Stay on Message
Linda Italiano has a message for Christians who insist that homosexuality is a sin: Don't stop speaking the truth.
In a culture that celebrates same-sex attraction and increasingly seeks to silence dissenting voices, Italiano says people need to hear the gospel now more than ever. After living a lesbian lifestyle for more than 30 years, Italiano became a born-again Christian last year. And she says her pastor's willingness to speak the truth in love helped her find a new life in Christ.
"I give thanks daily that I did not walk into a so-called inclusive church, or one where the pastor was hesitant to give his or her stance on homosexuality," says Italiano. "I needed to hear the truth."
The 53-year-old woman attended Life Church Assembly of God in Williamstown, New Jersey, for several months before she worked up the courage to approach Lead Pastor Jamie Morgan and ask her about the Bible's teaching on homosexuality.
"I had it in my mind that lesbianism was going to be the deal breaker," Italiano says. "I thought that if the church wasn't going to condone it, I would leave."
Italiano didn't get the answer she wanted. The pastor pointed her to the Bible and explained that homosexuality is a sin -- and that all sins separate people from God.
"Once I received the truth about what God and the Bible have to say about homosexuality, I immediately asked Pastor Jamie what I should do," Italiano says. "She talked to me about salvation and let me know that God's power is more than enough for the sin of homosexuality and any other sin."
Italiano didn't walk away as she had intended. The message of grace and forgiveness resonated deeply. Italiano says she knew her life up to that point had not honored God.
As a teenager, Italiano started drinking soon after her brother died in a car accident. She quickly became an alcoholic and often drank until she blacked out. During this binge-drinking period, she met a woman in a bar and had her first lesbian encounter.
Italiano eventually managed to stop drinking, but she sensed a void in her life. She believed a lesbian relationship was the answer, and she set out to find a woman who would make her feel whole.
Yet years of living her way and pursuing lustful desires left Italiano feeling empty, unfulfilled, and ashamed. Confronted with the gospel, she says she finally understood that the relationship she needed was available only in Christ.
"Linda realized she needed to adjust to God and not the other way around," Morgan says. "When she came to Christ, she laid everything down to follow Him. She didn't hold onto her sin, but responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repented of it, and He lifted it from her."
Since that day in early 2014, Morgan says Italiano has grown dramatically in her understanding of Scripture and her maturity as a follower of Jesus. And she exudes a newfound sense of purpose that others can't help but notice. She even started playing the piano -- an instrument she hadn't practiced since her teen years -- and now plays keyboard on the church worship team.
Italiano says she watched with sadness in June as many people celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Yet she says popular opinion on this issue shouldn't deter Christians from proclaiming God's Word and pointing to His power to transform lives.
"It is so crucial that the Church take a bold approach and not be silent," says Italiano, who has blogged about her newfound convictions. "This issue needs to be addressed by every pulpit in every church. Failure to do so equals agreement with the enemy. It's all about souls."
"Linda had been searching for truth her entire life, and when she found it, even though initially it was what she didn't want to hear, she adjusted her life to it," Morgan says. "Truth means everything to Linda because she lived a lie for most of her adult life. Her life is an example of John 8:31,32 -- that if you hold to the truth, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Pictured: Pastor Jaime Morgan (left) chats with Linda Italiano.