Last year, my church started a series called “Jesus Loves People.” The purpose of this series was to go through topics that we, the Christian community, are typically more quiet about, confronting the types of people we might potentially “hate” instead of love.

I knew the topic of homosexuality was bound to come up, but I thought it’d happen more toward the end of the series because it is such a hot topic, as the video points out. I’d been in my small group for several years to this point, and the people there didn’t yet know about my past. I figured I’d have a lot of time to share my story, including my struggle with sexuality and faith and how I came to the place where I am now as a person — or so I thought!

That day I went to church and was handed a pamphlet of what my local church is doing for the community, events happening, the sermon we will be studying, and so on. Once I got the pamphlet, I immediately looked at the topic we were studying, mostly because the previous sermons were so good!

I opened it, and the topic of Jesus Loves Homosexuals was right there. I looked up in a blank stare and walked to my usual seat. My only thought was, “AW CRAP!”

I sat there, listened to the sermon, took notes, and almost cried a few times. It was so good in my opinion! And yet that whole day, I was kind of freaking out that the topic of homosexuality came way too soon for me! I was caught off-guard, and soon I had to figure out a way to tell my small group that I was gay or struggle with homosexuality. So, all that day and the next day, I kept planning what to say to my group — and yet in the end, I didn’t use any of it.

Our small group was the next day. This was around when Renovate was still up and running, so my small group talked about what we’d learned both in the college ministry and the main church service where most of us attended. We discussed Renovate’s message, and then the next topic of “Jesus Loves Homosexuals.”

Nervous? HECK YEAH I WAS!!!

To put the icing on the cake, one of my co-leaders passed the whole topic onto me, because she saw that my leg was jittery. She probably assumed that I wanted to lead this discussion. Boy was she RIGHT!

Instead of doing what we usually do in small group, going through points our pastor made, I wanted to make this group very practical. So, I started the discussion by asking if anyone knew anyone else who was gay — whether in their families, work place, or friends.

Man, it took off from there, as everyone had his and her own stories to share in this discussion. Even my leader was crying because she couldn’t understand how people could hate and condemn other people with stuff we don’t understand! It was emotional, and kind of tense, but in a good way.

Everyone shared opinions and stories, and then it was my turn. I made sure I was the last to talk, because my story was going to be the big finisher.

“The topic of ‘Jesus Loves Homosexuals’ affects us all differently, but I hold this subject dear to my heart … because … I’m gay, or I struggle with same-sex attractions.”

Those were my first words as I opened up to them, telling them my story. I don’t think I ever looked up and into the eyes of the guys and gals listening.

By the time I finished, I looked up and all eyes were on me. The words that came from their mouths were basically, “I love you.” My group gave me hugs, told me they were glad for my sharing, and expressed the truth of God’s Word to me, encouragement all-around.

These guys who I call friends finally knew the truth about me, and they practiced what my pastor preached in “Jesus Loves Homosexuals,” which was:

L = Listen

O = Offer Support

V = Voice God’s Truth

E = Esteem

LOVE.

At the end of that group, my friends asked me if I had a life-verse that had helped through the years, and I gave them this:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

To my Connect Group, I know you all are reading this, and I wanna say I love you guys!

Have you guys ever come out to your small group or a large group of friends? How did it turn out? If not, do you hope to tell them in the near future?

* Photo courtesy fattytuna, Creative Commons.

  • You’re making me nervous just reading your story! Quite honestly, I’m not ready to share that openly. I do dream of being completely “out” someday, but that dream seems very distant at this point. It’s never been difficult for me to hide my secret, making it that much harder to tell people when I actually want to. It’s just so much easier and more comfortable and more natural to just stay quiet. But…that’s not always what’s really best.

    • Oh wow! I wouldn’t have expected for you to have that reaction. Though, I re-reading it again, I can see why! haha. Ok, question for you, do you have like a small group of friends that knows you struggle with SSA? If not, then at least find some small group of guys to hang out, and maybe eventually, you’ll open up to them. But yeah, your right! It’s not always really what’s best for anyone to stay quiet, but in due time, I bet you’ll open up to someone or to a large group. Again, it’s all up to you man.

      • Yeah, I do have a few friends that I’m pretty open with. It’s been really, really, good. In other circles, though, I’m very much not open, and the best word I can use to describe it is suffocating. I’m sure many of us here have experienced that, but often I just feel so alone, even when I do have friends I can talk to.

    • Take your time, Karl! No rush. When I was your age, I NEVER would have dreamt opening up to a group of people. Or any people. Thankfully human growth is much like climbing a mountain. Slow and steady. You can’t just zap to the top, and God made it that way. For now, I hope you find hope and courage in our stories of sharing vulnerability…and perhaps before long you’ll have your own to share with us!

  • Wow, Matthew! Well done, bro! Heck, I waded through the sermon (I think I need some kind of reward for that!) feeling quite upset all the way. I don’t agree with your pastor, and he scares me. Glad I’m not in his church. Lol! But your small group was wonderful and truly demonstrated the love. Heads up to all of them. What a great bunch! So much of the sermon was on the last line: “Go and sin no more.” And the tragedy of that is that the line is a very questionable later addition to the original, so not written by John and probably never said by Jesus. If you cut off the last line, Jesus approach to the woman fits in with all His dealings with people and is so loving, so non-judgmental, so accepting (besides which, we really don’t know her story at all and why she was in that position at all, so how can we call it her “sin”). I think of His eating with Zacheus. He didn’t tell him that He was coming to dinner so he better repent and sort himself out. He just loved on him, and the love was enough to make Zacheus want to change without a word of remonstrance from Jesus. Now that’s love indeed!

    • Thank you! Yeah, yeah, whatever. 😉 Haha. I think my group would thank you for the heads up to all of them. But for most of the comment, I knew people would be in disagreement with the passage my Pastor was using, thus I warned everyone with “Please set aside whatever view you have about the passage he’s using from the Bible, whether it be historical, theological, or whatever,” because my pastor has touched base with us, the congregation, with this passage in the past, and probably will do it again, when all of us will be in the book of John by the end of this month for our Wednesday Night Services. So he’ll go into more detail of why this passage was omitted from the early copies of the bible. Dude, your so on point on the rest of it though! Kudos to you!

  • Matthew, thanks for this post. I loved the message from your Pastor. It clearly had a profound effect upon you to feel safe enough to confess a temptation to your small group and your pastor’s message obviously transformed your group. John’s Gospel begins telling us that Jesus came in Grace and Truth which is brought out well in the story of the woman caught in adultery. Grace first. But truth follows because although people don’t like it the Good News is tied to repentance. It is repent and follow Jesus because He will not leave us in our sin.
    I revealed my gay temptation to the whole church by asking them to support me in an outreach to the gay community in my city. And they lovingly did. This was years ago but it was very affirming and healing as I suspect it was for you in your small group. Your in a safe church :).

    • Dude!!! That is so awesome you were able to tell your WHOLE CHURCH about your temptation! Wow!! I totally agree with you on the whole grace and truth! Those go hand-in-hand, side by side, two sides of the same coin, etc. One can’t or shouldn’t work without the other. Though, I’ve been planning that for some time, along with observation for a few years with my group, and I knew it was the right time to tell them. But to correct you, kind of, I do feel sort of safe at my church, not all the way, but mostly I do. I’ll be discussing that in a later post. So be patient with that, and don’t read too much into that comment. Haha.

      • Well, one doesn’t just expose something so personal without a good reason. Timing is critical as it goes along with the reason. It was necessary for me to become vulnerable to the whole church because the board of elders was going to use the church name to stand behind my outreach and so we needed the support of the entire congregation. If there is no good reason to share then don’t! You might regret it! What was your reason to share with your group? Were you testing them if they were truly your “friends”? Did they all need to know? Why?

        • To be honest, I already knew my group of friends were legit! The best way to explain it was the Holy Spirit was edging me on to tell them! Like inside me, I could hear a faint voice saying “you need to tell them soon.” It would pop in my head occasionally, but around this series it was almost constant. I think they needed to know, especially after last year’s ordeal with the whole gay marriage bring legal in all 50 states. All I knew was the Holy Spirit was telling me to do something, and I listened and did it.

    • Jon, I’d love to hear more of your story. It seems so obvious that god has done a great work in your life. You practice what you preach.

  • I think coming out to groups of people may soon be the next step in my journey. It’s very daunting though, since I’ve only told 3 friends so far.
    I don’t really have any small groups of consistent people that I am involved in. I have larger groups with people that drift closer or farther away. That makes it difficult for me to judge where to draw the line.
    To be honest, tho, my SSA has also kept me from getting too involved in potential small groups because I figure it is something that will come up eventually. For example, my friend has a group of men that he meets up with once a week. I was invited to one of their dinners, and even there they were joshing each other about girlfriends. While I’d love to be in the group, I’m unsure as to whether I’m ready to come out to my friend yet, let alone four other guys I barely know. (And basically doubling the amount of people that know in one fell swoop is daunting as well.)

    • I must say, I never had the courage to do this while I was attending church. And your description of the small group took me right back into that place and I felt the fear again. Lol! I was out to the head pastor as I felt a need to do that when he asked me to serve in a leadership position, and amazing that after a failed deliverance session he still wanted me to serve, which I did. I came out to the youth pastor who was a close friend and still is. Without having him as a confidante I would have fallen apart, I think. It is wise to tread very cautiously. The church I was attending some time later was more of an issue as someone took it upon themselves (I think a relative of my wife’s who used to serve in that church but had moved to another country) to out me to the leadership. As a result I stopped attending there and now I don’t do church any more. It’s too scary a place in my country where it is illegal to be gay. Haha! That’s like saying you must change the colour of your eyes because they are not legal here. Lol! It’s easier, though perhaps cowardly, to not put myself in that position, for my sake and the sake of others.

      • Ah! Well that explains a lot! Well, I hope you do one day find a place where you are comfortable to share your struggles, and the congregation makes you feel welcome and safe.

        • In this country not likely, in my lifetime. It’s a pipe-dream which is hardly worth entertaining, regrettably. I live my life. I have faith in Jesus, my Lord. Church is closed utterly here to me at this time so far as I can see, since I am out to many of the leaders here. I joined a prayer group online in a church in another country which gives me a tenuous connection. It is a gay-affirming church, a MCC congregation. It seems the best I can do for the moment. It’s hard as it’s a bit like trying to live in a vacuum. The oxygen is a little thin! Lol!

  • A lot of people don’t believe they are truly loved, so they are afraid of being honest. But being honest and vulnerable with people is actually an honor to them. It shows that we trust them and we want a more meaningful bond with them. Opening up and confessing the truth about ourselves with other people is really an act of love. When we do that, people who also want a stronger bond will reciprocate lovingly as well. But if we don’t believe they want a stronger bond with us, if we don’t believe we are actually loved, then we remain in fear, in secrecy, closed off from others.

  • I attended this Church 10 years ago. Skip is a great expositor and exegetical studier. I’m glad you received the support you needed. That can be rare.

  • I really want to come out to my Catholic youth group but I lack the courage to do so. I wish I could do it, I hate lying to them by hiding behind a mask (being straight) and sick of not being myself around them because I love them. I am so happy for you and I am inspired by your courage. May God bless you!

  • I did that in camp but not in my church because coptiC church is very conservative about these topic and not talk about it at all but there is some pastor who learnt about Ssa and try to help me and spread awareness and made group therapy for us

  • Hi there Matthew! I know this is an old blog post but still perpetually relevant. I absolutely love the definition of Love as L = Listen, O = Offer Support, V = Voice God’s Truth, E = Esteem. I wish was a mantra more churches used when ministering to members of their congregations that do not fit the idealized straight married prototype. Apart from a couple of gay people (not Christians) that I was introduced to last year, only my wife and a few Christian friends (3 to be precise) know about my SSA and it was over 20 years ago that I made this revelation to them. As relieving as it may be to come out to larger (church or christian) groups in my country Kenya, too much is at stake, primarily because homosexuality is still illegal. Some of the main proponents of homophobia in a lot of Africa are in fact Christians who think of SSA as an evil, detestable abominable demon that needs to be cast out with the most vigorous of spiritual warfare prayers. The only public testimonies we hear of in Churches or crusades are of people who confess to have had it in the past (almost referring to it like an ailment) and have now been delivered from it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not that I am minimizing the truth that God is perfectly able to eliminate it from our lives if He wants to but from what I have learned over the years, (including reading YOB Blogs) leaving this “thorn” lodged in our lives could yield a more fruitful relationship with Him than if He removed it in a flash. I am therefore quite skeptical when I hear someone saying that they are cured and now straight. I sense God calling me to step out in faith and be vulnerable by sharing (wisely) with other Christians as He leads so that I may be an encourager and supporter to those who struggle with SSA in my city in the near future just like YOB has been an encouragement and support to me. I pray for courage and willingness to do so trusting Him to protect me and cover me as I step out.

  • Matthew Áshįįhí

    Hey y'all! Just an SSA, full-blooded Native American, ESTJ, Enneagram 8 here. I'm a very blunt person but know when people can't handle the whole truth. My job here is to tell you guys my story which is set up like a typical coffee shop, one-on-one talk. I'm here to challenge the way you think and encourage you spiritually. Hope you guys are ready!

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