We’re Killing Our Brothers

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I’m appalled at our behavior. Well, maybe you haven’t been as bad as me, or maybe you haven’t been as bad as so so many Christians I’ve encountered, but most of us need a good kick in the rear today.

Let me start from the beginning. Exactly a year ago, I wrote an article on homosexuality for Crosswalk.com entitled, “Homosexuality: Can I Blame My Genes?” This was right after Ray Boltz came out of the closet with his confession that shocked evangelical America. The article aims at balancing truth with grace. Whether or not I succeeded in this goal, I’m not sure. But I received a letter thereafter from a reader…

I read your article on homosexuality. I do realize that this is due to the fall of man. I hate the fact that I have to deal with this everyday. Julie, this is the hardest single sin to ever have in your life. I am saved and I know that I’m covered by the blood, but unless you’ve had this kind of struggle in your life…you will never know what hell this is.

I started dealing with these feelings as early as 6 years old. I can still remember as a young boy having strong desires for men and even then I knew it was not normal. Yes at 6 years old, I knew I was different. I have dealt with this ever since then and now I am 50 years old, divorced, and involved in many different ministries in the church. Please understand, I do agree that homosexuality is from the sin of man’s fall.

The sad thing is that those who have had this attack on them since youth can mostly only talk to God about it and not share with anyone in Christian circles. If you say anything, even if you are not practicing the sin, you will be excommunicated from any ministry and, of course, you will not be trusted any longer since this sin is labeled as greater than others. This silent hell is horrible and to those who say, “You must leave it at the altar and not look back…” –that person is so fortunate not to have had a “great sin” grab them in their lives.

I actually got out of church for a few years because I had no one to share with without risking everything. So I left and became my own little island until I was longing for fellowship with other Christians. I finally decided to just talk to God about it and go on with my walk and bear this until I either meet Christ in the air or in death. If some sins can be harder than others…I would put this right up there with other addictions that can be so taboo to talk about or admit in our wonderful, forgiving Christian circles…and sadly I mean that sarcastically. Thanks for listening. God is so good…all the time!

This letter brought grief to my heart as I realized what a lonely prison it is for believers in uncontrollable addictive sins. I mean, as a Christian, you are supposed to be “free” in Christ. That is why I think many Christians are the most miserable people in the world. At least in the world you are not supposed to be free. The agonizing paradox stares many people down in the mirror every day, as they can’t seem to overcome by the supposed power they’ve been given. Add to that, those Christians around them rub their noses in their sin at every opportunity. They snub them, exclude them, ridicule them, and mercilessly judge them. Meanwhile, these same Christians are at home every week (in between church services) looking at pornography online, watching sexually explicit movies, stuffing their gluttonous faces while ignoring the needs of the poor, backbiting and slandering their brothers and sisters, telling white lies, lusting after their coworkers, and a host of other sins that don’t seem so bad (to them) in comparison.

Jesus had a name for these kinds of people. They are called Pharisees. I’ll admit, I’ve been one of the biggest Pharisees ever for much of my life. I have judged, snubbed, rejected, and killed my brothers and sisters with my words, thoughts, and actions. But it is time to make a change. Jesus did not criticize or condemn the sinners in His midst—those who were HONEST about their sins and failures and who were seeking His healing touch. He condemned those who thought they were good enough and who looked down on sinners. Jesus condemned Pharisees (pious, religious folks who went to church every week and looked great on the outside).

Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus reclined with “scum.” Jesus loved (and loves) prostitutes, adulterers, homosexuals, the demon-possessed, prisoners, outcasts, and drug addicts.

Jesus condemned, avoided, and hid truth from Pharisees.

I want to be more like Jesus (not the condemning sense—He had that right and I don’t). I want to avoid those who are merciless and dishonest, and gravitate to those who are painfully aware of their lack.

Thankfully, by the time this man’s letter reached my inbox, God had already begun a work of grace in my life through my own failures and need for mercy, and through certain life-changing books I had discovered such as Donald Millers, Blue Like Jazz. Here are a few words I shared with him:

I am so proud of your ability to be honest, as well as your recognition that this is a fight and a war. That you have not given yourself over to this battle but have continued to fight says so much about you. I am very proud to be your sister in Christ. Please be encouraged, knowing that someday soon we will all get to shed this body of death that constantly tries to sabotage our pure and simple devotion to Christ.

I feel as you do that as believers we should provide a safe environment to voice our struggles. The church has not raised struggle free people, but liars and captives of the worst kind—those who live in sin willfully and then judge those who are honest about struggling against sin. We have it all wrong.

My heart goes out to you today. It is a huge blessing to hear from you. Someday we will celebrate together that we are at last free from our flesh, deal?

I never heard back from this man. But about a month ago, I received this heartbreaking letter:

Dear Julie:

I found this email [from you] in my uncle’s belongings. He killed himself and my mom found him two days ago. He had the Bible open next to him and a letter that said he was sorry for not being able to be stronger. I just thought you should know what happened. Perhaps along your life’s way you can encourage other people that are struggling with “whatever” to seek help…to keep fighting. He was my only and favorite uncle and he left my only cousin (his son) and two little grandbabies.

Folks, we are killing our brothers and sisters. What are we going to do?

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  • (Part 1; it says my comment is too long and must be split into 2 sections)

    Wow. What a grave tragedy. But thank you for bringing this man's heartbreaking ending to light for all of us to read and think about today and hereafter. The old 'sticks and stones' adage couldn't be further from the truth in how much damage words and condemnation from a group can do. Especially when that group should be representative of Jesus.

    It's been a long and slow process, but I'm learning to stop judging others, and to leave that aspect to God, which conveniently leaves me free to lavish my love unconditionally on others…what a novel concept!

    • jferwerd

      So true. I remember being teased as a kid and wondering who in the world came up with that stupid saying.

  • (Part 2)

    I think there are a few verses in the Bible that talk about confronting brothers in their sins (sorry, I don't know off the top of my head), but those types of verses can lead us to believe we must in some way judge or do something about the sin. But I think if we're ever in doubt as to how to handle someone we know–Christian or non-Christian–who is struggling with a sin as complicated as homosexuality, we should err on the side of love and support, and have faith that our Almighty Father will work out the judgment. In other words, I'd rather be accused of not confronting at all and only offering love, rather than of judging. That's probably the wrong approach, but I'm being honest about where my heart lies on the matter. There has been too much damage done in handling it the other way.

    My heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the man in your letter, and to all others who are struggling with the same thing.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. I will be thinking and praying about this…

  • Evi

    wow, love this blog Julie! It is soooo true that we look judgmentally at "this sin" but don't see over our own noses at the "little sins" we commit all the time! And so agree with Barb that we should err on the side of love, I mean didn't Jesus say that everything could be wrapped up into that one command that we should love one another? Whether it's alcoholism, drug addiction, or food addiction, or whatever the case may be, people need our love and compassion not a Bible over the head!

    • jferwerd

      That's why I'm personally thankful that God allowed me to fall into deep sin, so that I would get out of my judgmental, more able in my own strength, holier-than-thou mindset. Of course I never saw it that way, but that's what it was. Only after I fell to my own depravity could I truly understand what people are dealing with, AND how it feels to be judged by those you turn to for comfort (who are supposed to represent Christ).

  • Carrie_L_Knight

    I wept while reading this blog and for quite awhile afterwards. I felt his pain, it was so palpable. I have been in his place, not with homosexuality, but with a sin that you just don't talk about in church or with your fellow believers, because it is viewed as so horrible. (abortion) You sit and you suffer in silence and the guilt is overwhelming. Why do "Christians" try to act like they have it all together and that we are supposed to only show our best side. Reaching out in humility and from the place of, "I have been there and I understand your struggle and your pain, let me help you by sharing my love and forgiveness and understanding", that shares Jesus, more than trying to show people you have it all together and you don't sin. (By sharing our love and forgiveness we show that God can and will love and forgive even what "we" view as the worst sins.)
    That leads me to agreeing with you, Julie, about what we view as the worst sins and how God views sin. I believe in my heart that if God categorized sin, the worst sin would be "Pride", not abortion, not homosexuality, not drug addiction or food addiction. What did the Pharisees have and abundance of? PRIDE I think that the church now days breeds this sin. It starts with "free will"…I chose God and unbelievers didn't…PRIDE! I could go on and on about pride, but my main point is we as believers in Jesus need to love and not judge and we need to be willing to share our struggles and our sins so that we can help each other become more like Christ. We are all sinners and will be until the day we die, stop acting like you have it all together…Let's be REAL!
    P.S. Me putting on here that I have had an abortion still wasn't easy, it is a sin I would rather hide and pretend never happened, but I know that God can use me and my failures to help someone else going through the same struggle. I am forgiven and God loves me and I want to share that with anyone who will listen…

    • jferwerd

      Wow, Carrie. I am really touched that you would share this with all of us. Can you imagine how many Christian women there are out there who are locked up in shame over this decision with no one to share it with? And it is the dsyfunction of the church to begin with that probably caused many an abortion. Had young women in church felt the freedom to come to church leadership without being shamed or rejected, and they had known that because of the vulnerability of that leadership that others were human too, they may have made a different choice. Thanks a bunch for putting yourself out there. I know your testimony will touch lives!

  • Steve

    I loved this post today too. If churches today are going to use the institutional model of a pastor and/or elders, then the hypocrisy needs to stop at the top and pastors and elders and deacons need to lead by example. Unfortunately, most congregations are not ready for a pastor who is, dare I say it: "human!" If a pastor makes a mistake, don't lynch them if they ask for forgiveness. Let them keep serving as long as they show remorse and change their behavior. Until churches get to the point where they allow their leadership to fail and allow their leadership to lead by example of failing, then churches will just be full of hypocrisy, lies, and fake Christians just praising the Lord!

    • Erin

      I am so thankful that my pastor is human!! Recently someone said to me that those who preach should be above approach…what makes him above reproch is that he struggles and seeks Christ in his struggles!

    • jferwerd

      Amen Steve! Say, you're kinda cute. What are you doing later?

  • chris turpen

    its time for evangelical christians to realize that they are part of the problem not the answer. it is time for evangelical christian to admit that they are wrong about the "sin of homosexuality". that they are ignorantly following out of touch "theology" that is irrelevant to God. it is time for evangelical christians to embrace the differences within Gods true church, to acknowledge that our sexual orientation is not the issue as much as how we treat people (including sexually). the blood of our brothers is still on our own hands. god forgive the evangelical church.

    • jferwerd

      Chris, thanks so much for your input. I am openminded to the possibilities because so much of the original intent of Scriptures has been corrupted. But it is a delicate balance of figuring out what is living for the flesh and what is heaping law on a person. But there is ONE thing we can be sure in–if we love God and love people, we will never go wrong!

  • Dani

    I love this blog! It is very sad thinking about that man… I am reading a book by Philip Yancey called "What's So Amazing About Grace?" and he really captures this idea too. The church today really encourages hiding sin and being dishonest, and I have definitely struggled with this because I was afraid of being judged! What I have found is that by being honest with others and with God, everything is so much more genuine, and you can truly build relationships with meaning! Grace is truly an amazing thing :)

    • jferwerd

      Amen to that. I will continue to pray that God opens your heart to be transparent and real with others and to realize that if God is your Judge, you need not fear judgment of others. When you are real and vulnerable, the Pharisees will use your words against you, but the sinners will want to know more and will gravitate toward you. For me, that makes it worthwhile to put myself out there in order that the world may be drawn. I can ignore the Pharisees. By the way, remember "Danielle"=God is my Judge!!

  • Shadrack Meshack

    A sad indication of the mindset and the heart of Christianity is, whether they are bold enough to say it so blatantly or not, that Christians will in other words and actions say and suggest that "If he wasn't going to hell before (due to his homosexuality) he certainly is now (since he took his own life)." The irony of this being that they too, even if they are considered and consider themselves Christians, are people who do things that would be considered sins or sinful as well. Jesus died the death for sin once for all in becoming sin and dying, thus the sins of all past, present, and future are forgiven and dealt with, and it is merely a matter of overcoming the mixture of law and grace to receive and embody the love of Love.. where purity is found.

    • jferwerd

      Hey Shad-Shak…thanks for this input. I really like your insight!

  • Serena Rogers

    Bless his heart; I know he's with Jesus.

    • jferwerd


  • Wow Julie! Let this VERY thought provoking post and the insightful responses help us all to remember to love like Jesus and allow Him to lead us in everything we say and do as we reach out to others around us. I have many thoughts and emotions running through my mind and spirit but I'll keep it simple and leave it at that.


    • jferwerd

      Thanks Jim! I know you have experienced much of this path.

  • Brian Adams

    I wonder if anyone had ever suggested to this man that his homosexuality might not be a sin; it sounds like it was not so much people being judgmental of him that made him commit suicide as his belief that he was sinning every time he was attracted to a man, but he could not stop feeling this attraction.

    I have heard a couple reasons that we might not consider homosexuality a sin today: 1) that the prohibition in the bible was largely because the command to "be fruitful and multiply" was so central to the Jewish people, and homosexuality obvious presents multiplication; in our world where we do not need more people, might homosexuality actually be a good thing? 2) homosexual relationships at that time were apparently largely between a man and a boy. Is it possible that a healthy, monogamous homosexual relationship between two equal, grown men or women might be acceptable to God?

    I wonder whether if this man had heard this, it could have saved his life.

    Thanks, Julie, for the post – made me cry. Also reminded me of what a woman in church once cried as she looked at the cross on Good Friday – "look at what we've done to him!"
    God bless, Brian Adams

    • jferwerd

      Brian, thank you for contributing your thoughts and perspective. I appreciate that you took the time to read the blog. I have recently been wondering about monogamous homosexual relationships (although I have not made it over to the camp that homosexuality is biblically approved) . Even if they are sinful, many of them are more committed and loving than Christian marriages or other heterosexual couples in church on Sunday. The church allows all kinds of relationships (and sins) in the doors without condemning them–i.e. divorced/remarried couples, couple who live together. So my question as far as God goes is that if He is more concerned about loving people and getting rid of pride and hypocrisy, and He seems to overlook many of our sins that He has not dealt with yet in our lives (it is such a process), might He not also extend that grace to faithful same-sex couples? Might He want us to extend that grace and welcome them among us, if we truly understood that we are no better in our own ways? Anyhow, a few years ago I would never have even thought this. Thank goodness God is doing a work of grace in my life. The older I get and the more I learn, the less I find that I really know about God and His love, power, and mercy!!

      • chris turpen

        Enter text right here!until the evangelical church realizes that gay people are just as equally valued and accepted by god into his family there will be unnecessary death (literally) of gods children. how do you think god feels about that? who is righteous enough to admit guilt here? the evangelical church has got to stop equating homosexality with sin. "the love the sinner, hate the sin" mentality is its own form of evangelical bullying. "we love you, but you have to try to remove an element at the core of who you are" just doesnt fly. no wonder gay christians kill themselves or live desperate double lives. anyway, not that i care about this topic or anything….

        • Steve

          So Chris…how do you really feel about this topic? :-) This used to be a black and white issue for me, but as I get older and hopefully a little wiser, I realize that there's hardly anything in this world that is black and white. To be honest, I'm not sure where I am on this issue because I can see some valid arguments on both sides…but at the end of the day I'd rather err on the side of love and acceptance because the typical mentality of my evangelical upbringing, toward this issue, usually sets one up for bigotry and hate…and in my mind that is probably the worst kind of sin.

          • chris turpen

            :) steve, i remember debating the roles of women in the church and in the family way back when we were at wheaton. it was there that i got my feet wet in the liberal pool that i have grown to appreciate so much. i rember thinking way back then that i would rather err on the side of acceptance than exclusion. cast the net widely and let god do the sorting. as an aside, how come you look exactly the same as you did at wheaton?

  • Jean

    Dear Julie, after recently hearing a sermon about Holiness and temptation, the speaker that every person has a certain bend toward certain sins, whether it be homosexuality, lust, greed, pride, whatever, and to say that once we are Christians this bend disappears is a falsehood I am finally glad someone pointed out to me. BUT, when JESUS says He came to make our path straight, I praise Him for that, for in that is my only hope. He knows my bend, which is deeply rooted in the whole anorexia/bulemia distortion, and without realizing He is there to straighten my path I would be left alone in guilt and shame. I too speak quietly and privately to HIM alone many times, still shameful to share this dirty secret with others, but God in His Mercy and Grace has sent me many a pathway to healing through ministries like yours and others. Thank you for diligently working in His Grace toward us who read your blog. Love, Jean

  • Julie:
    Part 1
    Ok I’m kind of speechless LOL. Oh how I can relate to this story. It’s like being in a Church putting on you Tallis and Tafflin just as Christ would have going to the Altar to pray for the Church and those in need, then having members of the Church make statements that you are only doing it to show off.
    Not even having a clue that as a Levite it is you’re responsibly to perform this duty.
    Here is one versus from Matthew 23 that is fitting” 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

  • This is the second verse found in Matthew 7 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

    This is the message of Jesus yet we can entirely remove them from the proper context by followers of Jesus being taught that if you accept Jesus you sins are forgiven while at the same time continuing to sin. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself. Making Judgment on another is not our place so why do we continue to make these devastating Judgments on our Brothers?

    As always thank you for sharing this message I would hope others are able to read this and reevaluate there own choices when they come upon this type of Judgment and come forward rise up and speak out on behalf of there Brothers and Sisters.

    God Bless

  • Julie,
    Thanks for sharing this post. It highlights all too clearly why there is a tremendous pastoral problem with homosexuality. Typical evangelical pat answers don't work and unfortunately, often harm, as we have seen in the struggle of this man who shared with you and his eventual demise. I happen to agree with Brian above, that being gay or lesbian is not always a sin, and because evangelicals insist on sticking to literal readings of modern English Bibles (with little or no understanding of cultures of antiquity), believers will continue to condemn people like this man. I challenge people to consider that there is also a scriptural problem with homosexuality. There is a wealth of material out there that explains why most of us, I believe, have misread the Bible on this issue. In light of this story you shared, one place to start is the video called For the Bible Tells Me So. Google it. It's five stories that parallel what you shared. Some sad endings. Some happy ones. Thanks again.

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