A contestant on the Maltese version of the popular singing competition “X-Factor” has been criticized for revealing that he abandoned his homosexual lifestyle in pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Matthew Grech, a singer and vocal coach, said he used to be heavily involved in the “gay lifestyle,” before he “found God.”
“For a long time, I stopped following my passions to follow Jesus. There can be love between two men and two women, yes — but only friendship love. Everything else is a sin,” Grech said before his audition, according to the Malta Independent.
The clip has since been removed from the show’s Facebook and YouTube accounts following backlash from viewers. Much of the outrage seems to have stemmed from the fact that Grech is reported to be part of a group called “River of Love,” which is alleged to employ the use of “Gay Conversion Therapy” — a highly controversial method of attempting to rid people of homosexual tendencies.
“X-Factor” producers released a statement in which they assured the public that no part of Grech’s audition was intended “to cause offense, … nor were the views expressed those of the producers of the program.”
But the apology didn’t do much for those outraged by the segment. Councillor Alex Mangion, who identifies as transgender, called it “disgusting” that a national broadcaster would allow “certain disclaimers which are anti LGBTIQ to be given any air time at all.”
Grech has posted several videos of himself covering popular worship songs:
Even the government weighed in on the “X-Factor” controversy, releasing a statement in which it vehemently condemned any “homophobic” comments made during the show.
“Sexual orientation is not a lifestyle,” the statement claims, noting that any youths who are trying to figure out their sexuality should seek support and guidance.
“LGBTIQ people do not need any cure or forgiveness… ,” the government added. “Sexual orientation is not a lifestyle but is present in all people and manifests itself in affectionate and sexual attraction.”
Pastor Gordon-John Manche, the founder of River of Love, took a very different view, declaring that this was a clear-cut case of “hypocrisy made in Malta.”
What are Christians to make of this?
In a fascinating column published at Faithwire earlier this year, speaker, writer and former lesbian Emily Thomes discussed at length her experiences with “conversion therapy” and its adverse effects on mental and spiritual health. Her insight is balanced, honest and deeply personal.
From her column:
“Reparative or conversion therapy refers to counseling or psychotherapy that attempts to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for members of their own sex. The American Psychological Association states that “such efforts have serious potential to harm young people” because “they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.” In his article, “What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy”, Heath Lambert, the Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, states, “…we should reject it as an approach to change” because it “misunderstands the problems homosexuals confront, misunderstands the goals they should pursue, and misunderstands the need to lay hold of God’s grace in Christ through repentant faith.”
It seems both believers and unbelievers are in agreement that this is a practice that should be rejected. The methods used in conversion therapy range from basic behavioral modification, psychoanalysis (“therapeutic” techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind), and even sex therapy.
I cringed as I studied the subject further for the sake of this article. In my early teens growing up in one of Texas’s smallest towns, I had a season of trying really hard to suppress my feelings and pretend they weren’t there out of fear for how my family and friends would respond. I chose not to deal with my desires and it made me absolutely miserable. It was after years of remaining silent that finally, at the ripe old age of fifteen, I opened up about my feelings and embraced them as my “truest self.” In contrast to my earlier attempts, I felt liberated and was thrilled to no longer attempt to make my behavior one way externally while my heart raced towards the exact opposite.
Devoid of the grace, love, and hope found in Christ, there is no reason to believe that any of these approaches would help anyone at all. In fact, it makes sense that they would only lead to severe depression and self-loathing. In my video, I stated that I looked at Scripture, believed what it said for the first time, and repented of my sins (practicing homosexuality, drunkenness, and others – see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
There was no therapy. The Bible study I attended was about the attributes of God, and not homosexuality. When I went to this study, as I mentioned in the video, I expected them to bring up my lifestyle immediately, and that I would then use that as an excuse to stop attending; but they never did. They shared with me their love for God and His work in their own lives. The Spirit and His Word took it from there.”
Thomes further notes that “identifying a person by one’s sexual desires, whether sinful or godly, is an unhelpful and unbiblical way for believers to discuss these matters altogether.” As Thomes found out for herself, we are so much more than our feelings and desires — we are individuals, uniquely made in the image of our creator God.
So what is someone to do if they are dealing with homosexual desires after giving their lives to Christ?
“Biblically, we have no reason to expect God to totally take away our want for sin upon being born again,” Thomes writes. “Can He remove your sinful desires? Of course! I believe at times that He does. We ought to be pleading with Him to do so, knowing that if His will is to remove it entirely, He’ll do it. Generally, though, that is not what we see in Scripture or what we should be relying on.”
Instead, Thomes explains what she believes to be a “biblical conversion,” — that is, a staggering transformation from the dark and enveloping cloud of sin and shame to the glorious light of freedom and forgiveness, which can only be found in Christ.
“This is biblical conversion: that we have our eyes opened to see our sin as sin and see Him as the good and worthy Creator; because of that new sight, we joyfully forsake our sin and turn to Him by grace through faith. Scripture tells us this happens to all people when they’re ‘born again’ (John 3, Ezekiel 36:26), regardless of the kind of life they lived before knowing Christ. We’re all living in unrepentant sin until that moment. We need God to intervene and create in us a desire to obey out of a right kind of ‘fear’ that comes from reverence and love for Him, not confusion or self-hate or any other reason that is not centered on Him. It isn’t always easy, but He is worthy.
So what does all of this mean for believers in Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction? According to what we see in scripture, it means that one must ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16) and ‘make no provision for the flesh’ (Romans 13:14). Those battling desires for the same sex must, like Jesus said, “deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow” Him (Luke 9:23).
The instructions given to Christians battling this sin are not different from those given to every other believer. All of us “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). We must now obey God rather than these desires.”
Read the full column here.