As I watched the gay pride festivities over social media and my Facebook stream, I thought (as I have a thousand times before) the pressure on gay, Bible-believing Christians to go against their conscience and write off God’s sexual ethics as harmful. Many Christians have changed their views about the Bible’s teaching on homosexual sex. The ones that I can most closely identify with are those who believe that the New Testament word Paul uses against homosexual sex is referring to pedophilia. I disagree with that interpretation, but I appreciate that it stays engaged with the text of Scripture. But if that’s the case and Paul was condemning pedophilia, there is still a larger theme in Scripture that can’t be written off without writing off the entire Bible—that promiscuity in general, heterosexual or homosexual, is anathema to God. He is a God of faithfulness, and He created His children to be faithful in their relationships as well. In that sense, I think Christians misapplied their moral outrage to the gay marriage debate. Of all the things that downgrade society, gay fidelity doesn’t seem to be it (spoken by someone who lived for years in a community full of faithful gay couples raising respectful, responsible children). Heterosexual infidelity seems a way bigger issue in harming larger society than gay fidelity. Seems is a gentle word for that – I should say that I know many, many people harmed by both gay and straight infidelity. I wish our Christian culture had harped on all forms of infidelity with the same vigor they did against gay marriage.
But what is a gay person to do if they believe, as I do, that Scripture can be taken at face value and that the church hasn’t misread or mistranslated the Bible around the issue of gay sex for the last two thousand years? In a word, they are to endure. But here too, our evangelical church hasn’t been fair to gay Christians. We ask them to endure when we look away from heterosexuals who don’t. We ask them to endure when our theology of general perseverance in suffering is weak and anemic. The prosperity gospel is alive and well in the evangelical church. And it forces evangelicals’ hand around the issue of gay Christianity. Of course instructions against gay sex are archaic if the end goal of the gospel is to make us happy and fulfilled by earthly standards. I’ve said it often that this type of thinking has no room for Christian martyrs. It has no room for even the Apostles or early Church.
Hebrews 11 35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
I want to write a word of encouragement to gay Christians who share the conviction that gay sex is a sin before God. First, I acknowledge that this is a heavy, heavy burden. You know the hard road that lies ahead if you choose faith in the Bible. But my second thought is that there is beauty in suffering for all of us, whatever our personal long-term burden. Persevere, friends. Embrace the hard road. And have hope. God works through hard things, and you are not alone on the road you walk. Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Henry Nouwen, Wesley Hill, and countless other unnamed male and female believers have walked this less-traveled road before you. And they stand cheering you on as the cloud of witnesses Hebrews 11 speaks of. They are witnesses to God’s faithfulness on the journey and the goodness of His instructions for us. They witness too to His grace to bear up under what at first seems an impossible and unfair burden.
I encourage you too to find the fellowship of suffering. Find others, be they heterosexual or homosexual, who are enduring in their own suffering. Some are infertile. Some have lost living children. Some have chronic illnesses. Some have family who have rejected them. The list goes on and on. You know the ones who make the best friends on this journey, the ones who face their suffering holding both the rawness of the pain and the hope of their faith hand in hand. Find them, and don’t quit on them in faith. The good news of Christ never sounds more beautiful than when heard hand in hand with the hardest of suffering.
Finally, I highly recommend Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting. Wesley comes to see his homosexuality as a gift from God to push him toward Christ. I’ll end with words from his final chapter of the book.
In Peter Jackson’s wonderful film version of The Two Towers, Sam says:
By rights we shouldn’t even be here [on this quest]. But we are.… I wonder if people will ever say, “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.” And they’ll say, “Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, Dad.” “Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.”
Many times in my experience with homosexuality I have wished my life was different, that I had some other burden to bear— anything but this one. But I have also felt that if Someone is watching— taking note; caring about each footfall, each bend in the trail; marking my progress— then the burden may be bearable. When the road is long and the loneliness and sheer longing threaten to extinguish hope, it helps to remember that, like Frodo and Sam, I, too, am in a grand tale, with an all-seeing, all-caring Reader or Listener who also happens to be in some mysterious way the Author. Sam of The Lord of the Rings trilogy believed there would be listeners and readers who would want to know the story of this struggle. I believe that in my case, too, there is Someone who cares about my story.
… Homosexuality calls us to consider our own lives and to trust in the mystery of God’s providence and his gift of redemption through Christ. With patience and openness to the good that may come even from evil, we can learn to “hear” the voice of our sexuality, to listen to its call. We can learn to “appreciate the value of our story and the stories of others, because God is the ‘potter’ or ‘storyteller’.” Slowly, ever so slowly, I am learning to do this. I am learning that my struggle to live faithfully before God in Christ with my homosexual orientation is pleasing to him. And I am waiting for the day when I will receive the divine accolade, when my labor of trust and hope and self-denial will be crowned with his praise. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the Lord Christ will say. “Enter into the joy of your master.”