The Gay Gospel and Hope for Hard Things

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.”

 

15 Responses to The Gay Gospel and Hope for Hard Things

  1. Amanda D June 30, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

    I too have no issue with the term “gay Christian”. It may be how they identify, but I also see their homosexuality as a key aspect of their personal faith in God and His Word.

    This was a beautiful article Wendy. I wanted to shout “amen” many times while reading it. You adequately address the church's shortcomings and failings when addressing homosexual believers and non-believers.

    And I agree that heterosexual infidelity does much more damage than homosexual fidelity. We easily accept one sin while loudly objecting the other. It is a damaging form of hypocrisy.

    Very well done!

    Also, have you seen http://www.livingout.org ? It's a resource site for gay Christians that is managed by 3 pastors/Christian leaders who experienced homosexual attraction but are choosing to follow God's Word

  2. Wendy June 30, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Thanks, Amanda! I haven't seen that resource, but it sounds like a good one. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Kim June 30, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    Living Out is a great resource and one I've referenced multiple times to better understand these issues. Sam Allberry has been wise and helpful in clearing up many misconceptions.

  4. The White Wave June 30, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, for pointing out how the church has seemed to turn a blind eye to heterosexual infidelity due to over-focusing on the problem of homosexuality. We all really must do all we can to encourage purity and holiness in Christian heterosexuals.

  5. Wendy July 1, 2016 at 3:12 am #

    I am uncomfortable with comments by those interested in debating how to refer to gay Christians in a post that is speaking to gay Christians with a word of encouragement. I am not against debating how to speak about same-sex attraction in the Church in general, but I am against it for this particular post. I am deleting comments by those who have not struggled with same-sex attraction who also want to debate how to refer to gay Christians. If your comment got deleted, I encourage you to consider why those comments may be inappropriate for this particular post. If you would like to discuss it privately with me, you can email me at theologyforwomen@gmail.com.

  6. Helen Louise Herndon July 1, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    Wendy, I am somewhat saddened by this. Your blog is named Practical Theology for Women. The key word appears to be “theology.” Theology is basically a study of God and what God desires. This issue is one that confronts the Church and all Christians. The responses weren't mean-spirited; they were thoughtful on the part of everyone. If one doesn't struggle with any of the results of the fall–its many and varied challenges and temptations, then we might as well ignore God's revealed Word on any subject. Do believers who do not struggle with fornication or adultery have nothing to contribute to the issue of sexual morality? So, in such a discussion as this, there is in reality no discussion–just one stance that is valid? The first century and early church dealt with various sexual aberrations. What can we learn from them?

  7. Wendy July 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    The theology I'd like to focus on here is how the knowledge of God and the good news of Jesus Christ equips Christians who daily experience same sex attraction to endure and persevere in faith. You are welcome to contribute to that end.

  8. Helen Louise Herndon July 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

    I appreciate that fact. Perhaps that's why I stated up front that I am single. Christians experiencing same sex attraction endure and persevere as we all do in obedience to the revealed Word of God with the enabling help and strength of the Holy Spirit. In many churches the people acknowledge that the Word of God is their guide for faith and practice. Must we, however, identify ourselves to one another or to the world by one mere area of our life and struggles on our way to our destination? Is there a precedent for that revealed in Scripture in any such cases beyond the admonition of our Lord, “Go and sin no more?” Isn't it our adopted position in Christ that identifies us all? How many more divisions of Christians are down the road if this continues? There are empirical ramifications taking place. Respectfully. Helen Louise (By the way, I have a B.A. in Biblical Education and served as a missionary in the Muslim world). I share this simply to say that I attempt to search for biblical principles related to church and cultural issues.

  9. Anonymous July 1, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    I would simply ask that people read this article in comparison to 1 Cor. 6:9-11, and evaluate accordingly.

  10. Helen Louise Herndon July 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    Yes, aren't we all washed from something or even a lot in our lives. We are not known by or identified by what we've been washed of or from.

  11. Wendy July 5, 2016 at 3:11 am #

    I Cor. 6:9-11 addresses sinful acts, not temptations to sin that are not acted upon. Frankly, you are commenting in ignorance of what I am talking about here.

  12. Erica July 19, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

    I have to comment about the phrase “choosing to follow God's Word”. That phrase assumes away the debate. Gay Christians can be committed to God's word and still disagree with the traditional interpretation about same sex attraction.

  13. Erica July 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    Promiscuity is anathema. That's why same sex marriage is so important. It allows gay Christians to fulfill the commands in 1 Cor 7

  14. Wendy July 19, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    I understand your points and agree strongly with the scourge of promiscuity and the great value of fidelity.

  15. Wendy July 19, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    I understand your push back there, Erica.