I glanced to my right at church and saw a dear friend worshiping. I felt a jolt of joy. Three years ago, she was engaged to her college girlfriend. She’d grown up in the church but said she’d honestly learned more about the patterns on the ceiling of the building than she’d learned about the Bible. The day she told her parents she was definitely staying with her girlfriend, she got a tattoo of Romans 8:28 on her ankle: “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” She was sure God couldn’t be against her following her heart.
But two weeks after getting engaged, she woke up feeling sure she couldn’t go through with their plan. Since ending things with her fiancée, she’d started coming to our church and eating up the things she heard. I’ve watched her grow in her discipleship more like a bamboo shoot than a weed.
I’m so proud of her.
In the same quick glance, I saw another friend. He’s been a Christian all his life, and he’s been attracted to other guys since early adolescence. When I first started talking about my own lifelong experience of same-sex attraction, he was surprised. He’d met other Christians in the same boat, but they’d all come from different churches. “I thought each church had one of us,” he laughed, “and that I was the one!”
As a single man who loves the Lord but would almost certainly be married to another man if he did not, Pride Month is always hard for my friend, and I’m so proud of him.
This afternoon, I’ll take my kids for an informal Bible class with my closest Christian friend. Rachel came to Christ when she was an undergrad at Yale after her high school girlfriend dumped her. She’d previously identified as an atheist. But Jesus had other plans for her life. Now she’s leading theological development on LGBT+ questions for the largest campus ministry in the world, writing and speaking on sexuality and Scripture, and pursuing a PhD in public theology so she can serve the church even better long-term. She’s one of the most Bible-soaked people I know, and the more she’s learned about the Scriptures since her conversion, the more she’s been sure they’re clear that same-sex marriage is off-limits for believers—not because God is stingy, but because he is so rich in love that he gives us glimpses of his love in different kinds of relationship.
Her ministry is a blessing to thousands, her friendship is a blessing to me, and I’m so proud of her.
Earlier this month, I had the joy of speaking at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. After a session that touched on both race and sexuality, a woman came up to me to talk. As a black woman who had (as she put it) lived for many years in the LGBT+ community, she was eager for people to recognize that race and sexuality are very different things that cannot be tangled up together, and for more Christians to grasp what the Bible says about each with both conviction and compassion. After we chatted, she said, “I’m a hugger, can I hug you?” “Yes please,” I replied.
This sister has put her whole life into Jesus’s hands, and I’m so proud of her.
Later, after a panel on sex, a white woman with tattoos all up her arms came to talk to me. “I lived in the LGBT community for a decade, and I’ve only recently come to Christ,” she said. “Welcome, sister!” I replied. “I’d love to hear more of your story.” She shared that she’d nearly died in a car crash, and that she had been in love with a Christian woman, who had told her, “I can’t give you romantic love, but I can give you sisterhood. You need to choose.” “I chose sisterhood,” she said.
This woman has trusted Jesus with her heart, and I’m so proud of her.
I looked up and recognized another sister toward the back of the line of people who wanted to talk. I’d spoken for the church where this woman serves on staff. I smiled at her and waved. Like me, she has a lifelong experience of same-sex attraction, but she knows that Jesus’s love is better than anyone else’s. When she got to the front of the line, she told me her name, in case I’d forgotten. I hugged her and said, “Of course I remember you!”
She’s serving Jesus with her whole heart and trusting he’s for real when he says that anyone who wants to save her life will lose it, but whoever loses her life for his sake will find it, and I’m so proud of her.
She has a lifelong experience of same-sex attraction, but she knows that Jesus’s love is better than anyone else’s.
I woke last Monday to an email from a brother who is serving Jesus as a single man. He’s writing and speaking on a host of issues, not least on sexuality, as he’s always been attracted to men and not women. He’s faithful and funny and humble and smart—the kind of pastor we’d all want.
I love him as a brother, and I’m so proud of him.
As friends and siblings like these dear men and women walk through Pride Month, they don’t feel a lack of comprehension about why so many in our culture who identify as LGBT+ want to celebrate their sexuality. They get it. Many who are celebrating this month will have grown up in communities where they felt like they couldn’t be both known and loved. Many have hidden their desires for years, hearing slurs against gay and lesbian people and fearing people knowing how they felt. Many have grown up in churches where same-sex attraction was mocked and vilified as something a good Christian girl or boy could not possibly experience. Being able to speak out feels like freedom, gasping for air, being seen and known and loved at last.
Many in our culture who are celebrating this month have grown up in communities where they felt like they couldn’t be both known and loved.
If you, like me, are a Christian who deeply believes that the Bible is clear on sex only belonging in male-female marriage, our response to this cannot be to compromise on what the Bible says—as if we think we know better than the God who made us, or that we’re somehow more loving than the God who is love (1 John 4:16). But it also cannot be to propagate the patterns that lead many in the church who experience same-sex attraction to feel like they can only be both known and loved after they leave.
The Bible doesn’t call us to less love than the world. It calls us to more. And love means carrying each other’s burdens, hearing each other’s struggles, witnessing each other’s hurt, and believing together that Jesus loves us more than any other man or woman ever could (Gal. 6:2; James 5:16; John 15:12). It means denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following our Lord—including sacrificing romantic dreams and sexual desires when they are calling us away from him (Matt. 16:24).
But it doesn’t mean being alone. Whatever our patterns of attraction and temptation, we’re meant to need each other and to shoulder up, like fellow soldiers (Phil. 2:25 and Philem. 2).
Last week at our community group, my friend with Romans 8:28 tattooed on her ankle showed it to a seeker in our group. My friend said, “When I first got this, I didn’t understand the verse. I thought it was about God getting on board with my agenda. Now I understand it means the opposite.”
If you, like her, like me, and like so many of my friends—male and female, married and single—are choosing Jesus over same-sex sexuality this month, this week, this year, this life, I may not get to meet you. But I’m so proud of you.