“How can one be gay and call oneself a Christian?”
These words bring back memories of the time when I thought that “gay Christian” was an oxymoron. Since then I, a conservative Christian who believes that sexual activity was designed by God as a special bond and procreative act within heterosexual marriage, have gained some dear friends who are “gay Christians,” and I have done a lot more thinking and studying.
Part of the problem comes with our definitions. To most gay people, the term “gay” refers to a homosexual orientation—a powerful attraction to the same sex, rather than to the opposite sex. If we are willing to call our attraction to the opposite sex a sin, then, I suppose, we should have a right to call the attraction to the same sex a sin. If we cannot control the attraction to persons to whom you are not married and thus believe that the attraction, of itself, is not a sin, I hope we can also recognize that neither is an attraction to the same sex a sin.
God does not condemn us for our attractions—whether inborn or acquired in our upbringing—but he expects us to discipline them with the sanctified judgment He gives us. If we do this, we will govern our behavior according to His divine Law of Love and not misrepresent Him by indulging desires out of harmony with that Law.
. . . as you have done it unto the least. . .
You see, among the “gay Christians” I know are some of the finest Christians I have had the privilege to know in my over sixty years on this planet. They walk with God, and it shows in their treatment of others. They are the ones that pick up the homeless on the streets and feed them and clothe them. They are the ones that lend a listening ear to those who are hurting. They are the ones that dedicate many hours to their church as first elders, Personal Ministries leaders, and Bible study teachers. They are the ones that spend much time in personal Bible study and prayer because they know that only through prayer can they have the strength to live the Christian life.
You and I—as heterosexuals—might be able to fudge things a bit. We might be able to lose the Lord in the busy-ness of life, and we might not even notice for a while. But my gay Christian friends cannot afford to let go of His hand because, as soon as they lose the sense of His presence, the tempter overwhelms them with discouragement and temptation. They walk very close to Him, and it shows.
. . . behavior or orientation? . . .
Due to a lot of misinformation, most conservative Christians seem to think that homosexuality is merely a chosen behavior. But I know of many gay Christians who knew they were “different” since they were as young as three years old. It is only as they grew older that they learned that this “difference” had a name. For one example, please read Josh Weed’s post, Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary. He tells a typical story of discovering his homosexual attractions—one I’ve heard over and over with many variations. But he chose to marry and be fully transparent with his wife. Josh writes from a Mormon perspective, but I know of many Christians who have a very similar story to tell. His kind of story is not told nearly as often as some others, especially with real names and pictures, because married men with families have too much to lose by disclosing their private battle. (Heard much more often are stories of gay men who left their families and joined the gay world to “find themselves.”)
I knew one gay man who married and raised a family. He wanted to be very certain that his son would not turn out like him and suffer as he had. So he made sure to spend time with his son. He made sure that the son played only “boy games” and played with “boy toys,” because he had preferred girl games and girl toys as a child. But, despite this father’s best efforts, the son turned out to be gay. (You can read the story of Benjamin, the father, here.)
Some time in their lives most people with such “different” attractions are faced with a decision of what to do with the almost overwhelming desires for relationships not sanctioned by the society in which they grew up—a Christian church that fostered the notion that homosexual attractions are in and of themselves sinful and that “God hates fags.”
. . . different paths . . .
Many who decide to repress their desires live with a shameful “secret” that produces guilt to blight their spiritual lives. They have a real struggle to feel accepted by God and usually pray in vain to be delivered from this “sin”—many of them for decades—just as people have prayed in vain to be delivered from other powerful predispositions. Sometimes God works just such miracles of deliverance, but most of the time he does not. His usual method of dealing with us is to give us the strength to live the Christ-life despite our unwanted orientations—though it may cost us tears and trials without number.
The deep-seated assumption by many conservative church members that a homosexual orientation is sin has put a false burden of guilt on gay people. It is no wonder that many of them finally give up attending conservative churches and turn their backs on a God who did not answer their prayers to turn them into heterosexuals. Conservative Christians must take much of the blame for driving these of God’s children away from Him—forbidding them to come when God is drawing them to Himself. Discouraged with attempts to live heterosexual lives, gay people find a friendlier environment in the gay world of our larger cities. The decision to “come out” and assert their right to live a gay life brings a tremendous sense of relief and exhilaration—a feeling that can persist even through a lot of traumatic confrontations with family and friends. And there’s a lot of support for such a “coming out”— even from perfect strangers. It just feels good not to have to pretend any more. Some even find churches, such as a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), that teach that, since God created them with homosexual desires, He also blesses the indulgence of these desires.
. . . it’s not an easy road . . .
No matter which road they choose, gay people do not have an easy road to follow. It is a road filled with doubts, fears, self-hatred, shunning by their peers, and feelings of being condemned by God, etc. As one of my gay friends pointed out, homosexuality causes people to question their culture, religion, mores and essence of self. It is a struggle to achieve a positive self-identity in an otherwise hostile environment.
Those who choose to stay in conservative Christian churches face an extremely difficult road. Some struggle with their burden of guilt all their lives—coming to the Lord again and again to seek forgiveness for that which they have not chosen. Others come to believe that Christ loves them in spite of what the church seems to say. They are acutely conscious of their need of His grace in their lives, and they cling closely to Him. As a result, they reveal a depth of Christian experience that is most often lacking in the average Christian in the pew. Such have been an inspiration to me.
. . . who’s to judge? . . .
Gay people who do not act on their orientation walk a much narrower road than the average Christian. However, I am convinced that even a sexually active homosexual is not necessarily a worse sinner than the rest of us.1 The New Testament spends much more time warning against gossip, disbelief, discord, judgmentalism and legalism than it does in warning against sexual sin of any sort.
We might also want to compare Christ’s approach to Mary Magdalene on the one hand and his approach to the Pharisees on the other. For whom did he have words of encouragement, and for whom did he have words of reproof? Should we not follow His example?
Then we can reflect on the story of such characters as Rahab, Abraham, Jacob, and David. Rahab’s faith was honored while she was a prostitute! (The Bible gives us no compelling reason to believe that she gave up her means of earning a living in order to be saved when Jericho was destroyed.) And whereas God designed marriage to be between one husband and one wife, he did not cast off Abraham, Jacob and David because they had many wives. Abraham was called a “friend of God,” Jacob was designated “prince of God,” and David is recorded as being “man after God’s heart” while they were polygamously married.
Thus it appears that God does not always judge the way we might judge.
. . . Jesus will separate the sheep . . .
I value as dear friends some who are currently in gay relationships or are celibate while they are waiting for God to send them that “special someone.” And I am content to leave their judgment to God. They have taught me much about what it means to live the life of Christ on this earth, and I would not presume to judge myself better than they. I believe that the Holy Spirit will lead them gently—mindful of the hurts of their past—just as He leads me.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus taught that, as we have done to the “least of these” we have done it unto Him. Judged by this standard, some of the sexually active gay people I know will enter the kingdom before their conservative Christian judges. May we forbid them not as they seek to come to Him through the doors of our churches. 2
- Just to clarify— by saying sexually active homosexual are not necessarily worse sinners than other Christians, I am not saying that gay sex is approved by God. I am, however, saying that it is just one sin among others, not the chief of sins that excludes persons from the Kingdom of God. Any sin, no matter how small, if persistently cherished in opposition to the Holy Spirit can eventually lead to the sin against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness because it is not asked for. ↩
- This post was first published on the GLOW site in 1999. My views have not changed, and thus this blog re-publication has only minor changes in wording. ↩
All I can say is thank you for your level of understanding. I wish everyone in the world could read this.
Good presentation here. I don’t like to call myself “gay,” but I am attracted more to other men than to women. I have never been sexually active although I am 57 years old. I try to stay close to God and am a Seventh-day Adventist. I am using a pseudonym because although many people are kind and understanding, some might not be.
Just came across this site and read your post about gay christian and
Thank you thank you thank you.
I realized I was gay in junior high and immediately chose to aim for
life long celibacy.
Yet it seems so many of my fellow Christians regard me as perverted
just because I am successfully fighting a temptation.
Thank you – it is nice to read a post like this and feel human.
Again – thank you so much for a clear Christian witness.
I just want to encourage you in your fight against temptation and advise you that you can do all things through Christ when you seek to do that which is acceptable and pleasing in His eyes, for His glory. Stay the course my brother in Christ… stay the course. I can’t express how proud I am of you in your successful fight! God is there for you.
Thank you for being so open. I believe sex between men can be Holy , though I am Catholic and I used to often visit a Baptist Church. I believe this in spite of the traditional readings of the Bible. I am looking for that “special someone” just like a hetero man is looking for a woman.
Please read Deut. 18:22. Clearly God spoke of homosexuality as an abomination. How can one profess to love the Lord and do that which is a n abomination which He hates? Yes we all have sinned. But the saving grace of the Lord is that He forgives us for our sins when we repent from our sin and seek to abstain from it. Not when we willfully wallow in it and continue it. Willful continuance in sin is a blatant disrespect of the Lord and His laws.
NC, everyone “wallows” in sin, even you. Once u accept salvation doesn’t mean u stop sinning anymore. U will continue to sin, but It just means that you now can ask for Christ’s forgiveness through repentance and are guaranteed forgiveness and grace. U are association homosexuality as if it were a switch that can be suddenly turned off. Can u abstain and be celibate? Can u stop over eating, or drive under the speed limit every time? What about those sexual thoughts that flashed into your mind? Shall we demand the same judgement upon u?
I am a christian. By God’s grace I am not attracted to the same sex. I am struggling with your approach. My heart definately goes out to anyone who is gay or lesbian. I believe, to say that it is okay to act on those feelings, is robbing gays and lesbians the grace that is offered by our Lord. God cannot look upon sin which is why Jesus died for us and defeated death. His grace is enough to cover EVERY sin. The sinner only needs to accept that gift and try to turn away from their sins. This is repentance. I believe most people struggle with sexual feelings of some sort. For a church to say that God blesses the individual to indulge in their feelings if they were born with them is wrong. The flesh is weak.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. My post was originally written years ago when there was little empathy for gay people and the thought of a “gay Christian” seemed to be truly an oxymoron.
In the meanwhile, the climate within Christianity seems to have changed greatly, and it seems that about half of Christians seem to have no problems with the idea of persons of the same sex engaging in sexual acts. I agree that that is “not okay” by God’s standards – that God’s grace is sufficient to help people to deal with the temptations that come with a homosexual orientation. At the same time, my experience also tells me that some gay people are better Christians than their straight counterparts, even though they may engage in gay sex.
At the same time, if you will re-read my article, I nowhere suggest that “gay Christian” describes only people who are sexually active with the same sex. I know many persons with a gay orientation who are single and celibate or heterosexually married. They have submitted their sexuality to God and resist the temptation to think that life is “greener” on the other side of the fence of God’s Law. It comes at the price of sometimes feeling very much alone in their struggle, but it makes them cling more closely to Jesus. And, after all, it is only Jesus who saves – no matter what our sexual orientation.
It is suggested in the label “gay Christian.” My question then would be, “why call it anything other than just Christian?” It says, “Thou shall not commit adultery”, Jesus says, “if you lust after another you have commited adultery in your heart.” So why label a person “gay Christian” if they are not living in the lifestyle? Otherwise we can call ourselves “murderous Christians, lying Christians”, and so forth. I do understand those able to abstain should share their story to help others in similar situations. I guess my point is this, because Jesus died and defeated death, we no longer have a debt to pay. We are no longer in bondage to sin, so we can lose the labels! We are free!!
Indeed, Christ has set us free, and we certainly do not need to be in bondage to labels.
That said, there is much more to being “gay,” than being sexually active with the same sex. There is even more to it than being attracted to the same sex. And the attraction does not equate to lusting, any more than straight people are “lusting” just because they are attracted to the same sex.
“Gay” simply describes a sexual orientation, and those with such an orientation may live in obedience or disobedience to God’s law. They may be single or married.
So, do you have a better suggestion regarding how we should write about such people, without using a long explanation? What other word fits better, according to your judgment? What other word is more universally recognized by both gay and straight people?
Well my judgement doesn’t matter. My struggle with the label, “gay Christian”, is that it gives a certain impression. As Christians we are to be careful that our actions do not cause another to stumble. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect. I am not sure what you mean about “there is more to being gay…”. My orientation does not define who I am as a person. There is so much more to this. I think it is great that you reach out with love as we all should. Grace is taught but repentance should be as well. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Go and sin no more.”
The “certain impression” that the phrase “gay Christian” gives depends on the preconceptions of the reader or listener. If the reader imagines “gay Christian” to mean Christians who engage in gay sex, it most certainly gives a “certain impression” that is negative.
My aim in this blog post is to change these preconceptions. While, in the 70’s, “gay” generally meant engaging in gay sex, probably promiscuously, it no longer means that. Today, “gay” simply describes a person who is romantically attracted to the same sex. Most people, including gay people, understand that the person may be in a gay relationship, may not be in a relationship, may be celibate by choice, or may be promiscuous – just as the word “straight” means the same thing to straight (i.e. heterosexual persons).
Being celibate does not take away the sexual orientation of a heterosexual person. Neither does it take away the sexual orientation of a homosexually oriented person.
Before straight Christians and gay Christians can thoughtfully talk to each other, they must speak the same language. My aim is to at least have a common ground of language so we can talk to each others.
Thank You Inge for your Godly Inspirational insight. Gay myself/ grew up in the deep south (Alabama) during the 60’s. I have known the Lord since the first grade. I would love to send you my story of my conversion to Christ in my Parents bedroom.
What a fabulous article. Thank you. The Lord started me on a specific journey in 2013. He said that I had been both ignorant and judgmental of the GLBT community – and he is right. Next, he directed me to the book written by Andrew Marin of the Marin Foundation called “Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” For me, the Christian lifestyle is entirely humanly impossible for anyone to live without God’s grace. I must depend on the Lord in order to become a lover of the wonderful people in my world. For me judging and condemning is a clear sign that I am not really loving towards others. I pray that the GLBT community will forgive us for how we have treated them and, that we all would be reconnected to God so that we can live our lives in love with him, in daily dialogue with him, and accountable to him.
Thank you for your comment, Pete! It is so encouraging to hear from folks who are learning to treat others as Jesus does!
You are misleading many into thinking and believing that they can live a sinful lifestyle and still be Christian. To be Christian is to be Christ-like. People are NOT born gay. Three year old children are still sinners – as are adults. I lived in as a lesbian for 15 years. It is through God’s grace that HE set me free. It is not something that I did. This life is not about me. It is about Him and His glory. Jesus died for all of us. We have all sinned and have fallen short. To be saved one “must be born again” (gospel of John). To do this, I needed to admit that I was a sinner and was incapable of saving myself. Then, I needed to believe that the only way to have eternal life is by accepting His death for me and believing that He rose from the dead. I repented. This means to TURN AWAY FROM MY SIN, AND TURN TO GOD. Then, HE set me free. It is not something that I did. It is all to His glory.
Also – one cannot pick and chose the scripture that you want to believe in. You either believe that the Bible is God’s Word (all of it) or you don’t. Otherwise, you are creating your own religion to justify your sin (whatever that may be).
Stop misleading people.
To every person gay or straight and how about all the other genders today we can’t leave them out. When a person is born again they are exactly that which makes us a Christian. So with saying that we are no longer debtors to the flesh. We are to strive to overcome any desires outside of the realm of marriage that would be contrary to be faithful in a marriage between a man and a woman. All Christians have to deal with temptation on many levels so we have to suppress our appetites through prayer, Bible study, church attendance and the desire to please God. In the end God is the judge not me so let us all strive to enter in at the straight gate that is narrow and few there be that find it.