When I plunged into a pursuit of Christ in 2010, the possibility of a lifetime of singleness wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind. I mean, sure, I understood that following Jesus meant subjecting my whole self, sexuality included, to His authority. And I understood that the Bible was explicitly clear regarding The Divine position on homosexual behavior. So as a guy who is attracted almost entirely to only the same sex, I knew that my options were going to be limited. And by limited, I mean I celibacy. No sex. No dating. No marriage.
And for the first year following my conversion to Christianity, this didn’t bother me in the slightest. I was so enamored with the reality that God was real and living and personally invested in my life, that everything else, such as this sacrifice of singleness, faded into the furthest corners and crevices of my mind.
It’s been four years now. Four years of utter awesomeness, joy and growth in the Lord, to be sure. But within those years are sporadic seasons of struggle. Seasons of longing. Not merely for sexual pleasure, but for intimate—physical, emotional and spiritual—companionship with another person. Another guy, of course. And this frustrates me to the billionth degree. I’ve studied the Bible extensively over the past few years, and I know that the desire for companionship (in ways that belong solely to a marriage covenant) in and of itself isn’t bad, but the way my heart twists and directs the desire is.
The whole world and their mama tells me that I need to stop being so hard on myself. They tell me, “God made you gay, Matt. He wants you to be in a loving relationship with a guy. Stop denying yourself that and just follow your heart!” Oh how tempting it is to consider the seducing call of the woman of folly. (Go read Proverbs.) Although, ironically, in this case she is calling me to a man.
Sometimes I allow the thoughts to seep in and saturate my heart for a while.
“What if I am wrong in putting my faith in the authenticity of the Bible?”
“I mean, God was in control of the formation of my sexual desires. He knew I would end up like this. Wouldn’t it be cruel of Him to now deny me what I desire when, if He wished, He could have redirected my sexual desires toward women at any time?”
“Maybe I can date men. I know that it’s sin. But God is merciful—maybe He will forgive me. I mean, I do believe in Christ. And it’s faith plus nothing, right?”
A lot of people follow thoughts like these. A lot of people that I personally know have followed thoughts like these away from the purity that Christ commands and into a lifestyle of blatant immorality and lawlessness. They saw celibacy as too large and God as too small. They saw sex and romance as too desirable and God as unable to please. They saw Jesus the Good King as an unsatisfactory ruler, and the god of gay relationships sat upon the throne of their hearts.
I can’t condemn my friends. First, it’s not my place. It’s God’s. And I don’t know that maybe He will one day pluck them from the fires of their passions and place them again in the pastures of His grace. Second, oh how easily I can see myself following the same path. Oh. How. Easily. But for the grace of God, there go I.
The only thing I can do is warn and encourage my friends with the same gracious warnings and encouragements that the Holy Spirit gives me when my heart starts to slip:
He warns me of the deceitfulness of sin.
Sin creeps in subtly. It presents itself to us as something harmless and innocent: “It’s just a monogamous, loving relationship you’re wanting, Matt. You don’t want to go out and be all promiscuous and trashy. You just want a sacrificial, loving relationship with a nice guy.” As harmless as it may sound on the surface, sin’s call is hellacious to the core. It’s a call to despair, destruction and death. Every. Single. Time.
He warns me against presuming upon the grace of God.
Yes, God is forgiving and merciful and exceedingly patient with us, often more patient than we give Him credit for! But a repetitive, willful giving over of our hearts to sin chips away at us over time. It hardens us. Bit by bit, piece by piece. The more we sin, and the longer we sin, the more we risk the danger of callousing our hearts to the point that we denounce Christ—the real Christ, anyway—and so prove that we were never truly His disciples in the first place. I’m not saying that a true Christian can lose his salvation, because I don’t believe that. But a person can prove that his profession of faith was illegitimate if he chooses a path that leads him to renouncing Christ and His Lordship. Those who believe will persevere.
He encourages me with the reality of God’s goodness.
God really is good. He wishes me, as His adopted son in Christ, only what is beneficial for me—even when it doesn’t feel like it. We walk by faith, not by sight (or feelings), remember? His barriers around my sexual behavior are there for my good—my good, my safety, my flourishing, my joy. He is not withholding from me something that would benefit my life, but withholding me from something that would destroy it. He designed humanity, and He invented marriage and sex. He knows where sex is good for us and where sex is bad for us. He knows where romance is good for us and where romance is bad for us.
He encourages me by reminding me that this isn’t it.
This world, this flesh, these struggles, this tension… this isn’t it. Jesus will consummate His Kingdom at His second appearance and will give me a glorified body that is totally free from the presence of sin. I will no longer desire things which harm me and dishonor God. Even the reality of marriage will end, Jesus said so Himself! (Matthew 22:30) The Spirit whispers to my spirit, “Strengthen your heart in God’s grace, stand firm in it, and fight the fight of faith. This is only for a time…only for a time.”
And then He encourages me by telling me that I need to just chill out because I don’t know near as much as I think I do.
I do not know, for certain, that I will be single the rest of my life. I do not know that He won’t bring a woman into my life that I am wholly attracted to. I need to stop Miss Cleo’ing my future, slow my roll, and follow the path God has for me today. No sense in psyching myself out about what the next thirty years will look like when I can’t possibly know what they will look like—or that I will even live on this earth another thirty years!
To my same-sex attracted, Jesus-pursuing brothers and sisters: God’s got this. He’s got us. He is mindful of us and is using every season of our lives to shape us into Christ-likeness, for our good and His glory. Let’s remind ourselves of the Person who has proven Himself worthy of our sacrifice! Let’s remind ourselves of the Person who has proven, through pain and sacrifice, that He loves us! Let’s remind ourselves of the Person that is unceasingly working for our good!
What an opportunity we have, as same sex attracted Christians, to paint for the world a picture of what an all-out, self-abandoning, sacrificial love for Christ looks like. We are the epitome of counter-cultural, right now! Let’s not wallow in self-pity. We’ve been called to enter a much fuller, richer and enduring joy in Jesus than all the shallow, cheap and counterfeit joys that this world and our twisted hearts would point us to. Let’s take up our crosses and continue to follow Jesus into true and abundant life.
If you know someone who is struggling with reconciling their same-sex attraction with the Gospel, will you email them this post to encourage them?
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire