A Grace-filled and Truthful Response Regarding "Gay Christianity"
(After the ruling of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 Laura Leigh Stanlake, Director of Women's Ministries attended a local church service where a pastor gave a message in responding to so-called "gay marriage". There was a problem! Homosexual identity and Christianity were being integrated as one legitimate identity-- a "gay Christian" identity. Laura responded with this article in the Winter 2015 First Stone Newsletter.)
A local pastor I know courageously decided to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriages. He lovingly and biblically called the church to an uncompromised surrender to Jesus’ lordship over sexuality.
Here is part of what he said:
"Whether you're gay or whether you're straight, to follow Jesus will demand a taking up of your cross. When we start to throw out clear teachings of scripture about the lordship of Jesus over sexuality and what marriage is and what celibacy is and what singleness is--and we begin to change those to fit into culture thinking that we're gonna make the church relevant to the masses--what you actually do is make the church offensive to Jesus, the head of the church.
Gay or straight, you can't do anything to earn your salvation. It's done. Jesus did it.
Gay or straight, to follow Jesus means he will relentlessly pursue every bit of your soul because he loves you too much to let you have lesser gods.
This obedience that we're talking about to Jesus, (here's the big idea), this obedience is actually not burdensome. It's actually a light yoke because He loves you. He said, 'My yoke is easy; my burden is light.' What does that mean? It means that Jesus doesn't heap rule upon rule to try to crush your soul. In fact, sin against Jesus is joy suicide...(short story omitted) because of the created stuff in this world, all of it, that God made for your good and His glory, all of it, falls short of getting to the very deepest longings of your soul that only the God that made you can satisfy."
So, here are some of my thoughts.
He said so much more.
This was a good message overall. I do appreciate this pastor’s hard work to honor the journeys of men and women who are Christians, but who feel that ‘gay’ is intrinsic to their souls. He is careful and kind and truthful.
For me, it is a difficult message (as was another message last year that addressed homosexuality) because it also puts in front of this church the concept that gay and Christian are identities that can live together in harmony. While this pastor chooses to take the position that, for a Christian, a gay person must be celibate, it falls short by allowing that to stand as a single identity--the gay Christian. I'm not sure the Church fully realizes the undermining power of this idea—that, the Christian, who is gay, is gay in such a way that will not change. This pastor read an excerpt from a blog by Wesley Hill at the end of his message. (He also referenced Wesley Hill last year as well as an authority.) Hill wrote a book called Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. I can personally say that there are many good things in Hill’s book and that Hill is eloquent and persuasive. This local pastor read from Hill’s blog regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling. The blog post from Hill moved this pastor to tears in the end. I want you to read the excerpt that he read to the congregation:
“In his memoir, Denial: My Twenty-Five Years Without a Soul, the gay journalist Jonathan Rauch says that there once existed a frightened young man tortured with the certainty that there was no place in the world for the love he experienced. That man was Rauch, and there was no home for him—none, that is, until he and his fellow Americans decided he had the right to marry. ‘They and he have found, at last, a name for his soul. It is not monster or eunuch. Nor indeed homosexual. It is: husband.’
When I read Rauch’s book, that last sentence left a lump in my throat. That receiving the word husband felt to Rauch like the relief of a negative biopsy—‘You’re not sick or twisted or crazy; you’re just hindered from giving and receiving love, and now the hindrance is removed’—goes a long way toward explaining the jubilation so many gay and lesbian people feel in the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS ruling. Finally, their loves may be dignified not with the anemic moniker friend or partner or the clinical epithet disordered or the disdainful slur pervert but rather with the venerable, ordinary, immediately recognizable words husband or wife.”
And the pastor went on to read Hill:
“[…] I fault us Christians, the churches themselves, for our complicity in promoting erroneous views of marriage (“we,” not just “them,” share the blame!) […]
I’m gay myself, of course, albeit celibate, and as I watched all the excitement of my gay friends yesterday, I couldn’t help but sympathize with the jubilation. Like Jonathan Rauch, I have known shame and loneliness, and I am drawn to the promise of home that same-sex marriage holds out.
Yet I’m also a Christian, and according to historic Christian orthodoxy, marriage isn’t the only, or even the primary, place to find love. In the New Testament, as J. Louis Martyn once wrote, ‘the answer to loneliness is not marriage, but rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ.’ Marriage in Christian theology is, you might say, demythologized. With the coming of Christ, its necessity is taken away: gone is the notion that without it we are doomed to lovelessness.
For that reason, even if my faith permitted me to embrace Justice Kennedy’s understanding of “marriage equality”—which it doesn’t—I would still resist his conclusion about where to find the end of loneliness. Christianity teaches that marriage is transitory (Matthew 22:30), that celibacy is an honorable good drawing us into relationship with others (1 Corinthians 7:38), and that sacrificial love is open to anyone, regardless of marital status (Galatians 3:28).
Unlike Jonathan Rauch and Justice Kennedy, I don’t believe husband or wife is the right name for same-sex partners. But according to the promise of Scripture, baptized is a name offered freely to every last one of us, gay or straight or anywhere in between—and it’s a name that means beloved. That is the good news the church is given to proclaim, now more than ever.”1
The ringing and potent last words of this local pastor’s message were of a man (Wesley Hill) who stands for some Christian integrity by embracing abstinence from sexual joining, but embraces and asserts himself as a gay man. In his abstinence he embraces a gay identity as intrinsic to his soul. He argues for truth, but he equates temptation with identity. It is from that position that I struggle most with the joining of a gay identity to a Christian identity.
Lately, I have been thinking that part of the problem is that we are not using a biblical perspective when we talk about this word gay. For our culture the word gay is an identity. So, in an attempt to be compassionate, our pastors and leaders are also using the word gay to describe the identity of the same-sex attracted struggler. The Bible, however, includes homosexuality among the lists of the common things with which we can all be tempted or can act upon as sin. Why does that matter? Well, it matters because there are answers to temptations that are thoroughly biblical and teach of a power to conquer, not simply refrain from sin.
I don’t think I was getting the full picture myself until I tried to explain my discomfort to a same-sex attracted friend. My friend had expressed an important question: “What does one do with the "identity" when the struggle hasn't gone away? What if the transformation is slow and seemingly imperceptible at times? Does one reconsider their status with Christ at that point?” The short answer is a definite “no,” but it is the subject that we need to discuss here. I considered her question and the concerns I am digging at in this article and felt it important to reveal myself to illustrate a point. I would rather talk about how Jesus has significantly freed me from same-sex attraction and the constant pull of lesbian lusts. However, I feel this illustration is much more appropriate.
I replied to my friend with this:
I think that this internal battle is exactly why people do talk about “gay” and “Christian” together. I guess I look at the many other sins that scripture targets by name (often in the same lists as homosexuality) and wonder if we would tend to put those against the identity of Christian? For example, I am fat. Over the course of my life I have tried to master this problem with various programs of self-control only to relapse and lose ground I gained. I’ve been aware of the struggle since I was a teenager. Should I embrace the concept of Fat-Christian as an identity? Because I have always been fat and have had little, long-term success in sobriety with food, should I just accept my identity as a Gluttonous-Christian and call it good? The Christian is called to self-control and I have a lot of it...but not as much with my weight. Should I just call that good and unchangeable or should I continue to move toward greater self-control? (As a maturing Christian I must press on to be more self-controlled.) Would we put thieving-Christian or parent-dishonoring-Christian together as an identity? How about envious-Christian or lustful-Christian? While I can understand that we all have particular struggles and temptations, it is only in this particular area of sexual identity that we are changing the game to reflect a distorted identity.
I mentioned that, if we were going to have a biblical discussion, then there might also be answers for the seeking heart.
First, we must repent of our unbelief. I’ll summarize the story for this point. God delivered his people out of bondage in Egypt. He promised to give them a land flowing with good things (currently occupied by other troublesome people). The plan was to leave Egypt, pass through the wilderness and enter into the Promised Land. It was to be a fairly short trip (not without peril). They did not believe God and did not take the new land. The result was wandering and sin and discontent and death. (Hebrews 3:7-4:11; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 12:33-15:21; Numbers 13-14) In the context of sexual sin, believe God for the much more that He has for us. Truthfully, every fleshly thing that God requires us to relinquish has a much better answer in God. Let’s believe Him for that. Let’s believe Him for the better thing.
Second, let’s use Bible words for a little bit. Let’s adopt temptation to describe the allure, draw or enticement toward anything destructive or sinful. Let’s adopt the word lust to describe a passionate or dominating desire for food, sex or possessions, for example. (James 1:2-15; 1 Cor 10:12-13; 1 John 2:15-17)
Third, let’s choose the counsel of God’s word for dealing with sin and temptation. For example, let’s run when faced with temptations. (2 Timothy 2: 19-22) Let’s repent when we fall. (Acts 3:19-20) Let’s avoid companionship that can lead us to ungodliness. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Don’t blame God for the temptation, but seek God for His grace to help and to be transformed. (James 1:13; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Hebrews 4:14-16) Follow Jesus’ example and pray that you will not enter into temptation. (Luke 22:40; Matthew 6:13) Ask for help from the One who was tempted Himself but did not sin. (Hebrews 2:18) Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) Ask for the new heart promised. (Ezekiel 36:22-29)
I do have a strong opinion here. I believe that in every matter of life (even the one I have confessed above as an illustration) God does have significantly more for us than to settle and resign ourselves to the belief that the fight itself is a waste of time. The fight, itself, has value and produces good fruit. (1 Timothy 6:11-13; Hebrews 10:35-37; James 1:4; 1 Peter 4:12-14) I do believe that God has promised (yes, promised) so much more. It is given to all of us who live in flesh and blood bodies that we will be tempted and, likely, fail. However, God has made promises that we can get from Him what we need to live. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Lastly, I believe that God wants us to lay our hopes on His person for more. I once use to seek God only for the obliteration of my sexual lusts. What I have found and continue to find is that when I have encountered all I can endure, God still has a better thing for me. That little lesson is something I am working with now. I want to be free in every area of my life. How about you?
I feel that this local pastor’s kind desire to gently speak to Christians who are struggling with same-sex desires is a powerful and beautiful thing. It’s brave by any example in our culture, but I also feel that he is applying a label in error.
Wesley Hill’s blog post in response to the Nation’s Court and Jonathan Rauch was powerful, but it reveals also that Hill’s embrace of a gay identity has hobbled his progress for the more in God (greater sanctification). I read his spiritualfriendship.org blog weekly and see a strong temptation to find an answer for the aloneness he talked about in the above quote. Currently, he is looking for that answer outside of scriptures and outside of a devoted life with God as he entertains the idea that God might bless a “vowed friendship” between two men and two women. Essentially what he proposes a “marriage” of sorts without sexual joining. It is a slippery path to be sure. I’m certain this is happening because he has allowed the two identities of “gay” and “Christian” to intermingle unchecked. It is a carnal (fleshly) perspective that is contrary to the Word of God. Doesn’t love from God believe the best, and always seek more of Him?
I conclude here my response with two passages regarding our true identity:
Philippians 2:12-16 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."
1 Cor 6:12-20 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”