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What is the appropriate relationship to have with friends who are homosexual?


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#21 Dan L.

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:03 PM

I'm just a catachumen, so my thoughts are probably worth little to nothing, but is seems that as much as possible we are to live peaceable with all men. In regards to those engaged in sins such as homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc, it seems that much depends on their attitude. If they are outspoken about their "right" to do so and expect those around them to confirm to that believe, that is probably not a healthy relationship to continue to develop and perhaps even avoid. If it is an individual who is struggling with those and wishes to overcome those sins, we should encourage them and help in any way we can. If they don't promote it, but still live that lifestyle, I think it can be helpful to associate with them for evangelistic purposes, but I don't believe it would be beneficial to our relationship with God to make them close confidants. What encouragement could they possibly give us that would direct us towards God? How could we give them counsel if they disagree with our basic belief premises?

I think it is quite impossible to give Mr. Ryan a complete answer because he has not given enough information about his family to allow for proper counsel. Perhaps Mr. Ryan would be best suited to speak with his priest where the full set of facts could be properly developed?

#22 Ilaria

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:56 PM

I'm not sure why one particular sin is to be singled out above the rest. Some sinners are less repentant than others, but I hope none of my Christian friends would shun me for my sins.


Discerning things is quite a blessed gift, as many fathers used to say. We are all sinners indeed. But it is one approach to know that you have sins and you have to fight them and a totally different approach to treat sin, especially a sin against the Holy Spirit, as a normal way of life. And, furthermore, to show it as a normal way of life. In the communist regime, a brilliant man here in Romania, father Nicholas Steinhardt, who have been in prison for his belives, said 'when you have to say 2+2=4, do it and, if necessary, do it aloud'.

It is not a Christian behavior to shun, however I really think it is an offense to Christ to have a friendship with someone who willingly despise His commandments. Help him when he is in need, pray for him, but do not show yourself as a friend. At least, i would not.

#23 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:10 PM

Perhaps someone could provide a schema for determining which sins require shunning/ breaking off friendships/ disowning, and which do not.


Personal connections unfortunately often bring an added measure of defensiveness because of our relationship to that person. On the one hand this can be because of attachment to that person; to our own personal investment in that relationship. But on the other hand what we could be feeling sensitive about is precisely the personal element that our relationship gives us. In other words our very closeness is what allows us a fuller picture of that person.

Involved in this question then is that of the complexity of people. That sin doesn't define people. But yet sin is part of the personal manner by which people express themselves. And in our day it can be to use a modern expression part of their 'chosen identity'.

Here also is where the question gets so complex I think.

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#24 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:32 PM

Ryan wrote:

St. Paul advocates the avoidance of certain Christians who are willful sinners. This is done in the hope that, by cutting them off from the Church, they will be brought to repentance. Since I am not a clergyman, nor someone of any spiritual authority, I don't have the prerogative of delivering someone to Satan for repentance. In the case of someone who is not even a Christian, this approach is not even applicable.


I think that this is a very important distinction. After all, isn't St Paul talking about the Church distancing itself from willfull sinners? That is- precisely those who have begun to make particular sins part of their conscious identity? So then applying a blanket term as if it applies in the same way to all types of behaviour isn't particularly helpful.

#25 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 05:11 PM

a totally different approach to treat sin, especially a sin against the Holy Spirit, as a normal way of life. And, furthermore, to show it as a normal way of life.


In the case of someone who is not even a Christian, this approach is not even applicable.


These comments by Ilaria and Ryan respectively lead us to face our reality. Most people in our societies, even many Christians, have no sense of sin. The very word resonates with medieval notions which the world cast aside a long time ago. Indeed, if we were to repeat in the world what our faith bids us believe, we could be held to be ‘homophobic’, perhaps at risk from accusations of harassment in our workplace, or even prosecuted for ‘hate crime’. If the world knew of us and what we believe and hold, it would regard us – at best – as living in the dark ages (as it was put to me once). The world largely doesn’t know what we think, and would merely snigger or stare in disbelief if it did. The idea of an Orthodox Christian evangelizing a contented homosexual couple (or heterosexual unmarried couple) of his acquaintance to persuade them to see the sinfulness of their way of life is completely unrealistic.

#26 Herman G.

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 05:21 PM

I have some good friends of my wife's that are a Lesbian couple...


Well it sounds like to me that you've dealt with this situation before in confronting the couple about their homosexuality. Adding a child doesn't really change the dynamic that much, in my opinion. They understand you still don't approve of their "family" unit. Perhaps you could say that you still don't approve of this lifestyle choice and they need to understand why you don't feel like celebrating it. But you can say that you're committed to loving the child as a unique person who needs God's grace and love just like everyone else, regardless of upbringing.

As far as the child's spiritual development, perhaps this a situation where a strong pair of godparents need to be in place to provide spiritual guidance to the child. Maybe this is an opportunity for your family to be an example to the child and be there spiritually for it.

Sorry I don't have a more spiritual answer for you. Just looking at it from a social aspect.

#27 Anna Stickles

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 07:02 PM

If the topic was -- I have a friend of my wife's who is extremely vain and heartless and it is quite obvious for all to see and I am wondering what should I do? -- then you would have the same set of issues at stake. I don't think anyone is singling out homosexuality as the supreme sin.


I think that this is a very important distinction. After all, isn't St Paul talking about the Church distancing itself from willfull sinners? That is- precisely those who have begun to make particular sins part of their conscious identity? So then applying a blanket term as if it applies in the same way to all types of behaviour isn't particularly helpful.


I think though, Owen, that precisely the point that is so offensive about this issue is that we don't see vain and heartless people going about and making this part of their identity, saying they are predisposed to being this way and can't help themselves, and even going beyond this and saying that they should be given a legal identity and rights to practice vanity and heartlenssness as an accepted social behavior. Homosexuality may not be the supreme sin, but in this way it is unique in our society. It may sound like Christians make this out to be a worse, sin, but I think this is inresponse to how our society has made it no sin at all. Whereas other things are still accepted as sins in society.

I remember reading a sermon by Bl. Augustine against men who out of their values of brotherhood with each other were sharing their wives - it seems this was considered a virtuous part of male friendships in some segments of Roman society and those who wouldn't participate were looked down on. Certainly there is room for the church to speak out against places where societal norms are unacceptable. Both Scripture and other church writings testify to the fact that Christians often did separate themselves from society and its norms even if this meant a certain amount of isolation - a small imitation of the monastic call to separate oneself from the world, except that one was living separated from the world in the midst of the world.

This does not mean that we are mean or harsh to those in society we have to interact with- we are called to Christian kindness to all, but certainly there is a history in Christianity of not being "unequally yoked" in our close friendships, and a call to be exclusive where we as Christians go for advice or support.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 15 October 2012 - 07:30 PM.
additions


#28 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 08:51 PM

I am a bit confused about what "sodomy" has to do with the question posed in this discussion. The question was about how to relate to two lesbian (that is women who are attracted to each other sexually) friends. I think that "sodomy would have no place at all in this discussion since given the people invovled, such an act is anatomically impossible.

As for the "size" or severity of sins, let me relate a story from the fathers. There were two women in the village who came together to the elder and made their confession. One woman was known in the village to be fairly good with just a few small failings, the other was known to have committed a grave sin. When the elder received them, after hearing their sins, he gave them two obediences. To the one woman who was "good" but with some small failings, he gave a bag and instructed her to fill it with small stones, no larger than her palm and return to him when it was full. To the other he gave a bag and told her to find a stone that was large enough to fill the back and then return. After searching, the two women returned, each struggling under the burden of their full sacks. In giving them absolution, the elder took from each their heavy burdens to teach them about the absolute forgiveness that is given to us when we repent. Then he gave the bags back to the women and instructed them to return the contents to the exact places where they had been taken from. This was to show them the damage and difficulty of repairing the damage of "many little sins" (for exactly replacing a bag of small stones to the places that they had originally lain - or even of remembering where they had lain - is not easy) as compared with the damage and difficulty of repairing the damage for one big sin (while it required effort, it was much less difficult to actually put one stone back in its place).

So the "size" of the sin is really of no consequence - we all have enough sins, large and small, to fill many bags - it is rather the truth of God's forgiveness and our efforts to live a righteous life afterward that is important.

Some people struggle with the sin of same-sex attraction (homosexuality). Theirs is a difficult and heavy burden and when they fall, very often that fall has huge consequences. Some people struggle with other sins which are no less damaging to the soul, but which are more easily overlooked and which "pile up" much more easily. The idea here is to have compassion on sinners, as did our Lord, and to be to them the expression of God's love offered. Whether or not they respond to that love by repentance is not our issue (that's between them and Holy Spirit) - it is our task simply to offer God's love to them without fail.

To the corollary question about "shunning" (to use Fr Raphael's term) - if someone's sinful behavior presents a temptation to you, then perhaps it is best to avoid situations where you will be tempted by them. That is your weakness, not theirs. There are others who will not have that temptation and to them will fall the task of interacting more directly with that person. The reason that we would "shun" someone is not to punish them for their sins, but to protect ourselves from temptation.

Fr David Moser

#29 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 08:52 PM

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”996
“Yet surely further on,” it will be said, “He commanded, “What ye have heard in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.”997 But this is in no wise contrary to the former. For neither in that place did He simply command to tell all men, but to whom it should be spoken, to them He bade speak with freedom.998 And by “dogs” here He figuratively described them that are living in incurable ungodliness, and affording no hope of change for the better; and by “swine,” them that abide continually in an unchaste life, all of whom He hath pronounced unworthy of hearing such things. Paul also, it may be observed, declared this when He said, “But a natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him.”999 And in many other places too He saith that corruption of life is the cause of men’s not receiving the more perfect doctrines. Wherefore He commands not to open the doors to them; for indeed they become more insolent after learning. For as to the well-disposed and intelligent, things appear venerable when revealed, so to the insensible, when they are unknown rather. “Since then from their nature, they are not able to learn them, “let the thing be hidden,” saith He, “that1000at least for ignorance they may reverence them. For neither doth the swine know at all what a pearl is. Therefore since he knows not, neither let him see it, lest he trample under foot what he knows not.”
For nothing results, beyond greater mischief to them that are so disposed when they hear; for both the holy things are profaned1001by them, not knowing what they are; and they are the more lifted up and armed against us. For this is meant by, “lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”1002


St John Chrysostom, Homily XXIII on Matthew.

#30 Eric Peterson

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 12:46 AM

This is Christianity? Hiding our light so as not to disturb the world's darkness? So people won't hate us for who we are? Sounds to me more like Stockholm syndrome.


Fr. Dcn., I would not be able to rebuke people for their sins--1. because my own sins are over my head and 2. it's just not part of my personality. Not all the saints were rebukers of sinners as in they explicitly told people they were in sin and should repent. Some, through a display of kindness, through the grace of God, brought even hardened sinners to repentance. They feared lest a rebuke or anything that could be seen by the other as a reproach would bring him to despair. Given the nature of many people, even perceived rebuke that is not meant as such can cause serious problems. One has to be careful.

#31 Dimitrios Drougas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:19 AM

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Us Sinners.

Who has the greater Sin, that person participating in their sin, without a full understanding of how it removes them from communion with God, due to confusion and misunderstanding of scripture and true Christianity, or those who know better and don't say anything?

I think as an Orthodox Christian, it is our duty to, humbly and lovingly, for without love we only say things out of false pride and egotism, to be steadfast and be against homosexuality. Not for us to condemn those who live in sin, because we cannot (unless we are Saints or have some virtue given to us by God himself) see what is in each individuals heart, but to assist them to come away from this lifestyle, start to carry their Cross, and struggle to be in union with Christ our God. From my understanding of Scripture and from readings of the Holy Fathers, homosexuality is one of the greater sins, especially greater than adultery/fornication, because not only is it a sexual sin, but it goes against the very nature of being a human being and creation itself.

People get married, and form a blessed union, become one together, and their sexual activity is used as a good thing to procreate and out of love for one another, man and women, joing together to become one in Christ God.

A man and man or woman and woman, who, yes, may provide a stable household (in a very wordly sense), cannot be blessed and have this special union and come together to become one in Christ God. Their household may be completely spiritually dead, ultimately leading to self condemnation. But on the other hand they may pick up their Cross and struggle to be a true Christian; a difficult thing to do when you have 'affection' for someone, but knowing that living/being with them is against God's will.

It is sad that, in todays age, we still despise people who are homosexual so much, that even our Orthodox Brothers and Sisters will bash them, spit on them and abuse them. They should be loved, prayed for, just like Christ with the leppers. They are the leppers of the modern age. They need pastoral care; but only if they, out of the free will, choose to pick up their Cross, struggle, repent. We all fall down with our array of sins, and this will happen too with homosexuals, but we get up again, confess, seek assistance, and keep struggling.

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have Mercy on Us Sinners.

#32 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 05:30 AM

to assist them to come away from this lifestyle, start to carry their Cross, and struggle to be in union with Christ our God.


Some homosexuals would be grossly offended by this and say their life is not of your business. We have to remember that the idea of sin is alien to most people today. Stonewall in England have posters on buses which declare, 'some people are gay - get over it'. That sentiment is likely to be shared by many. This is not rolling over: see what St John Chrysostom says - 'nothing results' from our unwelcome and offensive (to them) attitude.

#33 Ilaria

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 05:52 AM

As I said above, sometime we have to say that indeed 2+2=4. If we are not able to say it aloud, at least we should not hide the correct answer. Because we know it.

#34 Dimitrios Drougas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:26 AM

Some homosexuals would be grossly offended by this and say their life is not of your business. We have to remember that the idea of sin is alien to most people today. Stonewall in England have posters on buses which declare, 'some people are gay - get over it'. That sentiment is likely to be shared by many. This is not rolling over: see what St John Chrysostom says - 'nothing results' from our unwelcome and offensive (to them) attitude.


I dont think there is anything to get over, and no grudge against anyone. But if someone asks, then we must reply truthfully, and if that causes offence, being the truth in Christ, then it is a good thing. No servant is greater than his Master. Christ and all the Martyrs "offended" someone in one way or another.

Our duty is, if they are baptized Orthodox Christians, to pray for them wholeheartedly, and advise them, in a loving manner, on the truth. If they are not Orthodox, we can still pray for them and love them as they are made in God's image, but ultimately I can't speak of non Orthodox at Christs second coming, only that God love will be revealed to all.

#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:37 AM

In the divine liturgy we pray for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

#36 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:57 AM

I appreciate the views in this thread, and in Christianity that express:

'We are to oppose the evil in the wrong-doer, but not the wrong-doer. Opposition to evil and love for the wrong-doer can exist side by side. Opposition without love leads to violence; loving the wrong-doer without opposing the evil in him is folly and leads to misery. We know that to love a person whilst fighting the evil in him is the right course to follow. We know that the battle is won because we fight it with love.'

This is getting back to the basics. This provides a healthy distinction between a good kind of fundamentalism and the bad kind of fundamentalism.

One's level of maturity and degree of freedom from fear (or lack of it) will have a significant bearing and determine one's views on this question. I appreciate the poster above who made the point that there is not one answer to this question that applies to all in a one-size-fits-all fashion.

As with just about all questions here maturity + love = the right course/answer; however, fear + a lack of love = the bad kind of fundamentalism. One of these days we will realize there is not one pat answer for this and many questions we ask.

Edited by Rick H., 16 October 2012 - 11:13 AM.


#37 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:52 AM

St John Chrysostom, Homily XXIII on Matthew.


He's talking about the Holy Mysteries, Andreas. He's not talking about the obvious immorality of sodomy, which is hardly what one would call a "pearl of wisdom."

#38 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:59 AM

I am a bit confused about what "sodomy" has to do with the question posed in this discussion. The question was about how to relate to two lesbian (that is women who are attracted to each other sexually) friends. I think that "sodomy would have no place at all in this discussion since given the people invovled, such an act is anatomically impossible.


In the twentieth century, the legal definition of sodomy was narrowed in some jurisdictions (like California) by legal activists intent on decriminalizing sexual activity. The term has long been understood in a broader sense to mean unnatural sex acts, especially those that are homosexual. See here and here.

#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 12:40 PM

He's talking about the Holy Mysteries, Andreas


Nowhere in the passage does St John refer to the Holy Mysteries. He talks about preaching and hearing. The following patristic authority seems very apt to me:

1. I had frequently, Demetrianus, treated with contempt, your railing and noisy clamour with sacrilegious mouth and impious words against the one and true God, thinking it more modest and better, silently to scorn the ignorance of a mistaken man, than by speaking to provoke the fury of a senseless one. Neither did I do this without the authority of the divine teaching,3 since it is written, "Speak not in the ears of a fool, lest when he hear thee he should despise the wisdom of thy words; "4 and again, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him."5 And we are, moreover, bidden to keep what is holy within our own knowledge, and not expose it to be trodden down by swine and dogs, since the Lord speaks, saying, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."6 For when you used often to come to me with the desire of contradicting rather than with the wish to learn, and preferred impudently to insist on your own views, which you shouted with noisy words, to patiently listening to mine, it seemed to me foolish to contend with you; since it would he an easier and slighter thing to restrain the angry waves of a turbulent sea with shouts, than to check your madness by arguments. Assuredly it would be both a vain and ineffectual labour to offer light to a blind man, discourse to a deaf one, or wisdom to a brute; since neither can a brute apprehend, nor can a blind man admit the light, nor can a deaf man hear.

St Cyprian of Carthage to Demetrianus.



#40 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:16 PM

Olga wrote:

Nobody here has condoned homosexual behaviour. Rather, they are grappling with the genuine difficulty of dealing with people who engage in behaviour the Church unequivocally regards as sinful, while living in a secular and pluralistic world.


Pastorally this issue is already complex. But to me the disjunction between Church and social/legal values is an added layer that makes the issue even more complex.

I mean that the change in social/legal values is tragic in terms of the Church. I don't see how Orthodox Christians can see this specific aspect of the issue in any other terms.

But the question of our interactions with those who live by these new standards brings us from the theoretical to what is personal. Just because the social change we see around us is tragic and sinful does not necessarily mean that we avoid people in total. If this was Orthodoxy then we'd be radical anabaptists.

The question then inevitably concerns interaction with people and whether or how this condones their sin. This is what needs to be looked at more carefully.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael




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