“Church Is Driving Gay People to Suicide, Warns Christian Charity” was the startling headline that recently appeared in the Telegraph, a UK publication.1 This article was based on a report from the research group The Oasis Foundation titled “In the Name of Love: The Church, Exclusion and LGB Mental Health Issues.”2 This report sought to bring awareness to the disproportionately large number of mental health issues, including suicide or suicidal thoughts, that those who identify as homosexual or bisexual suffer from. The report also argued that the church, in refusing to be inclusive of the LGB community, needs to recognize that it is largely to blame for these mental health issues and that Christians and churches need to be inclusive of LGB people.
Mental Health and Homosexuality
This report, authored by professing evangelical pastor and founder of Oasis Steve Chalke, shows data from various researchers to demonstrate that many of those who identify as LGB suffer from mental health issues. Here are a few of the saddening statistics provided:
- “24% of gay men admitted to trying to kill themselves, while 54% admitted to having suicidal thoughts.”
- “One in 14 gay and bisexual men deliberately harmed themselves in the year 2011–2012 compared to just 1 in 33 men in general who have ever harmed themselves.”
- “42% of young LGBT people have sought medical help for anxiety or depression.”
- “52% of young LGBT people report self-harm either now or in the past.”
Chalke appeals to what he calls the “growing consensus” of research to say that these troubling mental health issues are caused by “direct homophobia and discrimination” and/or the feeling of “societal inferiority.” He then blames much of this so-called homophobia and discrimination on the church:
Analysis by the Oasis Foundation demonstrates that the majority of negative messages about same-sex relationships in the mainstream media are driven by churches or church goers and that most political opposition to the liberalisation of laws around same-sex relationships is from those who can be publicly identified as Christian.
the way we conduct our conversation around same-sex relationships—the theological positions we arrive at and pastoral attitudes and practises that flow from them—causes anguish for far too many people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. It is no secret that the negative stance taken by the Church, and so many individual local churches, has a hugely distressing impact on large numbers of LGB people and leaves countless numbers of them living lives of forced secrecy and dishonesty. Tragically, it is also common knowledge that the resultant anguish and distress often leads to spiritual, mental and physical harm, and in the worst of cases to people making the desperate decision to take their own life.
Responding with Biblical Compassion
It’s due to the reality of our sin-cursed and broken world that people suffer from mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This reality should burden Christians and move us with compassion. But is the compassionate answer to embrace homosexual behavior as something holy and change our churches into inclusive sanctuaries that affirm and celebrate homosexual behavior and gay “marriage”?
Well, what if we put a different sin in place of homosexual behavior in some of the statements in this report? Let’s substitute a different sexual sin, adultery (Hebrews 13:4):
The way we conduct our conversation around adulterous relationships—the theological positions we arrive at and pastoral attitudes and practises that flow from them—causes anguish for far too many people who are practicing adultery. It is no secret that the negative stance taken by the Church, and so many individual local churches, has a hugely distressing impact on large numbers of adulterous people and leaves countless numbers of them living lives of forced secrecy and dishonesty.
Or what about the sin of drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18)?
The way we conduct our conversation around drunkenness—the theological positions we arrive at and pastoral attitudes and practises that flow from them—causes anguish for far too many people who are practicing drunkenness. It is no secret that the negative stance taken by the Church, and so many individual local churches, has a hugely distressing impact on large numbers of drunkards and leaves countless numbers of them living lives of forced secrecy and dishonesty.
This exercise makes an important point. If research showed that a lack of acceptance of adultery or drunkenness (or any other sin) led to mental health issues, would the church reject biblical truth and support and embrace these behaviors as acceptable? Or would we deal with this issue in a way that recognizes and exposes sin for what it is yet seeks to restore the one committing the sin (Galatians 6:1)? Hopefully we would do the latter!
We should not be taking our cues from the culture! We need to look to God’s Word for an unchanging standard of truth.
And yet, due to the emotional and highly personal nature of the homosexuality discussion, many in the church are choosing to focus on sobering statistics like the ones provided in this report and bend biblical truth to fit with the cultural narrative as an attempt to fix these problems. And what is the cultural narrative? That so-called discrimination causes nearly irreparable harm and that the only answer is full inclusion and acceptance. But we should not be taking our cues from the culture! We need to look to God’s Word for an unchanging standard of truth. Otherwise we are simply blown here and there by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) that comes and goes as we make man, not God, the authority for morality.
Embracing sin and encouraging others in their rejection of God’s commands isn’t compassion—it’s a self-serving guise of compassion that, instead, distances others from their Creator and His plan for human sexuality and marriage (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:22–33).
But Is It Really That Bad?
Chalke believes that committed, faithful homosexual “marriages” are just as godly and acceptable as committed, faithful heterosexual marriages. But this is in direct contradiction to God’s Word.
As a note, it’s no surprise that Chalke rejects biblical marriage since he calls a literal Genesis “rubbish” and the traditional—and biblical (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:21)—doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ (Jesus’ death on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sin) “cosmic child abuse,” as we’ve documented elsewhere.
Here are a sampling of verses from Scripture that deal with marriage and sexuality. Note that nowhere is gay “marriage” or homosexual behavior affirmed, but multiple times it is declared to be sinful and unnatural.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty for their error which was due. (Romans 1:26–27)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)
The law is not made for a righteous person, but for . . . fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:9–10)
In order to deny that these verses mean what they plainly mean, one must do hermeneutical gymnastics (see “Pro-Gay Theology: Does the Bible Approve of Homosexuality?” by Steve Golden for a full discussion). Homosexual behavior is a sin, and approving of sin is also a sin (Romans 1:32).
How Should the Church Respond?
So how should the church respond to the growing LGB community? We cannot bury our heads in the sand and deny that many LGB people are indeed suffering from mental health issues and need our compassion and love. Armed with biblical truth and true compassion, we need to communicate with the LGB community, but our approach will differ depending on whether the individual is a professing believer or an unbeliever.
No One Likes Discipline!
Let’s start with professing Christians who are either unrepentantly a) acting on homosexual desires or b) approving of homosexual behavior. As with any persistent and unrepentant sin, this person needs a firm but gentle rebuke given with the desire to restore the sinner (Galatians 6:1). If this is not heeded, biblical patterns for church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:11) may be in order.
The attitude here is important. We do not rebuke or discipline others with a “holier-than-thou” attitude or in a mean-spirited or disgusted fashion. But rather, in love and humility (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15), we use God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and biblical principles to expose sin and stir people toward repentance.
Of course, they may not listen or may even get angry or offended. Discipline, church or otherwise, is unpleasant (Hebrews 12:11). Being told your actions, thoughts, or attitudes are sinful hurts, regardless of the sin. No one wants to be told they are wrong, but wise is the man or woman who heeds instruction and correction (Proverbs 1:7, 28:26), repents, and asks the Lord for forgiveness. But if someone gets offended, let it be over the truth, not over our attitude or tone.
We’re Not the Moral Police
What about those who are unbelievers? As Christians we are called to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). We are not called to be the culture’s moral police, running this way and that pointing our fingers at sinful behaviors and demanding unbelievers behave as believers (1 Corinthians 5:9–10). They won’t, and we can’t expect them to because they are slaves to sin (Romans 6:20)!
What is the end game? To see people respond to biblical truth, be convicted of their sinful behaviors and beliefs, turn to Christ, be freed from their bondage to sin, and be saved for eternity.
Now, this doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t stand boldly on God’s Word and declare what is right for our culture to hear. We can, and should, be a beacon of light in a dark world, pointing people toward biblical morality (after all, we’re salt and light according to Matthew 5:13–14). But what is the end game? Is it to have our culture embrace the biblical truth that homosexual behavior is a sin? No! It’s to preach the gospel! And, through the preaching of the gospel, to see people respond to biblical truth, be convicted of their sinful behaviors and beliefs, turn to Christ, be freed from their bondage to sin, and be saved for eternity.
There Is Hope in the Gospel
So how should we respond to our coworker who has just “come out” or the neighbor girl down the street who just moved in with her girlfriend? By preaching the gospel. We should not respond with disgust, hatred, or withdrawal. How will we win others to the gospel if we hide from or are repulsed by sinners as if we were better than they? Jesus certainly did no such thing. Instead He publicly dined with sinners (e.g., Luke 5:30). After all, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32). And not only that, but He also showed broken compassion over the lost state of mankind (Matthew 9:36). We need to follow our Master’s example and lovingly embrace sinners, all the while preaching truth and sharing the gospel.
Will everyone respond positively to the gospel? Of course not. The gospel is a stumbling block and foolishness to those without the Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:23). Some will get angry, some will mock and jeer, others will be offended and maybe call you a homophobe or bigot. But others will want to hear more now or maybe down the road. Let them be offended by the gospel, not by our attitudes, tone of voice, or body language (John 6: 60-69).
God’s church is made up of people who’ve been redeemed from all kinds of sinful backgrounds.
There’s hope for everyone in the Cross of Jesus Christ, whether you are a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a homosexual, or a drunkard. God’s church is made up of people who’ve been redeemed from all kinds of sinful backgrounds and who have one thing in common: they’ve been given new life through the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s why Paul can say,
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11, emphasis added)
Were is such a beautiful word in that passage: it means everything suddenly changed for good through the work of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit! True hope and peace are not found in practicing, affirming, or celebrating sinful behaviors. They’re found in repentance and the new life that Christ can give.