I often encounter Christian parents whose child has just announced that they’re gay and going into a homosexual lifestyle. The announcement usually comes as a complete surprise and parents are devastated by the direction their child is pursuing and the potential ramifications of that choice. Most of these kids have been raised in the church by Christian parents – so what is behind such a radical shift in direction for these kids?
Many Christian strugglers I meet with talk of the shame and self-hatred they carried for years regarding their same-sex attractions. They know what the scriptures say about homosexual activity and they feel so much shame for having same-sex attractions even though they may not have acted on them. All the scripture regarding homosexuality is regarding homosexual activity not the attraction itself, however many young people haven’t made a distinction between the attraction and the behavior. They feel that if anyone knows of their attractions they will be rejected and ostracized, particularly by their Christian friends and family. Sometimes as a teenager they risked telling someone, only to be told they are confused and don’t really feel that way, effectively sending them back into silence again pretending the attractions don’t exist. Eventually these kids, who are filled with shame and self-hatred and are tired of living in secrecy, find a place where they can be known and accepted – the gay community. They’ve grown tired of living in secrecy and self-loathing so they throw open the door of their closet, join this new community of friends, and nothing is going to put them back into their closet of secrecy, shame, and self-hatred.
Our culture will tell you that as someone with same-sex attractions you have 2 choices: to either stay in the closet, drowning in shame and self-hatred or declare yourself gay, join the gay community and live a gay lifestyle. The church will often imply you have one option – stay in the closet and pretend you don’t have these attractions. Actually today many churches have opted for an additional option – reinterpret scripture so that you can follow Jesus while embracing a guilt-free gay lifestyle (this option is a big topic and needs to be a whole blog article itself).
There is another option, a scripturally valid option, very few people are talking about – that we can be Christians following Jesus, have same-sex attractions (or any other issue for that matter), and commit our lives to following Him in holiness and not follow through on those attractions to activity that scripture calls sin. That we don’t have to be in the closet pretending we don’t have the attractions and living a life of hiddenness, shame and self-hatred however we also don’t have to declare ourselves gay and embrace a gay identity. That there’s no shame or condemnation for those with same-sex attractions and committed to walk in holiness with Jesus; that we don’t choose same-sex attractions and God isn’t judging people for attractions they haven’t chosen. That we can be Christians following Jesus, admit we have same-sex attractions, and hopefully be embraced by a community of Christians who are likewise struggling with their own various issues but wanting to follow God in holiness. Our issues don’t define us, they’re not who we are. Our identity is in Christ. While our identity is in Christ and our issues don’t define us that doesn’t mean we have to deny we have issues.
The third option: We are Christians committed to follow Jesus in holiness yet struggling with a variety of issues: pride, materialism, gossip, lying, porn, same-sex attractions…. This is the option we need to be talking about to our Christian youth and fellow believers.