to, but don’t know how. My prayer is this blog will give insights for the believer on how to live that out.

      Also, after the post “My Interview with a Not Ex-Lesbian Child of God” thebigotsfriend has a fantastic response to one question that echos your definition of love. You would appreciate it.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

    • Gregory, I see that you want details beyond vagueness. Vagueness can be concise and user-friendly for busy people, but sometimes it doesnt translate into anything concrete. I may be duplicating what has been written elsewhere on this blog, but I have a few specifics to offer you. Perhaps there is someone in your church who tells you that they are a celibate homosexual. IE this person feels sexually attracted to members of their own sex, but in their devotion to Christ, they choose not to act on those attractions. Lets name this person Oliver, and illustrate him as male but with some subtly effeminate mannerisms that appear from time to time. The vague response to this might be to ‘love’ Oliver. If asked, everyone in the congregation may respond that yes, they have a Christian love towards Oliver. But if you ask Oliver, he may say that he feels like the odd one out, and that people are pleasant, but he lacks close friends amongst the congregation, and feels tolerated rather than loved. A less vague response towards Oliver, might be to keep an eye out for him when at church, so that you chat to him or sit next to him if he looks alone, to invite him to join your prayer group etc, to stick up for him if he’s bullied or left out, to watch that in the context of talk about homosexuality that you make a distinction between the sin of homosexual sex and the person who simply feels homosexually attracted. That, I suggest, is what love looks like.

      • Stasis, can you just blog for me? I love the way you communicate truth. Thanks for giving time and attention to these posts and the comments that follow. Please don’t ever go away. 😉

  6. I am a gay woman and unexpectedly became a Christian after years of being a Norse Pagan. I went to my local Catholic church to join it but I was scared that even though I was living a chaste life, they would look at me like I was a walking, talking sin. The elderly couple who were giving me religious instruction were the first people I told. They still welcomed me in the church though they emphasized the whole ‘chastity’ thing. The pastor, who was a priest from India, I also told. He was actually much more concerned with my previous life as a Pagan. He gave me his own copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church off of his bookshelf (he had others). It coincidentally had a bookmark in the very passage of the Catechism dealing with people with homosexual tendencies and the need to be compassionate to them. To me, that was a sign from God that I was welcome in His church.

    Now I run a Facebook page supporting traditional marriage, because as a gay woman I have a different perspective. It’s exciting and scary and when some one says my page is a blessing, it makes the whole thing worth it.
    http://www.facebook.com/defendtradmarriage

    • Welcome to asktheBigot, Nissa. It is an honor to have you here. Clearly there are as many experiences as there are churches when it comes to the response of the church to one’s same-sex attraction. But your story is not uncommon, though very seldom circulated. I’m so grateful to hear of another church which has lovingly included one who, like all of us, has a past that has deviated from God’s ideal for our lives.

      I am also thankful for the link to your Facebook site. Be encouraged, friend, you are not alone. I pray that those of us who a zealous for mothers and fathers coming together to raise children AND who love those in our life who identify as gay would shape this national dialogue. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  7. it is very important that you make it very clear that your comments are about celibate people. the lack of doing so, is what creates these vague area s. as a non repentant gay, they do not belong in church. as a celibate gay, we are to welcome them with open arms. the reactions you are getting is from your vagueness. several times i though you were talking about UN-repentant gays in your blog.

    • Hi Daaa. Thanks for visiting asktheBigot. I understand the tension that you are sensing in the discussion. Throughout my blog, I am unapologetic about what God’s word says about homosexual behavior, that it is incompatible with the regenerate Christian life. But I don’t wholly agree with your statement “as a non repentant gay, they do not belong in church”. How would someone who identifies as gay become “repentant”? In my experience with sinful behavior in my own life (which is more that I would like) seldom does God choose to “zap” me into an instantly sanctified state. Almost always, sanctification comes through the three-fold process of seeking God in personal devotion/prayer, reading His Word, and through the refining/sharpening effect of godly friendships. From your statement, one might infer that people need to “clean up” their lives before they come to God. But there is no way to do this without God, or His people at their side. Real, lasting, transformative change comes by confession to one another and bearing one another’s burdens.

      There is a distinction between saying “I am struggling with this sin” and saying “God approves of this sin.” You are right, that one who says “God approves of gay sex” AND who claims to be a Christian cannot partake in the life of the church. Likewise, the husband with explosive anger, the addict, the woman with the eating disorder, etc., are welcome at church as they seek godliness in all areas of their life. We do not tell them that they cannot come to church until they have this area of their life handled. Leadership should not say, or affirm the struggler if they say, “God approves of my explosive anger, addiction, or bulimia.” But leadership should stand by their side as they honestly speak of their struggles, temptations, and victory.

      We must be people who are known for mercy, but not permissiveness.

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