Unable to find an open seat in the crowded Harvey Auditorium, students perched on steps along the wall to hear Mike Goeke’s talk, titled “Truth, Grace and the Reality of Same-Sex Attraction” Tuesday night at the annual Finding You at the U lecture.
The associate pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco, California talked about how Christians should respond to same-sex attraction.
He explained that most people fall between two extremes: truth, which includes having a clear sense of right or wrong, or grace, which means having a lot of compassion. To minister to those with same-sex attraction, he said Christians must figure out how to bring these two qualities together. According to Goeke, people who rely too heavily on truth can be condemning, whereas people who place too much emphasis on grace can be overly accepting. However, both are still necessary.
“When you decide what truth you don’t want to follow, all truth will crumble,” Goeke said. “But grace also matters. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.”
It was the realization that God loved him that drew Goeke back to his wife after he left her to explore his homosexual feelings. After reconciling with his wife, an image of a boy Goeke had seen struggling with his sexual identity came into his head.
“I thought, ‘You know what he must feel like on Friday night and how he must feel Sunday morning,’” he said. “If someone doesn’t start talking, they’ll go on hopeless.”
After that, he gave up his law career and began speaking about his struggles, social issues and Christianity.
Goeke wants Christians to understand that no one chooses same-sex attraction, although they may choose to explore their sexual behavior.
“When we say, ‘You chose it,’ we shut them down,” he said. “And don’t deny what they’re feeling. If someone does identify as gay, respect their self-identification.”
He also cautioned the audience against placing labels.
“There’s a difference between being gay and having same-sex attraction,” he said, explaining that he still experiences same-sex attraction, but would object if anyone called him gay. “Labeling someone could change their life; we give sexuality more power than it deserves. Don’t identify people by their struggle.”
He said people should simply listen and advised Christians to take on the role of a fellow sinner, rather than a mentor, when interacting with someone who struggles with same-sex attraction.
“We are all on the same journey toward holiness,” he said. “The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality – it’s holiness.”
Union students experiencing same-sex attraction are invited to join one of the support groups starting the Tuesday after spring break. For more information on counseling, contact Tamarin Huelin at (731) 661-5923.