I am only too aware of the painful experiences many TFT members have endured from fellow believers because of their sexuality. TFT has done much in its 40 years to decrease stigma in the church, but we would all agree that there is further to go. Here I share some positive experiences of being included by the church, hopefully to show what can be done when we aspire to inclusion.
In our culture people still assume everyone wants a husband or wife, or at least a partner. The majority view is that being in relationship is preferable to being single. We often refer to people as happily married. But when did you last hear someone described as happily unmarried? Sadly, this is a foreign concept even in the Church. This piles pressure on unmarried believers and particularly those who face same-sex temptations, for whom heterosexual marriage may never be viable.
I’ve always been pretty open about my struggles with sexuality, so I was up front from the start when I arrived at my church 9 years ago. In those days, there were only a few of us and we met in the minister’s house, so it was very easy to get to know people and build positive relationships.
It is true that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And in the very next verse we discover one of the major benefits of any form of suffering and struggling. God’s big plan for our lives is that we “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Some people with same-sex attraction would like their sexual orientation to change. But is being 'straight' a godly goal? For the Christian, exchanging one set of sexual temptations for another set is not really progress towards living a life that gives glory to God. Rather, God calls every Christian to behave within the sexual boundaries set out in the Bible. And God does not promise to take away our struggles - in the Bible, Paul's experience was that God gave him the grace to endure his "thorn in the side" (2 Cor 12:8-9).
Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness (John 10:10). So, obeying his will on sex and relationships should not lead to a miserable life. We do, however, live in a very sexualised culture. A culture where the very notion of forgoing sexual relationships is considered at best strange, and at worst harmful. We must, therefore, honestly ask ourselves; when it comes to our views on sex and celibacy, are we being influenced by God’s Word, or by the prevailing view of our culture?