The topic of same sex relationships is something that I tend to shy away from. I feel ill-equipped to discuss it with a fear of offending others without meaning to, so much so that I have been putting off writing this review for longer than I intended. Most people, whether Christian or not, LGBT or not, know that this topic is a deeply sensitive, personal issue for many people.
When I saw this book advertised by The Good Book Company, I requested a copy to review because I thought it could potentially help me to engage and understand the issues raised inside and outside the church on the subject. The late John Stott (an evangelical Anglican priest who passed away in 2011) originally wrote this as a chapter in his book ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’ first published in 1984. Even though there has been a cultural shift in attitudes since then, it reads as if it could have been written with today’s audience in mind.
In this edition it has been revised and updated with helpful notes clearly written from the editor. There are ‘real life’ sections of stories from same-sex attracted Christians who share their perspectives. This gives the book a richer appreciation and deeper understanding of those who experience same-sex attraction. At the end of the book, there are some questions to reflect upon individually or discuss as a group.
‘Same Sex Relationships’ is short and concise which makes it easy to read through and return to, yet it is packed with biblical insight and conviction, pastoral attentiveness and care for the reader and addresses the key lines of thinking on the topic with sensitivity, thoroughness and clarity. Stott firmly takes his authority from the Bible but remains sensitive to the fact that the emotions, identity and desire to find love and acceptance of individuals must not be overlooked. He acknowledges where the church have been wrong in their treatment of homosexuals: ‘love is just what the church has generally failed to show homosexual people’ (pg. 80). He challenges the church to provide an environment of ‘love, understanding, acceptance and support’ (pg. 81) and I think the following quote is a call to action:
‘At the heart of the human condition is a deep and natural hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a longing for completeness. If gay people cannot find these things in the local “church family”, we have no business using that expression.’ (pg. 81).
Stott continually brings the reader’s attention to a higher calling and an eternal focus. He writes with his mind on the love God has for all people which is perfectly displayed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that we are all offered ‘faith, hope and love’: ‘the faith to accept both his standards and his grace to maintain them, the hope to look beyond present suffering to future glory, and the love to care for and support one another. “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).’
John Stott’s compassion, love for God and others and his biblical understanding provides wisdom and insight into an area that is at the forefront of our society. Although there will be people who will not agree with him, this book contributes to the discussion with grace and love.
‘Same Sex Relationships’ can be purchased from The Good Book Company.
You can read more about John Stott here: http://langham.org/who-we-are/about-john-stott/