In Christian circles, when we talk about sexual orientation, we’re usually talking about same-sex attractions. This is certainly a sensitive and hot-button topic today so it makes sense. Maybe you’re concerned about a Christian loved one who is experiencing same-sex attraction, or maybe same-sex attraction is something you deal with yourself. Either way, would it help you to know that every time Jesus addressed sexual orientation in the gospels, he was addressing opposite-sex attractions?
Jesus talked about sexual orientation?
He sure did.
But let me back up a minute.
I think sexual orientation has been defined too narrowly by our culture—so narrowly in fact that it limits our ability as Christians to think critically and helpfully about the topic. I think a bigger, more Christian perspective can help open our eyes and hearts, so I want to say a few things about it this week and next.
I like one of dictionary.com’s definitions of orientation:
One’s position in relation to true north, to points on the compass, or to a specific place or object.
When you start a new school or new job, you go through an orientation so that you know where things are so you can be ready to begin when the real work begins. A person lost in the woods could really use a compass to help get oriented so he or she can know which way to walk in order to get home.
In the realm of sexual orientation, we’re all a lot more like that person lost in the woods than we might recognize. We often need God to point us lovingly toward true north so we can get home.
So where did Jesus address sexual orientation in the gospels? Where did He bring up our dis-orientation in order to lovingly point us toward home? There are actually quite a few examples, but I’ll point to two:
First, in His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You’ve heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that if you look at a woman lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart” (Mt. 5:27, 28). Here, Jesus was pointing out the faulty orientation of his listeners’ lustful looks, as well as their dis-orientation around what constitutes adultery and what doesn’t.
Second, Jesus also addressed faulty sexual orientation as He lovingly talked with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. We don’t know all the details of this woman’s sordid sexual history, but Jesus reveals that she had been married five times and was now living with a man out of wedlock. Jesus told her all this about herself not to shame or condemn her, but, as described above, to point her toward home.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to paraphrase Jesus’ response to her something like this:
“Your romantic and sexual orientation has been pointing you to man after man after man, but it’s dis-oriented. I’ve made you for Myself, and no man but Me can satisfy that deep thirst I placed inside of you. Believe in Me and I will satisfy your deepest desires.”
In what way has your sexuality been dis-oriented?
Jesus came to not only point us toward true north, but also to bear into His body on the cross all the facets of our hearts, minds, and bodies that are mis-directed, dizzy, and dis-oriented, so that we can learn to walk oriented toward God and His purposes for our lives, and this is true for every single one of us, whether married, single, drawn to this kind of person or that kind of person.
Jesus, all of us need to be oriented by You and toward You in the area of our sexual desires, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. We look now to Your cross and ask that you would take into Your crucified body all that is disoriented in our sexuality, so that we might walk in a manner that is pleasing to you. Amen.
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; How Does Jesus View Sexual Orientation Part 1
I would be curious to know your understanding of Matthew 19:12. In response to Jesus’ challenging word on divorce, the disciples exclaim “it is better not to marry!” Jesus replies, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it is given. *For some are eunuchs because they were born that way*” Might this be Jesus also speaking to a sexual (dis)orientation that implies some are born with their (dis)orientation?
Good point, BJ. I admit, I’ve not studied this part of Matthew 19 deeply, but yes, I think so. I take what Jesus says here as a nod to the reality of the fall’s effect on some people’s sexed biology, which I think follows with what He says next about some have been made eunuchs by others. But then He adds that still others have become eunuchs of their own free will for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (all in 19:12), and I’m not familiar with what this practice was nor how it did or didn’t line up with Judaism in Jesus’ day.
Love this bent on orientation.