Putting Sex in Perspective

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WDTBRTAHIt’s been a mad dash, but I’m almost done with the book. I’m working with Crossway to finish up the editing process in the next two weeks. Lord willing, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? will be released in April. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter entitled “It’s Not Fair.”

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I don’t deny these [verses about refraining from sexual intimacy] are hard sayings for people with same-sex desires and for their friends and family. Jesus had a fondness for saying hard things. He told his disciples it was not enough to simply confess the right things about the Messiah. If they were to be true disciples, they had to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him (Matt. 16:17, 23, 24). Try to save your life, and you’ll lose it. Be willing to lose your life, and you’ll find it (v. 25). The grace which leads us to say yes to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ also demands that we say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:11-14).

Dying to self is the duty of every follower of Christ. I have my own struggles, my own sins, and my own suffering. We all do. We have all been distorted by original sin. We all show signs of “not the way things are supposed to be.” We all groan for the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). We all long for cre­ation to be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (v. 21). This does not minimize the struggle of those who experience same-sex attraction, but it is does maximize the ways in which we are more alike than different. Grief and groaning, longing and lament, sorrowful yet always rejoicing—it’s the life we live be­tween two worlds. The church has long known about the pain of persecution, infertility, betrayal, injustice, addiction, famine, depression, and death. The church is just beginning to learn about the pain of living with unwanted same-sex attraction. For a growing number of Christians it is part of their cross to bear.

And it should not be carried alone. Singleness—and that will be the path of obedience for many who experience same-sex attraction—does not mean you must live alone, die alone, never hold a hand, never have a hug, and never know the touch of another human being. If we ask the single Christian to be chaste, we can only ask them to carry that cross in community. Perhaps single is not even the best term for those whom we expect live a full life in the midst of friends and colaborers. If God sets the lonely in families, so should we (Ps. 68:6 NIV). There is no reason the dire scenes painted by the revisionist side must be realized. With openness about the struggle and open­ness toward the struggler, those Christians in our midst who experience same-sex attraction need not be friendless, helpless, and hopeless.

But, of course, none of this can be possible without uproot­ing the idolatry of the nuclear family, which holds sway in many conservative churches. The trajectory of the New Testament is to relativize the importance of marriage and biological kinship. A spouse and a minivan full of kids on the way to Disney World is a sweet gift and a terrible god. If everything in Christian com­munity revolves around being married with children, we should not be surprised when singleness sounds like a death sentence.

If that’s the church’s challenge, what’s needed in the wider culture is a deep demythologizing of sex. Nothing in the Bible encourages us to give sex the exalted status it has in our culture, as if finding our purpose, our identity, and our fulfillment all rest on what we can or cannot do with our private parts. Jesus is the fullest example of what it means to be human, and he never had sex. How did we come to think that the most intense emotional attachments and the most fulfilling aspects of life can only be expressed with sexual intimacy?

In the Christian vision of heaven, there is no marriage in the blessed life to come (Luke 20:34-35). Marital intimacy is but a shadow of a brighter, more glorious reality, the marriage of Jesus Christ to his bride, the church (Rev. 19:6-8). If sexual intimacy is nothing up there, how can we make it to be every­thing down here? It would be terribly unfair for the church to tell those with same-sex desires that they are not fully human and cannot pursue a fully human life. But if the summum bonum of human existence is defined by something other than sex, the hard things the Bible has to say to those with same-sex desires is not materially different from the hard things he has to say to everyone else.

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