"Our brokenness in the areas of sexuality takes many forms, some due to our own choosing and some brought into our lives via a broken world. However, God’s grace is sufficient in our weaknesses, enough to bring conviction, transformation, and sanctification in our lives. . . Because we believe that it is God’s intention for our sexuality to be lived out in the covenantal union between one woman and one man, we believe the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy is contrary to God’s will for human sexuality.” —Church of the Nazarene 2017-2021 Manual, ¶31.
I am tempted by same-sex attractions.
I have been for years, yet I have never been able to adopt the term “gay Christian” for myself. Understanding the reason for this predicament has taken some time. I have often considered doing so, questioning whether my rejection of the identity was simply me being too pedantic, too restrictive, or too prescriptive.
My reasons for not identifying as a “gay Christian” have always been multifaceted, yet the simplest of them is that the term does not reflect what I desire for my life. That statement may sound crazy if you knew my extensive track record with gay pornography, but I recognize that pornography is a vile, dehumanizing evil that focuses intently and purposefully on the carnal side of me. The spiritual, rational, and emotional sides of me would like to have a family. As a Christian, I have been redeemed and am living under the lordship of Christ, and I therefore want to honor Him. As evidenced repeatedly throughout Scripture, honoring Him through marriage is possible solely through the union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19).
Given this reality, I gave up seeing “gay Christian” as a viable option for myself a long time ago. The part of me that is terribly practical does not see the point in taking on a label that commits me to something I have never planned on pursuing. More importantly, I have never heard a convincing argument that reconciles the phrase “gay Christian” with the Christianity that the Bible presents.
The Christianity found in Scripture calls for the complete removal of ourselves from any presence of sin/evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and any sexual acts outside the union of a man and a woman in the covenant relationship of marriage are listed as sin (Romans 1:26-27, Hebrews 13:4). Whether I am sleeping around with many people of either sex or in a loving, monogamous relationship with another man, I would still be in violation of God’s Word.
Some say that defining oneself as a “gay Christian” can stand alongside Scripture, as it is no different than employing other qualifiers, such as “male Christian.” Some may argue that, at face value, aspects of identity such as male, female, white, black, brown, American, or African may essentially serve the same purpose as “gay”; but, if they are all functionally the same, why has “gay Christian” become a normative phrase while the rest have not? If “gay” encompasses sinful desires, does the “gay Christian” label offer clarity or compromise?
Is it truly a defining aspect of who I am, or is it something that is part of the disordering of my Creator’s plan? Are other sinful desires used as adjectives before “Christian”? Do we use coveter, adulterer, alcoholic, etc., alongside “Christian” to qualify particular sins that a person may have struggled with or is currently tempted by?
Humanity is eternally called to give God everything and to serve only Him (1 Samuel 7:3). Every means by which we understand who we are, both individually and universally, must be obedient to God and His will (Exodus 19:5). To say “I am a gay Christian” is to say, “I am one who views my faith through the lens of my fleshly desires in a way that makes it okay for me to pursue both God and sin.” It places Christianity in a narrative defined by an opposing identity that is against the will of God.
The problem with this narrative is that humanity was not created to live in sin.
Christians proclaim the truth that we are created to exist in the measureless expanse of Christ Himself (Philippians 1:21). Christianity as presented in Scripture makes precisely zero allowances for any retention of self-definition that is false and not surrendered to the authority of Christ (Matthew 16:24-27). We are to completely and utterly submit to Christ and His will.
A few months ago, I was again contemplating my views on why I do not call myself a “gay Christian,” trying to determine why it would be important for me to claim that designation. Possibilities included the fact that my desires influence the way I understand the workings of my mind, and that my desires affect my relationships and how I relate to other people in general.
As I was going through this line of reasoning, I realized that I could replace “my desires” with “my sin,” and the logic was the same. My sin influences the way I understand the workings of my mind. My sin affects each and every one of my relationships and affects how I relate to other people in general. The part of me that belongs to Christ, the part that is fighting to become the whole of me, cannot reconcile the melding of my faith with a lifestyle that is in direct contradiction to what the Author of that faith has commanded. To belong to Christ means I cannot be defined by sin.
Many people argue that freedom is found in embracing who you truly are, and many people would argue that I should accept that my identity is a gay man; however, nothing about my same-sex attraction has ever felt like “me.” It’s always been hollow. It’s always been missing something. In short, it has always left me unfulfilled.
Denying myself is incredibly difficult, but it is also the thing most worth doing. True freedom is found only in Christ (John 8:31-32).
When God breaks through, and when living in pursuit of Christ and holiness takes precedence over living in pursuit of my own desires, I become free from the shackles of sin—free to be more than I could ever imagine.
Christ has never left me unfulfilled. I have run away from Him and pushed Him aside so many times, but every time I run back to Him, He is there. He welcomes me back and overwhelms me with His unending and unconditional love. When I submit to God and allow Him to remove the blinders of my own selfishness, I am able to see all He has done for me and all that He has purposed for my life. I see that He is all I need.
So, while I will never call myself a “gay Christian,” I have found that “Christian” is more than enough.
Tim Stephansen (ONU '11) is an uncle, an ultimate frisbee coach, a photographer, and is always learning that his life is not his own, but Christ's.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2019