Most Christians believe that we should “hate the sin but love the sinner” when it comes to homosexuals. But when it comes to our actions, we end up hating the sin but leaving the loving part to someone else. We are not sure what the loving part should look like and are afraid to try.
Compounding this dilemma is a sense of siege. Not only have liberal denominations affirmed homosexuality, but a growing number of self-identified gay evangelicals are also demanding affirmation. Fundamentalist and evangelical churches are largely silent.
Several years ago, Hubbard began to wonder why that was true of the church where he is the teaching pastor. Love into Light conveys what he learned and how his church changed. One of the strengths of this book is the powerful stories of God’s grace of both those who have received and those who have given real hope, many of them in Hubbard’s church.
Not a threat, but an opportunity
Hubbard boldly asks, “What if homosexuality is not a threat but an opportunity? Could God use one of the most controversial moral issues in our nation to awaken His church rather than damage it?” (p. 15). This is not a call for a new church program. Jesus, it seems, is interested in doing something much bigger than alleviating our current cultural crisis.
Love into Light speaks to pastors and other church leaders, to all believers, and to those in our churches who want to be delivered from same sex attraction but who struggle silently and alone. It is an appeal to begin thinking differently, and to shift from reacting to cultural pressure and instead proactively engage homosexuals as our neighbors. Hubbard has listened to and counseled many with same-sex attraction and, most importantly, has listened carefully to Scripture.
Why are Christians silent?
In chapter one, titled “Gospel,” Hubbard lays the foundation by examining the possible reasons why Christians are silent. Perhaps we think that: 1) homosexuals are abnormal and not welcome around “churchy” people; 2) homosexuality is uniquely insidious and unnatural; 3) homosexuals have an identity that prevents them from fitting in anywhere in church; and 4) homosexuals cannot have hope of ever really changing.
These reasons reveal not only a misunderstanding of homosexuality, Hubbard contends, but more importantly, a poor understanding of the Gospel. So he rewords each of these reasons in light of what transformation means for all of us.
He explains that 1) we are all image bearers of God, marred by sin, so all sin is abnormal; 2) all sin is twisted, and although the Bible describes homosexuality as “contrary to nature,” that is because it is “a physical illustration of our spiritual condition,” as idolaters (p. 24); 3) by receiving the righteousness of Christ by grace, we can all receive a new identity with Him, no longer defined by our sinful desires or experiences; and 4) our “new identity ‘in Christ’ is not simply individual, but communal” (p. 27). It does not preclude temptation, whether homoerotic desire, or any other kind. So “homosexuals and heterosexuals hope in grace together.”
Applying the gospel
The remainder of the book unfolds the practical implications of these truths. Hubbard’s thesis is that with a proper understanding of the gospel, churches are ideally suited to minister redemptively to those with same-sex attraction, and by ministering also experience transformation. Each chapter is titled conceptually in a progression that reflects that thesis.
With careful explanation of Scripture and vivid word pictures, Hubbard brings clarity to confusing issues such as the complex causes of same sex attraction and what change actually means. By reminding us that our hearts are both vulnerable and culpable, he shows why sin, including same-sex attraction, does not feel like a choice. Therefore, “a heart-centered perspective is significant” because “it relocates the conversation to a place where God’s Word can actually help” (p. 41).
Controversy over homosexual change has produced extensive discussion and research, and Hubbard is conversant with all the important sources. He skillfully addresses the complex theological, biological and cultural influences on human behavior and resists simplistic solutions. “The antidote for homosexuality is not heterosexuality… .Real change is not simply a reaction to our latest problem, but a miraculous step toward our new eternal identity” (p. 47). So in one sense, Love into Light is about much more than the gospel and homosexuality. It is about how the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to save each of us His way.
Dealing with arguments
Hubbard reviews the three primary arguments used to pressure Christians into affirming homosexuality. It is claimed that Biblical prohibitions are temporary, misunderstood or ignorant. He briefly but cogently refutes each claim in a way that is accessible and useful to pastors and laymen.
Though these arguments were decisively refuted long ago, Hubbard observes, they continue to circulate freely. It’s as if the homosexual identity label has a kind of diplomatic immunity from Biblical authority. This is because “our self-identification can shape the way we respond to the words of God” (p. 85). He shows that the idea of homosexual identity is based on shaky assumptions and is upended by the Bible’s teaching that our actions are not equal to our identity.
Correcting the cultural assumption that fulfillment of sexual desire is a human right, Hubbard asserts the Biblical teaching that neither marriage nor celibacy is the ultimate consummation. Sound theology replaces sexual fulfillment with the call to sacrifice. Under God’s new covenant, physical intimacy and reproduction occupy an important, but not the central role in building the covenant community.
Our response to all this should start with creating a climate where supernatural change can take place. This begins by breaking silence and signaling to Christians who struggle with same sex attraction that they are not alone. We must stop referring to them as “those people” and make it clear that they are our people. In that climate, sin is truthfully confronted.
The role of churches
Love into Light is unusual in calling churches to play the primary role in ministering to homosexuals in ways that join God’s work of transformation. To that end, Hubbard’s description of his church’s Network of Care is an immensely helpful model. One of his most striking conclusions underscores the need for Christian community. Appealing for full inclusion of same-sex strugglers into each church, he quotes Bonhoeffer: “The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ” (p. 148).
Hubbard relates the moving story of a young lady who lived with his family while she was leaving a life of drug addiction. She was overcome by the completely new experience of being in a stable, loving Christian home. This story helped drive home a major theme: the need for those of us who live in the light to move toward those in the shadows. “Our lives cannot adorn the gospel if they are not lived in the presence of the people who need to know the gospel” (p. 158).
Hubbard presses further by asking us to consider: what if a homosexual couple brought their adopted children to your church? What if “their four kids love your children’s programs and youth group and the two men respond in humility to the gospel?” (p. 166). Are our churches becoming places where that might happen? What would we do if it did?
This book will be stout medicine for some. But medicine it is. And it might be what the great physician ordered, calling us to join in bringing those who are in the shadows into His marvelous light. Love into Light gives Christians what they need to begin—humbly, truthfully and confidently. A companion website, http://loveintolight.com , leads to the next big step, offering a wealth of specific guidance for acting on this call.
About the author
Peter Hubbard is Teaching Pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, where he has communicated the truth of the scriptures since the church began in 1992. Peter appreciates the never-ending opportunities to engage with hurting people and to apply the hope of the gospel to the messy places of our lives. He has earned two masters degrees (one from BJU) and is currently completing a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Peter and his wife Karen have been married for twenty-five years and have four children.
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