“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke- Letters to a Young Poet
We all at some point live out the questions of our lives. We hold to things in earnest that we believe to be true, even when we don’t have it figured out yet.
I’ve shared on this blog about navigating the question of what it means in my journey to be gay and Christian.
What does it mean for the trajectory of my life and more specifically my bodily stewardship?
My goal with this post is to unpack two very different sides of a reality that faces every gay Christian and the Church (big C) as a whole.
The hope is that there will be both clarity and empathy. Empathy for you the reader and for those you may know who may be gay and Christian.
For me also – I need to revisit these things for the sake of my continued growth and desire to remain in a posture of openness and humility before God. I do not claim to have what I am about to share figured out.
This examination is not exhaustive.
There are a ton of resources that are. I will share a few that have informed me along the way at the end of this post.
I will tackle four things for both sides.
Thank you in advance for your time.
Before I begin I want to say that people on both sides love Jesus.
People on both sides live their lives for Him and seek for themselves what it might look like to be His disciple.
People on both sides also deeply value the prominence of Scripture and Church tradition.
Too often it is easy to look at another Christian and say unequivocally that they are doing it “wrong” and I/we are doing it “right”.
That is arrogant and 40+ thousand Christian denominations would seem to dismantle that line of thinking.
I want to stop here to thank two individuals who I will not name but who have begun the stirring in my heart to write this post. One friend who called me from Israel; who in their own words have been avidly reading each of my posts as I unfolded my journey yet was still left with a ton of questions. As we talked across the ocean and I began to explain in greater detail my own journey, it occurred to me that I should write about these things and the idea for this particular blog post emerged.
Another friend is writing a screenplay that has a gay character who is Christian and she needed insight into what the main characters inner life might entail.
We had dinner together recently and I was able to go a bit more in-depth as she probed the different facets of my lifescape that surfaced after each question.
So to you two lovely ladies. Thank you 🙂
Let us begin.
Individual Experience: Side B
Homosexuality is one of the many consequences of the fall- of the entrance of sin into the world due to our first parents disobedience to God.
It is inherently sinful and not in accordance with God’s design. Yet God redeems even this by the life, death, resurrection and intercession of His Son Jesus Christ. The Christian who is gay/ experiences same-sex attraction can enter into Christ as Christ enters into them and they can partake of a life devoted to and subsumed in Christ. The temptations and desires of same-sex orientation remain but Christ is better, sweeter and enduring.
Those temptations and desires must never be acted upon and strength is given by God to the individual to live on- even in the presence of an ongoing ‘struggle’ and or resistance to the prevailing desires that they find within themselves.
This by default means for some (not all- there are exceptions like those who may enter into a marriage with the opposite gender ) a life devoted to celibacy and not only celibacy -but chastity in mind and behavior.
To go against this by seeking a partner of the same sex would violate the complimentary (anatomical and procreative) essence of opposite gender unions established by God.
This life of singleness is by no means fruitless or unattainable, it is life giving.
Life is devoted to the service of humanity, the Church, to deep investments in friendships and families that are unparalleled to what most heterosexual married individuals have the capacity, time, and resources for.
It is a life of constant dependency on God.
It is a life with a “thorn in the flesh” that constantly drives one to their knees seeking the face of God for grace and strength for that day.
Where in the words of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said of his trials and temptations
“I have learned to kiss the Wave that tosses me against the Rock of Ages”
It is a life where the call to deny oneself, to take up the cross of Jesus, and to lose one’s life seem especially palpable. (Matthew 16:24, Matthew 10:39)
It is a life that points to the World to Come – the New Cosmos -where there won’t be marriage or sexuality at all but full and complete union with God (Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – where elements of that future complete and full union can be experienced on this side of eternity.
Church/ Parish Life: Side B
It means creating an atmosphere of true pastoral and communal care for the gay individual. Where the single life is honored and not belittled; but rather esteemed and nurtured. Where deep friendships can be forged and celebrated. Where there is safe space and a call not to “heterosexuality” but to “holiness”
A desire to walk alongside and truly love, not to “change” or “fix”.
Homophobia doesn’t exist.
Reparative therapy doesn’t exist (this is extremely dangerous by the way)
Lack of time for hearing the gay individuals story, or giving the gay individual a hug, or wiping their tears – don’t exist.
Phone calls, meals, “doing life alongside” the individual is the norm.
Space is created for people to be welcome who may not yet believe in Christ to examine what it might mean to follow Him and devote themselves to celibacy for His sake. Because again- Jesus is sweeter- and He’s worth it and perhaps the Spirit of God might move on that non-believing gay individuals heart to perceive and grasp such a life for themselves.
A place where the gay person has multiple outlets for service.
Where they can be visible – and in some cases even enter into (or remain in ) leadership.
Long term provision is made for the support of the celibate gay individual to adequately account for the pressing questions:
What happens when celibate persons age?
Will there be a place for them in the church: for love and support and vibrant community in the face of possible loneliness while others within the church community are busy with their marriages, families, and the general ebb and flow of life.
Scriptures Reflection: Side B (English Standard Version)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
These laws are for the sexual ethic regarding what must not be done by men in relation to sex. This sexual ethic is something that is also seen to carry over into the sexual ethic of the New Testament and considered part of “Sexual Immorality” which is to be avoided and is condemned and even believed to be echoed by Paul in portions of his letters as certain words seem to reappear in the Greek for both Old (Septuagint) and New testament passages.
24 Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural
relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
This passage shows that same-sex sexual acts are unnatural and are a sign of rebellion and dishonor to God and is the clearest condemnation of what must not be done. It is a reversal and underpinning of the created order and a form of worship that finds it’s adoration in the creation rather than in God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Timothy 1:9-10
9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
Homosexual practice is condemned along with other sins and can prevent one from inheriting God’s reign in the New Cosmos. Yet those who hold on to Christ despite having these desires (and not acting on them) find themselves in this present life – washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ – by the Spirit of God- as stated by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians above.
Church History: Side B
The Church has never affirmed same-sex sexual behavior- in or outside of “committed-unions” /marriage”
Tradition as expressed through scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers have always viewed same-sex sexual behavior negatively. Both scripture and church history consistently condemn any expression of same-sex sexual behavior.
Whew, that quite of bit of info.
Still tracking with me? Need a break?
Go get some water.
Better yet, go get some mint lemonade!
Don’t have mint lemonade?
You can make it!
Just get individual peppermint leaves and let them sit in lemonade for 72 hours chilled and enjoy!
Go ahead I’ll wait.
Now let’s look at all four things:
Church History from the other side…..
HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDDDEEDEEE…
Y’all I bought Adele’s album when it first came out and have literally listened to it almost every day until now- that album gives me life! Sweetest Devotion! Remedy! A Million Years Ago!
Child just listen to it and belt out all of your heart stuff- from the floor of your being
Just belt it out and sing with that heavenly voice from on high – or from the United Kingdom
Ok. I’m sitting back down. Placing this Mac Book Air back on the table here at Starbucks and breathing deeply…
Ok. I’m ready.
Sure you are. You cutie you.
Individual Experience: Side A
Homosexuality – Same-sex orientation is a part of the individual that is not inherently sinful. For many, it is simply a part of their relational make up that is as natural and as God given as a straight individuals heterosexuality.
God made the person this way.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
The person is whole.
There is nothing wrong or lacking.
Fearfully and wonderfully made. Unique from the majority of the population yes, but not less.
Certainly not other.
They are to be themselves. Not resist, denounce, or regret any part of who they are.
A celebration of and appreciation for the uniqueness of their individual person is to be embraced.
It is a given.
Just as the heterosexual person would strive to be their best self and celebrate themselves – the gay person does the same.
Equality can’t be overstated.
Relational capacity and companionship is sought for also.
Again equality can’t be overstated.
There is a freedom with pursuing a person of the same gender for companionship and mutual commitment just as a heterosexual would pursue someone of the opposite gender.
Church/Parish Life: Side A
This is a place of full inclusion and celebration of the gay individual. A place of affirmation of both their nature and their desire to either pursue and or remain in their same sex unions/marriages
A place of full inclusion in regards to participation in the sacraments (especially the sacrament of marriage ) as well as leadership should the person prove fit for such a call.
A place where a non-believing individual from the LGBTQ community who is gay can come and follow Christ without renouncing/ struggling against their relational inclination.
Where they can seek the companionship of their same gender and or remain in those relationships. While forsaking any harmful things in their life as they devote themselves to the love of Christ and their neighbor, community, humanity, and Church.
Self-denial, cross bearing, and losing one’s life for the sake of Christ (Matthew 16:24, Matthew 10:39) is equally palatable as well.
Their life is given to the relinquishment of self-pursuit. With this relinquishment comes a desire to serve alongside God’s reign in the New Cosmos as it enters into this reality.
There isn’t a struggle against their nature or forsaking of the hope of a consummate same gender partner in pursuit of the Kingdom work.
The same way a heterosexual individual in the Church would not relinquish their heterosexuality (as if that were possible) or opposite gender partners for the same Kingdom work.
Scriptural Reflection: Side A
For the sake of space, I will reference the same scriptures above but not type them out.
I will only reference their location and a general consensus of reflection.
Also, as a special note, I want to mention that I won’t address the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and or Gibeah ( Genesis 19 /Judges 19) on this blog post because…
It’s about gang rape…
Nobody got time for that.
Ok, let us proceed.
Leviticus 18:22 / Leviticus 20:13
These passages are generally seen as not binding on the Christian individual just as other prohibitions such as food restrictions, mixed fabrics, etc are no longer binding. (Romans 10:4)
Also- this passage is interpreted as guarding male honor as to not treat a man like a woman (a deep concern within ancient near eastern patriarchy) to guard against impurity, and cultic prostitution; things that the nations surrounding Israel partook in and that the Mosaic Law was given by God to distinguish Israel from her neighbors.
The thought here is that Paul is condemning idolatry and lust. That Paul does not have in view an individual with a persistent sexual orientation towards the same gender.
Much less someone who is pursuing or who is in a committed – monogamous union.
Also, of special note is that the individuals described in this passage are giving up what is natural to them in pursuit of something else.
The man giving up the use of the woman in this passage- pursues another man.
The thought goes something like this: if the persons in this passage were, in fact, gay- (persistent- static/fixed sexual orientation towards the same gender) they would not be ‘giving up’ what was “natural/innate” to them. On the contrary, the gay individual would be giving up the same gender for the opposite gender.
This passage thus appears to be speaking of men who we today would consider heterosexual who for the sake of excessive, self-seeking lust, and idolatry have given themselves over to another form of sexual conquest- sex with other men.
Again- nothing in this passage speaks of the concept of a fixed sexual orientation, nor a committed monogamous same-sex union.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 / 1 Timothy 1:9-10
These passages are understood to have in view practices that are relative to the historical and cultural context of Pauls day.
These “softies” and “man-bedders” are thought to be Catamites, and or participants in Temple Prostitution.
Same Gender Orientation was not an ancient norm – nowhere as pervasive as today and the idea is that those seeking to commit to another of the same sex in union/fidelity and monogamy were not in view in these passages.
Also, unfortunately, our English word “homosexual” is used in many bible translations as a blanket- one-word term for what is found in the greek as two distinct words which as mentioned above roughly translate to “softies” and “man bedders” which again would have been understood by Paul’s audience to the societal norm of acts of pederasty and prostitution.
Other passages that are important for Side A individuals are of note.
Genesis 2:18 is referenced in regards to the idea that we are not meant to be alone.
1 Corinthians 7:9 is referenced in regards to the disciplining of the passions through a commitment to one individual.
Jesus (Matthew 19:12) and Pauls reference (1 Corinthians 7:7) to celibacy are seen as God-given gifts and not mandates.
Psalms 139 is a clear picture of the beauty of God’s creation of the individual and the idea here is a celebration of someone who is fearfully, wonderfully and intentionally made. Of special note here – this would apply to anyone in the LGBTQI spectrum – those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex- etc are wonderfully created by God and fine just as they are. Something that (in the perception of some) many in the Church rather consciously or unconsciously try to dismiss.
Also in the same vein of birth- and intentionality in God’s work – there is a special emphasis on one’s shared reformation in Christ.
The individual is new- in some strange and unique way even on this side of eternity and thus – those Christians in the LGBTQ + community who are Side A (just as those who are Side B) hold on to the passages that affirm this also ( 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 3:28)
Christians within the LGBTQ community partake in the themes of scripture that speak of unnatural, unexpected, radical inclusion.
Wild olive branches being grafted contrary to nature. (Romans 11:17)
A full embrace of non-Jews into the household of God without the marks of circumcision as a requirement. (Acts 10:34-35)
The grace of God breathed freely and unconditionally on all.
The disarming of this world with unprecedented renewal as the New Cosmos enters in.
Giving glimpses of the 1st century in scripture at the embrace of the Gentiles by God within the agency and merit of His Messiah, to a forward look ahead to the present and future of an unexpected place within the Body of Christ for same-sex oriented and gender identity minorities.
Matthew 22:36-40, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, and 1 Timothy 1:5 are all seen to be the culmination of and expectation from God on all individuals, including those within the LGBTQ + spectrum, and same-sex committed unions are not seen to be in violation of any of the aforementioned scriptures.
Finally (again everything I have written in this blog post are by no means exhaustive but rather a broad overview that will hopefully open a door for the readers own personal study ) all references to Christ’s atoning work and intercession – as well as the redemption and sanctification of His followers are understood to include the LGBTQ+ individual as well – without exception. (John 10:27, Romans 8:26-30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc)
Church History: Side A
Many acknowledge the negative references in scripture to same-sex sexual behavior. Many also recognize the church history as having never been approving of same-sex sexual expression and specifically of same-sex unions.
Yet there is equally an acknowledgment that in the creedal formation of the Church there aren’t mentions of gender complementarity, nor of marriage specifically: Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed and other ecumenical creeds.
The appeal of most who are Side A would be to the moral logic found in the whole of scripture.
Of a greater ethic of empathy and inclusion as witnessed in biblical principles found throughout scripture.
*It is beyond my bandwidth and capacity to get into the arch of moral logic that is appealed to by many who are Side A at this point but I will list resources below. *
There is one thing I will mention however and that is a view of Church History where there have been changes in stance on things like the centrality of the earth in the solar system, of women’s role in leadership, and of slavery.
On that last point, it should be of special note that many anti-abolitionist accused the abolitionist of trying to subvert /overturn the clear teaching of scripture in support of the freedom of slaves when the bible so clearly (in both in Old and New testaments made provision for at least some forms of slavery; albeit the New Testament clearly demands of slave owners to be humane to their slaves)
Abolitionist appealed to moral logic found within scripture to make their case: justice, the image of God, etc)
The line of thought then progresses for an appeal of the Church to reexamine her stance on the issue of greater inclusion and affirmation on the issue SSM (same-sex marriage).
This was a lot. Here we must find an end.
It was so important for me to get this out of my mind and into digital form and I thank you for your patience and time spent reading. Below are some resources for further study.
Grace and Peace…
PS – I almost forgot!
from my Church’s Lead Pastor where he talked at length about this issue and he stated
“If you are struggling with your same sex attraction or if you are determined to embrace it, know that we are always going to preach the truth here but this is a home for you if you will have it”
I was so happy when I heard that! I missed it the first time around (that’s why it’s so important to revisit sermons people!) So by God’s grace I’m going to stay and I’m so excited about that. My church home is amazing and I don’t want to leave just because I’m changing. I’m just trying to be honest and authentic in each step of my journey and Christ is and will always (by God’s grace alone ) be my goal. I’m excited to see where that takes me in whatever may be ahead. Pray for me 🙂
SIDE B Reading
Bible Gender Sexuality- Reframing the Churches Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V Brownson (my favorite)
God and the Gay Christian- The Biblical Case for Same Sex Relationships -by Matthew Vines
Misty Irons -GCN Conference -General Session 2
Misty Irons is a straight ally for the LGBT community- and is also a Reformed Conservative who is Side B- in this session, she speaks about a possible future for the Conservative Evangelical movement and received a standing ovation at the 2016 GCN Conference