Who Are You? The Truth of Our Identity in Christ
The Revoice conference doesn't understand what makes Christians, Christians
The Revoice Conference just concluded in St. Louis. It had a clearly stated purpose: “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”
Christians are to support, encourage, and empower one another. “Encourage and build one another up,” Paul told the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5:11). The author of Hebrews told his readers to “encourage one another, day after day” (3:13).
So far, so good.
Good, too, is the commitment of the conference’s organizers to “the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” Scripture is clear: Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, for life, and sexual intercourse is reserved solely for that union.
What’s troubling is the wording used to describe the conference’s audience.
Who Are You?
It is one thing to say, “I’m a Christian. I read and study the Bible, have a strong prayer life, fellowship with close brethren in the Lord, and share the Gospel regularly. I work full-time and have some great hobbies. I’m also a person who wrestles with (name your area of need — alcoholism, pornography, a wayward child, a difficult marriage, etc.).”
It’s quite another thing to say, “I’m a drug-addicted Christian” or “I’m a bitter Christian” or even, “I’m a heterosexual Christian.” These things do not describe the breadth or depth or height of being a child of the living God. They are distractions from the new status Christians enjoy, from the identity bestowed on them when they find new and eternal life in Jesus Christ.
I will be direct. There is no such thing as a gay, lesbian, or LGBT Christian. There is no such thing as a Republican Christian or a Democratic Christian or a socialist Christian. And there is no such thing as a bald Christian or a linebacker Christian or an architect Christian.
You get the idea. Identifying ourselves as anything other than Christians, disciples of Jesus, believers in the resurrected Son of God — all statements found in the New Testament — detracts from the power of the new life given to those who have been placed in Christ.
What Defines Us
Two things ultimately define Christians. First, they are, with all human beings, image-bearers of the Triune God. Second, they have had a second birth, a spiritual one. They have been forgiven and redeemed and reconciled with their Creator.
To add anything to this is to subtract from the radical, eternal transformation provided by the Lord Jesus to all who have called on His Name.
I have never struggled with attraction to the same sex. But I have counseled a number of men who have. Their pain is real, and the rejection they have experienced within the body of Christ often deepens it.
The way to minister to those who struggle is not to affirm them as persons defined by their sexual or emotional longings. We counsel and encourage them, as we would all others with serious needs and concerns. We don’t define them in a way the Word of God never does.
Sin: Kill It
My friend Rosaria Butterfield lived as a lesbian for many years, but Christ changed her. She reminds us that all sin must be mortified — killed — “at its root.” In other words, we don’t accept any aspect of our fallenness as defining who we are. As she wisely writes, “Know your enemy: besetting and indwelling sin is predatory, and it will not stop until it kills. If you struggle with sexual sin, have no contact with pornography or with secret lovers — physical or non-physical, virtual or real.”
We are in Christ. That is who we are. It is the essence of our identity. Again, to quote Rosaria, “Do not misuse Christ by asking Him to baptize your feelings; instead, ask Christ to fill up your heart and soul and thereby create your feelings.”
When we realize we have a deep and long-term spiritual illness, whether sexual, psychiatric, substance abuse-directed, or whatever else, we need to admit it and confront it in the power of God’s Spirit, the guidance of God’s Word, the counsel of God’s people, and get the treatments our minds and bodies need.
We must not let it define us. Doing so is affirming a lie and giving power to a form of death. Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). He gave His life for us and now lives that life within us.
Let’s support, encourage, and empower one another in affirming the new life we have in a God who so loved us that He became one of us. That’s our true identity. Rejoice in it.