Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful

This is the fifth post in a month-long series on “celibate gay pride,” exploring the glory of God as revealed in the lives of celibate gay Christians. I’d like to publish about 1-2 posts every week over the month of June. But I need your help! The more feedback I get, the more I can make things relevant. As the series progresses, please comment below or share your thoughts via private message. Any interaction will be a HUGE help as I tailor the content. Suggestions and requests are 100 percent welcome!

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:

  1. Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
  2. Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
  3. Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
  4. Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
  5. Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
  6. God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
  7. LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God’s Greatest Champions

Same-sex love is a good thing, and celibate gay Christians can pursue it

Unfortunately, far too many gay and lesbian Christians hear from the church that same-sex attractions have no purpose in the Christian life. Denial is their only end. But such thinking obscures the reality that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians actually desire a good worth pursuing. If you accept the historic understanding of Biblical sexuality, then same-sex love is not sexual. Even more, same-sex love is good.

Sadly, too many Christians accept the Freudian conflation of love and sex. The idea of men loving men and women loving women so offends the sexualized ears of many believers that merely suggesting such a thing could be good creates outrage. But as Wesley Hill observed in a recent blog post, “It’s not a sin for men to love men, or women to love women. On the contrary.”

On the contrary indeed. God commands it: “[F]or he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen… whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21). God brings people into relationship for the purpose of loving each other, and gay people are included in that purpose.

Love is the Foundation of Christian Community

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love is the defining attribute of Christian community and central to the greatest commandments of the Christian life (Mark 12:30-31). God commands his people to love and expects his people to love. Such is the defining mark of Christian community.

So if love itself creates scandal, then church community becomes impossible. But that’s where we find ourselves today. Our sexual suspicion of each other is systematically destroying our ability to see people as anything more than occasions for sin. Married men across the country learn from the pulpit that practices which intentionally limit their ability to develop relationships with women are not only good but necessary. Men and women “can’t be friends.” We must “avoid the appearance of sin.”

But such behavior contradicts the exhortation of scripture to treat and love each other like members of a family. Older men should be our fathers, and younger men our brothers; older women our mothers, and younger women our sisters (1 Tim 5:1-2). Something is terribly wrong when a brother and sister don’t feel safe to be alone together. Or a father with his daughter. But such is the state of our spiritual family in the church.

I’m reminded of Matthew Lee Anderson’s recent article which criticized Denny Burk’s insistence on defining the permissibility of a relationship by it’s “sexual possibility”:

“Presumably the use of ‘sexual’ here references some kind of act ordered toward the arousal of sexual organs. Put that way, though, every relationship we have has that possibility. It would be interesting to know which set of relationships Burk thinks have transcended the realm of sexuality, so that the decisions, desires, and dispositions that would lead toward sexual arousal are no longer a possibility.”

Rest assured, when Christians define the morality of any relationship by the licit or illicit possibility of sexual activity, they destroy the very foundation upon which Christian community is built. Love between anyone is impossible when fear of sin reigns supreme.

Gay People Need Love

Sexual suspicion creates a context of relational impossibility for the gay person. Same-sex friendships fall under automatic suspicion, but so do friendships with the opposite sex! As a gay woman, for example, the vast majority of my relationships with males abruptly end when said males begin romantic relationships (hats off to the cultural condition described above). Moreover (thanks again to the above logic), if I appear to be even remotely close to another woman, the relationship falls under scrutiny. Such a twisted relational atmosphere makes close friendship literally impossible.

When sexual suspicion dominates our interactions, we reduce our relational motivations to the desire for genital expression and nothing more, ignoring the multitude of God-given reasons for pursuing relationship with another person. In reality, the vast majority of reasons for pursuing relationships have nothing to do with sex, just as the vast majority of interpersonal attractions have nothing to do with sex. Community, friendship, understanding, companionship, camaraderie, solidarity, support, accountability — I could keep going but the list would be endless. The desire for relational intimacy reflects a God-given need for all of these things. Things intrinsic to our design as relational creatures.

Human beings are interpersonal, and God made us that way. So when we interpret the relationships of gay people — or anyone — as nothing more than occasions for sin, we not only deny their relational needs, we ultimately deny their humanity.

The Love of Christ Leaves No Room For Fear of Sin

Fear of sin makes a poor foundation for relationship. It erodes trust and casts everything under a lens of suspicion. Instead, in the words of the apostle John, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Fear makes love impossible. But when we love and love well, we have nothing to fear.

When Christians make decisions based upon fear of sin, they deny the Spirit of Christ at work in the saints. In the words of Paul, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Indeed, one of the greatest triumphs of the Gospel is that followers of Christ experience freedom from slavery to sin. The “spirit of fear to fall back into slavery” (Rom. 8:15) no longer reigns in the Christian life. Such Gospel truth liberates the Christian to live with boldness in a world weighed down by sin and shame.

Scripture certainly calls upon Christians to flee from sin and temptation (James 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18), but a Gospel life is nevertheless not characterized by avoidance of sin but by pursuit of love. In fact, when we consider that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), it soon becomes clear that the best way to flee sin and temptation in our relationships is not by loving less but by loving more and loving better.

Loving Well, Not Less

In a world where gay Christians feel surrounded by those who fear the love that we offer, the Bible shows gay people how to love. A far cry from fearing it! As I’ve mentioned previously, all people experience non-sexual same-sex attraction. Same-sex friendships wouldn’t exist otherwise. Just as I think it’s fair to say that gay Christians experience a much greater intensity of those attractions than straight people, I think it’s also fair to say that gay Christians have the opportunity to love their same-sex friends with a much greater depth than many straight people. And that’s not something to fear.

Far from creating an occasion for sin, same-sex attraction creates an outlet for gay Christians to love their same-sex friends with a profundity that straight Christians don’t often experience but through which all Christians are blessed. Could this be distorted? Like all good things, yes. But to recognize the distortion of a gift is to recognize the existence of a gift in the first place.

Understood rightly, same-sex attraction positions the gay Christian to love. And sin has no place in relationships characterized by God’s love. When we love another person in the love that comes from God, we find ourselves liberated not merely from sexual sin but all relational sin.

Freedom to Love

If the gospel sets us free from “the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15), then the love of Christ in same-sex relationships breeds holiness, not sin. And not sex. It’s for this love that God made us, and it’s through this love that he shapes us.

So let’s celebrate a gay person’s love. Let’s not define their love by sex and sin. Instead, let’s rejoice in the love of Christ as gay people display it. Let’s recognize the distortion of a gay person’s love just as we would recognize the distortion of a straight person’s love. But let’s not use the distortion of a good thing as reason to discard it.

Ultimately, the scandalization of love threatens the moral fabric of Christian community. Love is good. God made it, and he calls people to pursue it, regardless of orientation. So let’s rejoice that gay people can love.


8 thoughts on “Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful

  1. Amber Carroll Reply

    Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      ?

  2. LM the Aspien Reply

    Loved this: “In fact, when we consider that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), it soon becomes clear that the best way to flee sin and temptation in our relationships is not by loving less but by loving more and loving better.” ALSO, just wondering, were you suggesting that queer celibate Christians are able to experience friendship on a higher level than straight, sexually-active Christians when you mentioned the profundity of LGB Christian same-sex friendship?

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Hi Lauren!

      I’m not sure if I would go so far as to say that! I do think that gay people are arguably better positioned to love their same-sex friends at depths that many straight people don’t often pursue. But does that mean straight people can’t pursue that kind of love? I’d like to think not! But I do think it could be more challenging, especially for those who are married. I think the love of Christ calls us to love those he places into our lives with the same kind of love he gave to us. Some people are going to be easier/more natural for us to love than others. But that’s definitely not an excuse to not love people God directly places into our circle simply because it’s more difficult.

      Not sure if you’ve seen this already, but check out my post “Finding Love in the Church” for some related thoughts! 🙂

      <3 Bridget

  3. Deanna Duby Reply

    It’s really too bad that your guy friends shy away from friendship with you once they get into a romantic relationship. It’s not like you’d have an affair with them!

    Keep it up, Bridget! You’re an inspiration!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Thank you, Deana! 🙂

  4. femmerenaissance Reply

    This is a beautiful post. One of my fave quotes is “Love is good. God made it, and he calls people to pursue it, regardless of orientation. So let’s rejoice that gay people can love.” Not sure how this also means you are convicted to lead a celibate life, but hey, to each her own. I know at the top you say you aren’t here to convince other gay readers that they should become celibate, but I guess I’m just trying to mull it all over for myself. I think for me, sex is one of many beautiful ways humans have to show deep romantic affection. If we boiled it all down to procreation, it would be like saying we’re just animals, would it not? Just my thoughts.

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Hi!

      It seems like we probably approach this conversation from different paradigms. From where I’m coming from, it doesn’t bother me to exclude sex from the love that gay people share. But this comes out of a paradigm that rejects the notion that sex is anything super special or better than other expressions of love. Because I don’t think of sex in that way, it doesn’t bother me to exclude sex from my life any more than it bothers me to (because I’m a vegetarian) exclude meat from my life. I don’t actually feel deprived when I choose to abstain from meat, but that’s because I operate within a vegetarian paradigm. Same thing with sex. I don’t feel deprived when I choose to be celibate, but that’s because I’m operating within a traditional sexual paradigm.

      I do understand that most people (Christian or non-Christian) don’t operate from this place, and so it’s difficult to understand how I could say that love between gay people is good but, simultaneously, say that I don’t believe sex between gay people is good. To me, it feels the same as saying that I believe eating food is good, but I don’t believe eating meat is good. Most people aren’t vegetarian and so most people will go on happily eating their meat. But I’m a vegetarian. And so, as a vegetarian, I’m perfectly content in eating the food that I believe God has given me to eat, which just doesn’t include mass-produced animals. Same thing with sex. As a follower of the traditional sexual ethic, I’m perfectly content in loving the way that I believe that God has given me to love, which just doesn’t include sex with women. But I do respect the freedom of other people to see these things differently and, thus, live their lives differently. I hope, at the end of the day, we can respect and appreciate each other’s differences without judging each other, on either side!

      Hope this makes sense, and thank you for you thoughts!

      – Bridget

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