WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–A few years ago I invited a prominent homosexual to be a guest on a television program I was hosting. I had met and become acquainted with Mitchell months before; we had developed a quasi-friendship. Mitchell accepted my invitation with some reluctance.
He arrived at the studio late and noticeably ill at ease. I extended my hand and welcomed him. As he sat next to me, while having a microphone clipped to his shirt, I detected the strong odor of alcohol; apparently Mitchell was trying to calm his nerves.
I did not divulge his “secret,” as it would have unnerved him more. Rather, I smiled broadly and assured him we would have a delightful though disagreeable conversation.
Because it was a Christian program, the studio crew prayed before going live. I had told the crew before Mitchell arrived that we would pray as usual. I gathered everyone at the set and asked that we hold hands and pray. I reached for Mitchell’s hand, noticing his perplexity and mistrust. I prayed that God would bless the interview, calm us and bring honor to Himself.
Immediately after the program, Mitchell confided, “I really thought you would blindside me on TV! I appreciate the respect you showed me.” And with a puzzled look he asked, “Do you always pray before each show?” I said yes.
Is it possible to maintain that homosexuality is immoral and yet respect those who engage in it? In his book “Setting the Record Straight,” Larry Burtoft writes, “What many people forget, both among those for and against homosexual rights, is that it is quite possible (and from a Christian perspective, obligatory) both to judge a behavior or lifestyle as immoral, and yet treat individuals with the respect and dignity which they deserve.”
Not yet convinced?
1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
I received a call from a single mother whose 15-year-old son had “bought in” to homosexuality. The mother said her son was researching a paper and wanted to interview me over lunch. I obliged.
For more than 90 minutes, the three of us sat in a booth, mother and me on one side and her son on the other. Methodically Rob placed his tape recorder on the table and began his interview, questions in hand. During the interview, Rob appeared detached, impersonal and emotionless. When he finished, I asked if I could share some thoughts and he agreed.
I told him about the legitimate, appropriate need men have for affection and connectedness; I shared with him biblical examples of genuine, healthy same-sex friendships — Jonathan and David, Paul and Timothy, Jesus and John. I told him about our need for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Slowly, Rob began to focus. Then I asked, “You know what I believe you really want — to be affirmed in your masculinity, to be acknowledged as a man, to feel like one of the guys.” Then I said, “I wonder what you would do if I was to move from my side of this booth to your side, sit beside you, and put my arm around your shoulder.” I now had his full attention. If a waiter had dropped a stack of dishes, I do not believe Rob would have noticed; we were communicating for the first time. For that brief moment, I had spoken his “love language” and he heard me. Rob then began to absorb every word I spoke, though just as quickly as tears welled in his eyes he fought them away, as I began to speak the redemptive words of Jesus Christ that we pray will transform his life.
Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual, is the director of Cross Ministry, a speaking ministry in Wake Forest, N.C. (c) 2003 Cross Ministry. More information can be found at www.crossministry.org. Part 1 by Wilkins appeared in Baptist Press on Jan. 28.