Note: Jason Janz asked Don Sands to write a personal testimony in regard to his brother passing away from AIDS. Thanks, Don, for your contribution.
by Don Sands
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10, NKJV, emphasis added).
I trust that those reading will see that my aim is to share the truth of the Gospel with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and convert sinners.
Is there a problem in the Church with reaching out to homosexuals in our society? No doubt about that. The visible Church goes from one extreme to the other in proclaiming the Gospel to those who are homosexual.
There are those who either totally disregard the clarity of Scripture pertaining to lifestyle as a sin. Then there are those who condemn this particular sin in a most condemning manner without exhibiting the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both extremes have done tremendous harm for those who are genuine witnesses to the homosexual community.
I would like to mention that there are good organizations (Regeneration, www.regenerationministries.org; and Exodus International, www.exodus-international.org) that specifically focus on reaching homosexuals with the good news of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins. They reach out in love with authentic compassion for lost souls, never compromising the truth of the Gospel.
To be honest, I am not that familiar with these associations. But a friend and brother in Christ, who is an ex-homosexual, has shared a little concerning the outreach of these ministries. I believe they are solid ministries. Chuck Colson and James Dobson have endorsed them as Christ-focused ministries to the homosexual community as well as to others who struggle with sinful addictions.
I am quite concerned with all the political correctness going on in the world, and the homosexual political correctness is quite tiresome to me. I wish we could simply state things from the Word of God, but that’s not acceptable any longer in our world at large. Some in the Church have also turned sideways to the Bible, and we look to its wisdom and truth only when we know we can use the Bible for our own agenda, whatever that may be. To condone sin, we look at all the love and grace passages while ignoring the passages that address living holy lives. On the other hand, some look to all the passages about being obedient and living godly and skim over the grace and love verses. It goes without saying that we need to understand the fullness of what the Bible teaches us. All of the wisdom and knowledge of God need to be taken into account.
I have a particular interest in this subject of concern because one of my brothers, a homosexual, died of AIDS in 1992. I do not know exactly when Tommy started living this lifestyle. He was always a happy-go-lucky guy, constantly positive, and he loved our family.
I was 31 years old when God’s mercy rescued me. That was in 1984. Tommy, my brother, was four years older than me. As I grew in the Lord and saw the teachings of Scripture, I felt that I needed to let my brother hear from me about my conversion and about his dilemma. I contacted him through the mail. I did not hear from Tommy for years after I sent this letter.
On Christmas Day in 1991, I visited my father and his family (he had divorced our mom and remarried). I saw an older man sitting on the couch with my dad and didn’t recognize him. When he spoke to me, I saw he was my brother Tommy. He looked to be 60 years old, wasted away by AIDS. At this time, he was undergoing a large amount of various medical treatment to stay alive and had been for two years. As I left my dad’s house, I was able to talk to Tommy a little.
“Tommy, you recall where Patti and I live?” I asked.
He said that he did.
“Don’t be a stranger,” I said. “Come and visit anytime.”
He looked at me and smiled and said he just might. And then I said that I loved him. As I drove home with my wife, I felt guilty for not sharing the Gospel.
“My brother is dying of AIDS without the Lord,” I told Patti, “and I didn’t even preach to him the good news ”
“Yes you did,” she replied. “You loved him in Christ.”
I went back and forth with feeling guilty and then feeling all right with what I had said. I confess that sometimes I still feel like I failed, but I thank the Lord for His grace through it. I know it is God who saves, not me. I depend on the Lord. He doesn’t depend on me, though I must obey Him and be a living epistle of God’s truth in love.
A few months later, my brother decided to take himself off treatment, which meant he would die within a short period of time. I hadn’t heard from him, but through my mother I kept up with what was happening. Tommy checked into a hospice.
Soon my mother told me she had visited Tommy at the hospice. He had asked if I would want to come and see him. I went to see him as soon as I could. As I sat at his bedside, I prayed and read the Psalms. Tommy seemed to be sleeping and looked even older than he had before. AIDS is an ugly sickness.
Later, Tommy spoke to me and asked how Patti was doing. As we conversed, I saw Tommy as the good brother he was, yet he was not right with the Lord. I shared with him about the Lord, and he was silent. The nurse came into the room and told me I’d have to leave because I was disturbing him. I left. A few days later, Tommy died.
Today I don’t know for sure where my brother is. Growing up in the Catholic Church, he was an altar boy and had learned all the Catholicism anyone can learn. All of that is meaningless now. Did Tommy cry out for mercy? Did he say, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”? I don’t know. No one hopes so more than I.
My older sister found a Presbyterian USA church to perform his funeral. The service was performed with all the Scripture verses you would want to hear–that is, if you were surely a Christian and had lived for the Lord and had died in Christ. But for my brother, it was very inappropriate for this pastor to say Tommy was in heaven. He didn’t even know my brother. I sent this pastor a letter and asked him how he could have said what he did. “God is so great,” he replied, “that He is able to save your brother, and He could even save me, as well as Himself.” I was quite grieved and confused, because I was still learning the truths of Scripture at the time. Today, I am angered by what this so-called pastor did.
On another occasion, a woman in my church asked me to visit her grandson, Jay. He was a homosexual who was trying to kick heroin. He was very kind but quite confused. I invited him to church, and he came. I visited him again with an evangelist friend from church. We met at a fast-food restaurant and sat and talked. Triston, my friend, reached out to this young man in Christ’s love in such a real way. He told Jay that he loved him and that he wanted him to come to Christ.
I asked Jay to read the Bible for himself, and he asked me where he should start. I told him to read the book of Romans. The next day, he called me and said he no way could become a Christian after reading the first chapter of Romans. We spoke together about all this. The conversation ended with my telling Jay that God may have to let him go deep into a hole before He would bring him out and that I would be praying for him. He said he was living in a hellhole even now. I encouraged him to keep reading the Bible and to call out to the Lord for mercy. Since then, I have seen him one other time. He was high as a kite. We talked, and I told him he could call me anytime.
I believe the Lord gives grace to His people so we can reach out to anyone and speak the truth in love to anyone. We do need to know the truth: the genuine Gospel of grace and not the easy-believism Gospel. And we need to feel compassion for others because this same compassion is what saved us. This compassion must grip our hearts as a strong hand grips a plow, and we need to push forward in the power of this same compassion that Christ our Lord displayed for all to see.
I truly believe that it is only by the grace of God that I am not on my way to condemnation and eternal destruction. I also believe I could have been a homosexual or worse if not for God’s grace. The flesh, the world, and the devil can take any human being anywhere to the most deadly of sins and even beyond that. God’s grace is the difference, and we need to preach Christ and Him crucified. We need to show the world that we are thankful and that we adore Jesus Christ. We need never to be ashamed of the Gospel, but we need to admit our sins when we blow it. And we should be ashamed of ourselves and of the way the Church has conducted herself in regard to homosexuals. Never apologize for the Bible; but if we have used Scripture to manipulate and to coerce others for our own agenda, we definitely need to apologize for that.
I hope this article wasn’t too boring. It is the truth. I truly need to continue to learn, and I will always listen to anyone who has reflective input on the things I have shared. I encourage you to take time to check out the ministry websites I listed, if you haven’t already. They are a fine source of help.
All for the cross and for His high glory. Amen.