Compassion without Compromise

Karen Booth


By Karen Booth –

Many books have been published that deal with sexual sanctification and with the specific issue of homosexuality. They run the gamut from scholarly theological treatises to first person accounts of grace-filled transformation to practical suggestions on how individual Christians and local congregations should respond. But seldom has a book combined all of these topics in such a winsome way as Adam Barr and Ron Citlau’s Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Baker Publishing Group, 2014).

This book is not intended to offer strategies for engaging in political, cultural or ecclesiastical battles, and it probably will not appeal to or sway the moral revisionists among us. Instead, it aims to reach those who already hold to a traditional sexual ethic, to equip them to share their views with clarity and conviction, and to encourage them to interact faithfully – with both friends and foes – in a rapidly changing world. As Barr and Citlau ask, “How can we be a compassionate, uncompromising witness in a culture that celebrates what the Bible censors?” In response, they hope to provide an “accessible resource” with clear biblical teaching, answers to tough questions and personal stories. The book delivers on all four objectives.

Compassion Without Compromise is exceptionally accessible. It is written in a conversational style that is easy to read, with moving personal accounts and just enough cultural references and popular language to keep younger people engaged. Complex biblical, theological and cultural concepts are explained in simple, understandable terms. The chapters build upon each other, flowing logically from “theory” to “practice” and ending with a memorable “conclusion” and “take away.” In addition, Barr and Citlau provide a wealth of free online resources to help readers get as much as they can out of the book, including thought provoking videos for each chapter and a 26 page discussion guide. (See

Another major strength is the book’s solid biblical instruction. For example, the first chapter “Something Beautiful” begins with God’s created design for human sexuality as revealed in Genesis 1 and 2. This fundamental concept is often neglected in the Church in favor of focusing on the more prohibitive passages in the Old and New Testaments. By shifting attention back to what the “inventor” of sex intends Barr and Citlau make a very persuasive argument for the complementary nature of the male/female “one flesh” union:

“The helper would need to be like Adam but different from him. In some miraculous way that we never would have imagined, God wanted a same-but-different kind of creature to be Adam’s companion. They would have to share an essential bond, not like two peas in a pod, but more complementary, like a lock and key, biceps and triceps, or a left pedal and right pedal . . . you get the picture.”

This key teaching is further expanded in “Not the Same,” when heterosexual and homosexual unions are compared and contrasted:

“God’s intent is for two very different human beings, a man and a woman, to come together and consummate their love in the sexual act. The two come together and become literally ‘one flesh.’ This beautiful intimacy of two ‘others’ coming together mirrors, faintly, Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. This complementarity is at the basis of sexual union and it is good.”

The authors contend that men and women glorify God when they choose to live inside this original design or moral “reality.” (This can also include a God-honoring single life if marriage does not occur.) But because some choose to “reject the wisdom of their Creator” and live outside this design, “Not the Same” also discusses the gravity and consequences of sexual sin. Several Scripture passages from 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1 that specifically deal with same-sex desire and behavior are used to bolster these arguments.

The moral revisionist claim that “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality” is thoroughly debunked in “Jesus Is My Homeboy.” If one embraces a Trinitarian faith, then Jesus was “speaking” through the words of the other Old and New Testament writers. As Barr and Citlau observe:

“While ‘red letter’ Bibles make it easier to identify the words Jesus preached on the shores of Galilee, they can obscure an important reality: Jesus inspired every word of Scripture! In an ultimate sense, every letter of our Bibles could be red. There is no two-tiered Bible or canon within a canon. Scripture reveals God’s thoughts with consistency and coherence.”

They also remind readers that when Jesus addressed sexual sin of any kind he always referred back to God’s original design in Genesis 1 and 2. And though he inclusively welcomed people into his fellowship – and hence into the Kingdom of God – it was always with an expectation of true repentance, death to sin and self, and an even higher moral requirement than that of the Pharisees. The book’s biblical section ends with “Ban All Shrimp,” which helps readers to maturely discern what Old Testament passages are still relevant today, particularly those in the Leviticus “Holiness Code.”

The book’s third area of strength is in asking and answering some very hard questions. Some of them are based on the authors’ own concerns. “Two Faced,” for example, addresses the moral hypocrisy rampant in the Church, which calls its integrity into question and hinders its public witness. Barr and Citlau suggest that believers could gain a better hearing among skeptics if they would humbly acknowledge their own need for ongoing sexual sanctification. Likewise, believers are challenged in “Perception and Reality” to admit the ways in which their “right pursuit of orthodoxy” has prevented them from loving their sexually confused, broken or sinful neighbors as Jesus would.

A variety of questions were also solicited from members of their local Reformed Church of America congregations. They have to do with negotiating family boundaries with a gay loved one, responding to activism in the workplace, and developing appropriate church policies in regard to sexual integrity, membership and leadership. (Additional questions and answers can be found on the web site.)

But the book’s most compelling contribution may be the personal testimony of Ron Citlau himself, a story of transformation that is interwoven throughout the entire book. Through faith in Jesus and submission to His Lordship, Citlau experienced victory over lifelong same-sex attractions and found contentment and fulfillment in marriage to his wife. As those with similar struggles begin to proclaim what Jesus has done for them, he believes that “the church will find that it does have a voice in the public square.”

Karen Booth is a United Methodist clergyperson and the executive director of Transforming Congregations – a program of Good News.



  1. Poor Ron Citlau! Another victim,no doubt, of one of those horrible and harmful therapies that force homosexuals to become heterosexuals.

    No, Ron Citlau is yet another one of those “rare” people Bible revisionists don’t like to talk about who has been transformed by the sanctifying love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Just like the man who about 37 years ago was most instrumental in leading me to salvation in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for His truth that sets free and for His transforming grace.

    Ron’s story alone probably makes this book worth getting, because we need to hear and share more stories like his of the transforming love and grace of God in the lives of repentant and former homosexuals. ” Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11).

    However “Compassion without Compromise” also sounds informative, practical and helpful, with a good emphasis on the authority of the whole of Scripture, transformation by the power of love and the grace of God through repentance and faith, and the importance of our witness in matters of sexual purity as in all things.

    As a reformed “bookaholic”, it’s been many years since I bought any book besides a new Bible. But this really sounds like one worth getting.

  2. David Flagel says

    Thanks, Karen, for introducing us to Compassion Without Compromise. I can’t wait to purchase a copy for myself. As our culture dives headlong into deeper and deeper perversion we who follow Christ must equip ourselves to convey a faithful witness to His compassion and truth. Sounds like this book will help us do just that. Blessings in Christ, David Flagel

  3. Doug Rettig says

    Dear Ms. Booth, Read your review of Compassion without Compromise, which sounds like it maybe a helpful book. But what seems to be missing is the meaning of Mt. 19:4-6 for disciples. There was no mention of these word of Jesus in your review, so I wonder if the book deal with these words. Jesus calls us to follow Him. When He teaches about marriage, disciples are to follow Him. We are to follow all the teaching of Jesus. If we do not follow Him, do not obey His call, them we are not Christian disciples. We are interested in following another. The Church today is being asked to follow the world\’s redefinition of marriage, two persons. That is the redefinition that the Presbyterian Church USA just announced. They are no longer following the Jesus of Mt. 19:4-6. Either we follow the teaching of Jesus, or we do not. If we do not, we jeopardize our discipleship, our Christian calling. Reminding Christians again and again of what\’s at stake, is compassion. Anything else the Church might suggest to Christians is at best cheap grace. And please note, Mt. 19:4-6 is not my opinion! It has always been a challenge to Christian disciples. Grace and Peace, Doug Rettig; Seymour, IL 61875

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