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

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#61 Rick H.

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 01:18 AM

Returning to the original subject of this post, please forgive me, but my relationship with someone who suffers from same sex attractions should be no different than my relationship with any other person who is in desperate need of Christ and who is tormented by sin. Share the gospel. Tell them about the Church, about Christ's victory over death, about the Holy Mysteries. Show them kindness. Encourage them to read the Scriptures and the fathers. Pray for their salvation and illumination. That is what worked for me.

This sounds like the correct course . . . yes, ". . . should be no different . . ."

#62 Jason Rossiter

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 02:49 AM

Mr Rossiter, do you think that a person that is tormented by sin needs "special" treatment from someone who is Christian ?

Probably, but I believe that it is of primary importance, especially for the lay Christian, to focus wherever possible on love and humility, on what there is to be gained by entering the Church and embracing Christ. The person likely will at some point need "special treatment" to learn how to defeat this particular passion, which is very difficult to cast off and usually comes packaged together with other sexual sins, but I believe that this instruction should come from clergy or someone well experienced with spiritual fatherhood, rather than the untrained.

Please also explain what do you mean by "need" when you refer to "a person who is in desperate need of Christ" ?

It may be clearest for me to explain by speaking of my own situation. I am still full of sin. But when I was still living in that lifestyle and engaging in those actions, I was exposing myself to the truly demonic, and thereby walking perilously close to the precipice of destruction. Not all sins are of equal gravity. It is of course true that we are all in need of Christ, but my own situation was far more desperate back then that it is today due to the nature of what I was doing. In addition, our culture is, with increasing fervor, enshrining homosexual actions as protected and actively encouraging homosexuals to embrace their sin publicly, while at the same time characterizing those who would attempt to overcome the passion of same-sex attraction as being misguided fools who are denying their true selves. Those who advocate that same-sex attractions should be battled (or who even suggest that they can be battled) are ridiculed mercilessly. The more time that passes, the harder that the road out of the homosexual lifestyle becomes. Glory to God that He found me when he did. Anything is of course possible with the Holy Spirit. But in these respects, I believe the situation of the homosexual is particularly desperate and getting more so every day. Forgive me, Jason

#63 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 07:02 PM

I haven't wished to become overly-involved in this thread, since it has seemed to edge rather on the personal and volatile, but I do think it is important to say a few things.

The fact that we are all sinners, and all sins are bad, does not for a moment mean that the response to every sin ought to be the same. That we are all sinners is a fact that must be recognised in order to breed humility and repentance; that all sin is bad is a truth that must hold us accountable to a life of real repentance and ascesis, that considers the spiritual impact of even the 'little' sins that we would otherwise so easily explain away or dismiss.

But the Christian response to sin is not merely to acknowledge, but to heal. And this means that the response to each sin, in the heart and actions of each sinner, must be unique. It must be pastoral, aimed to heal -- insofar as this is possible within the relationship one has with another -- that which is spiritually ill. And in this regard, there are sins which we all commit which are tenuously connected to our will or to rebellion (mistakes, acts in 'the heat of the moment,' lapses of judgement, etc.), and there are sins that we commit which are far more deeply engrained in the will and of self-identification in rebellion (defiantly refusing to live according to the Gospel, schism, etc.) -- and these must be responded to differently. To raise two examples that have been brought up before: it is a nonsense to suggest that a person who succumbs to a temptation for easy profit without being caught, by stealing (i.e. a thief) is committing a sin that it is in any way comparable, in terms of its spiritual dimensions or route towards healing, to the sin of a person who deliberately, persistently and wilfully defines himself as being by nature that which the Church proclaims he is not (e.g. a 'homosexual'). I know that it is increasingly popular to say, in the face of discussion of certain sins, 'why are you picking on that sin -- isn't all sin bad? aren't we all sinners?' -- but this is not a pastoral response. It is no more helpful (and indeed, no less disastrous) than a doctor saying 'all disease is the same' and therefore prescribing the same cure for everyone.

It should also be a plain and obvious reality to the Christian person that the contours of relationships he has with others must take into account the spiritual realities of our lives. It is easy to thrust an argument to its most extreme form and lament 'shunning' (which is not a Christian practice); but this is not really under discussion. The question over whether one ought to modulate his relationship with another, based on the spiritual condition of that relationship, has an obvious answer: 'yes.' If one is in a relationship (e.g. a friendship) with a person, and that person's life is increasingly bound up in wilful transgression in what is right, then the pastoral response is to use the contours of that relationship to urge the person towards change -- even if that means restricting the relationship, as a prompt towards change. And there sometimes comes a point when, it being clear that no change will come, that the most pastoral act of love towards another is not to be united to his or her sin in a direct way -- gaining a distance that allows the love expressed for him / her (e.g. in prayer, in sacrifice) to be made without itself succumbing to the influence of wilful transgression.

It is easy to take these clear Christian directives and run them into extremes, and use those extremes to dismiss them; but that is not the way of the life in Christ. Everything has an extreme that can be unhealthy. The Fathers teach an approach of moderation, always aimed at healing.

INXC, ​Fr Irenei

#64 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:39 PM

I I know that it is increasingly popular to say, in the face of discussion of certain sins, 'why are you picking on that sin -- isn't all sin bad? aren't we all sinners?' -- but this is not a pastoral response. It is no more helpful (and indeed, no less disastrous) than a doctor saying 'all disease is the same' and therefore prescribing the same cure for everyone.

If I might add to Fr Irenei's excellent comments. Not only is is not helpful or disastrous to say "all sin/disease is the same" and thus provide the same cure for everyone, it is just as unhelpful and disastrous to say "every sinner/ill person is the same" and thus provide and across the board response for everyone regardless of their spiritual situation. The Orthodox pastoral response will always take into account not only the sin, but also the sinner and provide a personal remedy which is most effective to each person.

Fr David Moser

#65 Lakis Papas

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 10:48 PM

Three comments:

1) While I agree with the proposal for taking in account each personal peculiarity. I think there is still an abstract question that awaits to receive an answer. But if the answer is only provided in individualized mode, then there must be no valid general question regarding relationship with homosexual persons.

2) Regarding remedy and healing of sins, I think that before the healing there is another preceding stage, that is the repentance (according to the well known three stage path of repentance, purification, illumination that neptic fathers defined). How is it possible for a person to accept the healing when he/she is not aware of his/her illness?

3) Today, many consider homosexuality to be an identity issue. It is presented by many as an act of self-determination. When a christian is engaged in a social relationship with a homosexual he is related to that person, not to its actions - with the exception that the sexual identity of a person has public social manifestations as well as private ones. This is something that does not happen on other cases of sin. I understand that every sin affects who we are, it modifies our identity, somehow it designates the way we see ourselves. I think only in homosexuality the sinful acts are so intrinsically connected to the identity of the person. This perspective has not been examined by any Church Father or biblical incidents - as far as I know. Church has a clear viewpoint about the act that is related to homosexuality, that is a sin. But in the case of homosexuality the spiritual analysis from the Church Fathers is limited to simple rejection and sometimes demonization. Some Church Fathers talked about homosexual persons describe them as insane and foolish. But there is no elaboration on what is the christian perspective on the issue of identity that homosexuality generates.

Homosexuality is a very complex state and it is not right to eliminate the status of a homosexual in certain limited region. There is a story in Gerontikon, that a monk expressed his eros for blessed Achillas and then he run away from him, saying that he was ashamed of a nearby blind, paralytic, old monk. Τhen, saint Achillas praised the monk as a fighter, for running away from his passion and said: "this is not prostitution, but it is warfare with demons".

I think the original question was about this lack of patristic and theological clarity, on how to relate with a person that is "calling" to meet with us and has a mental identity that is not consistent with his/her birth-given physical one. I find this challenge left unanswered by the Orthodox Church, today. This is understandable because in the past the problem did not have this dimension. I believe that, in time, Church will provide the proper answers to new questions.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 15 November 2012 - 10:55 PM.

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