This is the third post in a 7-part series called “Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted?” I’ll be publishing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over the next two weeks, and each post will cover a new reason to use the words “gay” and “lesbian” as a Christian. Please feel free to share your thoughts. I love having dialogue and feedback!
To check out other posts in the series:
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Navigating the LGBT Language Police
- Christianese Like Same-Sex-Attracted Pushes Away the LGBT Community
- Gay Doesn’t Mean ‘Sin’ And Neither Does Same-Sex-Attracted Mean ‘Holy’
- Why Gay and Lesbian Identities Don’t Undermine Identity in Christ
- Why Homosexual Christians Are Called To Identify With Gays And Lesbians
- LGBT Words Are More Precise than the ‘Same-Sex-Attracted’ Umbrella
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Answering Some Lingering Questions
Or to read the full article:
Also, I feel the need to clarify that I am a celibate lesbian and fully committed to a traditional sexual ethic as outlined by Scripture. If you haven’t read my About page or previous posts, this could get lost in the conversation. I want to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible, so hopefully this information is clear!
Korean’s despise Donald Trump. And I mean really, really despise him. (Having lived in South Korea for a year, I can reliably confirm their disdain with some level of accuracy.)
Knowing this about the country, let’s imagine that you visit South Korea and go out to dinner with a group of locals. Everyone thinks you’re Canadian, but you’re not. You’re American. You awkwardly find a way to clarify your nationality, but when they realize their mistake, things get weird. The first thing that crosses their minds is, “Hmph…voted for Trump.” They smile stiffly, finish their meal, and politely say goodbye.
Now, whether or not you voted for Trump is completely irrelevant. The point is: Would you appreciate being judged like that? Based on nothing more than your nationality? Or would you rather they thought something nice? Maybe something like, “An American! Must be friendly!”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I generally prefer when people assume nice things about me. Thankfully, Koreans are usually good at that. But the same can’t always be said about Christians, especially when it comes to the LGBT+ community.
Christians Are Called to Love, Which Means We’re Called to Assume the Best
“Love bears all things, believes all things…” – 1 Cor. 13:7
When Paul said, “Love believes all things,” he was saying something very specific about the way love operates. The Greek word for “believes” in this verse is “pisteuw,” which means “to have faith in, to be persuaded of, to credit, to have confidence, to trust.”
In other words, Paul is saying, “Love gives the benefit of the doubt.” Love assumes the best of the other person.
But far too often, something different happens in the church when it comes to the word “gay.” Instead of assuming the best, instead of imagining the beautiful possibilities of a life lived faithfully to the Lord, instead of praising God for the glorious potential of a fellow human being, Christians assume the worst. They imagine a “sinful lifestyle,” which typically includes lascivious activity and who knows what else.
By assuming the worst when we hear the word “gay,” Christians fail to love.
Christians Need to Change the Assumptions We Make About “Gay” People
Assuming the worst is one of the most problematic reasons why Christians prefer “same-sex-attracted” over “gay.” The argument goes that, regardless of intention, “gay” communicates a certain lifestyle while “same-sex-attracted” does not. So in order to avoid the appearance of sin, we should use “same-sex-attracted.”
However, I would argue that this unloving presumption of sin is what needs to change, and not our use of the word “gay.” As Christians, we are called to see the image of God in our fellow man, to see the potential for a godly life that brings him glory. So when “gay” gets tossed around in a conversation, the Christian should be the first person to give thanks to God for a human being who’s life can uniquely display satisfaction in Christ alone.
Put simply, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the word “gay” (or “lesbian” for that matter). What’s wrong is the way Christians think about it.
Merriam-Webster defines “gay” as “homosexual.” And it defines “homosexual” as, “of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex.” But the Google version is a little simpler: “a person who is sexually attracted to people of their own sex.”
Going by this definition, “gay” and “same-sex-attracted” essentially mean the same thing. But “gay” allows the Christian to share a level of affinity with a group of people that have been otherwise ostracized by the church for centuries, while “same-sex-attracted” disowns that very affinity.
Such a situation is unacceptable. By only seeing the potential for sin in words like “gay,” we are failing to love. We are failing to see the image of God in the people he called us to reach. Why push away the LGBT community by insisting our language is better? How can we connect when we insist that we are too good for the words they use?
Gay People Are Dealing With A Double Standard in the Church
Here’s the funny thing. In conservative evangelicalism, whether LGBT+ Christians describe themselves as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or even “same-sex-attracted,” they will always need to explain their sexuality. They will always need a moment of clarification, where they explain that they don’t act upon their attractions, that they don’t support same-sex-marriage, that they are 100 percent celibate, etc. etc.
Or else keep it secret.
But straight Christians don’t need to do that. I’ve never met a straight Christian who insisted on calling himself “opposite-sex-attracted” in order to clarify that he doesn’t fornicate. In fact, I usually find that Christians are very happy to call themselves “straight,” despite the fact that straight people engage in sexual sin related to their “opposite-sex-attractions” at much the same rate of gay people.
So if “gay” communicates a sinful lifestyle, then certainly “straight” does too.
But there seems to be a double standard. All too often, Christians assume the best of one group, and the worst of the other. Straight Christians must confess to the church when they’re struggling with sexual sin. But gay Christians must convince the church that they’re not struggling in the first place.
The reality is that both groups have moments of victory and moments of defeat. And this means that both deserve to be treated the same way. According to 1 Corinthians 13:7, love “has faith in” both groups, whether gay or straight. Love “has confidence in” both groups to live a God-fearing life.
So let’s change our mindset around this word. Let’s stop ostracizing our neighbor by insisting that “same-sex-attracted” is holier than “gay.” Let’s see the potential for God’s glory in words like “gay” and “lesbian,” rather than the potential for sin. If we’re going to love other people, it’s absolutely critical that we do.
In my next post, we’ll continue this discussion on “gay vs. same-sex-attracted” by talking about identity more directly. Is it okay for the Christian to “identify” as something other than a Christian? Wouldn’t that undermine their identity in Christ? We’ll explore this topic and discuss its implications for the believer.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Have you ever found yourself making negative assumptions about the word “gay”? Have you noticed this tendency in others? As Christians, what do you think we can do to have a more love-oriented mindset?
Next Post in the Series: Why Gay and Lesbian Identities Don’t Undermine Identity in Christ