Does God Really Say I Can't Be With Other Guys? (Pt. 2)

For anyone just joining us, this is my second post about homosexuality and the Church. The first post can be found here (If you haven’t read it, pause for 2 minutes and go check it out… but seriously, go. I’ll still be here. Promise.). In that post, I focused on some of the biggest pushbacks and questions that I have had about God’s design for my sexuality. After wrestling with whether or not the church is actually a safe place for years, this post will focus more on questions about what it looks like to have a church that welcomes and loves members of the LGBT community.

For full disclosure, as I mentioned in the first post, I am a man who is attracted to members of the same sex, and at the same time, I am a member of a church, Midtown Fellowship, that faithfully holds to the biblical view of God’s design for gender and sexuality. I hope that this post will show what it looks like to walk in that seeming contradiction.

How Can I, As A Gay Man, Trust Christians?

I remember sitting in a pew one Sunday while I was growing up and thinking to myself, “If these are God’s people, I don’t want anything to do with God.” On another occasion, I remember seeing an anti-Pride protest and thinking, “Why are these people so hateful?”

Then in college, I found myself sitting in my room with my head buried in my hands agonizing, “If God only cares about my sin… If He has no interest in my well being whatsoever... Then how can I trust Him at all?”

I have spent years wrestling with this question.

Agonizing over its potential answers.

Begging God to help me.

Help me understand.

Help me make sense of my desires.

But as I have wrestled with this question, I have realized it was based on a faulty assumption. I was assuming that the actions of “God’s people”, the church, were an accurate reflection of God’s character; that God approved of and condoned the actions of every individual who ever claimed to act in His name.

The first problem with this idea baffled me when I first encountered it. Simply claiming to be a believer does not actually mean that someone is a follower of Christ.  Many of the people spewing the most hate-filled messages about homosexuality are, in fact, not Christians. I was convicting God for actions taken by people who had twisted Scripture to fit into their hate-filled agenda. These weren’t people interested in God, these were people using God as a means to an end.

They weren’t Christians.

They were self-righteous bigots.

Which left me with the question, what about the people who really are Christians and are still causing pain.

There were times when the Christians I knew were ignorant or insensitive.

There were times when they had no interest in being helpful.

There were times when they seemed disgusted by me.

There were times when the only way I could interpret their actions was as hateful.

And that’s what I thought it meant to be a Christian, but the more time I spent in God’s word, the more He began to show me what it really meant to be a Christian. Being a Christian does not mean knowing the right answers and displaying moral superiority about your ability to avoid certain sins.

Being a Christian means admitting my sinfulness and proclaiming my need for a savior. It means I stop trying to earn my way back to God. It means I run to God for the forgiveness and grace I can never earn. And because of that, in everything, I am called to trust in the love of Christ, and Christ alone, not the love of anything else. Not the love of a romantic interest. Not the love of my parents or family. And not even the love of God’s people, the church.

The Bible makes it clear that all humans, including Christians, despite their best intentions, are still sinners that will continue to let each other down. So pointing out that Christians are sinners who fail to love and fail to treat people fairly and perfectly isn’t actually a reason to not trust Jesus. It’s one more piece of evidence that Christians, like the rest of us need a Savior.

But What About Christian Hypocrites?

To be honest, the Church, historically, has failed miserably to minister well to those who question their gender or sexuality. Preachers have stood in their pulpits and relentlessly called out people who struggle with same-sex attraction, but have looked the other way when congregants commit heterosexual adultery, show unrepentant greed, or struggle with any number of other sins (pride, drunkenness, and lying come to mind).

As a result, myself and other members of the LGBT community have felt unfairly singled out, ridiculed, and unwelcomed by the Church. My heart breaks with that of those whom the Church has spurned and ostracized.

Growing up in a fairly conservative Southern church, I too know the utter exhaustion that comes from feeling as if you have to hide the truth because your sins are unspeakable, and it seemed like that was the only possibility.

But it’s not.

The biblical call on believers in Jesus is to create a community that is radically welcoming to everyone, including members of the LGBT community. The Bible calls the Church to be a family that sees each other’s sins, and loves each other regardless. To be a group of people that rally around one another when life is difficult. To be a people who celebrate the wins together and also that walks through the mess of life together.

And as crazy as it sounds, I’ve seen it.

There are members of my church family who know me, know my story, know the depths of my sin, and have welcomed me into their lives and loved me unconditionally.

I have struggled with the fear of loneliness that comes with lifelong celibacy, and my church family has absolutely fought alongside me. I have been invited to crash my friends’ dates. I have been invited to live with other people in our church family. And not just other single people. I have been invited into the homes of our married friends to live with them. To be a part of their family. To help raise their kids.

I have been invited on family vacations. Not only with young married people. I’ve been invited into family traditions that involved meeting my friend’s older parents and siblings and their spouses. I have been invited to share holidays with people. To share birthdays. To share random Wednesday afternoons. To come and gather with them during the times of the year that often tempt me to feel the most lonely.

I have been welcomed as a volunteer in the Church. I not only serve in the church office each week, but I serve with our Kids & Families team. Because I’ll be honest, I think kids are some of the most fun people to be around in the world. And because my church family isn’t afraid of me. They don’t think I’m a monster who needs to be kept separate from the next generation. I serve alongside all of our other members in helping to raise the kids in our church family, both on Sundays and everyday of the week. There is no position in our church which is off limits to an individual with same sex attraction who is earnestly repenting and pushing into Jesus.

I have been blessed to be a part of group confession, where every person in the group was openly and honestly chasing after Jesus and reminding everyone else in the group of the gospel. I didn’t feel like people wanted to find me out or catch me. I haven’t felt that my sins were any different than the sins of other people in the group.

And if we are being real, it’s not just me. Our church family has routinely welcomed members of the LGBT community. Into their families, into their homes, and into their lives. I am invited to join into our church wide culture of repentance. To come alongside my brothers and sisters, my friends, and my pastors as we all learn to trust more and more in the love of Jesus.

Can I Pursue Him and Jesus?

At the end of the day, the question that remains is, “Can I pursue a romantic, sexual relationship with another man and still be a Christian?”

More than anything else, I want the answer to be yes.

Some nights I lay awake begging God for the answer to be yes…

Because any other answer feels crushing.

I lay there staring at the ceiling and questioning...how can I go on if the answer is no?

But, as much as it pains me, the answer is no.

Being a Christian means laying down my personal desires and submitting to Jesus and his Word. Being a Christian means living in light of Christ’s teaching. Being a Christian means knowing that I’ll never do any of this perfectly, but Jesus has already perfectly laid down His desires to love and serve me. Even if I claim faith in Christ verbally, James reminds me that true faith in Christ is accompanied by a heart level desire to pursue holiness. This means that as a Christian, I am called to subjugate all of my desires to the teaching of Scripture. This includes my desire to be with other guys.

To be clear, this call is not unique to those who question the Bible’s sexual ethic, but it does include us.

Where Then Is My Hope?

The cross of Jesus is the hope for all of us.

For those of us who struggle with their sexuality and those who don’t.

Hebrews 4:15 describes Christ saying, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” As strange as it might sound, there is no temptation and no underlying belief that Jesus was not also tempted with. 

When I find myself daydreaming about a romantic relationship with the cute guy I pass on Main Street because that would surely fix my loneliness, Jesus was tempted with the same belief.

When it feels like all I need to be happy is the friendship and approval of another man, I can trust that Jesus felt that, too.

When I long for the security from an emotional connection with another man, I can trust that Jesus was tempted to believe that that same desire would satisfy him.

Christ understands even my day to day trials.

I can run to him with my exhaustion, my frustrations, and my desires, because he understands me and wants good for me. My struggles will not evaporate overnight and the road ahead of me will not be easy, but as a faithful Christian, I am called to run to the cross of Jesus and faithfully submit to the authority of Scripture, even when it feels like death.

So when I do fail to live by God’s design for my sexuality, the good news of the Gospel is that Christ came and took on the punishment for our sins, all of our sins without exception, and I can still approach his throne in confidence because of grace.

Through all of this, I’m praying for Jesus to give me strength in the times when my desires seem overwhelming.

I’m praying others who struggle with same sex attraction would see the perfect love available to them through Christ.

I’m praying for other churches to see the beautiful design the Bible describes for what kind of hospitable and loving people we are called to be.

I’m praying that Christians who are ignorant, insensitive, or even hateful would repent and trust Jesus instead of their own righteousness.

And I’m praying that each of us, same sex attracted or not, would daily push more and more into the good news of the Gospel.

Does God Really Say I Can't Be With Other Guys?

This post was written by a member of our church family who experiences same-sex attraction and would like to remain anonymous for the protection of him and his family.

As a Christian man who struggles with same-sex attraction, this question is the most difficult question I’ve wrestled with in my faith. Even now, I find myself asking it almost daily. I’m publishing this post anonymously because this is not a past-tense discussion. Bluntly, I am not yet ready to talk about my same-sex attraction in public; for example, I am still praying about the most loving way to tell my parents because I’m not sure what their response will be. In the midst of this tension, I am continually pressing into what the Gospel says about my sexuality and learning to trust God’s design more and more each day.

The first part of this post covers some of the biggest questions I wrestle with. They are the smaller questions that all add up to the big one. They are questions I find myself asking God directly. They influence my day to day actions. The second part of the post will also deal with questions I wrestle with, but questions that impact the entire LGBT community, not just my personal walk. 

Before we dive in, I need to be honest with you. When I first asked each of these questions, I wished desperately for God to answer them in an affirming manner. I resisted anytime an answer wasn’t what I wanted to hear. 
          These are not questions that I think are easily answered.
          These are not questions that are easily asked.

However, as I have wrestled with these questions, God has faithfully pursued me and convinced me (over and over) to trust in his design for my sexuality. This change is painfully slow at points... at most points. But it is my hope and prayer that this post will give you a glimpse into my struggle and how God keeps changing my heart. In doing so I hope to accomplish two things: 

  • Provide encouragement for those who experience any degree of same sex attraction.
  • Give insight to those looking to love those in the LGBT community well.

Does it matter who I’m chasing after?

One of the most tempting lies for me to believe is that God doesn’t care who I flirt with. I want to run to Biblical passages about how to handle topics with some room for interpretation (e.g. Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 10:23 – 11:1). I want to tell myself, “Whether or not I live according to God’s design for sexuality is a question of conscience, so I am free to do what I want.” But as I have dug into God’s word, He keeps making clear to me that His plan for my sexuality is not a question of conscience. The Bible clearly establishes and repeatedly reaffirms God’s sexual ethic. Ultimately, God showed me that asking this question requires incredible hubris, because the question I am really asking is “Does God know what is best, or do I?“ When I honestly consider this new question, I realize that as the creator, God knows what is good for me and the world better than I do.

But the Bible is just an old book reflecting the culture of it’s day, right?

This is the question I hear friends wrestling with more often than any other. After all, the Bible was written in a backwards and oppressive culture, right? The problem is the more I looked into scripture, the more I realized this question didn’t adequately address the facts. When introducing the list of forbidden sexual relationships in Leviticus, God tells Moses, “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt…and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan.” God begins his explanation of his sexual ethic by explaining that it flies in the face of the cultural sexual expectations of the time. Similarly, it would be redundant of Paul to reiterate God’s sexual ethic in his letters if his readers weren’t feeling a personal temptation to do what he encourages them to avoid. As a result, the more I’ve studied, the more I’ve become convinced that God’s sexual ethic has always been countercultural.

Eventually, I came to see that there was something quite different at work in this question. When I found myself arguing that our society has a superior sexual ethic than earlier cultures, I realized this thought was based on the assumption that our culture is superior in general compared to previous cultures (otherwise why would I think our thinking about sex is any better than theirs?). The problem with that is, I don’t actually have any logical way to defend that statement. Anything that I use to argue that our culture is better creates a circular argument that begs the question. I can’t honestly or logically argue this way without privileging our culture’s way of thinking above the thinking of previous peoples.

How can I be satisfied if I’m not with him?

As someone well indoctrinated by American and Western culture, this is by far the hardest question for me. In the depths of my soul, I’m tempted to believe that the solution to my anxieties and insecurities is the approval that would come from a relationship with another man. I want to believe that God doesn’t understand the strength of my desires, so once I explain my situation to God, he will have to cut me some slack. But the more I’ve thought through this idea, the more God has confronted me on it. We see in Genesis 1:26 that the purpose of man is so much larger than fulfilling sexual desires. We are designed for more than chasing our animalistic desires. We are designed to be in communion with God and to reflect God’s image to all of creation. Our desire to be fulfilled comes from a deep longing in us to live this out, and our dissatisfaction with life ultimately stems from our broken relationship with God. A brilliant Scottish writer, Bruce Marshall, once remarked, "The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God." He’s right. 

And my brothel just happens to be the dream of being in a relationship with a man. 
Even if I were to get with my dream guy (in any capacity), I might get some brief contentment, but it will never lead to the lasting satisfaction I really want.  

What do we do if God is right about this?

So far, I’ve focused on ways that God has worked in me and confronted my sinful nature, but this is only half the battle. In the next post, I’m going to turn from asking questions about personal interactions with God’s design for sexuality and focus on the implications of this discussion not just for myself but for the church as a whole. 

In the meantime, I’m praying for each of you. I know that this has been incredibly hard for me and that it is going to be hard for you as well. So, I’m praying that Jesus will be our strength and our hope when we can’t do it on our own.