September 14, 2012 Print

Friday 5: Jeff Johnston

by Bethany Monk

Focus on the Family has five priorities: Sharing Christ, strengthening marriages, equipping parents, advocating for children and engaging the culture. That fifth priority — engaging the culture — is what CitizenLink is all about, and we do that in a variety of ways. In the second of a several-part series, we will discuss the various aspects of social policy we address, and why it’s important to do so. Gender Issues Analyst Jeff Johnston sat down with us recently to talk about his work, and how issues of sexuality impact both individuals and society.

CitizenLink: How does sexual sin in its many forms — premarital sex, lust, homosexuality, pornography, etc. — affect us?

Jeff Johnston: It affects us deeply, because when we join with another person sexually, there is a one-flesh union that takes place — just as when people get married they become one flesh. So gender and sex go to the deepest part of who we are. It’s what God points to when He says we were created in His image as male or female. Sexual sin can be especially egregious because you become one flesh with another person. Paul says, “Why would you take Christ who is in you and connect Christ to another person as well through sexuality?” One of the things that we do when praying for people about this issue is ask God to bring restoration for sexual sin. . That’s why sexual abuse, rape, pornography, pre-marital sex and lust are so damaging, because they go to the core of who a person is. So when a little kid is sexually abused, it shatters them at a very deep place and they begin to question who they are. It has a deep impact on the soul.

CL: Many people believe that homosexuality is an innate trait—like race or eye color—that cannot be changed. But the Bible teaches that people can be set free from homosexuality through the grace of God. What are some of the factors that may contribute to homosexuality?

JJ: There is evidence for a variety of roads into homosexuality, just as God has a number of ways of bringing people out of homosexuality. There are some factors that seem to be more significant in people struggling with same-sex attractions. One of the things we know about homosexuality is that guys who struggle have been molested three times more often than men in the general male population. You could see how that could be a factor in leading to homosexuality, because it would cause a boy to question his masculinity, to be unsure about his sexual identity, questioning, “Am I am man? Am I gay? What does this say about me that this happened to me?” So it raises all sorts of questions in a little boy’s mind. Parents’ divorce can be factor, and the personality of the child, too. If you have a shy, introverted, quiet boy who doesn’t necessarily fit into a rough-and-tumble world, he can have a harder time embracing his masculinity. If there are problems in the parental relationship, that can affect a kid. A girl who rejects her femininity could grow up longing for what she already has inside her. I know several women whose dads treated them like little boys — they wanted a boy and they treated them like boys, so these girls became very masculine. But they’re still longing for that femininity. Some women reject femininity because they see women being weak or passive or abused; some women, and men too, have turned to homosexuality for political reasons or out of rebellion against societal norms.

CL: What would you say to somebody who is struggling with these issues, who may be interested in going to church but is afraid?

JJ: I would tell somebody struggling with same-sex attractions that God loves you very deeply. Grace is a gift from God we can’t earn. We can’t do things to make God loves us more. He just loves us. He wants so much more for you — He wants you to be connected to Him, to become part of His family. At the same time, I would hold out hope that grace is also the power that transforms us. It changes us. Most people know they’re kind of messed up in some way and they want help. God offers grace, the power to change. That transforming power isn’t just pretending that I don’t have lust or anger or fear, or that there are times where I want to lie, or I might want to steal something. It’s allowing God’s Holy Spirit to begin a transformation in you — in your mind, your heart, your will, every part of your being. When we’re born into the kingdom, we also grow up into the kingdom, into becoming His sons and daughters. 

CL: This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Unfortunately, the suicide rate is higher than average for those struggling with homosexuality. What can we do as Christians to reach out to those people?

JJ: Suicide is very complicated, and we know that it’s very often connected with mental illness and depression. We know that men and women who identify as gay or transgender have higher rates of being victims of sexual abuse, and that often leads to depression and other mental health issues. We also know they have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse as well as more risk-taking and self-harm  While there is some help in the psychological community for these things, the Church really offers deeper healing and the promise for deeper transformation of the heart. It’s not easy, but there can be real healing and transformation and freedom from bondage through a relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s where the Church has to reach out to people who are in pain, recognize it and help them deal with it in healthy ways. They have to be there for the long haul. New Christians must be rooted and grounded in love and grace and truth.

CL:  Why is it so important for marriage to be between one man and one woman?

JJ: Marriage has always been between a man and a woman throughout cultures and time. It keeps the people that make a baby with the baby — it gives children a male and female parent, so they get to watch the parents’ relationship. They get to react with a dad, they get to react with a mom, and connect with them — and you need both. The gay-activist movement has really pushed this issue to the forefront that we should redefine marriage and say that either moms aren’t necessary or dads aren’t necessary. That basically the sexes are interchangeable. But there are some distinct differences, and to deny those differences is to deny reality and pretend that kids don’t need both a mom and a dad.

Learn more about finding freedom from male homosexuality.

Learn more about understanding male homosexuality, and God’s power to change lives.

Read about Jeff Johnston’s personal struggle with same-sex attractions and healing process.