“and be sure your sin will find you out.”
More than once this verse has run through my mind over the years.
I have been fairly open with my past struggles with sin, and my testimony includes many dark moments that I know God can use, but if I am honest I wish weren’t there.
- I sometimes fear that the many drugs I took when I was younger will catch up with me and I will lose time with grandchildren or great grandchildren because of it.
- I think of people I pushed away from the Lord because of my blasphemy and debating against Christianity, and I pray that the Lord has opened their eyes over the years to the truth.
- I feel remorse for shop owners that I stole from, and people whose property I damaged.
- I feel guilt for the way I treated my parents and teachers and for the gifts of God that I wasted over the years.
I know, I was not a very good guy, and I praise the Lord that He saw fit to save a sinner such as I. That He could look past the above sins and countless others and still love me never ceases to amaze me.
With all of my openness in my testimony there is still a darkness that clouds my past that I have hidden from everyone. One sin so great and embarrassing that I have tried to pretend it wasn’t there. A section of my past that I even kept hidden from my wife for 14 years. A past sin that I fear could end my career while it is still getting started. A sin that I live in fear knowing it could find me out.
Although I have no desire to share this sin, or go through the pain of people finding out about this, I fear that I do not have a choice in the matter. Fear of being found out has caused me to not speak out against others who commit this same sin. My fear of ruining my reputation has been greater than my boldness for Christ, and that is a sin I can no longer bear.
I also believe in the sovereignty of God. I know that what I have done in my past can be used by Him to help others who are in the same boat. I have talked with drug users and used my testimony as a witness to them. I have shared my journey with atheists in order to show how I came to know the Lord. I have used my past to show people that God can love you despite all you have done. There have been times, though, when I could have spoken but out of fear kept my mouth shut. Times where the testimony God has given could have been used, but I was silent. After today, no more.
I also believe that we have come to a point in history where the people that the church will be reaching will come in damaged in a way that the church is not ready to deal with. We are going to see people saved who have pasts that few in the church can relate to. People who will be afraid of what the church might say. Afraid of whether or not they will be welcomed. Afraid to even share where they have come from. People like me.
Perhaps God can use me during this time in church history. In order to do so, I have to get past my fear of the possible reaction and lay everything on the line. I have to be willing to allow Christ, and not fear, to reign in my life. My love for Him and His church must be greater than my love for myself or my friends.
For 2 years (during my junior and senior year in high school) I was involved in an active, ongoing, homosexual relationship.
Even at the time I would never have gone as far as calling myself homosexual, but if forced to give an answer I probably would have labeled myself as bisexual.
I was a young, stupid, unsaved guy out looking for a good time and willing to have one in whatever form it came in. I paid no attention to dangers. Basic rules meant little to me. I could have cared less about morals, and I didn’t believe that God even existed. At the time, I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing, (although the modern push for acceptance of this lifestyle had not yet started so no mention was ever made to anyone by me or my partner).
Looking back on this time of my life through the lens of salvation, I know the things I did were horribly wrong. I know this was a lifestyle that was against the wishes of God, and it is something that I will have to live with.
When I was 19 years old I met Kristin and over the course of 2 years (and many influences) the Lord drew me to Himself, and in November of 2001 I placed my faith in Him. The shame I felt for my past sin was so great that I vowed to never speak of it, to anyone, and for 13 years I did just that.
The problem is that I never felt comfortable with this approach. Does it bring glory to God to hide the work that he has done in making one new? Is it not sin to have a testimony and refuse to use it? Is it ok to hold secrets from your bride? Is it right to sit in silence while the church struggles with their approach to a quickly growing segment of our culture? The hard answer that I have recently come to for each of these questions is, no.
A little under a year ago I opened myself up to Kristin and shared my full past with her. To say she was shocked would perhaps be the greatest understatement ever. What wife ever expects to hear this after so many years of marriage? The love and grace that she showed me blew me away. All of my fears of rejection turned out to be unfounded, and if anything our relationship is closer now than even before.
Since I ‘came out’ to my wife, though, I have been troubled about what my next step should be (if anything). I have listened in silence to many Christians, and their struggles with homosexual people, and reaching out to them. I have seen the anger, and hostility towards a group of people that the church needs to reach out to because of their desperate need for the Gospel. I have watched as the church at large continues to harm their witness because of their reaction to the homosexual community. And I have prayed about what my role should be.
Because of this year of turmoil and prayer I have decided that I cannot remain silent about my past. How can I reach out to the community and ask people to confess sins that I myself am afraid to admit. How can I tell them that the church is warm and welcoming when I treat it as if it isn’t? How can I be a witness for Christ and share my testimony with unbelievers when I refuse to share my testimony?
There are many days that I wish my past wasn’t what it is, but I know God had a plan for my life even during that time. Today, I offer my life as a living sacrifice, because that is my reasonable service. I refuse to be ruled by fear or my own selfish desires.
Even though I wish these events never occurred, I have learned through this that His Grace is greater still. The blood of Christ can cleanse the darkest sin. I can’t imagine a scenario where I could have strayed further from God, than what I lived out in high school. Yet, Christ welcomed me with open arms when I came running to Him. His love is amazing. There is no sin that can keep us from being able to reach out to Christ, and no sin that would cause Him to not want us to reach for Him. He accepts us as we are, broken and all.
I don’t know what the churches reaction is going to be to this knowledge of my past. In my mind I see it not going well. I fear a loss of friends, and possibly a damaged career. That was my same fear when I opened up to Kristin, and yet it turned out to be unfounded. I pray this is the same. I pray people can see past my dark past, and see the man that God is making me into, even today.
I pray God can use my testimony to encourage and reach out to others with similar pasts. Perhaps God can even use me, and people like me, to prepare the church for the tidal wave of similar stories I believe will be coming into the church in the near future.
The onslaught of propaganda for same sex relations in the culture today is overwhelming, and many young people are being deceived by it. We will soon find many hurting, and looking for a place to turn. The church of Christ needs to be ready to openly minister to them with love.
Over the coming weeks and months I plan to explore many of the issues surrounding the modern gay movement, and will be posting those here. I will still keep this blog focused on evangelism, and outreach, and I feel this issue is one that must be addressed in order to effectively reach out into our current culture.
Thank you for your patience with this long post.
As well as I can, I want to be available to field questions and concerns. Post them below, or send them to me privately and I will respond as best as I can.
Yours in Christ,
J. W. Willard