Tag Archives: Gospel

Review: Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

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I’m pro-marriage. Coming from someone who’s been single for 33 years, that might sound a bit weird, but it’s true! I’m passionate about marriage because I’ve learned, through the teaching of the Bible and the wise men who expound it, the real meaning of marriage: it’s a metaphor for Christ and his people. A living picture of the gospel. That’s something to get excited about! But sadly, it’s also something many people have forgotten — not only in the world, but also in the Church. We’ve dwindled marriage down to companionship, lovemaking, and childrearing. Of course, marriage is all of those things, but it MEANS so much more. God designed it and gave it to mankind as the most vivid way to proclaim the gospel and live out its principles.

Ray Ortlund wrote Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel in hopes of recovering “joyful confidence in marriage as God originally gave it to us.” Although this book can be read in one sitting, it’s not “theology lite.” Ortlund’s writing is serious and poetic, with tightly packed truths that demand our attention. The book is divided into four sections that paint a sweeping portrait of marriage from Genesis to Revelation.

Marriage in Genesis

The first book of the Bible reveals both “the glory of marriage and the brokenness of marriage.” Eden was the scene of the world’s first wedding, where the crown jewels of God’s creation became “one flesh.” Ortlund spends a good chunk of time talking about the beauty of complementarity, which is not only a major theme in the creation account, but also a necessity in marriage. Knowing our modern sensibilities when it comes to gender issues, Ortlund wants us to recognize and rediscover the “stroke of divine genius” in God’s design for husband as head and wife as helper — the framework for marriage that remains to this day. He also stresses how the fall in Genesis 3 wrecked the dynamics of this first marriage (and all marriages after it) with man seeking to dominate his wife, and woman seeking to subvert her husband. But Genesis 3 also comes with a promise of restoration, not only between sinners and God, but also between husbands and wives.

Marriage in the Law, Wisdom, and Prophets

Ortlund first discusses how the Mosaic Law sought to repair the damage done to marriage after the fall. Some of the laws that seem odd or downright unethical to modern readers (think levirate marriage) were actually quite civilized, especially compared to other Near Eastern cultures. He’s also quick to note that stories of polygamy and other deviations of marriage in the Bible are descriptive, not prescriptive; the original design of marriage still stood, even when God’s people got it wrong. But despite the struggles that come with marriage post-fall, the biblical writers want us to remember its original glory. Proverbs and the Song of Solomon celebrate marital love and sex, and offer warnings to protect marriage from sexual sin, which further proves how important the metaphor is to God. Ortlund then touches on the prophets, where the true meaning of marriage begins to unfold. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea “retell the whole of Israel’s history in a new way — as a tragic romance,” with God as loyal husband and Israel as unfaithful bride. Human marriage points us to a “super-reality,” as Ortlund says; that is, God’s faithfulness to his people, and his resolve to see this divine marriage through to eternity.

Marriage in the New Testament

Enter Jesus, our bridegroom. Seeing as he’s the ultimate reality to which all marriages point, what did he think about marriage? When asked about divorce, Jesus went retro, reaching back to Eden to affirm the original design of marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Although Jesus fulfilled the law, eliminating civil and ceremonial customs, one thing that remained unchanged is marriage: one man, one woman, for life. The apostle Paul, too, used Genesis 2:24 as the standard for marriage: once in 1 Corinthians 6:16, and more famously in Ephesians 5 (a passage often recited at weddings), where he explains how marriage reflects Christ and the Church. Paul reiterates the “dance of complementarity,” as Ortlund calls it, between husband as head and wife as helper that was first established in Genesis. Finally, Ortlund takes us to Revelation, where the institute of human marriage comes to an end and the better reality to which it pointed all along begins: the marriage supper of the Lamb, where Christ and his people are united forever. Ortlund notes that God made the heavens and earth for the marriage of Adam and Eve, but he will soon make a new heaven and new earth for the ultimate marriage of Jesus and his bride, the Church.

Marriage in the World Today

Ortlund ends with a sober reminder from Scripture: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Hebrews 13:4). Especially now, in a culture where people “don’t believe in marriage” or seek to redefine it, we need to “build a pro-marriage counterculture, where faithfulness and beauty and lasting love point the way not only to a better human society but also, and far more, to the eternal love of Christ.” Because the one-flesh union of man and woman is such a vital and vivid representation of the gospel, Christians have every reason to protect marriage, both their own and in general. Every departure from God’s design for marriage is a departure from the gospel; thus, Ortlund encourages Christians to defend God’s vision for marriage and sexuality with confidence and humility.

If I may have the final word: Marriage is not the gospel, but it is God’s chosen metaphor for the gospel, a motif that runs through the veins of Scripture from the very heart of God, giving us insight to his fierce love and devotion toward his people. That’s why I love marriage! And that’s why I recommend this book. I hope it will encourage married couples to take seriously their role in displaying God’s love to the world, and inspire single people to cherish marriage, knowing it holds the mystery of the gospel for them as well.

7 Happy Songs (Part 4)

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1.  “Mmlj” by the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers. (I love saying the title out loud!) An acronym for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this song reminds me that DAILY NOURISHMENT comes from the gospels. The lyrics are so joyful, and the singers have voices to match!

2.  “I Will Never Let You Down” by Rita Ora. *GIRLY POP WARNING* Yes, it’s a throwaway pop song — nothing deep — but it’s got one of those melodies (with pristine production) that chemically alters my brain and makes me HAPPY! There’s a science to it, I’m sure.

3.  “In the Dark I See” by Lights. Oh man, LIGHTS. Everything she sings is magic in my ears. This song made me fall in love. Just her and a guitar. I’m not sure what this song means to her, but I know what it means to me. (I tend to sing it vertically, to God.)

4.  “Brighten My Heart” by Sixpence None the Richer. This song does what the title suggests: it brightens! I love the poetry and simplicity of the lyrics, paired with a humble melody and Leigh Nash’s childlike vocals. It’s a prayer I’ve sung on many occasions. Keep it handy for a pick-me-up!

5.  “Grace’s Amazing Hands” (and pretty much everything else) by Dave Barnes. That voice… Yummy. But this song in particular stands out because it personifies grace so beautifully: her hands are “ugly” and “bruised” because of the hard work they’ve accomplished, but they’re “soft as a feather bed” to those who’ve felt their loving touch.

6.  “Extraordinary” by Liz Phair. I admit this isn’t the HAPPIEST song on the planet… But I’d put it in the “angsty happy” category — a sort of liberating breakup song. Maybe it’s the happy memories that accompany the track, but it definitely belongs on my list. Maybe it’ll make the cut for you, too!

7.  “Every Time I Close My Eyes” by Mariah Carey… Err, I mean, Babyface. But really, this song is all about Mariah’s “background” vocals. This diva can’t just shrink into the background. Nuh uh. Poor Babyface takes a backseat when MC brings her signature vocal runs on the bridge. It’s PURE GOLD! *Pressing replay now*

Oh, and you can find more happy songs here and here and here.

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.

On Orlando And The Gospel

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I don’t normally comment on current events or controversies. I think it’s better to stay quiet and keep things in my heart until the storm blows over, at which time the moment has passed and I end up having not shared my thoughts at all. For today’s shooting in Orlando, I wanted to speak what’s in my heart out loud… or at least on a computer screen.

As a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction, I don’t consider gay folks to be my “community” (the Church fills that role in the most beautiful ways). But the gay community represents everything I most certainly would be had the Holy Spirit not invaded my heart and changed my desires (and I don’t mean my sexual orientation). In very real ways, my gay neighbors and I are alike — not only because of our orientation and some of the struggles we’ve faced as a result, but also because we’re made in God’s image, made to need Him. All of us. 

Maybe that’s why this tragedy hit me harder than others have. There’s that extra piece of myself that I see in them, and in this story. I think (I hope) loving our enemies is that easy. Finding ways we’re the same — including our greatest problem, which is sin, and our only hope, which is Jesus.

Conversations in the coming days and weeks are going to touch on parts of this tragedy — gay rights, terrorism, gun control, hate crimes, and (worst of all) politics — but we can’t lose sight of the most central and hopeful part. Jesus came to earth, he “stepped down into darkness,” as we sang at church this morning, to put things right. We’re not there yet, but it’s coming. He’s already started with his resurrection and the outpouring of his Spirit. He’s making all things new (Revelation 21:5). Amid the Facebook posts, Buzzfeed articles, and TV talking heads, I can’t lose sight of the one thing they’re all likely to forget: the gospel.

That’s why I “came out” four years ago; that’s why I launched a blog; that’s why I talk so much about sexuality and singleness and happiness. To share the truth and beauty and goodness of the gospel. To try and bridge the divide, in some small way, between the Church and the people we often see as “other,” the LGBT community. I don’t want to waste another tragedy not talking about the things that really matter.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Review: Same-Sex Attraction And The Church

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Book Reviews

One clue that I was gonna love Ed Shaw’s Same-Sex Attraction and the Church Both Wesley Hill and Rosaria Butterfield, two leading (but very different) voices on the topic, endorsed the book. Their praise is printed alongside blurbs from Russell Moore, Justin Taylor, and Michael Horton — familiar names among evangelicals. I’m also told this was given to 10,000 people who attended this year’s Together for the Gospel conference. So I wanted to see what the buzz was about.

Dude, Ed did not disappoint. [Insert a million heart emojis here.]

Shaw has written something beautifully honest, yet surprisingly optimistic. As someone who experiences same-sex attraction, Shaw balances the STRUGGLES of his sexuality with the OPPORTUNITIES it’s given him to serve the Church and become more like Jesus. But the book is more than a personal narrative; it’s a call for the Church to change how we view celibacy, to make it easier for same-sex attracted Christians who want to remain faithful to God’s design for marriage and sexuality.

To do this, Shaw takes us through nine “missteps” the Church has taken that make it HARDER for people to remain open to celibacy. I think it’s helpful to list all of them here:

•   Your identity is your sexuality
•   A family is Mom, Dad, and 2.4 children
•   If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
•   If it makes you happy, it must be right
•   Sex is where true intimacy is found
•   Men and women are equal and interchangeable
•   Godliness is heterosexuality
•   Celibacy is bad for you
•   Suffering is to be avoided

Shaw tackles each topic with biblical aplomb, showing us where we’ve adopted a worldly perspective and how to realign our beliefs with God’s Word. I found myself cheering for him as he urges the Church to redefine family the way Jesus does — not by blood but by adoption into God’s family. I smiled at the passages that see friendship (not just sex) as a means to true intimacy and fulfillment. I applauded his courage in challenging us to change how we measure holiness — to recognize that same-sex attracted Christians need not become heterosexual to experience real sanctification, and to understand that when God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good, that includes same-sex attraction. With every misconception Shaw obliterated, I became evermore joyful in my singleness. It’s crazy that a book can do that.

I felt especially convicted by the first and last chapters. With regard to the first misstep (see above), I realize how sexuality has become a bigger part of my identity than I’d like to think. That’s due in part to the culture’s influence on my worldview, but it also has something to do with writing so much about sexuality; I talk and think about it more than ever before. But ultimately I want to be known as a Christian, not a gay or celibate or [choose your adjective] Christian. With regard to the last misstep, Shaw reminded me that suffering plays an important role in becoming more like Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19) — something I can easily gloss over in my attempt to look at the bright side of life. Honestly, the struggle of same-sex attraction has lessened the more I’ve come to see singleness as the HAPPY ALTERNATIVE to marriage, but that doesn’t mean there’s no suffering in the Christian walk. I hope to never give that impression, because the Bible certainly doesn’t.

OK, personal stuff aside. Same-Sex Attraction and the Church is for all of us — to remind us WHY we believe marriage is reserved for a man and woman, and HOW we can serve those in our churches who, because of their sexuality, have chosen to remain celibate. Or, as Shaw says, “to rebuild the plausibility structure so that we can live in light of the Bible’s clear teaching.” He reminds us that the gospel is, indeed, GOOD NEWS! This book deserves more than a sales pitch, but seriously, BUY IT NOW! I walked away totally encouraged and convinced that, yes, the Church can make celibacy a good thing. I even read the appendices!

For more on Ed Shaw, check out his story at Living Out.

Jesus Will Complicate Your Life

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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.

Happiness And Joy: What’s The Difference?

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Christians have given happiness a bum rap. You’ve probably heard something like this from the pulpit: “Happiness is a temporary emotion based on circumstances, but joy is an ongoing contentment based on our relationship with God.”

Sounds nice, but is it true?

As someone with a master’s degree in English, I appreciate nuance, and I’d usually agree with making such thoughtful distinctions. I once heard a poet say “a stone is not a rock.” A stone is something the river glides over and makes smooth — something you hold in your hand, or skip across the water. But a rock is something that stands tall against crashing waves; it’s what you build on and break things against. I’ve always stood by these distinctions: a stone is a stone, and a rock is a rock.

But pitting happiness against joy? I’m not feeling it.

Only in church settings do we perpetuate the myth that happiness and joy are different. In his excellent book Happiness, which I review here, Randy Alcorn writes, “an ungrounded, dangerous separation of joy from happiness has infiltrated the Christian community.” Until very recently, he says, happiness had a place right alongside joy in the Christian faith. From Church Fathers to Puritans, Christian writers have used “happiness” and “joy” in the same way the dictionary does, and in the same way we do in everyday conversation: synonymously. Even the Bible itself makes no distinction. In a chapter devoted to this very topic, Alcorn gives a couple dozen examples of where Scripture uses forms of “happiness” and “joy” side by side — pairings that occur more than 100 times in various translations!

Even so, church folks continue to say happiness and joy are different emotions and experiences. I think there are two reasons for this “great divorce.”

1.  They want to make a clear distinction between worldly pleasures and godly pleasures. So they attach “happiness” to worldly pleasures, which are shallow and fleeting, and “joy” to godly pleasures. As a result, well-meaning Christians say things like, “We’re not supposed to be happy; we’re supposed to have joy!” Although the intentions behind it are good, this false dichotomy has consequences for both believers and unbelievers.

For believers, we begin to fear happiness. Instead, we search for joy — something we’ve been told isn’t an emotion and therefore (not surprisingly) doesn’t FEEL joyful. We start to believe God doesn’t want us to be happy, which simply isn’t the case. The Bible is filled with commands to be happy. Dare we tell Christians NOT to pursue the very thing God desires of us?

For unbelievers, the separation of happiness and joy can be a roadblock to believing the gospel. Imagine telling someone, “Jesus can’t give you happiness, but he can give you joy.” That makes no sense to me, much less to an unbeliever. (I imagine it makes no sense to God either!) Happiness is the ONE THING every person is searching for, and Jesus is the ONE PERSON who can offer it. Why on earth would it not be part of our message?

2.  They know God calls us to rejoice in suffering — to “consider it all joy” when we face various trials — and they try to describe this tension using terms that the Church has deemed appropriate. So, for example, when a loved one dies someone might say, “I’m grieving, but I still have joy in Christ.” That’s because they’ve been told joy isn’t an emotion, it’s something more like peace or hope. But we could just as easily say, “I’m grieving, but I still have happiness in Christ.” Does that change the meaning? For me, the paradox of Christians being called to rejoice in suffering isn’t a good enough reason to redefine happiness and joy — as though they’re not what the Bible says they are, and what we, deep down, know they are: one and the same.

If Christians continue to believe there’s a difference between happiness and joy, we’ll lose out on both. We need to reclaim happiness — not just the word, but also the experience — as a vital part of the Christian faith.

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).