Amputation Versus Restoration

Jesus did not amputate. He restored.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him {to see} if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He *said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He *said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 3:1-5 NASB

But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him {be the} first to throw a stone at her."…Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."

John 8:7b; John 8:10-11 NASB

What About Love?

Because of the nature of my story – redemption from homosexuality – I hear from many people who struggle with same sex attractions…and from their spouses and from their family members who reel in the aftermath of such a devastating revelation…and many who reel in shock at the lack of restoration offered by the body of Christ – or should I say NOT offered? Shouldn’t the body of Christ be the first place sin-wracked people can turn to for help – regardless of the particulars of that sin? And let me add this before I go on. Homosexual sin is no different than lying, or stealing, or adultery, or any other sin. Sin is sin…but when sin is confronted shouldn’t it be born out of love for the individual rather than contempt for them?

When I was a boy around the age of ten years old, I already knew I struggled with same sex attraction. I often heard loud and clear from the pulpit how I was headed for hellfire and could plan on burning for eternity. Imagine my horror the day I overheard the men who taught me Sunday School – the men who I grew up seeing as just below God in stature…the men whose image, in many ways, was like that of God in a little boy’s mind – began to discuss homosexuals. To hear their disgust and disdain led me to believe this was what the Lord thought of me as well. And, whether you like to admit it or not, this is the common response of the church. Is it any wonder I had to go outside of the organized church to find someone who would love me like Jesus…someone who would love me right where I was yet willing to not leave me there?

My rescuer told me he did not know all the answers to my particular dilemma. He simply knew THE Answer – Jesus. He went on to tell me that he was willing to walk with me toward Jesus for as long as it took. He promised to help me up when I fell down (some tend to kick the wounded while they are down). He offered his shoulder to cry on when the pain grew unbearable (some tend to turn a cold shoulder to the sinful person). He simply was there…through the mess…for the long haul. His lovingkindness was an extension of God’s lovingkindness…and it led me right to repentance. And by the way, that friend has kept his word for over 29 years…while more believers than I care to even consider through those same years have rejected me even in my repentant state…

I am sad to say that more often than not, the church does not respond with that kind of love. More often than not, I hear from the former staff member whose sin was exposed…who was simply cut off. I hear from the spouses and from the children of the fallen whom the church has abandoned in far too many cases. I hear from those who struggle with SSA (doctors, lawyers, businessmen/women, coaches, dads, moms, teenagers) who tell me they will never darken the door of a church again because of the rejection they have suffered. It seems the church would rather amputate than get involved in the messiness of restoration and healing. And trust me. Loving me back to Jesus was a messy, messy process…but one of the greatest treasures of my life. Thank God there was one willing to walk outside the lines of religion and lead me to the freedom found in real, transforming relationship.

In simple terms, if you had an infection in one of your hands, you would go to the doctor and come up with a plan to help facilitate healing, right? But what if, when you went to that doctor, you were met with disgust and without any hesitation he simply cut off your hand and discarded it? Let’s make it a little more personal. Since the Word tells us we are part of the body of Christ, what if YOU were that same sick hand (the one found to be in sin) and your infection was exposed to the doctor and without as much as a single offer of antibiotics or surgery or cleansing you were simply cut off and cast aside? How would that feel? How would the world outside see the doctor’s response?

In the body of Christ, we are more apt to amputate and pretend everything is OK for the rest of us while leaving a sin-ravaged soul (often one of our own!) to wither up and die. The world sees this lack of love and quickly writes off the church. Is it any wonder the world mocks us the way they do?

I was once invited to minister at a large church…but before I was allowed to step onto the platform I was grilled by a large group of elders and was confronted by the pastor with the words, “We do not have THAT problem here (meaning homosexuality) and we would rather you not mention your testimony.” In shock, I somehow gathered my wits about me and responded, telling the leadership that if I shared my story even briefly they would not have enough people to minister to all those who would respond (you see, I know how the church world thinks. People always tend to subconsciously think homosexuality is worse than anything else…so I knew that even if no homosexuals were there that my honesty would give courage to others in various sins to confess in honesty). I shared my story the next morning in the service. There were not enough people to minister to all who responded…and this was a HUGE church.

One does not have to have come from a life of homosexuality to lead someone else out. Building a relationship with a homosexual will not cause homosexuality to rub off on you! I have nine children and I am all for protecting my children – and for that purpose have established boundaries with those I minister to. Melinda and I have had numerous people live with us through the years and many more find comfort and answers to their predicaments as we shared Christ with them in tangible, practical ways. Some had AIDS. Some struggled with lesbianism. Some struggled with drug abuse. Some were ravaged by such deep wounds that they felt nothing at all emotionally, while still others battled constant depression. We are not professional counselors…but we have had our lives forever altered by THE Counselor, Jesus Christ…and can offer a cup of cold water in His name, if nothing else. Love that is not expressed IS NOT LOVE. Where the rubber meets the road is where one life that has been touched by Jesus reaches out and touches another with that same mercy, care, forgiveness, grace, and love.

It is the nature of sin to cause us to become self-focused. When I was bound up in SSA everything was about ME. No one could understand ME. No one knew how things felt to ME. It takes a patient person – one who has had patience extended to him or her – to recognize this reality and keep extended grace and mercy until the sin-soaked person has their eyes opened to the depth of their selfishness and finally looks to Jesus. ANY sin leads to that kind of self-focus.

I have a very dear friend I’ll call Tony. Tony grew up without Jesus. His dad was in prison at one time. Tony ran with a rough crowd and knew how to fight and how to party. He was addicted to cocaine for over 17 years…and then met Jesus. Tony was so rough around the edges when I met him that no one would really give him the time of day because he exasperated them with his feistiness. He frustrated most of the Christian men he was now becoming associated with to the point of these godly men throwing up their hands and giving up on Tony. I got to know him when he found himself in the hospital and nearly died from complications…and no one went to see him except me. When I asked him who all had come by to check on him and pray with him, he said, “No one. You’re the only one.” When I approached another man in our church about this his reply was, “You can’t reason with Tony. He’s hard headed. I can’t deal with him anymore.”

It was then that the Lord showed me what Tony was up to. His whole life any time he had come in contact with Christians who expressed love verbally but they never backed it up with action. My perception was that he was pushing against other believers he perceived had given up on him so he could prove his point…that Christians talk about love but don’t really love in action. And Tony was right. Gently, yet convincingly, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had once been in Tony’s shoes. So I set out to prove Tony wrong. Picture this: I am a musician who is all about emotional responses. Tony is a biker-dude who could crush me with one finger. Yet the Lord had put us together in an eternal bond. It has been 5 years since our friendship began…and Tony still walks with Jesus and has allowed the Lord to sand off so many of those rough edges it is difficult for me to remember just how rough he used to be. Even though we no longer attend the same church together, we still walk in relationship…because that is what God has called us to do. Tony pushed the Christian’s buttons expecting them to reject him…and they never let him down. Homosexuals, addicts, sin-focused individuals of any kind can tend to expect that can of response. We are the believers. Let’s expect them to act selfishly from time to time…to act like sinners…but let’s not reject them. Jesus didn’t. He loved them enough to go to the cross for every one of them…and that would include us, too...

It took me seven years to actually tell other believers I had been set free from SSA. Even as I was about to share publicly for the first time, two very dear friends told me I was about to make a monumental mistake…that I would lose my ministry altogether. I chose to obey God rather than listen to the ‘wisdom’ of men. My reasoning? God commanded me to ‘say so’ (Psalm 107:1-2), not to sit around piously hoping everyone would know I had been redeemed. If we who have been redeemed do not declare what we have been redeemed from, how can those in the same bondage know there’s a way out? How can they have hope? Jesus loved me RIGHT WHERE I WAS IN MY SIN…but loved me enough to not leave me there. My belief is that this should be the attitude of every believer as well…toward every person they meet…regardless of their particular sin.

I am seeing glimpses of hope in the body of Christ, though, so do not think I am being overly critical. I’m simply trying to be a squeaky wheel here so hurting people can get some of the oil of God’s healing balm (as ministered by His body). Recently, I received an email telling me of a prominent pastor who had been arrested for soliciting sex from a male undercover police officer. Normally, that individual would be cut off immediately and the church would wash their hands of the man and his family and summarily go about their business as if they had just experienced a blip on the radar screen of their church. I lost count a long time ago of such stories I have had personal experience with…so I know this is true. But in this case, the pastor was relieved of his duties…yet confronted with love. Rather than kicking him and, subsequently, his family to the curb, they set up a ministry team to deal specifically with this individual. They established a fund to help support this man and his family. They secured ongoing counseling for him and his wife and his children. They secured a 30 day live-in treatment program for this man…and have ultimately rallied the body together much as the white blood cells rally around an infection and eradicate it rather than performing a perfunctory amputation! Amazing! Simply amazing!

Let me give you one more example of restoration and love that I find truly refreshing and which flies in the face of conventional church wisdom. I know of a church that is attended by a lesbian couple. Rather than asking the couple to leave the church, the pastor had the wisdom and grace to meet with them privately and begin building a relationship with them. The couple was astounded that he would meet with them and equally astounded by his love and acceptance. Their question? “Are we still welcome here now that you know we believe this is who we are?” His response. “Of course you are welcome.” His only requirement was that since they were walking in behavior that is contrary to God’s Word they could not serve in any leadership role be that teaching or singing in the choir. Other than that, they were welcome to sit and learn and be part of the body. I can hear the gears turning in your head right now. “What about Matthew 18?” meaning, “Why don’t we treat them like sinners since they won’t repent?” meaning “They need to be removed from our holy presence!” But is that how Jesus treated sinners? Let’s look honestly at Matthew 18.

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. "But if he does not listen {to you,} take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17 NASB

First step: confront the offending party in private. If he listens, great! If not…

Second step: If he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you so there will be witnesses of exactly what took place. I believe this is for everyone’s benefit. Honesty keeps the lies of the Enemy at bay. If he listens, great! If not…

Third step: Tell the church – not so every one can judge and condemn…but so everyone can see the new mission field…and put on love. If he still does not listen…

Fourth step: Treat them as a sinner…and just how did Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors? Oh yeah. I hate to break this to you but HE HUNG OUT WITH THEM! Jesus was about building relationships with unbelievers. Shouldn’t that be what we are about?

We are called to be salt and light. Both of those identities are to be couched in LOVE. Salt has a cleansing affect. It is a preservative. Could you love someone while still believing they were walking in sin? Has one of your children ever disobeyed you? Did you stop loving them as a result? No. You loved and applied the holy pressure of love seasoned with the salt of God’s truth. Light pierces the darkness. How can we bring light to an individual if we cast them out of our presence into deeper darkness? For God so loved the world that He gave…He did not cast the sinner away from his presence. He took each sinner’s sin upon Himself and laid down His life…for every soul that ever came to life on this planet. We are His ambassadors. How can we practically lay down our lives for others?

My final word? I do not have all the answers. I just know THE Answer…and I want to do as He did. There is a famous quote in Christian circles attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – even though he never actually said it (the concept is evident in his teachings). “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words.” I grew up in the church and heard men preach all the time about how homosexuals were going to hell. Period. The lack of love and the lack of hope declared in these hellfire and brimstone sermons left me devoid of anything but eternal damnation to look forward to. Even though I have no regrets about the things I experienced (I know it was all part of God’s extremely loving plan for my redemption and ability to understand His grace), what would my life have been like had I not only heard the reality of the consequences of my sin…but have SEEN the evidence that those who preached so vehemently about my sin turn around and love me in spite of it? It is due to those memories from my childhood and the feelings of hopelessness that I have come to the conclusion that my actions are at least as important as my words (if not more so). Building a loving relationship with a sinner is like investing in a bank. After enough investment we have the right to make withdrawals. It was someone investing in my life by their loving action that helped lead me to repentance of my sin. I will do the same.

How does your life currently preach to those around you? Would you make a conscious effort to preach the love of God with your life today? Will you amputate or restore?

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Johan 15:13 NASB

Comments (4)add comment
written by Mitch Enriquez , August 16, 2011

Dear Dennis,
Thank you for this blog. When I was reading this my tears were flowing as I begin to realize (again) how much Jesus loves me. Thank you again bro.

written by Jennifer E Craig , June 23, 2010

Mr. J,
Am in a women's bookclub and we are talking with a woman who is a lesbian. She wants God but somehow believes that her identity as a homosexual keeps her from becoming a Christ follower. What are some resources, ideas you have for our group so that we can make her comfortable to receive Christ and allow God to work in her in HIS timing.
Thank you for all that you and Mrs. Melinda do everyday! Thank you for being a warrior for the lost.

written by Jennifer E Craig , June 23, 2010

Thank you! This is fantastic! A group of women I know are having a book club and we've been telling one of our friends about Jesus. She told us she's gay and we all had guessed already. She seemed convinced that she couldn't accept Christ as her savior because of her identity as a homosexual woman.
So how do we minister to her in just the manner you speak of here? What are some beginning steps we can use to make our sister feel comfortable and safe and yet allow the Holy Spirit to work in her heart for real change?
Thank you for all you and Mrs. Melinda do! I just hear you at the conference in Springfield,Missouri and God has set me FREE from low self esteem, depression, and hopelessness!

written by LED , May 11, 2010


Thanks so much for your encouraging words. This has helped me become willing to reach all the more for Gods grace to overcome.



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