It’s 1995. I stopped by Blockbuster beforehand to pick up Jurassic Park on video to have a movie night with my girlfriend, and future wife, Heidi. Because dinosaurs are awesome, and she didn’t think so at the time, we made it a priority before going to our young adult community that night to see friends and hear our new series on “Christianity and Culture.” The first question of the week…homosexuality. The message started and then the dialogue started. Some were passionate about what the Scriptures said about the topic. Some were curious how God and same-sex attraction could happen, and some chose to speak about how “disgusting” it is.
In the midst of this dialogue, a man stands up and says that he struggled with homosexuality and that he and his girlfriend were there to hear what our community had to say about it. A brave move on his part. It turned the direction of our conversation and brought a deeper expression of compassion to our discussion…and the words, “I’m sorry,” to our dialogue as well.
I invited he and his girlfriend out for burgers with us afterwards and I talked with him about his story and how his journey came to be. We became fast friends and even roommates for a time. Our relationship became special because I got to really got to know the “heart” of my gay friend, find a compassion and grace with someone different than me, discover his brokenness and ask questions about his life trajectory. I also become a strong, heterosexual male friend that he could trust, find encouragement in and watch him become a great husband and loving father.
That relationship changed me and how I saw homosexuality. It became personal for me. He became a triumphant victor over his own brokenness and now he is a constant reminder of hope for others who are struggling like him. Jesus promised all humans
life to the full.” Jesus promised he would bring all human beings a flourishing life. John 10:10 says, “I have come that you may have life, life to the full.” For everyone who calls on His name.
Jesus is for the marginalized. Even when he took flack for it. He loved those that were despised, those who were different, those that didn’t have value, those struggling with sexual sin, those who were confused about who they were and who God called them to be. He loved the broken and called them to repentance. Jesus came to the marginalized and called them to repentance by saying, “Go and sin no more.”
I think the church has done a great job to teach others to never engage sexual intimacy outside of God’s design for marriage but the church has NOT done a great job at providing love and intimacy to those in the church…especially to those who are gay. Even as a single person, Jesus was fully content. He was not married, never engaged in sex and was at peace with his sexualty. Humans can live without sex and marriage. But not without love and intimacy. The church needs to be purposeful in creating a community for those that are stuggling with same-sex attraction as a place of belonging and acceptance. I think our Biblical communities have failed in having safe and life-giving conversations on this topic. The church as fallen short on grace in this area of human life. And the purpose of this conversation here is to engage in the topic again with the grace needed to not just engage culture but keep culture interested in what our creator, God, has to say on this deeply serious issue.
When we are approaching the topic of same-sex attraction, it’s true to say that it is a sensitive topic. It affects so many of us as we can all name a friend or family member who is gay or in a gay relationship. Because this affects so many of us personally, I am desiring to approach this topic sensitively. Because so much of it is about identity. Identity affects who we are. And who we are affects what we do, who we love and how we love. So we cannot, as the Christian community, be insincere or shallow on this. We have to handle our conversations and our relationships with care and concern. It’s so crucially important to minister with compassion in this area. The last thing we need is to respond without love. Without love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13). God calls us to be peacemakers. So when you can bring peace to a heart that is struggling, to a family at war over this issue, to a friendship that wants to love Jesus and their gay community, we need the peace of Christ.
Christians have to be aware to not come from a vantage point of moral superiority but from the place of belief that Jesus died for both my non-gay friends and my gay friends. We must lay aside our own agendas, politics and motivations and interests and overcome with good. We must do our best to understand the hurt and brokenness of those struggling with issues of sexual identity. We must approach our relationships with compassion. We must walk in both “grace and truth” (John 1:17). Not just appealing to emotions alone but to speak to the hearts and minds of those struggling with same-sex attraction.
Homosexuality is both an issue AND a person.
As mentioned earlier, I have friends in the gay community. I love my gay friends. I am not homophobic. I have worked in my church building a Biblical community for many years. I have tried to help bridge the differences and misunderstandings of those who experience same-sex attraction and those in the church. So this topic is important to me and it should be for anyone who is part of a growing, Biblical community that desires the heart of Jesus to be at the center.
We as the church and as Christians are commanded to love. Jesus love was potent by accepting everyone. Jesus didn’t turn someone away because they were “too sinful” or because their sin “offended Him too much.” Jesus was accepting of everyone and we as the church should be as well.
However, I want to remind us again that there is a difference between being accepting and approving. Being accepting doesn’t always mean being approving. We must be careful as Christians in making affirmation statements such as “God just loves you as you are.” Today we hear a lot about the importance of being “inclusive” and by inclusive, I mean the affirmation of “accept me as I am to affirm me as I am.” Jesus mission wasn’t to go to all the world spreading affirmation but instead, Jesus purpose was to bring transformation. We are received by God for the purpose of transformation from our old sinful tendencies to becoming a child of God and living for God.
We should also mention that there’s a difference between being in a gay relationship and having same-sex attraction feelings. I have worked with the next generation for over 20+ years and have had many conversations about sexual identity. I know people who experience same-sex attraction but who chose to not engage in gay relationships. They know their sexual desires but they know their spiritual desires, too. They choose Jesus over their sex drive. Like many in our heterosexual circles do. My approach has always been that if you are attracted, let’s talk about it. If you are having feelings, then let’s acknowledge those feelings and make sense of what that means to God and you. Let’s walk it out in the safety and acceptance of your friends, your family and your church.
So how does God feel about this topic?
If God hasn’t spoken on this topic, then we get to decide.
But God has spoken on it.
Because God is our designer. He knows us better than we know yourselves. He made the heaven’s and the earth. He separated darkness from light, day and night and the earth from the ocean. Then he took a portion of that earth he created and gave it breath…that clay led to becoming you.
God is our Creator.
God is our starting point.
He created us male and female,
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:26-28; 31 (ESV)
God forms the man from the dust of the earth and breathes the breath of life into him. He then fashions the woman from the man’s side — or as the Bible means, “his heart. “ He separates humans into two sexes, male and female. Each is distinct and valuable, and both reflect the image and likeness of God. Our word “sex” even comes from a Latin word meaning “to divide or separate,” showing that humanity was separated into two groups, male and female. Adam rejoices at this creation of Eve, celebrating and recognizing her as his partner, a complement, distinct from any other created being. Helper here is not referenced here as the word for “same” but as in reference to compliment. Literally like a plug and a socket (forgive me, please on this metaphor). Not two plugs (have I said I’m sorry, yet?). But it is what God is meaning here. Woman is uniquely formed as a gift for man — and man as a gift for woman— a unique, permanent and covenantal relationship. This is the sexual ethic from the beginning.
The Creator has made you to function perfectly with His design. Anything outside of that design can cause you not to work or function properly. You many not see it or feel it now, but eventually, if you don’t align to the operating system of the Creator, you will experience dysfunction and malfunction.
Think of it like your phone. Your phone has been designed by someone smart enough for it work and function in a certain way. When our functionality begins to go on fritz is when our phone tries to run according to a different IOS. It becomes slow, it becomes glitchy, etc. When it operates how it’s designed, its functionality gives the phone and its user a great freedom. When the creators original “operating system” is working, your device works. If the IOS is different than what the creator intends it to be, you have problems. Any functionality outside of the “Creator” will cause it to malfunction. God has built the world and operated it in a certain way to operate then it’s only when we live in that operating system we will experience true freedom and function God has designed us for and that we were meant for.
This is our starting point and our main focus. Incidentally, the prohibitions of sexual behavior is not heard till later in Scripture (starting in Leviticus.) . But from the get-go, God is about showing the model for sexual identity and sexual freedom. Essentially God’s putting out there right away what He is “for” when it comes to sexual relationships and not what He is “against” until Leviticus. From the very beginning God has a designing for us a pattern for us to live. And even beyond just a pattern but a story, a better story for us to live when we love God and follow his example for life. That’s why going back to our origin story in Scripture and what Scripture has to say about sex is so critical.
Gabe Lyons from the book Good Faith says this:
“As the story of God’s people unfolds the bibles’ sexual ethic grows clearer and remains in line with the Creator’s intentions. Remember when Jesus started with the seventh commandment, “You must not commit adultery” and raised the bar to a higher standard? According to Him, entertaining the fantasies of our minds is spiritually on par with committing the sin (see Matt 5:27-30) This was and is a countercultural way to think about sex, not because it offers us greater self-fulfillment but because it does just the opposite. Jesus invites us to relinquish together.”
Culture continues to chip away at God’s sexual ethic, Biblical truth and convictions. The result: lovers of God who consider casual sex, changing gender, same-sex relationships as normal standards not just in our communities but also in some our Biblical communities.
I’ve heard young people pray and ask, “why doesn’t God just ‘take it away’?” God made your sex drive and your sexual attractions powerful for a distinct purpose…to pro-create. Sexual desire moves you to be with the opposite sex and in the context of marriage for a wonderful and shameless experience. That’s why sex comes with a “warning label.” We are warned repeatedly in the Song of Songs (2:7; 3:5; 8:4), “…do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” God is speaking beautifully here that there is an appropriate time, place, and person to awaken love with and we need to learn to control ourselves until the appropriate time and place with someone in marriage. Marriage is not an outdated contract or legal document but a safe place for you to be the most vulnerable and most fulfilled with someone.
God’s heart about our sexual attractions can be heard by looking at God’s Word says about it. And at its core, the Word of God is “a good word” because we serve a God whose nature is always, unequivocally good. God’s Word is an expression of His kindness and we can have confidence in His word on any topic of life…especially this topic of homosexuality. When it comes to sex and marriage, God doesn’t give us a “bad deal” when it comes to sex and marriage. He does establish a good sexual ethic. It’ doesn’t mean it’s easy, it might be frustrating even at times …but it’s good. That’s why God’s message to us through Jesus is called “Good News.” It’s the Gospel. Jesus died to give you the Gospel. The Gospel is who Jesus is and what He wants for you versus who you are and what you want for you.
As a Christian, what’s best for us as humans is laid out in the message of Jesus. That message is, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow.” Jesus isn’t about self-gratification but self-denial. This is a very difficult message for anyone. Why? Because it’s a message of self-denial. So much of the culture around us is asking “what can I get from you” while Christianity compels us to ask, “what can I give to you?”
So many Christians are living from a “faulty-gospel foundation.” This faulty foundation is, “this is who I am and this is how I feel and God is here to please me.” But the Biblical foundation is “this is who God is, this is how God feels and we are here to please Him.” Big difference. We live in a culture that wants to self-indulge. Without the regard for consequence. How we feel is more important than what is right. And when it comes to this issue of homosexuality, we need to be reminded that, as in any relationship, it’s not “what I want” that is important but “what God has for me” that is more important.
Just because you feel "attracted to the same sex" doesn’t mean you’re gay. Maybe as a male, you have a longing to be with other guys because you lacked acceptance and affirmation from other men in your life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a an accepting and affirming relationship with other guys in your life. All guys need relationships that you can be yourself with and be vulnerable with, in the context of an intimate healthy friendship. But culture takes that "void feeling" and twists it into you think you need to be sexually intimate with the same sex to feel affirmation and validation. No, a healthy community will affirm you and remind you who you are who God design you to be. Biblical intimacy of true love and emotional connection is an intentionality that sets you up for a long sustainability. This sustainability is affirmed through marriage, commitment, healthy community with similar values on what love and marriage is like.
You have to remember that your feelings and your temptations are not your identity. The world says to “look inside you” to find out who you are. Instead, look to your Creator and see how God desires you to function. We as Christians need to look outside of ourselves to measure and validate our feelings.
Tim Keller attacks our cultural norms by saying,
“our culture presses its’ members to believe you have to ‘be yourself’ that sexual desires are crucial to a personality identity that any curving strong sexual desires leads to psychological damage.’”
Keller is exposing the lie that to feel satisfied you have act on your feelings to find yourself and be yourself. We can’t rely on our feelings as the only reliable source to identify who we are sexually. We have to look to who God made us to be to fully understand how we can function in a healthy way. Culture brings chaos to our sexuality but Christ brings a simplicity and an order to our sexuality.
We have to be aware that there is a longing for intimacy with other people which is felt the strongest when expressed through sex. Intimacy is emotional, relational and most of the times sexual. We must resist the desire to pursue premature sexual intimacy and fulfillment (no matter who you are) outside of marriage or we create dysfunction. You may not see it or feel it now…but it will create dysfunction.
Jesus was a man. With a normal desires and drives. We have to acknowledge that even Jesus had a sexual drive as a man, was tempted in every way we were but didn’t give in to His own temptations, but chose to resist as a single person. He chose to be single for 33 years and managed his relationships with the utmost purity, honesty and integrity. See what Hebrews says about Jesus with his humanity,
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Christians are looking for Biblical ways to satisfy the desire for lifelong companionship. This desire for intimacy is so strong that it compels some to give up on their Christian beliefs to find intimacy. That's why casual sex, the gay lifestyle, etc are higher than it's ever been with those who profess a Christian faith. The Christian community must walk with those who are struggling sexually and affirm healthy relationships through positive and healthy environments. When you are aware of all of the sexual dysfunction and longing for intimacy, you can start unpacking all of the sexual assumptions of our culture, you have an opportunity to show the world a God who cares not just about our future but the very practical part of life like our sex lives.
God made our sexual drive strong. There is a misunderstanding that the only way to find “deliverance” from homosexuality is to become a heterosexual. God’s first priority itsn’t about you becoming heterosexual but it is first and foremost be about becoming a son or daughter of God in Christ. Before the foundation of the earth, God mapped out a specific plan and purpose for all of us (Ps. 139:16). As sons and daughters of God, we have every right to inherit what is rightfully because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. Not only that but you are created through Christ,
“for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see--such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16
You’re the creation. He’s the creator.
Now that we'nswering Tough Questions on Homosexuality: