We’re Not ‘Gay Christians’ or ‘Straight Christians,’ But Christians
I’ve never yet met anyone who calls himself a “greedy Christian” or a “slothful believer” as the comprehensive definition of his heart and life. Each one of us struggles with various kinds of sin. Yet we don’t identify ourselves by the evil things toward which we’re drawn. We don’t qualify who we are by attaching our particular “besetting temptations” to our faith.
Some of our brethren in Christ do exactly this. The “gay Christian” movement is seeping into Evangelical Protestantism. But Christian men and women who find others of the same sex physically and emotionally appealing are not “gay Christians.” They are Christians who are burdened with a particular temptation.
The Good News
I cannot imagine how difficult it would be never to have the kind of life-giving, sexually intimate relationship my beloved wife of 38 years and I have cherished. To be celibate, always, would be a burden so heavy and painful. We must help those who carry it bear it (Galatians 6:2).
The good news is that when it comes to identity, the New Testament defines it for us. Paul the apostle uses the phrases “in Christ,” “in Him,” and “in the Lord” no less than 160 times in his writings. What does this mean? That we have been placed in intimate relationship with the Son of God. That He has come to live in us. As Paul told the church in Colossae, it is “Christ in us” Who is our “assurance of glory” (1:27).
Our identity is in our new fellowship with the God Who became man and died and rose for us. That’s amazing and wonderful. It’s also definitive.
Yes, we are also Americans, partisans, spouses, children, employees, stamp collectors, weight-lifters, and softball players. But these things describe aspects of our lives. They don’t define the heart of who we are.
So, for example, there’s no such thing as an “alcoholic Christian.” There are Christians who have been addicted to alcohol and have to fight against it every day. But they are new in a living Savior. They can “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13) through the strength and courage He offers. And when they fail, they turn from their sin and return to His fellowship.
No “Gay Christians”
That’s why “gay Christian” is a phrase faithful followers of Jesus Christ need to pull out of their vocabularies. It’s common for someone to say, “I wrestle with same-sex attraction” or, to use our cultural shorthand, “I’m gay.” This seems to be the basis of the “gay Christian” movement. It is a simple way of communicating a profound characteristic of one’s life while also affirming his or her allegiance to Christian faith.
My argument is that this is neither wise or biblical. Without qualification, it seems to imply that one can practice homosexual inclination and still be faithful to Christ. He can’t. And given the baggage that comes with declaring, “I’m gay,” identifying oneself as a “gay Christian” brings with it unspoken assumptions that must not be part of one’s Christian testimony.
And to the earlier point, none of us should nuance our trust and submission to the Lord of all. I am an American, a conservative, a Virginian, a professor, a husband and father, and other things. All of us have these kinds of identifiers.
But they don’t define our core identity as born-again followers of Jesus Christ. With the early believers, we are to be “small Christs,” simply Christians.
So, as the Nashville Statement puts it (Article VII), faithful Christians must “deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” To affirm this self-conception — to approve the label “Gay Christian” — is to lock struggling brothers and sisters into an identity from which Christ has freed them. How is this love? Or truth?
We Are Washed and Sanctified
Some Christians will struggle with homosexual attraction until the day they die. Every day is a battle not to surrender to this aspect of their fallenness. But with consistent resistance to temptation, the temptation’s power slowly loses the power of its grip. This comes with diligence and time, the encouragement of true friends and the power of God’s Word and His Spirit.
Paul concludes his charge to the Corinthians with these liberating words: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Washed, sanctified, justified: these are our core identities in Christ.
That may sound tough. But Christians serve a God Whose intent is both His glory and our good. That’s where faith and obedience come in. And where, in the power of Jesus, we can triumph.