In this passage and again a few paragraphs away in Matthew chapter 12, Jesus repeats with strong language, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Matthew’s emphasis of Hosea 6:6 invites us to wonder how often Jesus repeated this sentiment in His ministry.
The Lord cautions us from leading with “rules” or the “Law.” He first looks at the heart, so imagine that a gay couple has entered your church searching for Jesus. What would we want them to know about Jesus first?
Surely, it is that they are welcome to Him. He would go to their house and present His mercy to them. Jesus is every person’s deepest heart’s desire.
In my first encounter with Jesus, He responded to my faith journey’s most significant pain point: doubt. The moment began a firm but gentle discovery journey that continues today. I’ve pondered why He chose not to confront me first about lesbianism, and I’m aware that Jesus wanted to make Himself known to me in a very personal way. I needed to know He understood, loved, and accepted me to move toward Him—He knew my deepest needs and desires.
This first confrontation increased my desire for fellowship with God. Jesus met my failures, fear, and doubt with kindness. I developed the desire to please Him as He continued to pursue me with extraordinary love and affirmation. From the start, Jesus surrounded me with Christians wholeheartedly following God. I learned by observation what it looked like to respect God’s authority and humbly seek His goodness. Eventually, I began to correlate my understanding of God’s word with a practical life experience. The two went together, leading me to seek to align more and more with His ways (away from lesbianism) so that I could have greater intimacy with Jesus.
Together, Ken Williams and I co-founded the CHANGED Movement, an international network of people who have left LGBTQ behind. When he was in his 20s, Ken experienced a radical physical healing from God through the prayers of a friend — this moment opened up a new world of possibility to him. Suddenly Ken realized that God is good and that he wouldn’t direct us in our sexuality without providing a way to live it out. He tells the story:
At eight years old, I got saved; then was exposed to hardcore gay porn; was lured into sex play with other boys (my very first sexual experiences); experienced rejection and bullying from stronger male peers, and, as a result, lost all respect for masculinity. Being manly was not a noble aspiration, I thought. Girls were easier to be with, more accepting. Fast forward to 17 years old, I was suicidal over the same-sex attraction, sexual addictions, and sin that dominated me, despite my genuine faith in Christ.
When Jesus healed me after I damaged my digestive tract at a college drinking party, I was undone. I didn’t deserve His healing. Who is this God who has righteous requirements and yet radical grace? How could He love me even though I was engaging in habitual sins? This experience of God wooed me into a new life of discipleship and intimacy with Him that was far off my grid. A spiritual father (mentor) also entered my life and met weekly with me to remind me of my value—being a man, made in God’s image. Gay identification eventually gave way to fatherly love and affirmation.
Today, I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for 16 years, we have four children together, and I co-pastor an international ministry to those impacted by LGBTQ. When I learned that sinful moments were the very time that I needed to move closer to my loving Father God, genuine healing and transformation ensued. I’m a changed man, thanks to Jesus’ love and power!
It is the rebirth and formation of the human spirit through receiving the words of Jesus that will impact this gay couple in your church. That must be the overarching vision for this couple. Mercy paves the way for empathetic discipleship that restores truth.
Jesus enters into all our lives with kindness—even when you experience LGBT feelings. Vividly, I remember realizing how my lifetime of lesbianism and false teaching were sins that could eternally block communion with God. Though Jesus remained near, I was horrified, fearful, and disappointed. Jesus met my sorrow with compassion. I recall the leap of faith it took to turn from self-condemnation to embracing Jesus’ forgiveness. I didn’t know how to adopt His vision for my womanhood, let alone walk in obedience. I could only trust that my repentance would enable Him to create something in my life. I left the ultimate vision for this up to Him with no preconceived commitments, but by His grace I’ve now been married to my husband, Doug, for 16 years.
Behavioral discipline without the Spirit of the Lord at work harms gay-identifying people. The journey requires a patient, sacrificial and empathetic relationship within a congregation. Therefore, we must follow His lead and lean into the guidance of the Holy Spirit—remembering that Jesus promises that our sacrifices come with God’s justice to heal hearts:
“...Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28 ESV