Category Archives: FAQs

Why Choose To Be Single?

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FAQs

In the past month or so, several people have asked why I made the decision to remain single in response to my same-sex attraction and given the fact that marriage to someone of the opposite sex is still a real and God-honoring possibility for those who experience ongoing SSA.

The Calvinist in me would say I didn’t choose singleness; singleness chose me. And that’s partly true. As I’ve mentioned before, I think God designed me in such a way that I can thrive as a single man. My personality, my hobbies, and my schedule all lend themselves to singleness, which is incredibly providential. At the same time, I’m intentional about singleness and doing it well. I’ve become more and more proactive about building relationships, serving people, and striving for sexual purity. So yeah, in some ways, singleness chose me — in other ways, I chose singleness. I continue to choose it every day.

Singleness in my teens

Being single in high school was easy. I was too busy with music and writing and church to think about dating. (Notice I didn’t mention studying!) Shortly after graduation, friends were getting hitched left and right. (This is Utah, where people marry young.) The marryin’ age was no longer in the future; it was now. I had to consider whether marriage was realistic for me, someone who continued to experience same-sex attraction.

On the night I “came out” to my parents, I told them I still wanted a wife and kids, despite being attracted to men. They told me it was a good and godly desire, which I was free to pursue. (Such a beautiful response, by the way.) Looking back, I think my desire for marriage was actually a desire for things I believed would accompany marriage: 1) the “healing” or diminishing of my same-sex attractions, and 2) achieving the American dream, which included starting a family. I didn’t desire marriage for what it was designed to be — a living expression of God’s faithfulness to his people — I only wanted the perks (real or imagined). By God’s grace, my priority at that time was to get a degree, which put thoughts of marriage on the back burner. Phew!

Singleness in my twenties

College and the start of my career bought me enough time to realize I was pretty good at being single (while being “out” to my parents and a small group of friends eased the pressure to date or get married). I’d racked up years of experience learning how to love God, serve people, and foster community without the help of a spouse. Or, to put it another way, I’d settled nicely into singleness.

Not that I “settled” for singleness. I don’t believe it’s something we settle for. Jesus told his disciples the single life is a high calling (Matthew 19:12), and Paul said it’s BETTER to remain single, especially when it comes to ministry (1 Corinthians 7:8). So I started seeing singleness the way God does. I started to notice all the ways singleness was a blessing, as it offered more time, opportunities, and even relationships than many of my married friends. Of course, there’s a learning curve in using these gifts to bless others and serve God rather than self, but my twenties gave me lots of time — and God gave me lots of grace — to figure it out.

Singleness in my thirties

By my thirtieth birthday, lifelong singleness had become a viable, even attractive, option. I was “out” to family, friends, my church, and the blogosphere, and pretty vocal about my intent to remain single for the sake of Christ. That’s when it started to feel deliberate or “vocational,” as some call it. That’s when it felt most like a decision. I’d also started to notice other Christians, such as those at Living Out, who chose to remain celibate in response to their same-sex attraction, which made the possibility far more appealing than the bleak picture of singleness painted by secular culture.

Being more open about SSA and singleness in my thirties has also meant facing more challenges and temptations. Saying “no” to a sexual relationship with a man was no longer a hypothetical situation; it was a reality. That is, I’ve experienced the pain of obedience, of practicing what I preach. I’ve also faced more “fiery darts” in my spiritual life than ever before, perhaps because I’m so public with my story. But openness has also meant more accountability, more community, more hope. I’ve connected with people all over the world. Being in fellowship with other single Christians has proven in real life what I’ve always known in my head: singleness really is “the happy alternative” to marriage.

Singleness in the future

Having never been married, I can’t say for sure, but I think I’m better suited to pursue holiness through singleness. But my “decision” (if we’re still calling it that) to remain single has always come with a caveat: God is full of surprises. I’m open to the idea of marrying a godly woman, but since I’m not actually pursuing marriage, it certainly would come as a surprise!

There’s something I love about the phrase “single on purpose.” Better yet, single with purpose. I’ve spent the past few years striving to be single in the best possible way — with Christ-centered intentionality, commitment, even passion. I think singleness is something we have to keep seeing afresh, making adjustments as we go. After all, being a single teen is a lot different than being a single forty-something (or octogenarian). Like marriage, it’s not going to be easy, but I truly believe it can be happy. Especially if we use the gift to honor God and point people to Jesus. When I’m doing that, I know I’m making the right — here comes that word again — decision.

Why Can’t You Just Be Gay?

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If anyone has a reason to search Scripture for an “out,” a way to be in a gay relationship and yet remain within the bounds of God’s will for sexuality, it’s me — the Christian who experiences ongoing same-sex attraction. Trust me, I’ve heard arguments from Matthew Vines, Justin Lee, and others who try to make a case for gay marriage in the Church. I’ve read books, watched debates, and had long talks with friends who urge me to pursue a sexual relationship with a man. I’ve listened to and reasoned through every attempt to justify gay marriage, but nothing has convinced me — the guy who, in theory, should be the easiest person to convince.

Why?

The simple answer is “Because God said so.” It’s true, only six verses in the Bible explicitly mention homosexual practice. All of them, of course, forbid it. The most quoted are Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1, which, admittedly, come with a fair share of controversy regarding civil and ceremonial laws, cultural context, and so forth. (Although it’s not as if theologians throughout time haven’t already explained why the ban on homosexual practice is different from the ban on shellfish or mixed fabrics.) These verses, complicated though they seem to some, are enough to prove to me that pursuing a gay romance would dishonor God. But let’s say I didn’t have those six verses. I still couldn’t “just be gay,” because there’s still the big picture of marriage in Scripture to consider. Which is good, because I’m a big picture kind of guy.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, marriage is a symbol for God and his people. God is always the bridegroom; his people are the bride. Jeremiah compares Israel to a bride devoted to her husband, the Lord (Jeremiah 2:2). Ezekiel portrays Israel as an unfaithful wife, while God remains the faithful husband (Ezekiel 16). Hosea’s marriage to his adulterous wife parallels the relationship between God and Israel throughout the Book of Hosea. In the New Testament, John the Baptist calls Jesus the bridegroom, whose bride, his followers, delights to hear his voice (John 3:29). Jesus calls himself the bridegroom, while the disciples represent his bride (Matthew 9:15). Clearest of all is Paul, who says the act of man and woman becoming one flesh “refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). God designed marriage between husband and wife, sexual complements, for a very specific purpose: to be a living picture of the gospel. This metaphor matters to God. And it matters to me, too.

If there’d been a huge paradigm shift on marriage and sex, it would’ve happened in early Church history, not the early 21st century. With something as important as sexual purity, Jesus and the New Testament writers would’ve made it 100 percent clear that the ban on homosexual practice had been repealed, the way God did for Peter regarding dietary restrictions, with a vision of formerly unclean animals and a voice from heaven saying “eat” (Acts 10:9-16). We don’t have that with marriage; we only have reconfirmation from Christ that marriage remains as he established it in the garden: a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). A beautiful picture of the truth of the gospel.

People might ask, “Why can’t two men or two women reflect that same truth?” Well, gender and biological sex are realities created by God, and he uses them in creation and within marriage for his purposes — both for the flourishing of mankind and to tell a story. If you’re looking for a why beyond the why, I can’t help you. To me, that’s like a child asking “Why?” after the parent has already explained— as if additional answers will ever satisfy. (If you’ve spent time with a toddler, you know what I mean.) But there is a WHO beyond the why, and I can tell you he’s good, wise, loving, and he withholds no good thing from those who walk in his ways (Psalm 84:11). This is the God I love, trust, and seek to obey. And I’m OK with the reason he’s given. That’s enough.

At the heart of this question is a plea for me to be happy, which I appreciate. It’s nice to know I have family and friends who desire my happiness. But what I need people to understand is that following Jesus REALLY DOES make me happy! It’s not the kind of happiness a sex-obsessed world expects; it’s the happiness that comes with being given a new heart and new desires. That includes obeying God’s commands for marriage and sexuality — those boundaries set for my joy and sanctification. Violating God’s Word (and my own conscience) actually works AGAINST my ultimate happiness. I have no doubt that a sexual relationship with a man would bring some temporary pleasures, but that’s not the kind of pleasure I’m looking for. I want the kind that lasts forever, which only comes through a relationship with my God (Psalm 16:11).

Yes, I’m still attracted to the same sex, and I imagine I always will be. But I choose to remain celibate and pursue a life of joyful singleness because I believe God and his purpose for marriage. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I really do love that man, and I want to keep his commandments without people telling me I’d be happier if I didn’t.

Why Repress Your Sexuality?

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I’m not sure I could be any more open about my sexuality (notice I’m saying this on the internet). But when you’re a celibate Christian who deals with same-sex attraction, this question comes with the territory. Mostly from skeptics or progressives who think submitting to God’s will is akin to sexual repression. I guess they think I’m pacing back and forth, biting my lip, wringing my hands, at constant risk of spontaneous combustion due to unmet sexual desires.

Nope.

I don’t think God expects people created male and female to cease and desist all expressions of their sexuality, even if they remain single. In fact, what helps me most in dealing with same-sex attraction is not repressing but rather EXPRESSING my sexuality — particularly my BELIEFS about sexuality — through openness, friendship, and celibacy.

OPENNESS

There’s a certain freedom in coming out as a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction. I’ve been talking to family and friends about my sexuality for nearly 14 years (the entirety of my adult life) and blogging about it for the past four. Being open has created an environment at home, work, and church where sexuality isn’t taboo. The topic comes up in normal conversations — sometimes when I’m sharing my perspective on faith, and other times when I can’t help slipping in a hilarious gay joke. I’m also not afraid to talk about the beauty of a man. For example, Liam Hemsworth. (Liam > Chris) I’m 100 percent open about my sexuality. It’s pretty much become part of everyday life.

FRIENDSHIP

I don’t let same-sex attraction keep me from pursuing meaningful relationships with men. But rather than pursue sexual relationships, I pursue same-sex friendships. The sexually repressed person might shy away from people he or she is attracted to, nervous to get too close. But one of the perks of SSA (yeah, perks) is the godly men I’ve come to know precisely BECAUSE I’m open about my sexuality. That includes guys who don’t freak out when I hug them, kiss their face, or hold their hand beyond the span of a handshake. I’ve also become close with other gay Christians whose love for Christ and shared experience of SSA have helped form friendships on par with David and Jonathan. I simply wouldn’t have these relationships if I’d repressed or ignored my sexuality.

CELIBACY

Skeptics see celibacy itself as a form of repression, especially for same-sex attracted Christians who choose to remain single due to their convictions. But celibacy is an especially poignant expression of our sexuality. By remaining celibate, we’re living the truth that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, a symbol of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). There are people out there who think I’m doing this whole celibacy thing not because it’s something I actually WANT to do, but because I’m trying to please my parents, my pastor, or some mean old man in the sky. They dream up every possible reason I’d refrain from having sex except the ONE reason I’ve always been honest about: I want to live in joyful submission to God’s good design for sex and marriage. Because I believe in it. Because I believe in HIM.

Repression, for me, would be to ignore my convictions and turn away from the truth God has revealed to me through his word. But I’ve found freedom in expressing myself within the bounds of his will.

When Did You Realize You Were Gay?

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If you dig through my memory box, you’ll find a piece of paper decorated with hearts and a stick figure named Josh. This was a kindergarten art project where the teacher asked us to draw our best friend. But Josh wasn’t my best friend, he was just the boy who sat across from me in class. I guess you could say I was attracted to him. At five years old, “best friend” was the only phrase I had for that feeling. Of course, as a child, the feeling wasn’t overtly sexual, but it was a sign that my same-sex attraction started early on.

I don’t know when (or even if) I “became” same-sex attracted. What I do know is that I’ve been gay for as long as I can remember — before I met Josh, before schoolboy crushes became sexual fantasies, and before I’d ever clicked on porn. The reason I say this is that many Christians tie same-sex attraction to sexual immorality or addiction, as if you can’t experience SSA without also being a full-blown sexual deviant. Some people think being gay means you’re somehow more prone to sexual sin than your heterosexual counterparts are. We’ll talk more about the difference between SSA and active sin in future posts, but suffice it to say that I was gay long before I wrestled with (much less knew about) the sexual temptations I face today.

I’m not saying I was born gay — although that’s not outside the realm of possibility or even sound theology — but it’s something that reaches so far back it might as well be true. If not scientifically, then experientially. Being gay didn’t so much “begin” for me as much as it became evident. I realized from a young age that I was different from most other boys. I played with My Little Pony; they played with G.I. Joe. I preferred playing house to playing sports. On the playground, you’d find me with the girls (maybe because they had better toys). Later, those differences manifested in other ways, namely how we interacted with the opposite sex. It wasn’t until about middle school, when hormones changed how my attractions looked and felt, that I attached the term “gay” to my experience.

But this isn’t a universal narrative. Not all boys who played with “girl toys” are gay, and some of the gay men I know were (and still are) very masculine. This is just my story. Other people have different experiences, including when they realized they were gay. Among the people I know, it’s split about 50/50 between those whose SSA reaches so far back it seems as though they were born gay, and those who “realized” they were gay (or came to terms with it) much later, either during puberty or in their teens. Of course, there are also people who trace their SSA to sexual or emotional abuse, and their sexuality doesn’t fit neatly into any one narrative either.

Ultimately, the timeline isn’t terribly important to me. What matters is what I do with the experience of same-sex attraction. As a Christian, part of realizing you’re gay is asking how you will live in light of this reality, especially as it relates to God’s will for marriage and sexuality. How do I love, worship, and become more like Jesus in the midst of ongoing SSA?

Should I Come Out?

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If you’re asking whether you should tell someone that you experience same-sex attraction, then the answer is yes. You shouldn’t be the only one who knows. We don’t expect other Christians to deal with sexual issues on their own, and the same is true for you. If you struggle to reconcile your faith and sexuality, it’s better to struggle in community. “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

I started by telling my parents when I was 19, and then slowly widened my circle of support over the years. With each friend I told, the topic became less taboo. Coming out helped put my struggles into perspective: I’m not the only one dealing with issues of sexual sin, temptation, or identity. I’m simply a Christian. And to be honest, my being gay didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. (Some people were practically yawning when I told them!) You might be surprised how ordinary these kinds of conversations can be.

Over time, you may consider being open with more people, as a means to sharing the gospel and encouraging others. I don’t think anyone should feel pressure to be “out” to absolutely everybody, at least not for the sake of being out. But it’s OK to be honest about your experience with SSA as opportunities arise, as the Spirit leads, and when your story could help someone to better understand and glorify God. However, with greater transparency come more responsibility, challenges, and blessings. Here are some things to consider, from my own experience:

A different kind of coming out

Your coming out is not so much a proclamation of your sexual identity as it is a testimony of Christ’s work in your life as a gay person. Being gay is part of your story, but what’s more important is that God saved you from the slavery of sin and has given you a desire to love and honor him with your whole being, sexuality included. Use this opportunity to give him glory, and to help people see there’s hope (and happiness) for Christians who experience SSA.

Prepare for war

Be ready to face the trials that come with telling the world (and whatever satanic forces are listening) that you’re committed to God’s design for marriage and sexuality. Some very wise people warned me beforehand: when you put yourself out there, you should expect spiritual warfare. After I came out, I had what I’d call a “grace period,” where God’s grace was beautifully evident. But soon after came spiritual valleys marked by temptation, confusion, and depression. Make sure you’re ready to fight — and remember, it’s a GOOD fight (1 Timothy 6:12).

Love the haters

You’re sure to hear from people who think the Bible’s sexual ethic is outdated, barbaric, and oppressive. Sometimes they ask questions that deserve reflection, and answering them not only hones your skills in studying and relaying Scripture, but it also gives you an opportunity to love your enemies. And sometimes they just want to pick on somebody. That’s OK, too (Matthew 5:11).

Love the Church

Some critics will come from within — church folks who don’t understand what it means to be gay (ex. they reduce SSA to a desire to have gay sex). Where you live and what kind of church you attend can play a factor here. However, the duties of an “out” Christian include being patient with your fellow saints, teaching them, correcting them, and always loving them.

Being known, being loved

One of the greatest blessings of sharing your story is the joy of being known. There’s something beautiful about having people in your life who know every part of your story — every fear, every weakness, every hope. Since coming out to my brothers and sisters in Christ (and as they’ve “come out” to me with their various struggles), our relationships have grown deeper and sweeter and richer and fuller. We love each other in ways we may have never known had we not been vulnerable about our struggles, sexual or otherwise. I’ve also gained a million “accountability partners” — folks who are rooting for me, persevering with me, walking right alongside me on the road to sanctification. I love that we’re in this together.

You’re never done coming out

There will always be people who don’t know your story — new friends, coworkers, or churchgoers — and you’ll have the privilege of sharing your story again. Don’t ever get tired of the gospel. People need to hear it, and they need to hear it from people in all walks of life, including those who experience SSA.

Bottom line: your SSA shouldn’t be a secret. Start by telling someone who loves you and cares about your spiritual well-being. Someone who will walk with you, pray for you, and encourage you as you seek to follow God’s will — whether that’s singleness or marriage to someone of the opposite sex. I think it’s best to tell someone sooner than later, but this is your timeline and your story. Just know there are people who want to hear it, who will be moved and changed by it, who want to be part of it. Pray for wisdom regarding the people and the timing. You can’t predict every reaction or outcome, but you can certainly trust that God has a purpose in all of it (Romans 8:28).

You’re Single? You Must Be So Lonely

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OK, I admit this doesn’t usually come in the form of a question. I hear it from reliable sources: “Oh man, Bryan must be so lonely. He must go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV.”

Truth is… Sometimes I go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV. But that’s not because I’m lonely. It’s because I’ve had a long day and I need to vegetate — preferably with Funyuns and Mountain Dew in hand.

On average, I’m alone from about 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. — and that’s because I’m unconscious.

That’s the way I plan it. Several years ago, I decided to stop “being single” and instead to THRIVE in singleness. A top priority was to spend time with people. I couldn’t turn into the old man surrounded by cats (although that sounds delightful). I needed to be surrounded by people — those who could encourage me, challenge me, and sanctify me — and I could do the same for them. Community. That thing churches talk about but nobody really knows what it means or how to do it.

Here’s what it means to me: Spending time with married folks in their homes (i.e. inviting myself over for dinner). Being around their children — learning their names and talents and dreams. Having people over for my famous enchiladas (one of two meals I know how to cook). Spending a little extra money to visit friends who live far away. Staying up late or waking up early to Skype with friends in funky time zones. Saying yes to as many things as I can: birthday parties, barbecues, or helping people move.

Community turns the caricature of singleness on its head.

However, even with all that work and intentionality, sometimes I do feel lonely. But I don’t chalk it up to being single; I chalk it up to being human. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, including the married among us. They feel it when they’re grieving or battling cancer or having marital problems or wrestling with their own thoughts. It just happens. I think that’s where we need to correct people’s thinking: the experience of loneliness is for everyone, not just single people.

Of course, being the person I am, whenever I feel lonely I’ll always remind myself what Jesus said: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He is Emmanuel: “God with us.” God with ME. These are things I need to remember. If God uses the experience of loneliness to bring truths like this to mind — to remind me of his love and faithfulness and closeness — then heck, maybe I need to feel lonely a little more often.

Can God Change Our Sexuality?

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Yes, I believe he can. But I don’t think he often does — at least, not in the way many people think he does.

What God most often changes is not someone’s sexual attractions, but his or her ultimate desires. That is, we may continue to be attracted to the same sex, but our lives are shaped by an ultimate desire to know, love, and honor God with our whole being, including our sexuality. For some, that means pursuing marriage with the opposite sex (I have many friends who chose that path), and for others it means pursuing singleness as the happy alternative to marriage. This conformity to God’s will is a significant and miraculous change, but it’s not the kind of change many people think of when they talk about sexuality.

Growing up as a gay kid in the 90s, the only message of change I ever heard was from men in the “ex-gay” movement who claimed to have been “healed” of homosexuality and were now married to women. As I’ve learned, many of these men are now divorced and pursuing sexual relationships with men. So what went wrong? The narrative of “healing” placed too much emphasis on change in sexual orientation, and not enough on the gospel.

What we have today is a more honest conversation. The gay men I know who are married to women acknowledge their ongoing struggles with same-sex desires. This is a much more biblical and needed narrative. Following Jesus doesn’t mean we cease to struggle with sin — sexual or otherwise. On the contrary, we CONTINUE to struggle. The “good fight” is a sign of genuine faith and a reminder that we live with conflicting desires, which is the story of ALL Christians, not just those who experience SSA.

God hasn’t changed my orientation, but has he changed me? Is he sanctifying me? Absolutely. Through my continued experience with SSA, he’s teaching me to trust him, to patiently await his return, and to humbly submit to his design for marriage and sexuality. That’s not to say he can’t give me desires for a woman, but I’m living in the reality that he has not, and he may not. In the meantime, I’m learning other things: how to love my neighbor, how to be a friend who loves at all times, how to bear others’ burdens, and how to glorify God in all I do. You know, the lessons every other Christian is learning, too.

Sanctification is change — and there’s more to sanctification than becoming straight. Heterosexuality is something I haven’t been able to “achieve” by myself, and something God hasn’t seen fit to give me. For now, I’m serving him as a happy, single, celibate, changed man.

Can You Be Gay And Christian?

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I don’t think there’s any debate about whether or not a Christian can experience same-sex attraction and yet remain faithful to God, living in obedience to his will for sex and marriage — either by pursuing marriage with someone of the opposite sex, or choosing to remain celibate. The answer is yes: you can be gay and Christian. But let’s explore the question that often follows: “Should Christians call themselves gay?”

About a year ago, someone emailed me and asked, “Are you heterosexual?” Despite being trained by Christian culture to avoid calling myself gay, and despite my impulse to write back with a full-blown essay on labels and Christian identity, this question had a pretty clear answer: No, I’m gay.

Of course, “gay” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. For most, it simply means being attracted to the same sex; for others, it means you’ve chosen to embrace or identify with homosexual behavior. That’s why when I came out on the blogosphere several years ago I chose to say, “I’m (kinda sorta yeah not really) gay.” Although I’m still careful with my terminology in mixed company, today I’m more comfortable using the term “gay,” especially among friends and family who know what I mean. Namely, that I’m attracted to men but committed to God’s design for human sexuality, which excludes homosexual behavior (i.e. gay sex).

Confusion over the term “gay Christian” is understandable, as it can mean one of two things: 1) a Christian who experiences SSA but believes homosexual behavior is sinful, or 2) a Christian who experiences SSA and believes homosexual behavior is acceptable and blessed by God, but only within the confines of a loving, monogamous relationship. Simply put, the first position is orthodox and the second is not. The disparity between the two has sparked an ongoing conversation about whether or not Christians should call themselves gay at all.

I don’t typically call myself a gay Christian, but I’m not opposed to those who do. The Church often spends more time talking about what Christians who experience SSA ought to call themselves (or not call themselves), rather than talking about how the gospel has shaped their lives. Rather than encouraging and equipping them to face a world that tells them to submit to their sexual desires. Rather than ensuring they have a church community that supports them as they pursue the countercultural path of holiness, whether that’s celibacy or a godly marriage.

My advice is to let people say “gay Christian” and explain what they mean. It’s possible they’re doing more for the kingdom by using that term than those who spend time debating whether or not they should. The label itself is a peripheral issue.