If there’s one topic I am most hesitant to say something about online, even the lightest comment, it’s homosexuality. Nowhere seems safe. But the topic is beginning to encroach on me in the form of a conference at the end of this month at a church within my denomination. Many words have already been spilled about this. There have been many posts and essays from the principals of the conference (and movement behind it) and their critics, and since the essence of the argument is on how to love our neighbors and fellow believers within a difficult context, background reading could take a long time, especially when the people behind the conference say they are being misrepresented and misunderstood.
The conference hopes to inspire Christian communities to embrace and empower “gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” That means the two conference principals and some supporters claim homosexuality as an identity description, albeit a disordered one, and that biblical morality does not allow its expression. Any act is a sin, the orientation is a disorder, but they nonetheless hope to embrace same-sex attraction in the form of Christian friendship.
Here’s how one writer puts it.
Just as chaste chivalry, to take just one example, can be an expression of heterosexuality, so we’re suggesting that chaste friendship (or a number of other ways of expressing love) can be an expression of homosexuality. Having gay sex is one way of being gay, but, if we’re taking our cues from the Christian tradition, it need not (must not) be the definitive way. My main worry with some of the “renunciation” and “surrender” and “death to self” language that Christians use in relation to homosexuality is that, for most people, it will end up implying that we believe all aspects of “being gay” are sinful.
I fully agree that love takes many expressions. I also tend to think Christians should be more expressively affectionate in general, that doing so would build everyone up in our community. But what’s described above appears to be a man’s desire to love another man, body and soul except with limits on the body half.
Compare this to what another writer says about “being gay.”
“If anyone is in Christ,” writes the Apostle Paul to Christians in Corinth, where some had been converted to faith in Christ from a background of same-sex practice, “he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For me, part of the “old” that “has gone” is this idea of identifying myself and describing myself according to my sexual attractions. If I were to hold on to that label “gay”, as if it’s somehow intrinsic to who I am now, then by denying myself a same-sex relationship it would feel as if I’d be denying who I really am (an accusation some of my gay friends already level at me). If my true identity is in Christ, however, then denying myself a same-sex relationship seems like a much more positive outworking of my commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to put him first in my life.
This man seeks to love and be loved in relationship to Christ, not a disordered orientation. He chooses not to define himself by what is clearly not of the Lord.
Are “all aspects of ‘being gay’ are sinful”? Is the sin in the act alone or is it also in the desire to act? Think about it. It’s a sin to steal, but is it a sin to covet? It’s a sin to sleep with someone’s wife, but what about lusting for her in privacy? It’s a sin to murder, but is it wrong to hate someone? Moreover, it’s a sin to create an idol out of wood or stone, but is it a sin to worship what that idol would represent?
Jesus answered these questions clearly, and this essay, “Learning to hate our sin without hating ourselves,” develops this line of thought better than I could.
Where does that leave us? Our neighbors and fellow believers who support homosexuality or feel same-sex attraction need to hear that they are valuable, dignified, respectable people (on a human level) who are desperately deceived and sinful (on a spiritual level). And everyone of us stands condemned of the same.
The most natural, the most human thing about us is a deceitful heart. We want to orient the world according to our own nature. And if our nature is controlling, abusive, indulgent, slothful, obsessive, or perverse, we naturally argue that life should be one of these ways. But by the blood of Christ Jesus, these worldly conformities are broken as we are renewed in His Word. None of us has moral high ground at the foot of the cross, and though we wish to embrace and empower believers in following Christ by the power of the Spirit, there is nothing in the LBGT+ community to embrace–nothing except what we already have, the evidence of our need for salvation.