(supplemental to my preaching series, Sex in a Broken World from 1 Corinthians 5-7)
Have you heard of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, former English professor at Syracuse University? Once a self-professed lesbian, with her academic focus on Lesbian issues in Women’s studies, she is now a Presbyterian pastor’s wife and mother of four. How do you explain that?
It is an amazing story in one sense, yet also a simple story of hospitality and friendship, a story of loving and honoring the dignity of those with whom you disagree; a story of the regenerating power of God by His Spirit and through His Word, the Bible.
Butterfields’s story told in her book, Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert (which I have not read) and was featured a few months ago by Tony Reinke, From Radical Lesbian to Redeemed Christian. Be sure to listen to the audio interview to get her story.
Just this past week, she is featured in another article, DOMA and the Rock, her response to the passing of the Defense of Marriage Act in in 1996 and her response to the repeal of DOMA just last month; in both cases, she notes her “knack” for being on “the losing team.”
I commend Butterfield’s story as an encouraging example of transformation as described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the Scripture I preached last Sunday. With the recent demise of Exodus International and the apology for the supposed harm to so many through reparative therapy (the effort to change homosexuals into heterosexuals), the loser in this matter is those who give up hope of being redeemed from the entrapment of sin. Butterfield’s story renews that hope.
I’m not defending reparative therapy. From my limited understanding, it promised more than it could deliver and Exodus oversold it’s potential for success. Not everyone experiences the kind of transformation that turned a lesbian into a pastor’s wife and mother of four. It does happen and should not be disparaged, but even the great apostle Paul was not delivered from his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) even after extended seasons of prayer. But he did find the grace from God to live obediently with that thorn still very much in his life.
Being washed…sanctified…justified (1 Corinthians 6:11) does not guarantee deliverance in this life from your “thorn.” That liberation is guaranteed only at the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23) when we are with Jesus. Read Romans 8:17-25 for that expression of longing and fulfillment.
But no matter the level of transformation, there is hope for everyone to be transformed by the grace of God and to receive the grace to live an obedient and holy life. And as in Butterfield’s case, a huge factor in her transformation was the loving hospitality and respectful dialogue shared by a Christian.
May God deliver us from our homophobic hearts, and help us to love and respect people, trusting God to do his regenerating and transforming work in the heart.