Tag Archives: Sexuality

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)

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.

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.

Meditation On Being Gay

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Recently, I was at the zoo with my friend. We were standing at an exhibit with peacocks and peahens, among other birds. The peahen was quite pretty, with a pop of color around her neck, like a scarf, which blended into gray. But compared to the peacock — his long, vibrant feathers stretched out behind him like art, his chest puffed out in a princely fashion — the female seemed a bit lackluster. (Insert sad trombone noise here.)

“You know, in nature, males are often the most beautiful,” I told my friend. “Hey! That’s kind of what it’s like to be gay.”

Women are beautiful in their own right, I acknowledge that, but it’s men who stand out to me. My initial attraction to a man isn’t always — in fact, often isn’t — sexual. Instead, it’s an instantaneous admiration of his beauty. “An involuntary reaction to external stimuli,” as a friend once said. To put it simply, male beauty is something I notice. There’s something about the aesthetics, composition, and essence of men that appeals to me; whereas, it’s easier to glance past those qualities in women. I imagine it’s the same way (only reversed) for straight people.

Of course, I’m not attracted to every man, in the same way straight men aren’t attracted to every woman but are attracted to women in general. That’s where the word “attracted” gets a bit complicated. Same-sex “attraction” (there’s that word again) isn’t quite as sexualized as many people imagine; it’s not the same as temptation, desire, or lust, although it can turn into those things, or overlap. (We’ll talk more about this in future posts.) Our language is imperfect and limited, but I think the easiest way to describe being gay is that I’m primarily attracted to men.

With that said, I know plenty of men who are primarily attracted to men but found themselves surprisingly attracted to a woman — and then they fell in love, got married, and had babies. None of these men consider themselves “ex-gay,” as they remain primarily same-sex attracted; that is, they didn’t become attracted to women in general, but to a woman. They found one particular “peahen” that was more beautiful than the other peacocks. Oh gosh, maybe this isn’t the best metaphor…

So that’s one way to describe a gay orientation. These are just quick thoughts after a trip to the zoo, so please don’t read too much into them. And to all the peahens out there, you’re pretty too!

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?

Tell Me Jesus Is Worth It

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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.

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).