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Navigating Sexual Sin to Find Your Identity in Christ (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 01/11/2017

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Author Rosaria Butterfield, who found faith in Christ and left homosexuality, offers her unique insights on how Christians can more effectively reach out to the LGBT community with God's love while remaining faithful to His Word. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: Welcome to another edition of "Focus on the Family" and today, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield joins us again to talk about a very challenging and controversial topic in our culture today and that is sin.


Dr. Rosaria Butterfield: Every single one of us struggles with original sin which distorts us. Every single one of us struggles with actual sin that distracts us. And every single one of us deals with indwelling sin that manipulates us and those are for believers. So, when somebody who struggles with same-sex attraction says, "I was born this way," immediately Christians get on the defense and say, "No, God would never make you …" blah, blah, blah. Well, true, God doesn't make you sin, but I'm born in Adam. And Romans 1:26 tells me that the thumbprint of original sin in my life is a deep and abiding sexual and "otherly" attraction to people of my same sex.

End of Teaser

John: Dr. Butterfield has some great insights to share on these issues because of her own spiritual journey through same-sex attraction and then her dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.


Jim Daly: John, you know, some of our listeners won't know Rosaria's story. We have covered it and you gotta get the download. But at one time she was tenured professor who taught English and Queer Theory at Syracuse University. I mean, that is no small environment and she was a feminist and a lesbian. And yet, she was a truth seeker. That's how I'd see it and she continued through the help and guidance of some very close Christian friends to continue to mull over and to search her own soul for what was truth.

And that's the part of her testimony I so appreciate. You know, Jesus stood in front of Pontius Pilate and He didn't say, "I came to fill the globe with righteousness." He said, "I came to testify to the truth." And that's the charge that each one of us should have, every human being. It should be our passion to figure out what is true. And I think inevitably when you pursue that, you will end up in the arms of Christ--

Rosaria: Amen.

Jim: --because He is truth. And Rosaria, it is great to have you back here at Focus. Thank you for that bold testimony that you have. I mean, the Lord has done an amazing thing in your life, bringing you out of that environment, reshaping you and then sending you out like Paul to say, okay, you were a horrible sinner (Laughing) like the rest of us.

Rosaria: And all the glory goes to God. (Laughter).

Jim: And all glory goes to Him, so it is great to have you back here at Focus.

Rosaria: Thank you.

Jim: Rosaria, let's pick up a little bit from that clip and what you talked about last time in terms of sin and the fact that we don't like it and that's true of all of us, whether you're a believer or an unbeliever (Laughing). I mean, sin makes us feel guilty and it puts us in a place where we're not comfortable. And in fact, in this context of same-sex attraction and gay marriage and all of it, often the statement that is given is, if culture did not shame us in this area, we wouldn't have shameful thoughts and feelings. There wouldn't be kind of the bad attitude toward us. If you can, kinda respond to that idea of sin in the context of if you didn't know it was sin, you wouldn't be upset with me.

Rosaria: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter) You know, the doctrine of sin is the best-kept secret in the world. And I think people don't understand. You know, for me it was actually very liberating to finally understand what Romans 5 says.

Jim: Which is what, Romans 5?

Rosaria: Well, you know, Romans 5 is what really helped me understand that original sin didn't just make me broken. It actually made me guilty and corrupt, just like everybody else on the planet and that Jesus, His love was so powerful on the cross, that it was able to bear down. It was a conquering and triumphant love.

So, I think, you know, I really want to get back to this idea that I really think Christians have a low view of sin.

Jim: Huh.

Rosaria: And I know there probably [are] listeners ready to drive off the road right now, hearing me say this. But you know, I think that we often minimize sin. We act as though, you know, the devil made me do it. Original sin, I was born this way. I can't help it. Well, you know, God knows you can't help it. That's why we need to be born again.

Jim: Right. And then the other way that we minimize sin is we only give people half the gospel. We say that God's atoning love forgives you. You are forgiven. But then we forget the other half, which is that you have the power to obey. You have the power to obey.

Jim: Well, and that's the key point and you said last time something that we need to kinda close the loop on.

Rosaria: Okay.

Jim: You talked about becoming a Christian in 1999 and in that environment, it was easier, you think—

Rosaria: Oh, yeah.

Jim: --than if you were in that spot today because of the normalization of homosexual union and the Obergefell decision, Supreme Court. The culture's embracing it.

Rosaria: Right, right.

Jim: But talk about the last part of that question I just mentioned—disconnection between sin and shame.

Rosaria: Yeah.

Jim: So, if shame goes away—

Rosaria: Yeah, what is that?

Jim: --I mean, basically Christians are being shamed not to shame.

Rosaria: Right. (Laughter) That's right; that's right.

Jim: And so, when people don't feel shamed or that they're living in a sinful spot it's hard for them to recognize this truth that Jesus proclaims.

Rosaria: Yes, right, it is and I think it's because for too long the Evangelical church has been confident in saying, we need more grace. And you might say, "Well, Rosaria, who's gonna argue with that?" You know, we do need more grace.

Jim: Yeah, I'm a big fan of grace.

Rosaria: I'm a big fan of grace, but repentance is the threshold to God. And so, if you want to deal rightly with your shame, I mean, when I came to Christ, you know, it was startling. It was like waking up in that verse in Psalm 73, "I am like a beast before you." You know, I really thought I was on the side of justice and goodness and compassion and to realize that it was Jesus I was persecuting the whole time was my undoing.

And then to have that line in Psalm 73, "I am a beast before you," I was filled with shame. I was filled with shame. And one of the things that I learned and at this point, I was in the church and I was worshipping God and we were singing the Psalms and I realized that David felt the same way I did, but he didn't beg for grace.

It's so interesting. He actually begged that he would fully repent and that he would be and this is Psalm [51] I'm referencing now, that he would be cleaned white as snow, that his repentance would indeed, bring glory to God. You know, sometimes we have shame because we think, if only we didn't do it, we'd be more effective as Christians. But we need to understand that you want to be a poster child of Christianity? Then you're a poster child of repentance.

Jim: Hm, that's powerful.

Rosaria: You are not a poster child of having lived a wonderful cleaned-up life. Are our lives changed? We're absolutely changed and you know why? 'Cause we're killed. That's what the gospel does. It brings death before it brings life. And that's what union with Christ means. Union with Christ means that you died with Christ and you have risen with Him. And you know, there's a passage in Romans.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Rosaria: Sometimes, you know, I get to speak to people who are just struggling under the weight of their sexual sin. And you know, maybe you're listening to this right now and you know that just minutes ago you were six hours deep into Internet pornography and you're a believer.

I mean, maybe you're a leader in the church. And here you are. Well, this verse is for you and for me. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried there with Him by baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too, might walk in newness of life. For we have been united with Him in death like His. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

What we need to do and what we need to know is at that moment when we have fallen deep into sin and Satan is saying to us, "See! You're not a believer. Look what you just did." That is that moment when we get to really say back, "You know what? You're right. Every sin deserves death." Isn't it interesting that Satan knows half the gospel?

Jim: Huh.

Rosaria: Praise be to God that we know the whole gospel and that is, that we have risen with Christ Jesus. And you know what? Every time we repent of our sin, we have risen with Christ Jesus. Every time we apply faith to the facts of our depravity, we have risen with Christ Jesus.

Jim: Yeah and that's important because that's where you get the power to live a life that's full of God's Spirit. Now we're talking about equipping Christians and here's an example of the kind of questions I'll get in certain interviews, usually more hostile interviews. They'll say something like, "What's the problem with gay marriage? I mean, how does it bother you? How does it affect you? And we're hearing that challenge a lot in today's culture. How should we respond?

Rosaria: The problem with gay marriage, I've already talked about how it puts a millstone around the neck of people who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Jim: Right.

Rosaria: Okay? So, that's a really big one. It puts a millstone around your neck.

Jim: Because they don't see the error that they're in.

Rosaria: Well, and I'll tell you, I was speaking at a large church and a woman who was 76-years-old waited until the end of a book signing. She came to me. She said, "Rosaria, I am 76-years-old. I have been homosexually married to my lesbian partner for 50 years. We got married in Canada. We have children and grandchildren. I have now heard the gospel and I'm going to lose everything, right?"

And I said, "Right." Nobody told her. It's a millstone. So, the first problem with gay marriage is that there are brothers and sisters of our holy God who are now deceived and manipulated by a world that believes that God's law is discriminatory. The biggest problem is that there are souls now lost and protected by Satan's minions. And that should be every Christian's biggest problem.

And so, we don't get to reinvent marriage because we're not the real deal. But the big problem with gay marriage is, that it not just reinvents marriage, it reinvents personhood by solidifying this idea that there is something called "a gay person." And to deny that gay person civil rights is a form of bigotry.

Jim: Rosaria, in factin the book, Openness Unhindered and you really stressed the subtitle, which is Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, you talk about a friend of yours, Rebecca, and who identifies as a gay Christian.

Rosaria: Right.

Jim: And this cuts right to the illustration you're using. How do the two of you dialogue together? How do you maintain a relationship and not let your blood boil—

Rosaria: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

Jim: --about the dialogue. because I think so often, we in the Christian community, we feel frustrated, maybe intimidated because the culture is so quick to embrace same-sex marriage now that you feel like you're the problem.

Rosaria: Right, right.

Jim: So, you shy away from those things. So, you either your blood's boiling or you're not willing to talk to anybody. But you've had this dialogue with Rebecca, as you mentioned in your book.

Rosaria: Right, right.

Jim: How do you go about having a discussion with somebody where you have deep disagreement?

Rosaria: Right, right and [with] Rebecca, we don't just have a dialogue. She is my dear friend. She is my dear friend and I love her and we pray together and we cry together and we do life together. So, this is not a small thing. Christians, in order to maintain a biblical witness, we need to remember that people are not positions and that people can be very duped by positions.

And certainly people right now who struggle with same-sex attraction are manipulated by the gay rights movement in very powerful ways. In fact, these are dear brothers and sisters who feel like they are literally being pulled apart by wild horses, torn between an Evangelical church that despises them for reasons it ought not and a Civil Rights Movement that wants to manipulate them for a cause. It is crucial that people of God realize that.

And so, the first thing is to remember that people are not positions. And the second is to not buy the terms of the world. You know, I will tell you that I had a very dear friend who came out as a lesbian recently and … and announced to me that she and I could no longer be friends because of "where I stand." Now we have been friends for over two decades. We have helped raise children together. We have been neighbors at certain seasons. We have been there for each other.

And she said, we cannot be friends because you don't approve of me. And I had to say, "Ruth, I hate to break your bubble, but I have never approved of you." (Laughter) Okay, all those years that we have been the dearest of [friends], I've never approved of you. And I have news for you. You never approved of me. I think you said spanking children is barbaric at one point. I thoroughly remember getting firm lectures about the kind of chicken nuggets I bought from Costco and how that was going to kill my children. And then I remember the full-on arguments we had over Pixar films." (Laughter) "So, I have news for you. Don't drink the Kool-Aid. I don't know why you're drinkin' the Kool-Aid.

I never approved of you and you never approved of me." But we've always loved each other. We've been there for each other. We are there in the adoption of our children and the birth of our children. We've been there when big things happened in our neighborhood. We've been there in the … in situations of violence and anger. And you know why? Because love is a conquering kind of thing because it's invented by God.

So, she laughed and she said, "You're right. I never approved of you. I've always loved you. Okay, we're good." We need to get there with people.

Jim: It's almost like a brutal honesty, but we're too afraid to be that brutal with each other.

Rosaria: We have to be brutal with each other. We just have to say it like it is. And as far as what do you do with [this]? You just moved into a neighborhood and you thought a couple next door who identifies as lesbian and they have children and what do you do? Well, you know what? You get to know your neighbors.

Jim: Right.

Rosaria: I mean, I don't know what to say. You get to know the names of their children and the names of their dog, so that you can return both when they wander.

Jim: Let me ask you the benefit of that, which you experienced in your own journey, that opened the door for your heart, didn't it?

Rosaria: Amen, because you know, after about two years of reading the Bible for my research, one of the things that happened was undoing to me. The Bible offered a totally different understanding of homosexuality than I had ever had and the Bible started to get under my skin.

And I was faced with the question, do I really want to understand homosexuality from God's point of view, or do I just want to argue with Him? And you know what? I just wanted to argue with Him. So, I just wanted to be done with this research program and quite frankly, I wanted to wash my hands of these Christian neighbors.

And so, I pretty much tried to break up with Ken and Floy. I said, "Okay, we're done with each other. I'm not going to write this book. I don't like it. I don't want to talk about it and I don't want to read the Bible anymore, because it's one thing when I'm just squaring off with this book, the Bible, but it's another when it's getting under my skin. So, I'm done." And guess what Ken and Floy did? They didn't let go of me.

Jim: Hm, you were hoping they would.

Rosaria: Oh, my goodness, I was writin' the "Dear John" letter.

Jim: (Laughing) Right.

Rosaria: Ken looked at me and he said, "I can only imagine how hard this is." He said, "But if you trust me, please keep reading and please keep meeting with us." And the only reason that I did was because Ken was my friend.

Jim: Wow. That is powerful and it's one of our great failures today actually. Romans 2:4, "Don't you know it's God's kindness that leads one to repentance."

Rosaria: And Mark 10:28 to 31, this is where Peter says to Jesus, "'See, we have left everything and followed You.' And Jesus said, 'Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundred fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and in the age to come, eternal life.'"

This verse tells you that when you share the gospel, I don't mean just in words, I mean in deed, like Ken Smith did, with your neighbors who identify as gay or lesbian, they will receive a hundred fold. This is not talking about spiritual gifts. This is not and then, you and Jesus are gonna ride happily into the sunset and it's all gonna be good. This is about family of God interrupting a potential life of daunting and dangerous loneliness because it's promised here in the Bible. Your neighbors who identify as LGBT, who come to Christ are now going to be refugees from a community that understands hospitality in ways that put Christians to shame.

The LBGT community, those homes are open every night for food, fellowship, standing between you and suicide. I've been saying lately that the gospel has to come with a house key. Every Christian house has to be ready to receive refugees. If not, you're preaching half the gospel, brother.

Jim: And I'll tell you what. That's hard work.

Rosaria: That's hard. That's hard, but you see, if your words are stronger than your relationship, they're going to ring as hate in a world that doesn't understand a deep and abiding Christian value. Ken Smith taught it to me 17 years ago when I was a gay activist. He sat me down. He said, "Rosaria, here's what you don't understand. In a biblical world and life view, what is true determines what is desirable and what is ethical. You're saying it in reverse and you'll never find God's blessing there."

And here's the thing. The gospel isn't negligible. You know, one of the things that I really struggled with when I finally broke up with my girlfriend, I understood why I was sinning, but I looked at all these other lesbian couples and they looked so happy and their households looked so good. And part of me really felt, you know, maybe sin is okay for some people. You know, why are my lesbian neighbors the nicest people on the block? You know, some people wear sin a lot better than others.

And you know, I just prayed to God that He would allow me to come face to face with His Word on this, because I didn't understand, where I could see my sin as sin and their sin as acceptable. And I think that's where some of our teenagers are.

Jim: Hm.

Rosaria: You know, many of our believing teenagers, they're faithful, they're good covenant children, but it feels wrong to them to apply what they know about themselves to those friends who don't yet know the gospel.

Jim: Well, and they're in a spot where they're feeling inadequate.

Rosaria: And they're feeling in adequate and I think what we need to remember it's exactly in that moment that we need to remember that the moment that we think God's Word discriminates against some people, we're in danger.

You know, Romans 1 says something. It says a number of very powerful things, but one of the things that really hit me to the core was this idea that, if you can't get a blessing from God, you will demand it from men.

Jim: Huh.

Rosaria: And you know what? That's what we see with this proliferation of alphabet soup. And what do we see with the government overacting, constantly overacting? We see that idea in Romans 1 being played out. I can't get a blessing from God and I am desperate to get it from man. So, I need more civil rights. I need more rights. I need more privileges. And then, this party needs more rights and these privileges. And it will not end until Christians stand and in their barbecues and in their library studies and even scarily, at their gender sensitivity training workshops say, "I'm sorry; but that's not how I see this. I think that being born male and female comes with ethical and moral responsibilities and restraints and that that's God's goodness to us." And guess what? You might get fired.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Rosaria: And we all might be arrested, probably sooner rather than later.

Jim: Think of that.

Rosaria: But to God give the glory and this is how often through persecution is how the gospel travels with power.

Jim: Yeah, very well-said. Rosaria, you know what? I just so appreciate how you've grounded this entire discussion in the Word, coming back to it, referencing the various Scriptures that buttress your comments. Society is shifting and it's changing so fast, it's frightening. It's unsettling. It's just changing the way we see things. And the fact is, you've shared today that God's Word has not changed and it's not going to change.

It's like the definition of marriage. What I have said in my interviews on this regard with my book, Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman, they can redefine it at a government level, at a cultural level, but it doesn't change the truth of God's Word. It simply defines it for a community that doesn't know the Word of God.

Rosaria: Yeah, that's right, but one thing it does do, gay marriage puts the gospel on a collision course with the new civil rights category.

Jim: Right and in that collision, we're gonna have casualties.

Rosaria: You got it.

Jim: And unfortunately right now, it could very well be the Christian community.

Rosaria: Right, but it's so important, therefore, for the Evangelical church, for us to come together in unity as Bible-believing Christians--

Jim: And know the Word, because we are not to render unto Caesar what he hasn't asked for.

Jim: Yeah, so well-said again. So, thank you for being with us last time and today. This has been a terrific conversation. I look forward to the next time we're together.

Rosaria: Yes, me, too. Thank you for that.

Jim: Thanks for being with us.

Rosaria: Lord bless you.


John: Well, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield has been our guest for the past couple of days on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. And she's an author and speaker who describes her own journey and how God stepped into her life and changed everything in dramatic ways.

Jim: Much of Rosaria's story is documented in her book, Openness Unhindered . And I want to recommend you order a copy from us right away. This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to better understand what the Bible teaches, about who we are, who we're attracted to and whether or not it's possible to be a gay Christian.

John: And you can get your copy of Openness Unhindered, along with a CD or a download of our conversation at or call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you get the CD or download, please know that there's going to be more content there than we could bring to you these past couple of days of programs.

Jim: Well, we know from our research that many families have been helped and encouraged by what Focus on the Family does every day, through our radio programs, websites, counseling and other resources and tools. If we've helped you in the past, please let us know and consider how you can pay it forward by giving other families the opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in their faith.

We need your financial support. There's no other way to say it. In the coming year, we expect to hear from literally hundreds of thousands of people in difficulty in their marriages, their parenting and single adults who are looking for godly truth and hope in the days ahead for them.

Your donation will help us respond and if you can send a gift of any amount today, I will gladly send you a complimentary copy of Rosaria's great book, Openness Unhindered and that will be our way of saying thank you for your faithful support.

John: And you can donate at or when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Now when you're at the website, look for the link to our previous program with Dr. Butterfield, where she shared her amazing conversation story. That story is called "Accepting My True Identity in Christ." Now coming up next time on "Focus on the Family," understanding the power and importance of kindness.


Mrs. Shaunti Feldhahn: And honestly, I think that in most cases, most of us want to be kind to others. The problem, at least what I found in the research, the problem is that most of us have no idea all day long how often we are unkind and we never realize it.

End of Excerpt

John: That's Shaunti Feldhahn and she's gonna invite you to take a 30-day kindness challenge and you can learn more about that next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

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Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English and women's studies at Syracuse University. She became a Christian in 1999, describing her life prior to that as a "train wreck." Her memoir, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, describes that difficult journey. Rosaria has taught and ministered at Geneva College and is now a homeschooling mother, a pastor's wife, a part-time author and an occasional public speaker. Learn more about Rosaria by visiting her website,