29 Jun LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God’s Champions
This is the final post in a month-long series on “celibate gay pride,” exploring the glory of God as revealed in the lives of celibate gay Christians. If you’d like to read the full series, check out the links below!
Also, I’m specifically talking about and for celibate gay Christians in this series. To be clear: this is not an argument for why gay Christians ought to be celibate. I want to clarify this at the outset, because I often receive various criticisms from non-celibate gay people who tell me that my arguments aren’t convincing. But there’s a reason for that. I’m not trying to make arguments for or against any particular sexual ethic in my blog. This blog is simply for LGBT+ Christians who believe in the traditional sexual ethic. It’s not a blog for convincing LGBT+ Christians to accept a sexual ethic they don’t believe in, and I do not believe that all LGBT+ Christians must accept this ethic. However, many LGBT+ Christians nevertheless do live by the traditional sexual ethic. So if you’re interested in learning about celibate gay believers (and/or the larger LGBT+ community that believes in the traditional sexual ethic), then by all means read on.
For more posts in this series:
- Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
- Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
- Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
- Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
- Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
- God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
- LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God’s Greatest Champions
One of the most beautiful things about the Christian faith is that God uses the most unlikely people to champion his cause. Consider Rahab. A woman forever known in the annals of church history as “Rahab the Harlot.” A woman whose inclusion in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” would be significantly less powerful if she had not been a prostitute. Or how about “Zacchaeus the Tax Collector”? A man whose story of radical generosity would mean very little apart from the well-established greed of ancient tax collectors.
Consider “Naaman the Leper,” the “Samaritan Woman,” “Doubting Thomas,” “Ruth the Moabite,” the “Prodigal Son,” the “Woman Caught in Adultery,” or the “Thief on the Cross,” among a great many people in Scripture named by their sin, imperfections, and shortcomings. The story of David and Goliath may be the most famous among them. God’s champion against a ten-foot giant was a young shepherd boy with no training, no experience, and no weapons for battle! But that’s what God does. He uses the lowly and despised of this world to shame the strong and the mighty. What made these people “weak” in Scripture made them perfect conduits for a grand display of the power of God.
The Best Christian Testimonies Always Involve Imperfection
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” – 1 Cor. 1:27-29,30
God loves bestowing honor upon those we’d least expect. It’s one of the most central and consistent themes of Scripture. There’s no Gospel power in saving the righteous, but in saving a harlot or a thief, that’s a true display of what the Gospel really means. “I tell you,” the Bible says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Paul himself considered weakness and imperfection to be a central part of his witness. “For I am the least of the apostles,” he said, “unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:9-10). I am what I am. And what is that exactly? Well, as Paul would say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).
Paul considered his condition as the chief of sinners to be a profound display of the Gospel. “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience” (v. 16). Paul considered himself walking, living proof of the grace of God precisely because he was the worst of sinners.
LGBT+ People Display the Glory of God
Rest assured, the strongest Christian testimonies always involve a display of imperfection. It’s in our frailty that we discover God’s grace. And it’s for this reason that Paul says, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Paul discovered the sufficiency of God’s grace in and through his weakness.
God thus delights in saving the most unlikely of people. And who is considered less likely to follow the traditional teachings of Scripture than an LGBT+ person? Who would ever imagine that a gay or lesbian would actually submit to a life of celibacy of their own volition because they actually believe it to be God’s best? Who would ever imagine a queer person not just accepting but actually celebrating God’s historic design for their life as understood by the church for millenia? Let’s be real. Not many.
But that’s precisely the point. Where the Gospel is most unlikely, that’s where the glory of God shines brightest. The grace of God meets an LGBT+ person at the very point that their gender and sexuality create the most trouble. And that’s where he magnifies his name.
The Gospel’s Greatest Champions
The Kingdom of God turns everything inside-out and upside-down. And thereby the very same people who receive the most condemnation thus become the greatest champions of the Gospel. We receive honor precisely because we lack it apart from Christ. “God has so composed the body,” Paul says regarding the church, “giving greater honor to the part that lacked it that there may be no division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:24-25, emphasis mine). Nate Collins reflects upon this passage in his book All But Invisible, observing:
“As a group, gay people historically have been regarded by Christians as weak and dishonorable. But this weakness and dishonor is turned inside-out upon conversion, so that a gay person in Christ occupies an especially high place of honor in the divine economy” (38).
Sexual and gender minorities who willingly affirm the historic teachings of the Bible seem utterly impossible to the world at-large. But that’s the point! “We received mercy for this reason,” to borrow the words of Paul, “that Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience”(1 Tim. 1:16). Our testimony glorifies God precisely because it’s so unlikely.
God’s Glory Displayed Through Unlikely People
I’ve already spent much of this series discussing the multitude of ways that gay and/or other LGBT+/SSA/whatever-you-want-to-call-it people experience their gender and sexuality apart from sex and sin. Such observations are critical to understanding the LGBT+ experience as a conduit for God’s grace. Not merely as an occasion for sin.
But it’s also critical to see the struggle and marginalization that LGBT+ Christians face. Most people in the church (and outside the church too) continue to define LGBT+ people by sexual promiscuity. In so doing, they deny our humanity and relegate us to the “sinful margins.” We thus become a class of people unlikely to experience the grace of God in the eyes of many. But ironically, it’s to that class of people that God delights in showing grace. It’s in that class of people that God best displays his glory.
Christ Jesus Came Into the World to Save Gay People
Ultimately, LGBT+ people have something incredible to celebrate when they enter the Kingdom of God. The badge of shame known as “queer sexuality,” one of the single greatest sources of condemnation in the church today, now becomes a badge of honor to the glory of God our Savior. As Paul would say, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). Our supposed “imperfections” in fact become a powerful display of the all-sufficiency of our great Redeemer.
And don’t be mistaken. Such honor has nothing to do with us or anything about us. God shows himself most loving where we experience the most hate. He shows himself most glorious where we experience the most shame. He gives us something better to boast about than anything we could do for ourselves. A pride in his strength displayed in our weakness. A pride in his glory that gives praise to his name, “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:31).
So what am I proud of today? I’m certainly not proud of myself, and I’m certainly not proud of my sexuality. And I certainly hope that no Christian would ever be proud of any of those things, whether gay or straight! Instead, I’m proud of who God shows himself to be through my sexuality. I’m proud that I can stand with gays and lesbians who follow the historic teachings of the Bible. I’m proud that, together, we can echo the words of Paul in proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel to the world, declaring in unison: “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save gay people. Of whom I am the foremost.”