For nearly forty years, the Christian umbrella organization Exodus International has sought to help people with what are termed “unwanted homosexual desires.” After a serious shift in message and some fallout within the organization over the last couple of years, last week, president Alan Chambers announced Exodus would soon be shutting down, and issued a very public apology “to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message… people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma.” Chambers’ apology, however, reveals a deeper issue.
In his apology, Chambers mentions having heard firsthand “stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope.” Now, surely, if trusted counselors were violating that trust and their patients through sexual misconduct, such behavior is heinous and despicable. It was right for Exodus to take “swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations.” But what about the “stories of shame… and false hope”? In what ways were these experiences hurtful and traumatic?
According to Chambers, it caused hurt and trauma when some people “spent years working through the shame and guilt [they] felt when [their same-sex] attractions didn’t change.” It seems that Chambers himself formerly experienced that “shame… and false hope” at the hands of Exodus.
There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.
And here is where Chambers begins to reveal how he has fallen under hostile influences, and failed to bear the standard of Scripture. Chambers now believes that, for some people, it is simply “human” to have homosexual feelings and thoughts, and these feelings and thoughts should be accepted as parts of one’s life, as God (supposedly) accepts them. To be sure, it is indeed “human” to have feelings and thoughts that we shouldn’t have. The problem is that when we don’t deal with those feelings and thoughts, it grows into something the Scriptures call “sin”—something that everybody does, but God can never accept under any circumstances.
Yet despite this reality, Chambers explains his beliefs.
[M]y beliefs center around grace, the finished work of Christ on the cross and his offer of eternal relationship to any and all that believe. Our beliefs do not center on “sin” because “sin” isn’t at the center of our faith…. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.
On the surface, this sounds very appealing. We focus on grace, Yeshua’s atoning work, His offer of eternal life and relationship—forgiveness, mercy and love. But how can one “proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel” by omitting what “the Gospel” says about sin, and how it does indeed sever our relationship with God? (cf. Hebrews 3:12-14, 6:4-6; 2Peter 2:20-21). To be sure, if “‘sin’ isn’t at the center of our faith,” then what use to us is “the finished work… on the cross” of a Yeshua (Jesus) who was born to “save his people from their sins“? (Matthew 1:21). Chambers says, “My desire is to completely align with Christ”—but it is not the “Christ” of Scripture with whom Chambers now wants to align, but an imaginary one that no longer makes him feel ashamed or hopeful… one that allows him to accept or ignore sinful thoughts and feelings.
Chambers claims to maintain a Scriptural line in the sand regarding sexual acts and marriage, but watch how he rationalizes the acceptance of others’ standards.
I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.
“The boundaries I see in scripture” quickly de-evolves into “my beliefs,” and it is these that he puts up next to “your beliefs,” which he will now no longer “fight you on.” How does this make sense? It’s one thing to show “great care and respect for those who do not share” our beliefs—this we must do. But how could Chambers’ current beliefs, if they are truly Scriptural (they’re not), ever have interfered with “God’s command to love”? How can God’s Word conflict with God’s Word? This is where he makes the rationalistic leap: it is not the Scriptures and “God’s command to love” that are in conflict—what is in conflict are the Word of God and Chambers’ personal belief that the shame and conviction caused by the confrontation of sin is incompatible with “love.”
But where is it written that the “hurtful” and “traumatic” torture and death of our Master was supposed to result in the painless removal of our sinful thoughts and ways? On the contrary, “hurt” and “trauma” is exactly what our flesh is supposed to undergo if we are to ever have victory over sin. We glean this very truth from Paul’s own experience with those he confronted in love.
For even if in the [previous] letter I made you grieve, I do not regret [it] (although I did regret [it]), for I see that the letter did make you grieve (even if for a moment). [But] now I rejoice, not that you were made to grieve, but that you were made to grieve to [the point of] reformation. For you were made to grieve toward God, [so] that you might receive damage from us in nothing, for the grieving toward God puts reformation to salvation without regret into action, but the grieving of the world puts death into action. For, look! this same thing—your being made to grieve toward God—how much diligence it enacts in you! 2Corinthians 7:8-11
Indeed, the love of God does not demand the avoidance of all hurt feelings and traumatic events. On the contrary,
…He [disciplines us] for [our] profit, to be sharers of His separateness. And all discipline for the present [time], indeed, does not seem to be of joy, but of sorrow. Yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those trained through it. Hebrews 12:10-11
And how can there be any such thing as “false hope” that we can be changed, including if we are trapped in homosexuality?
Have you not known that the unrighteous will not inherit the Reign of God? Be not led astray: neither [the] sexually promiscuous, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (or male prostitute), nor men who practice homosexual acts, nor thieves… will inherit the Reign of God. And certain [ones] of you were these! but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were declared righteous, in the name of the Master Yeshua, and in the Ruach of our God. 1Corinthians 6:9-11
Shall the adulterer not be ashamed for his adulterous feelings? Shall the thief never have hope that he will be rid of his selfish desire to steal? God forbid! Not through our own efforts, but by Yeshua’s washing, sanctification and declaration of righteousness, we were such sinners, but are now no longer!
There can be no doubt that as followers of Messiah, we must not demean, demonize and demoralize those caught in homosexuality, much less those desiring to be rid of it. But neither may we fail to demonstrate the love of Messiah by proclaiming a so-called “gay-friendly Gospel,” rather than the whole truth of the Word of God. The surest way to cause the most hurt and trauma possible in the lives of those who need God is by championing a “grace” that avoids the confrontation of sin, and by failing to bear the standard of Scripture.