I met Andrea at a half-day training with her college Christian ministry. Andrea is a deeply committed Christian student who believes God’s Word is clear that sex is to be reserved for one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage, and this is no small thing for her because, as she told me, she’s bisexual. She also has a huge heart to see her gay and lesbian friends on campus come to know Jesus and choose to follow Him with their lives.
In all of this, one of the more difficult struggles she experiences is with some of her Christian friends who hold a gay-affirming theology. “What do I say to them to help them see there’s a better way?” she asked.
First, let’s be clear: God’s arms are open wide and his heart is overflowing with love for gay people. We need look no further than the cross of Christ to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true. He is most certainly for our gay and lesbian neighbors. He sees them, knows them, and loves them.
On the surface, the gay-affirming image of God seems to line up with Jesus on the cross. It presents a God of love, acceptance, and community. It explains that God created gay men and women just as they are and He blesses same-sex sexual unions just as he does heterosexual unions.
But when we look more closely, the image of a gay-affirming God actually breaks down into something confusing, less than loving, and perhaps even cruel.
Because gay-affirming theology ignores that the human body is a sexed (male or female) body. Biologically, God designed each person with either male or female sex organs that (and here’s the pinch) fit exclusively with the other sex. On a biological level, male-female sexual differences correspond with each other. Maybe a more poignant way of saying this is that every human body has a heterosexual design, and this regardless of sexual orientation.
When we include the reality of human sexual biology into gay-affirming theology, we’re left with a God who designed gay men and women with an inner-self (their spirit) wired for same-sex sexual union but an outer-self (their body) wired for opposite-sex sexual union.
What picture of God does this paint for us? I can’t help but to feel it’s a picture of a God who is either careless, confusing, or cruel.
To me, traditional, orthodox Christianity reveals a much more consistent vision of God, a God who is intentional, consistent, and utterly loving.
God created human beings male and female in His image. He was deliberate in how he created man’s and woman’s bodies to correspond with one another, to be able to become “one flesh” and to bring children into the world. But with the fall of the first man and woman, sin, corruption, and death have entered the world and our bodies. We experience internal desires that do not align with our bodies, we struggle with sin and temptation, and our bodies fall to sickness and death. Because of this, what feels natural to us is no longer a trustworthy signpost to our God-given nature.
God does not stand afar off from any of this.
In His love, He becomes one of us—specifically a human man, a sexed person with sexual desires (and since He “has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” [Hebrews 4:15], I think it’s likely this means He experienced same-sex sexual temptation as well)—and bears our trials, temptations, suffering, sin, sickness, and death with and for us.
As we set our eyes and hearts on Him, even through suffering, we are, are being, and will be transformed into His image.
Wesley Hill, a Christian who has experienced same-sex orientation since his youth and yet who holds to the orthodox picture of God and humanity, writes this in his book Washed and Waiting:
Nearly two thousand years ago, Good Friday gave way to Easter Sunday, and at the end of history, when Jesus appears, death will give way to resurrection on a cosmic scale and the old creation will be freed from its bondage to decay as the new is ushered in. On that day, there will be no more loneliness. The wounds will be healed. I expect to stand with Henri Nouwen at the resurrection and marvel that neither of us is gay anymore, that we both—together with every other gay Christian—are whole and complete in the fellowship of the redeemed, finally at home with the Father.
I wrote at the beginning of this post that we need look no further than the cross of Jesus to know how much He loves gay men and women. I’d be remiss to end without acknowledging that there’s a difference between looking to the cross to know of God’s love for others and taking up the cross to love them with God’s love.
We may look to the cross, but they are more likely looking to us.
Brothers and sisters, a gay-affirming theology is not the better way. But neither is simply holding to the truth without lifting a finger to love. To walk the better way, let us follow Christ’s example. Let gay neighbors and friends find us near, putting our shoulder beneath the crosses they bear, laying down our lives, opening our homes, and walking with them compassionately, with kindness, and with conviction until the day when Christ appears.
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