BrianBates.jpgThe Christian community was shocked recently when Christian recording artist Ray Boltz come out of the closet and announced that he was gay. The world was much less shocked when recording star Clay Aiken made the same announcement, but was puzzled by his assertion that he’s a Christian.

Christian recording artist Brian Bates has something to say about both announcements.
Bates grew up in a Christian home, accepted Jesus as his Saviour, and then in college, walked away from God to lead a partying, gay lifestyle.
Brian says it was a friend named Julie who helped him turn his life around. “Julie loved like Jesus. We did not agree on the gay issue, but her kindness and compassion really affected me. The Bible says it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. That’s so important to remember, and is the proper response to this issue I believe. I didn’t forsake a gay identity because I was afraid of going to hell. I did so because I fell in love with a God that I could trust. That is absolutely my story.”
Brian recently penned an essay with his thoughts on Christianity, homosexuality, and God’s love. I wanted to share it with you because readers have been sharing their thoughts on Ray Boltz, in particular. (Note: this is not exclusive to Beliefnet, but it was so important I wanted to share it in its entirety.)

Ray & Clay are Gay: How I Would Respond

by singer/songwriter Brian Bates
Two prominent artists, Ray Boltz and Clay Aiken, “came out of the closet” recently. Given my background and passion on the subject, I’ve had several inquiries recently asking me how I would respond and what I would say to them. I offer these suggestions:
— I’d sit down with them, having left my agenda at home
— I’d tell them my favorite songs of theirs
— I’d get to know them
— I’d ask them about their journey with God
— I’d share mine
If it was still going well at this point, then:
— I’d compare notes about how we arrived at different conclusions of God’s take on our
— I’d ask if they have truly submitted their sexuality to God, like I’ve had to do, like we all
should do
— I’d agree to disagree
A few magazines featured me recently, asking me to give their young readers some “tips” on how to respond to the gay issue. That seems to be the big question I always get: “How do I respond to homosexuality?” To that I say – focus on the person more than the issue.
If you know someone who lives a homosexual lifestyle, it helps to determine how they describe themselves. Do they say they are “gay?” Or do they call it a “struggle?” That helps to know how to respond. Either way, if you know someone who struggles with their gender identity…
–Don’t debate. Put aside an argumentative spirit and any need to be right. That doesn’t win people’s trust.
–Don’t be a know-it-all. Be a good listener. Learn. Get in their shoes the best you can.
–Focus on spirituality not sexuality. We all need and desire a relationship with God. Bottom-line.
–Be kind. “It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” Let people experience the kindness of God through you. Let God take care of the convicting part, in His timing.
–Be honest. Don’t act like you have it all together. Tell them about your own struggles and uncertainties. That helps others open up.
–Be a friend. Invite them to stuff, have fun, earn trust over time. Don’t treat anyone like a charity case.
–Meet their needs. If homosexuality is truly about what I believe it is–legit same-sex needs simply being met in the wrong way–then you can be a part of meeting those needs in the right way. Cool huh?
–If you’re not sure…WWJD? Study the Gospels. Watch Jesus’ life and how he dealt with people, both the “in crowd” (religious people) and the “out crowd” (sick people, outcasts, etc). Live like that.
Anyone who knows me and my life story knows that I am not soft on this issue. I have a traditional biblical perspective on homosexuality, believing it is not God’s intent or design and therefore homosexual behavior is sin. And if you know my story, you also know my turnaround started with the relentless compassion of a Christian friend. She put aside the moral debate and appealed to my need for God. That turned my heart towards home, back to a loving Father that I could trust enough to rethink my sexuality and take my narrow path. After all, it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.
* * * * * * * * *

I want to thank Brian for being so honest and for reminding me, at least, that speaking the truth about God’s word can (and should always) be done in love. A recent chat with Jeremy Camp, which I’ll share next week, also helped me understand that I can be firm in my beliefs but still show love. I’ve always had a very compassionate attitude towards gays but am so sick and tired of the “Sodom and Gomorrah” mindset I see from most Christians that I wondered if I was the only one. I’m glad to see a loving but truthful and uncompromising example, and to see how that actually can change a life. But enough about me …
For more about Brian Bates, visit his website. Brian’s latest project, World’s Collide, is in stores now.
CCM veteran Ray Boltz comes out of the closet and confesses he’s gay
Shocker! Clay Aiken comes out of the closet
Check out the Joanne Brokaw’s “Christian Music Year In Review,” a look back at the stories you were talking about on the Gospel Soundcheck blog.
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