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Moving Past Our Ignorance

In my experience, ignorance, not hate, defines a lot of Christians who oppose spiritual and social equality for gay believers. Don’t get me wrong—there’s lots of hate. So much hate.

However, unlike the one-sided media narrative, many followers of Jesus don’t hate gay people. As a young pastor, I certainly didn’t. 

I just didn’t know how best to demonstrate love. And because of my ignorance on the subject, I made some wrong assumptions.

Through tough lessons, I was able to move past my ignorance. I hope this article informs you in your journey.

Acceptance Versus Approval

Most followers of Jesus practice the otherwise valid principle of acceptance vs. approval—I accept you wholeheartedly, but I do not approve of what you do.

However, when it comes to our gay brothers and sisters, this principle holds no water. It does not fit. It isn’t applicable. And the sentence above should make it clear why it fails.

Being gay is not first about what one does—rather, it touches on who one is.

This is what I failed to understand. And I think the same is true for many Christians.

When we interpret Scripture to condemn committed, consensual same-sex relationships, we force our gay brothers and sisters into a crisis of faith, a predicament expressed in these words:

If my God made me this way, why does He condemn me for being the way He made me?

Some dear people weaker in their faith turn away from God because they feel unloved and unwanted by Him—a complete and utter tragedy, a calamitous failing on our part. Those stronger in their faith turn away from the church because they feel unloved and unwelcome by their straight brothers and sisters. Sadly, the tragedy here is that they are often unwelcome. Another disastrous failure on our part.

It’s so important for us to understand both the crisis we force on our gay brothers and sisters and the pain we inflict upon them.

We’re essentially forcing them to accept a God who would create a person in His image only to immediately reject them … and deny them the deepest of human longings, the God-given desire for intimacy with another person.

If someone honestly believes in a god that does that, they’re obligated to do a truckload of religious, mental and psychological gymnastics to reconcile that mean-spirited, cruel and twisted god with our loving Father revealed in the Scriptures. Whats more, theyre inserting this exclusion against gay people into Jesus’ comprehensive love-defined morality when He Himself said nothing on the matter.

And it’s just so unnecessary.

The Scriptures do not condemn committed, consensual same-sex relationships. The eleven aptly named clobber passages address idolatry and ritual prostitution, and the abuse of power (specifically, violence, rape and pederasty). They do not address committed, consensual same-sex relationships.

Jesus affirmed and exempted natural eunuchs from the male-female marriage model (Mathew 19:12), a class of “sexual minorities” that included those born intersex and those born gay.

When Christians oppose spiritual and social equality for gay people, they do so largely ignorant of these facts.

And our ignorance causes terrible pain to our gay brothers and sisters and almost singlehandedly turns society against the One we follow.

Three objections often surface when this topic is discussed.

Isn’t same-sex attraction a choice?

Scientific studies prove that, like those born straight, some people are born gay. The largest genome-wide association study on nearly half a million people found “multiple loci implicated in same-sex sexual behavior indicating that, like other behavioral traits, nonheterosexual behavior is polygenic”. [A polygenic trait is a characteristic that is influenced by two or more genes, such as height, skin pigmentation and eye color.]

Aside from the science, the question is answered by another question:

Is opposite-sex attraction a choice?

As a straight person, can you turn your attraction for the opposite sex on and off? Was there ever a time in your life when you consciously chose to be attracted to the opposite sex?

Those same-sex attracted don’t consciously choose it and they cannot turn it on and off.

Isn’t being gay unnatural?

By natural versus unnatural, we wade into the realm of biology.

Across human societies, irrespective of culture, ethnicity and religion, between 2 to 10% of people are born with same-sex attraction. That’s up to 1 in 10 people. As a comparison, around 10% of all humans are born left-handed. Are left-handed people considered unnatural?

That would be an absurd conclusion today. Sadly, being left-handed was once demonized. In 1937, educational psychologist Cyril Burt wrote The Backward Child, going so far as to claim that left-handers “squint, they stammer, they shuffle and shamble, they flounder like seals out of water”. Obviously, his work was discredited.

Lets not make this kind of mistake again.

In talking about natural versus unnatural, let’s talk nature.

[Quick sidebar: Personally, I think making references to the animal kingdom has limited value, not only because human beings are uniquely created in God’s image, but the comparison often makes evolutionary assumptions that themselves are subject to vigorous debate. That said, if we’re talking about what is natural, then we do wade into this territory.]

Biologists have documented homosexual behavior in well over 450 animal species and they make a compelling case that not only is same-sex behavior not an unnatural choice, it may also play an important role within populations.

If same-sex behaviour in the animal kingdom is not unnatural biologically, how much more so those born innately gay?

Bottomline, being gay is not unnatural because it’s rooted in nature.

Doesn’t the gay believer need to practice self-denial?

That is, doesn’t the gay believer need to die to their same-sex attraction?

Following Jesus requires self-denial, a dying to our self-centred nature and our self-seeking desires. To carry our cross means that when our way cuts across Jesus’ way, we choose His way over our way.

Self-denial is about choice and the decisions we make to follow Him.

Like being straight, being gay is not a choice.

Created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), both the straight person and the gay person are “awesomely and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

We are His image bearers. And our identity is settled in His Fatherhood: we are children of God (1 John 3:1).

As His children, God has made us unique and beautiful, gifted with abilities and talents, and desires that He has placed within our created being. This includes a desire for intimacy with another human being—irrespective of whether this manifests as opposite-sex or same-sex attraction. [Afterall, even before the fall, God Himself said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).]

The Scriptures teach us to accept this awesome and wonderful truth about ourselves, and in a spirit of gratitude, to live true and full lives for His glory. As the Psalmist said, 

“Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” 

(Psalm 37:4, 5)

And yes, to do this requires denying our self-seeking desires—those desires that conflict with the way of Jesus. However, it has nothing to do with denying the desires God Himself has placed within us.

When we conflate denying our self-seeking desires with denying who we are, we commit a dreadful category error—an error that reflects badly on God’s nature.

In essence, we portray God as the one doing the denying—one who denies those He has made beautiful.

An Appeal

When we oppose spiritual and social equality for gay people, we strike at the very core of another person and we gut them of their sense of self-worth and dignity.

We perpetuate the message gay people hear all the time: You will always be alone. You are uniquely unworthy of loving and being loved by another person … all because God made you different.

Therefore, regardless of where your conscience settles on the matter, let God’s self-giving love guide and govern how you respond to gay people and how you moralize in the public domain.