Can one be both Christian and gay at the same time? Well, I suppose that depends on how you define the terms. If “Christian” means I trust Jesus alone to bring me into right relationship with God and if “gay” means I experience sexual attraction and romantic feelings toward people of the same sex, then I qualify as a gay Christian. At one point I chose to be a Christian, and over a period of time, I discovered I’m gay.
My Christianity informs my homosexuality more than my sexuality informs my Christianity; therefore I tend to consult the Bible regarding matters related to sexuality—not my sexual feelings regarding matters related to my Christianity. The Bible doesn’t say much about sexual feelings or attractions (except when it exposes the negatives of lust). Rather, Christian Scripture speaks more of sexual function.
The emphasis seems to be on the nature of sexual expression as a key distinguishing element to a very unique, one-of-a-kind human relationship: marriage. Throughout Scripture people operate in a variety of relationships: they have friends, children, parents, siblings, slaves, masters, business associates, governors, subjects and enemies. Legitimate sexual expression doesn’t characterize any of these relationships. Biblically, sex happens within the context of a marital relationship. Out of such expression, children are sometimes born and the earth is populated, but childbirth doesn’t seem to be the emphasis of biblical sexual expression. Instead, as the burner makes the stove a unique appliance in the kitchen, or as a crown differentiates the queen from everyone else in the kingdom, sex is a clear marker of that one unique relationship, and the extent to which we practice it outside of marriage, we erode the significance of that unique relationship. In addition, the Bible suggests that this relationship be a covenant, lifelong, monogamous relationship, characterized by certain boundaries which no outsider should penetrate and by support from one’s community.
In twenty-first-century American culture, when a newly married couple leaves the reception, everyone at the wedding expects and supports the sexual relationship into which they’re about to enter. Through the years when that relationship brings a reason to celebrate (a pregnancy is announced, for example), the whole community rejoices, and if there are problems in the relationship (the couple doesn’t get along), it seems to be God’s intention that the community help heal and restore the relationship. Sexual relationships other than those in marriage are usually guarded with secrecy—they’re not a community matter.
As a Christian then, I realize life will probably be more orderly and less chaotic for me if I decide to practice sexual expression only within the safe confines of my community-supported heterosexual marriage. There’s only one problem: my feelings don’t jive with that. I want to have sex with another man, not a woman.
But for me, that’s all it is. One problem. One among many. I also want to have a billion dollars. I want to be healthy every single day. I always want to feel as if I’ve had enough sleep, and I would like to subsist on a diet of ice cream and chocolate sauce. I’d like my friends to always like me and I’d like a good relationship with my sister. And if I’m honest, I don’t want to have sex with just one man—I enjoy looking at all kinds of men, and in that place within which I desire things, I’d like to be with many of those men.
We can’t always have what we want. Right? This doesn’t just apply to the Christian. This applies to everyone. I mean, go ahead and eat a diet of only ice cream and chocolate sauce for the next year, and see what happens to your health. Toss aside biblical wisdom about sexual expression and see where that gets you emotionally.
Biblical Christianity is quite fond of desire. Biblical Christianity also wrote the rule book on how desire can best be parlayed into fulfillment. One privilege afforded the Christian is the opportunity to discover healthy avenues for desire. This privilege isn’t available to those who reject God. Practically, this means that I get to surrender my gay desire to Jesus and let him do with it whatever he wants.
I’m not obligated to build an entire life on the basis of this one problem. I have the opportunity to minimize the importance of so-called sexual freedom in a sexually charged society; I don’t have to be a slave to sexual thoughts, appetites and practices; instead I can live an orderly, breezy, clutter-free existence, as described in Romans 8:6 (The Message): “Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.”
This is the life Jesus paid so high a price for me to have. Granted, if I seek this type of life, I don’t get the thrill or euphoria of multiple orgasms with multiple partners. But most people—Christian or not—don’t get this either. It is likely that most people long for it a lot more than they actually get it, and if anyone slips through the cracks and actually does get it—outside of marriage—most likely his inner world is characterized by chaos and turmoil. This just seems to be how God designed the human.
So was it fair of God to set up his standards and then let me be gay? Again, the Bible informs my thinking on this—and the Bible teaches that God is fair. There must be some other explanation. Why do I have to be gay in a world where we’re all better off keeping our sexual expression within a specific institution? Why are there diabetics and poor people and abused children? Why do earthquakes destroy homes and lives? Why is there drought? The Bible clearly teaches that ours is a fallen world—so it often amuses me, and more often perplexes and then discourages me, that Christians expect the world to be fair and for everything to go well all the time. It doesn’t.
I think everyone must have some tough cross to bear. We all face struggles and temptations; most of us sometimes fall along the lines of our struggles, and we end up sorry for it and wishing we could have done things differently. My struggle doesn’t bother me constantly—it seems to limit itself to the hours I’m awake!
Taken from the Appendix of Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. Copyright(c) 2009 by Andrew Marin. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.