Faith and sexuality are taboo topics, especially when combined. There are so many opinions, arguments and even more questions. All of this results in anger, hurt, frustration and disunity.
- Anger, hurt and frustration for the conservative believer, for the affirming believer and for the LGBTQ community.
- And, anger, hurt and frustration for people like me- same sex-attracted people with conservative theology who choose celibacy.
While we argue and wound each other over these topics, the enemy rejoices over Christian disunity. There is a time and a place to discuss Scripture, to interpret it, to apply it and to hold the body of Christ accountable. That time and place will never come in the face of disunity of God’s people or in the form of human wrath.
So how can we move towards unity? We all have one thing in common: our need for Christ. The believer needs Christ. The unbeliever needs Christ. The LBGTQ person needs Christ. Whether we acknowledge it or not it doesn’t change the fact that we need Him.
Before I engage with someone with different views, I remind myself that they are made in the image of God. Calling them names, dismissing them and belittling them while championing my own view does not honor Christ or advance my cause. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:9-10. Too many times we have torn each other to pieces online, at work, at home and most notably, in front of unbelievers.
There are four questions we must ask ourselves before we can move towards unity:
1. Do I have a growing awareness of my own need for Christ? Every year from Good Friday to Easter, I read Matthew 26, 27 and 28. I see Jesus betrayed, mocked, beaten and killed not only on my behalf, but, as if I personally drove the nails into Him. I grieve my own sin that killed my Savior. That rightly orients me to not see my neighbors’ sin as more severe than my own, to worship The Lord, and to have compassion for others.
2. Am I listening to my neighbor to first understand and then respond in grace and truth, or am I waiting on them to shut up so I can make a point? I’m naturally inclined to prepare my response while someone is talking. As a result, I’ve been a poor friend, poor leader, and ineffective minister. By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit listening is a growing discipline of mine. Listening leads to relationship and relationship leads to opportunities and permission to speak truth in grace.
3. Am I truly willing to weep with those who weep? Many LGBTQ people are grieving while trying to reconcile faith and sexuality. Homosexuality is more than just sex. It affects you physically, emotionally and spiritually. I knew that I was gay at a young age, before I knew what sex was. It shaped every aspect of my life. Growing up in the south meant not being fully known by family or friends out of fear. It meant believing that God hated gays and I’d go to hell. When Christ came into my life, I lost the future I planned, the partner I loved, and my whole world changed. There was much to grieve. I was blessed with godly community who stood their biblical ground but freely wept with me. Scripture asks us to die to ourselves. Death involves grief, but joy comes in the morning.
4. Is my joy in Christ so evident that it overflows? Am I so filled with joy in Christ that it shapes my interactions? When non-affirming believers encourage LGBTQ people to die to themselves they rarely focus on the gain. I am so consumed with my joy in Christ that the pain I once felt is just a phantom memory. I have to recall it. My worst day with Jesus is still better than my best day with a lover. That’s the joy I pray my LGBTQ friends come to know. People around me won’t know that if I only focus on what I’ve lost. And people around you won’t notice your joy in Christ beyond your angry picket signs and bullet points on social media that feel like real bullets. How did I come to this joy?
I was in my mid-twenties. I knew I was gay. I knew I was called to ministry. I knew what Scripture says. I had to make a choice. I knew the importance of the call on my life. I knew the importance of dying to self and taking up my cross. The road to celibacy was emotionally painful, but the decision itself wasn’t. I knew Christ.
My pastor was ready to hire me and wanted to approach the elders about it. He had the authority to hire me on his own but wanted to see the heart of his elders on the topic. A decision I supported then and now. The Elders had some reservations. One man said this was silly to discuss because there was evident fruit in my life and ministry. Some were apathetic. Some were confused as to where I would serve because obviously I’d be tempted in women’s ministry- an uninformed view of homosexuality. He didn’t know what to do with me. One elder even left the church over it.
There were a few discussions on the topic and I’ll never forget one my senior pastor shared with me. In a moment of love and compassion for me, he asked them to think about all they were asking me to give up: marriage, sex, companionship on this level, etc. he pointed to his wedding ring and said we encourage students to be celibate until marriage and for you this is potentially forever. He was in tears. Love for me and grief with me were colliding in his heart. I was crying, too. For him and the elders. These were and still are godly men I respect. But, they were missing the point. All I was gaining.
I gained a Heavenly Father who knew every sin I ever committed and still sent his son for my salvation and His glory. I gained a Savior who bore my sin unto death and offered me new life. My only response is to believe and repent. I gained the Holy Spirit to be my guide, comforter and companion.
Jackie Hill Perry says “Repentance and believing becomes impulsive when we see Jesus rightly.” I believe people will see Jesus rightly when the body of Christ focuses on unity in Christ. Are we aware of our individual need for Him? That is the most important question we should ask before we place a stake in the ground of debate. Am I listening? Will I grieve with them? Can they see my joy? Much will be lost, more will be gained. Christ and Christ alone is our answer.
Are you teaching and preaching sexuality in such a way that heterosexuals feel just as convicted and called as the LGBTQ community? Navigating sexuality isn’t easy. Navigating ministry isn’t easy. With Christ all things are possible.