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Hearing the truth in Love

I’m proudly South African and I recently came to the UK as a seasonal farm worker - at least that is the reason on my visa application and what pays for my food! I have come to realise, though, that God brought me to Britain for so much more than picking fruit and driving tractors. The following testimony may be a testament to my stubbornness - that God had to bring me to a different continent for me to listen to Him - or rather a statement of God’s faithfulness to His children. The change that has occurred in me is undoubtedly all to the glory of our loving and faithful Father and His lavish, abundant grace. 

God loved me and was speaking truth to me

My searching question

As a woman with same-sex attraction, I have a history of running away from God and suppressing the conviction of adhering to biblical holiness that He graciously placed on my heart. In my country, same-sex attractions are neither generally spoken about, nor properly addressed in churches,. Therefore, it’s quite easy to not only to compromise belief, but to avoid accountability for ungodly living and keep under the radar. There is a global movement towards embracing same-sex relationships and it feels like the majority of those left disapproving prefer to ignore the issue, rather than address it. Therefore, the question I have recently been faced with is this: “how is the church, as the body of Christ, living differently to the world to live distinctively regarding sexual activity between those of the same sex?”

Compromise and conviction

I need to go back at this point and put this question into the context of my life. In 2021, four years into my university degree, living far away from home, I was trying to keep my head above water with my never-ending studies. I’d made a handful of good friends and one day decided to share some news with them that I believed was wonderful - I’d entered into my first same-sex relationship. My friends reacted with boisterous support and even elation. I received statements of affirmation like “love is love” and “Ah, don’t worry. The Bible is an old book that is no longer relevant today”. They obviously felt that this was worthy moral support. I wanted to be ecstatic at their response - my close friends were loving and kind, rejoicing that I had found a partner.  And yet, something jarred within me. I was constantly and uncomfortably aware of a small voice of conviction of sin in my heart, but I ignored it. My friends, who professed to be Bible-believing Christians like me, told me that my choices and lifestyle were perfectly acceptable and to be celebrated. They endorsed my wrong thinking and I just tolerated the prodding of the Holy Spirit within me.

A few weeks later, I sat with my aunt at the dinner table and shared with her about my same-sex relationship. The words came out much more carefully than with my friends. Being from an older generation, I was worried that she would condemn me into the fiery pit for my behaviour. To my relief, she listened intently and patiently. Then she slowly said: “Thank you for opening up to me. I can imagine this must be hard for you. I want you to know that we love you no matter what. Our door is always open with a warm welcome waiting inside. We will not be treating you any differently than before. Yet, I believe it’s important that I stand on the truth of the Word of God. It tells me that engaging in same-sex relationships is wrong.” At this, my shoulders relaxed, as my stomach tied itself in knots. 

Truth and grace

These words were uncomfortable and challenging, but to that constant quiet voice inside me, they were like honey. They were the sweet sound of amazing grace. God loved me and was speaking truth to me. My conviction was calmed and momentary peace was brought to the spirit in me, because the Holy Spirit shared the same truth, the truth I had yet to step into. From that point onwards, I then started to lean much more on my aunt’s support, and her advice on responding to my same-sex feelings, than that of my friends. I knew I needed the truth, despite not being ready to step into it. 

In hindsight, I am so grateful that my Aunt’s statement was loving in its truth. It was evident that explaining scripture was more loving toward me, than saying she loved me a hundred times. This question has been answered for me – “how am I, and how is the church, to live distinctively?”. We are called to abide in God’s word, seeking to flourish in truth and grace. We are called to stand on the truth and still show up.  We are called to love our neighbour as we ourselves want to be loved. I am both inspired and challenged by what people from one gay community had to say about Pastor Edward Dobson after he’d reached out to them in service: “We understand where you stand, and know that you do not agree with us. But you still show the love of Jesus, and we’re drawn to that.” Can the world say that of us today? Are we committed to being a people who display the same love that Jesus showed, regardless of our cultural, political or sexual orientation? 

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the Autumn 2023 edition of Ascend