A plea for friendship
On Sunday we finished two sermon series: the morning one on Genesis 1-4, and the evening one looking at some of the ways the New Testament applies Genesis 1-4. Do listen to the sermons online if you missed them.
In the evening we looked at Romans 1 and how that helps us navigate the pastorally complicated and politically charged issue of homosexuality. After the service we had a very good question and answer session. Reflecting on the evening, I wish I had made much more of the importance of friendship. I was reminded of these insightful words by John Stott:
"At the heart of the homosexual condition is a deep loneliness, the natural human hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a long for completeness. If homosexual people cannot find these things in the local ‘church family’, we have no business to go on using that expression. The alternative is not between the warm physical relationship of homosexual intercourse and the pain of isolation in the cold. There is a third option, namely a Christian environment of love, understanding, acceptance and support. I do not think there is any need to encourage homosexual people to disclose their sexual inclinations to everybody…But they do need at least one confidant to whom they can unburden themselves, who will not despise or reject them but will support them with friendship and prayer…Same-sex friendships, like those in the Bible between Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and Paul and Timothy are to be encouraged.
There is no hint that any of these was homosexual in the erotic sense, yet they were evidently affectionate and (at least in the case of David and Jonathan) even demonstrative (e.g. 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 20:41-42 &2 Samuel 1:26). Of course, sensible safeguards will be important. But in African and Asian cultures it is common to see two men walking down the street hand in hand, without embarrassment. It is sad that our Western culture inhibits the development of rich same-sex friendships by engendering the fear of being ridiculed or rejected as a ‘queer’.
So can I encourage us to be a church family more and more marked by healthy same-sex friendships? If we want to think more about this, why not get hold of Vaughan Roberts' little book, True Friendship.