Recently our men’s group was discussing courage, as exemplified by Joshua, Caleb, and David. Many brothers shared stories from work or friendships where living by God’s promises rather than conforming to the lifestyles of their peers feels like swimming upstream. Then I steered the conversation in a different direction–“Do you know what takes true courage in our day? For a man who is attracted to other men to commit to a life of celibate faithfulness to Jesus.” Then I asked: “Will we be a group of men who will come alongside that brother?”
In case you have never been a part of a men’s group, let me divulge the secret. Whenever a brother brings up the issue of sexual lust, nearly all the heads nod. Most of us have some level of sexual dysfunction. So if a man confesses to a sexual sin, it is more like an addict recounting a relapse at an AA meeting than a criminal standing trial for some incomprehensible act. We’ve all been there. Everyone understands.
So what do we do when someone struggles with a sin we do not understand? Statistically speaking, about 3.5% of the population identifies as LGBT. If our church was proportionate to that average, about 5 or 6 people would need support for a sexual and relational longing that is foreign to the other 96.5%. What does that look like?
At one level, there is a sameness about the struggle that we must embrace. Gay or straight, we are ultimately sinners who can only find forgiveness and reconciliation with God through repentance and trusting in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, and our ultimate identity rests not in sexual attraction but in our relationship of belonging to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
At another level, however, we must acknowledge the particular cost of discipleship for believers who–often despite efforts to change–continue to be same-sex attracted. Regardless of what our Supreme Court says about marriage, biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. So for some of our brothers and sisters, there will be no sexual intimacy. While this may not be the death wish our culture makes it out to be, we must all acknowledge that it makes faithfulness to Jesus truly a call to lay down one’s life.
Here is the question for our church family: when one of our brothers and sisters reaches out for help as they travel this steep road of faithful celibacy, will we offer it to them? Will we honor the sameness both of our struggle and our identity as reconciled sinners? Will we also acknowledge the potential loneliness and ostracization they face and be family to them? Will we “settle the solitary in a home” (Psalms 68:6) as God does, enfolding them into our holidays, birthdays, and vacations? Will we weep with them over unfulfilled desires and hope with them in our shared destiny of new creation? Will we learn from them about the true cost of discipleship?
Until we are ready to be this kind of family, it is doubtful that anyone will reach out for this kind of help. It is a great risk. Just recall the time, perhaps during adolescence, when you thought you were the only one in the world with sexual curiosity. Before others around you began breaking the ice, you dared not say a word about your internal life. Once you knew it was safe, that you were not a freak, you could talk.
Let us be a church where it is safe to reach out for help, where no one is a freak, where internal struggles can be shared with trusted friends in Christ. And together–whatever our present attractions may be–let us move toward that ultimate marriage that our Bridegroom will consummate at his return, our eternal union with Jesus Christ.