Our reading today took us to the pool of Bethesda. The bible said that “here a great number of disabled people used to lie- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” The focus of the reading this morning was one particular fellow that had been an invalid for 38 years. Wow. That is exactly 4 years less than I have been alive. In the grand scheme of things, this guy had suffered half a lifetime with disability.
5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked…
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
The man was in his current state for many years. Chances are he had grown accustomed to living this way. He knew of no other way to live so he made the best of his circumstances. He made a life “near the fires of hell”, because there seemed to be no other option. Then Jesus shows up, as he occasionally does and starts asking investigatory questions.
“Do you want to get well?”, Jesus asks. Interesting question. Who wouldn’t want to get well? But Jesus still asks. Surprisingly enough Jesus doesn’t get the Yes that we all might expect, but instead he gets what amounts to be excuses. He tells Jesus, maybe I did way back when, but at this point, it’s hopeless. Then Jesus, once again, doing what Jesus does, calls the man up and out of his bondage. He calls him to “Get up!” Pick up his mat and walk. The bible says at once the man was cured and picked up his mat and walked. Can you imagine what would have happened if the man would have just said, “No thank you” or “How could you do this for me?” Or worse yet, “It’s simply not possible.” “How dare you suggest that there is anything wrong with me.” Thank goodness, the man was obedient to the call of Jesus on his life. Obedience allowed for his healing.
Later on in the story, I find it interesting that when Jesus finds the same man again in the temple, he gives him a spiritual reminder of sorts. Jesus says, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” It leaves me to wonder what happened if anything. Was the healed man sinning in the temple or was Jesus just reminding the man that his newfound freedom would need care and maintenance. That he should guard it and tend it and grow it. I also like that Jesus said, “…you are well again.” The man had the prospective of being well, then being sick and then being well…again.
Much of this man’s story parallels the life of some of the gay men I have mentored. I have met some men who have struggled with homosexuality most of their natural life. Some of these men are in their 50’s and 60’s. They, too, have identified with the hopelessness the man at the pool felt after being afflicted for 38 years. They fear that they have been gay way too long for God to be able to help them with their struggle.
When I walked away from homosexuality I was 27. There was a huge span of history and beliefs that Jesus showed up and begin to question. As a young man just discovering my gay attractions I fought not to accept them. I never chose to be gay, but there was no explanation at the time other than genetics. I prayed for God to take these feelings away night after night. He didn’t. At some point, I would imagine just like the man at the pool, I began to give up and accept that I might have to live as a gay man for the rest of my life. I stopped fighting the feelings. I built a life around homosexuality, because I felt that I was destined to live that way for the rest of my life. It was either adapt and accept or spend the rest of my life apologetic and mopey. I couldn’t do the latter.
When Jesus’ voice became louder than everyone else’s at “the side of the pool” I finally began to listen. “Do you want to get well?”, He asked.
“It isn’t possible.” I said. “Leave me the eff alone. I am going to be gay no matter what. There’s nothing you can do about it.” “I don’t even know if ‘getting well’ is possible.
Then, for whatever reason, a spark of hope began to burn. The hope of not being gay and having a wife and kids and a God filled life grew within me. When Jesus called out to me, he told me to get away from all the random voices in my life and focus on His. It was at that point that I packed up my car and got up and began…to walk.
Healing didn’t come immediately. I slept with an old boyfriend on the move back home. Then when I moved home I tried to connect with an attractive guy I saw in Tulsa. It was at that moment though, that I heard the Holy Spirit’s voice loud and clear. “What are you doing?” I look back now and hear Jesus’ voice as well. “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
I fear for young men who have known the truth of Jesus’ call on their life out of homosexuality, but have decided that walking this out is too hard. So they return to homosexuality. Homosexuality was a sin that did nothing, but take from my heart and life, sinking me deeper onto the “pavement by the pool”. If I could offer a word of encouragement to those of you struggling with whether or not to continue this fight, I would simply say. Freedom from homosexuality is not the absence of struggle. It is the daily surrender of our broken sexuality to Jesus Christ.
Asking Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life is the first step my friends, but the battle for your life begins there. Satan wants nothing more than to ruin your life and destroy your testimony. A true, spirit filled walk with God is not a one time transaction at the International Bank of Hypergrace United. It is a constant daily maintenance and surrender in an effort to “stop sinning” so that we won’t be worse off than we were before we met Jesus. Walking away from homosexuality was the hardest thing I ever did, but Jesus Christ called me to be obedient to his Word not my feelings. I know now that I was born sensitive, artistic and creative, not gay. God’s call is as fresh and fulfilling today as it was back in 1998.
I trust Jesus and believe in His complete healing for broken sexuality. I found my hope in God’s word, not in the fickle misgivings of human belief and emotion. Are there too many voices in your head right now for you to hear God’s? Then step away and listen to the call of Jesus today. He is asking you today, “Do you want to get well?” How will you respond? With the spark of hope for a new life or Out of vast expanse of your fear, because of the passage of time?