Recently, I had the opportunity to stay a couple of nights at a hotel. The hotel was older, needed some repairs, and the WiFi didn’t work very well. But other than these minor issues, we had an enjoyable stay.
The fellow who ran the front desk’s name was Henry for our purposes. At first, while checking in, Henry seemed a little snappy. But after further interactions with him, he proved to be rather friendly.
Toward the end of our stay, I had the chance to sit down with Henry and to chat with him for a little while.
The following is Henry’s story:
“Henry was from a large family, having fifteen brothers and sisters, with their dad being a pastor. Needless to say, Henry grew up in the church. At age fifteen, Henry came out of the closet, so to speak, as being gay. He said he had known since age six that he was gay. He was immediately rejected and ostracized by his family. Henry knew that his lifestyle was wrong in the eyes of God. After he would fall to his vice, he would hate himself and to kill the pain, he turned to alcohol.
One day while driving under the influence, he was in an accident that resulted in the death of a young boy. This served to further ostracize him from his family and the church. In fact, he even received a letter from a major church denomination barring him from ever stepping foot in one of their churches again – ever.
Eleven years ago, Henry got a job at the hotel and has lived there on the premises ever since. Four of his brothers live nearby and have not once come to visit him at his new found home. Since Henry knew he couldn’t escape from God, he asked Him to stay on one side of the hotel and he would stay on the other.
Then, about six years ago, the unthinkable happened. The family who lost their son as the result of Henry’s drunk driving came to the hotel. The mother and father insisted that Henry hold their newborn son. At first Henry could not believe it, but they persisted and told Henry that they had forgiven him for killing their other son. Finally, Henry held their newborn son. The family has since brought their new son back to visit Henry from time-to-time.
Henry told me that he would never set foot in a church again for the rest of his life. But he also told me that he had seen more of God’s grace in that hotel than he has seen anywhere else. He said that just being able to face people from behind the front desk was truly a miracle.”
The fact that this is a true story shatters my heart. Where was the love of Henry’s family and the church? Where was the help that he so desperately needed? Why do Christians and the church consider homosexuality as the unforgivable sin when the Bible clearly teaches that it is not? Why do liars, thieves, the heterosexually immoral, and others get a pass but gays do not? Where is the old adage, “We need to love the sinner but hate the sin”?
The Bible teaches us to love not in word, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18) and we should not just say we love but we should truly love. Perhaps if Henry had received the love and help that he needed from his family and the church, he would not have had to turn to alcohol and thus not been responsible for the boy’s death?
Does Biblical love mean that we as Christians need to learn to accept sin? No, not at all. But it does mean that we should truly love the person and do our very best to get them the help that they need.
What if his family and the church had taken a vastly different approach? Rather than rejecting and ostracizing him, what if they had attempted to understand him and tried to help him? What if they had started a Christ-based recovery group for gays and ex-gays? What if they would have continued to dialogue with him and invited him to their family gatherings? What if Christ’s love, not acceptance of his sin, but real love, had been displayed to Henry?
Thankfully, the grace of God still won out in his story. The hard, real forgiveness that that family chose, displayed Christ’s love to Henry like no one else in his family or church had. Because of that family’s choice, Henry was given hope. Hope that God is love, that He is good, and that He forgives. Hope that there are good people in the world who do care about him. Hope that with God’s help, the help of his counselors, and AA, he can continue to fight the good fight.
Henry told me that he has lived a celibate lifestyle for the last eleven years. Every morning he wakes up and asks God for strength to not fall. Then at night, he thanks God for the day. Sounds a bit like someone I know very well.
Gary Lee Millner