Tag Archives: Faith

Jesus Will Complicate Your Life

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

I was just a boy when I became a Christian, still building forts, climbing trees, and using my superpowers to conquer the world. It was simple faith in the beginning. I wasn’t aware of the demands Jesus would make on my life, much less the sexual ethic I’d committed to before I’d ever thought about sex, or even knew what it was. All I knew is that I loved Jesus and wanted to be with him forever — and that’s still true today.

But now I know about sex. I know it’s reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, and what that means for me as someone who’s attracted to the same sex. I admit this complicates things. In the years since I came to know Christ, there’s also been a cultural shift in support for gay marriage, so I’ve had to weigh the teachings of Christianity against worldviews that would permit me — even encourage me — to marry a man and pursue the kind of happiness many people think I can’t achieve if I remain single and celibate.

So yeah, things aren’t so simple anymore.

For me, maturing in my faith means acknowledging the complications that come with loving Jesus. Most of the time I want to glorify God and pursue holiness through singleness, but sometimes I still want to marry a man. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage last year, it was a hard day for Christians like me, because part of us wants that “gay American dream” and part of us wants to joyfully submit to God’s will for marriage and sexuality. This is a conflict of desires that I wouldn’t have if Jesus weren’t in my life (something my atheist friends are happy to note) and a tough decision I wouldn’t have to make.

But that’s the reality of being in a relationship with Jesus on this side of eternity. We make decisions we wouldn’t have made without him. We see and feel and experience life differently. We mourn over things we didn’t used to care about — both our own sins and other people’s. We grieve for the unrepentant, especially our loved ones. We notice what’s wrong with the world and begin to feel a bit alien. I’m surprised how many people still think Jesus came to make life easier. I think that’s due in part to televangelists and the rise of the “prosperity gospel” which, of course, is no gospel at all. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the only reason Jesus came to earth was to fix your marriage, heal your cancer, and make you a millionaire. (Or in my case, make me straight.) But nobody should be surprised that a man who died and came back to life three days later would actually COMPLICATE things. Christianity is no cushy religion; it comes with built-in conflict.

Our sexuality is no exception. There’s a lingering “sexual tension” between our spirits and our flesh. We may feel a sting of pain when we say no to porn or hookups or even a committed relationship with someone outside of God’s will. (OK, more than a sting for that last one, more like a chronic pain.) I think it’s important to acknowledge these conflicting desires because they’re so uniquely Christian — a direct result of being given a new heart. We simply would not experience them if we didn’t love Christ. He’s certainly not the “crutch” many people believe him to be.

Yes, Jesus will complicate your life.

The God-man, who himself is profoundly and beautifully complicated, came not to make things simpler in this life, but to reconcile us to God, take away our sins, and bring us into eternal fellowship with him and other believers. Knowing him is the best thing that ever happened to me. He’s worth every bit of burden, every second of complexity, every twinge of tension between the “already” and “not yet.” He’s the one I fell in love with in my childhood, and the one I continue to fall in love with every day. He’s the kind of complication I want in my life.

Simple as that.

Tell Me Jesus Is Worth It

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

About a year ago, a friend took me out for coffee and asked what he could do to help me when I’m struggling with faith, sexuality, or singleness. It was one of those moments you hope for — a friend who not only prays for you but also asks, “What more can I do?”

I fumbled over a few words (between gulps of white mocha) but couldn’t quite articulate what it is I really need during times of struggle. I’m not sure anyone had ever asked so directly, so genuinely. Whatever the reason, I was a bumbling mess in that moment, so I reached out to him a couple days later with a follow-up text:

“You asked how you can be a better support to me. Of course you already are, but I’ve been thinking about it more. Because I didn’t answer very well the first time. I think the best thing people can do is to remind me that Jesus is worth it. Tell me out loud, ‘Jesus is worth it.’ Because we so often forget — at least, I do. But the catch is, people have to really believe that themselves for it to be any real encouragement to me. Does that make sense? We don’t persevere in the faith because we like Christian values, or because we want to please our family, or even because we want to go to heaven. But because, in the end, we get to know and love and BE WITH Jesus! If he’s not worth it (or, more accurately, if we don’t remember that he’s worth it), then we have every reason to give up. So… That’s one way. Hugs and coffee dates and [your wife’s] amazing lasagna are a few of the other ways.”

My friend took his question — and my answer — seriously. I know because, since then, he often texts me with that precious reminder: Jesus is worth it. The phrase has even inspired its own hashtag. He’s always quick to respond with encouragement when I tell him, “It’s a #JIWI kind of night.”

As a single person committed to celibacy, but living in a world where sex reigns supreme, there are days when my mission to be happy in Christ comes to a screeching halt. I have fears about the future. Setbacks when I’m striving for holiness. Doubts about how long I can put up a good fight when the odds feel stacked against me.

During those times, I need someone to sit beside me — maybe even hold my hand — and tell me the old redemption story. Tell me about the God who became a man, walked among us, and built his kingdom. Tell me the truth about his death and resurrection, which I reenacted through baptism when I was a boy. Tell me he loves me, forgives me, walks with me, and is working all things for my good. Tell me you’re my brother or sister and you’re persevering with me, because that’s what saints do. Tell me Jesus is coming back and he’s making all things new — even now, as we sit here hand in hand.

On those nights when I lose focus and can’t seem to find joy in Christ, tell me what I already know: tell me Jesus is worth it.

A Very Celibate Valentine’s Day

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a picture of his “hot” date on Valentine’s Day. It was a brownie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — and possibly human tears. (Cell phone camera, so it’s hard to say.) This is what Valentine’s Day can look like for single, celibate Christians.

But it doesn’t have to.

I’ve been single on Valentine’s Day for the past 32 years. (And every other day of the year, too, but that’s beside the point.) Yet somehow I’ve found things to love about it.

Remember in elementary school, when classmates passed out mandatory valentines and those horrible candy hearts? Sure, I got cards from people who’d never talk to me again after February 14, but it was fun getting “love notes” from the friends you cared about, and the kids who signed more than just their names.

When I was a teenager, sometimes my parents would leave me a gift on the kitchen counter. Maybe a stuffed animal or a coffee mug decked with hearts — just a little something to make Valentine’s Day special for the boy who never had a valentine. Meanwhile, hormonal girls at school huffed over not getting flowers from their insensitive boyfriends. Tragic…

In college, I’d often stay home on Valentine’s Day to spend time with my “Husband” (Isaiah 54:5). That’s about the time I fell in love with the Song of Solomon. I pored over Puritan commentaries, whose typological readings of the book celebrated the love between Christ and his bride, the Church. Coming to terms with faith and sexuality, learning what celibacy would look like for me, I took comfort in seeing God as the divine bridegroom — and I still do.

Today, at 32, I still love Valentine’s Day. I love reaching out to friends and family, or even someone who wouldn’t expect it, with a valentine via text. It’s also an opportunity to thank God for the gift of marriage — a chance to rejoice in marital bliss (even if it’s not my own). In the last few years, I’ve teamed up with friends to do outreach on Valentine’s Day, including helping a church host a dinner for homeless women, and rallying support for a fundraiser to aid victims of sex trafficking.

So yeah, Valentine’s Day isn’t a big cry-fest for me. It’s always been a day of love.

However, there are people in my life (and yours) for whom the holiday is unhappy. Maybe someone who is divorced or widowed. Maybe someone who really wants to be married and is wrestling with God’s timing and will. We ought to be gentle with their hearts, especially on a day when romance is shoved in our faces, as if that’s the only place to find love.

This year, Valentine’s Day is on Sunday. It’s a perfect opportunity to reach out to single folks in your church. Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them. Tell them God loves them, too. Remind them love is real and available to them outside of marriage. There’s love in friendship — those people who’ve mastered the art of loving at all times (Proverbs 17:17). There’s love in the church body — a spiritual family that transcends bloodlines. There’s love in service — putting other people’s needs before your own. There’s love in the pages of Scripture, where God reveals his devotion to us. It’s all over the place, if someone would just remind us.

A very celibate Valentine’s Day can be a very happy one indeed. Come to think of it, brownies and a scoop of ice cream would make it even happier.

Hold the tears.