When it comes to being a Christian and as someone who experiences same-sex attractions, there is quite often a question that comes up that makes me cringe. It is, loosely, when people ask whether the goal for those of us who are Christians who have same-sex attractions are we trying to be simply tolerated or transformed (usually meaning to become heterosexual). I don’t know how many times I have heard this question in various forms over the years. It makes me cringe because deep down I believe it misses the point. My initial thoughts are that it tragically misses the gospel. This blog post is a bit long-winded as I try to wrestle with the question for myself.
Why do I think when people ask this question it misses the point? One of my initials thoughts on how to try to answer this question is to to go to the passage, “for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”[i] In this passage it seems Christ is talking about a very specific aspect of our sexuality in the new creation; a sexuality that is and/or is becoming reoriented. My initial thoughts as I think about this question are why we should wish to be reoriented to something passing and not be reoriented to what we are moving into? If my assumption is correct, and if we are in part beginning to experience the first fruits as we wait with longing, then why not pray and aim for this reorientation experience? Is this not already partly hinted and expressed out in the vocation of celibacy as a type of reorientation?
In the opening of On the Making of Man by Gregory of Nyssa[ii] wrote: “second to none of the wonders of the world—perhaps even greater than any of those known to us, because no other existing thing, save the human creation, has been made like to God.”[iii] For Gregory the image of God pervaded every aspect of what it means to be human, from the soul down to the body.[iv] We were created to be the image bearer of the incomprehensible God. It wasn’t for us to worry about the how we might be bearers of the image of God but that we simply are. For Gregory who we are and for whom we shall become was something larger than anything we may ever imagine. Simply incomprehensible. Why do I bring up Gregory and why might his view be relevant?
The reorientation from our fallen nature into something more is framed classically for Gregory in the union of the divine and human in Christ Jesus our Lord. For only in the incarnation of Christ Jesus do we begin to explore what it means to be human. Simply put, Jesus teaches us what it means to be human. Our understanding of what it means to be human must be weighed and measured through the incarnation. If our understanding of being human is incompatible with the incarnation then it is our perception that must change; less we deny Christ as fully human.
One of the classical points that have influenced my thoughts on this whole thing is that we do believe Christ is both divine and creature being fully human. We see in our Lord’s resurrection his form as human that is a creature whom is amenable.[v] So if we take the assumption that Christ is fully human, then we may say to a degree the amenability of his humanity and the liability of his humanity to change is in part an aspect of being human. Why is this relevant? In Christ we shall be changed. In Christ we shall be found. In Christ we shall be raised from death and glorified. We are being changed into the image of his glory for his glory.[vi] In other words, we as believers are being changed; but not just simply changed but changed into something new, something more.
A popular argument at the moment for the full inclusion of same-sex-attracted folks in the church has been the analogy of the inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles into the Church.[vii] Why might be this relevant in the exploration of this question? Is this not jumping the gun a bit? For many of us who experience same attractions, these feelings are persistent for us even as believers, never fading, even unto death. The good news, for us who experiences these attractions, for us to be included in the promise of the Gospel, our sexuality does not exclude us from any part of the salvation. Just as the Gentiles we were not required to become Jewish for salvation; likewise we who experience same-sex attractions do not have to become heterosexual to receive the wondrous gift of salvation.[viii] The all of what we must do for salvation is simple yet profound. All we ruined sinners must do is to respond to the call of Christ’s salvation and come to receive him as Lord. That is all. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So just as the inclusion of the Gentiles in the early church became heirs of the promise, this impact altered what it meant to be a Gentile as a Gentile in Christ. Likewise, the inclusion of same-sex-attracted individuals in the church alters what it means to be gay or bisexual in Christ. Just as the Gentiles remained Gentiles but as transformed Gentiles in Christ, so too do we who are gay or bi remain gay or bi still yet transformed into something more in Christ. Just as the Gentiles world becomes changed due to Christ, so too does Christ change the entire world for the LGBTQ. Our identity, our way of life, our way of being, whether Gentile or LGBTQ, no longer remains as it was in the world but it becomes beautifully transformed into something wonderful, something mysterious by the Son of Man, the new Adam that is calling expectantly into the hope of his tomorrow and his kingdom now.
Our longing should be rooted in our desire to experience the fullness of the goodness of our Lord. Now painfully but truthfully I must admit there was for the longest of time a period I did long to be a heterosexual I longed for it like it was the key to making me acceptable to society and God. I longed for it as if it was the door that could open to all the world of happiness.The false perception of masculinity and heterosexuality became idols for me ravaging my life. Between years of praying and fasting for change, I came eventually to a breaking point to acknowledge that the Lord loved me simply because not simply because with limitations. My wicked desires were so invested that I might be changed in order to become pleasing to God; the thing is that the Son paid the ransom and the burden so that we might be pleasing and acceptable before the Lord by his righteousness and love. Once this truth settled in, even with my experience of continued same-sex attractions, I became able to say, “Yes Lord, I am yours.Have me as you will.”
I am yours is an incredibly tough thing to say. I do not know if I am even fully there in meaning it when I pray this to God. To answer and commit to saying, “Yes Lord, I am yours” requires a commitment to a costly way of life, a way of life that demands we give up the entirety of who we are and all that we are. A complete handing over that leaves no corner of our being unchanged, untransformed by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. The good news it is and will be Christ by his Spirit that will perfect us.
So based on everything that has been said, I guess the question then comes if the entirety of us, including our sexuality, is to be transformed, then does it mean perhaps our own destruction as we metamorphose into the new? Going back to the beginning of this blog post in reference to Matthew 22:30, I don’t think so. As we are now corruptible, changeable becomes infused with the stability and the vigor of the incorruptible and unchanging God. The completion, the perfection of our own telos becomes worked out by our union with God as we are forever changed by him into the beautiful unimaginable for his glory. Our very nature, who we are, is sufficiently malleable to be reshaped into being the receptacles, the image bearers of God for his glory forever joined in union with him.
Speaking of union, the wedding supper of the Lamb also plays another factor in why I have difficulty when people suggest either tolerance or transformation (into a heterosexual). The thing is heterosexuality is so deeply rooted in being oriented to the other of the opposite sex. Why would this be of any good when both male and female Christians will be wed and oriented to Christ Jesus our Lord? Does not scriptures teach that there is one marriage for all of us who are believers? Christ will have his bride, and he will marry the Church. We shall be the bride, and he shall be our bridegroom. No longer will we be the harlot turning away from him, but we will be his and his alone in faithfulness. Whereas marriage in the now is for the heterosexuals until death does them part, our marriage to the Lord will be forevermore til forevermore. We will finally fulfill the longing of our creation and be joined with our love who becomes the absolute center of our orientation. We will exist in such a way that our orientation, the very fibers of our being will declare the goodness of our Love forevermore and bear the stamp of his image upon us. There will be a day our orientation, no matter one’s sexuality, becomes true and good centered upon him.
There is so much more I want to write as my mind continues to wrap around this question. If you took the time out to read this, I want to say thank you. For now I am wrapping this blog post up abruptly as I need to think more on it. The short answer is that I continue to have a problem with the original question because it seems to suggest a lack of belief in the hope of tomorrow and the belief that we can taste the first fruits of the Kingdom of Christ now by his grace. It seems to lack a belief in the Gospel. Maybe one day I will write the next section in exploring how a concept and the practice of celibacy puts a slightly different spin on this.
[i] Matthew 22:30 ESV
[iii] On the Making of Man, Chpt. 3
[iv] Ibid., 16.3
[v] John 12:23; Rev. 1:14;
[vi] 1 Cor 15:53; 2 Cor 3:18
[vii] Wesley Hill does an excellent breakdown of this argument from a traditionalist perspective on the Spiritual Friendship blog. To be perfectly frank, if you are not already subscribed to this blog you should be. https://spiritualfriendship.org/2016/09/05/the-transformation-of-the-gentiles/#more-6916
[viii] The sad thing is that this has to be said. There have been far too many times I have been called unregenerate because of my experience of same-sex attractions. My story is not one of isolation. Come and know your brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attractions, and most likely you will hear the same story.