This is the third 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

Sin, Sex, and Shame Don't Define a Gay Person's Attractions or Same-Sex Attraction in General

Quick disclaimer: This post is a direct follow-up to my interview with Lauren Melissa on Tuesday and contains my thoughts and reflections from the conversation. If you haven’t listened to the interview (or read the transcript), then I highly recommend that you do so! It may be difficult to understand where I’m coming from otherwise. 

Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin

Freudian psychology would reduce human attraction to the outworking of sexual desire, and the church has allowed such thinking to flourish, whether we realize it or not. Human beings are more than sex, and our desires are more than sexual. But far too many Christians buy into a narrative that defines gay people exclusively by our potential for sexual activity (code: potential for sin). By doing so, they rob us of our humanity.

Same-sex attraction has thus become something for which LGB Christians must constantly apologize, even if those attractions have nothing to do with sex. Even if those attractions might create the context for godly living.

In response, my interview with Lauren Melissa last Tuesday gives a sharp rebuttal to sex-oriented thinking. Asexual people are walking, living proof that the vast majority of human attractions can and do exist apart from sexual desire. And this means something profound for gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians who believe in the traditional sexual ethic.

It means we don’t need to apologize for everything we feel.

Attraction Exists in All Relationships

Attraction is a combination of overlapping desires which may or may not include sexual desire at all. Sexual, romantic, physical, intellectual, emotional, aesthetic — all of these attractions could be “same-sex” attractions. And what if they are? Should all of them be denied as “fallen”?

Attraction is the reason we feel drawn to some people but not others. Without it, making new friends would be a robotic exercise. We’d never “feel” anything when getting to know people. Whether searching for a friend or just a romantic partner, we rely upon attraction as a means of pulling us into relationship with another. To ask a gay person to deny all of their same-sex attractions, including those that have nothing to do with sex, would be to ask them to deny what pulls them into relationships.

Take, for example, a pair of same-sex friends who love talking about politics. They experience an intellectual attraction to each other. Or another pair of friends who open up to each other about their feelings. They experience an emotional attraction. And that’s normal! Friendships typically form when two people, of any sex, experience attraction.

And those pulls and tugs are never simple. Friends are just as likely as partners to experience a mix of attractions that change over the course of the friendship and wax and wane in their intensity. We invite a friend out to lunch because they “look” like a cool person, and as a result, we discover that we can talk to this person about our hobbies and interests. What began as an aesthetic attraction now includes an intellectual attraction too. It’s normal for people to feel different things at different times over the course of a relationship.

All Forms of Attraction Have the Potential for Sin or for Holiness

Of all the attractions, sexual attraction gets the most flack for its sinful potential. However, all forms of attraction contain the potential for sin as well as for holiness. Intellectual attraction, for example, may just as well lead to mutual respect as to arrogance. Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a political discussion knows what I’m talking about!

And lest you think that arrogance might not be so bad compared to lust, the Bible says differently. “Haughty eyes” are an “abomination” to the Lord (Prov. 6:16-17). In fact, “everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Prov. 16:5).

Nevertheless, even though all forms of attraction contain the potential for sin as well as for holiness, LGB Christians experience a tremendous amount of pressure to pursue relationships with people for whom there will be no chance of sexual temptation. And only those people.

But relationships involve temptation by definition, whether gay or straight, sexual or not. Human interaction always means spiritual warfare because human beings are fallen creatures. If the Christian life meant avoiding the potential for sin at all costs, then all good Christians would be hermits! “Haughty eyes” are just as much an abomination to God as sexual promiscuity. But I doubt many Christians intend to completely forgo intellectual discussion as a means of avoiding temptation.

In reality, every single interaction includes the potential for Christ-like love as well as the potential for selfishness, jealousy, contempt, bitterness, judgment, greed, arrogance, and — yes — even lust, among a never-ending list of other sins. No person in this world could boast of relationships without temptation.

But does the presence of temptation negate the reality of Christ-like motivations in friendship? If so, then no two Christians could ever be friends! Instead, as “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” God calls us into relationship with people as the very means of our sanctification (Prov. 27:17). Yes, relationships will tempt us to sin, but we nevertheless need the relational “school of hard knocks” to grow in spiritual maturity. Through the redemptive work of Christ, broken relationships contribute to our holiness.

Freedom and Beauty in Relationships for Gay Christians

All people experience same-sex attraction, whether gay or straight. Straight people wouldn’t have friends if they weren’t attracted to those friends on some level! However, I think it’s fair to say that a straight person generally experiences a much greater intensity of attraction towards the opposite sex, while a gay person generally experiences a much greater intensity of attraction towards the same-sex.

In both cases, we find the potential for Christ-like love as well as the potential for sin. Straight Christians have the ability to love an opposite-sex person through a sexual union that celibate gay Christians forego. But on the other hand, celibate gay Christians have the unique ability to love their same-sex friends with an intensity that might not come naturally to their straight peers. And this is beautiful.

The possibility of sexual attraction will always be a factor in a gay Christian’s same-sex relationships. But that obviously doesn’t mean that all (or even most) of those friendships will lead to sexual attraction. And if they do, that too is a unique opportunity to love in a way that most non-celibate people will never know. Sublimating our sexual desire means experiencing the other attractions with greater potency. Similar to how closing your eyes at a concert means hearing the music with greater focus.

David and Jonathan provide a hallmark example for celibate gay Christians to follow in this regard. They experienced a love that “surpassed the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26), and the Bible describes their souls as being “knit together” — a soulmate relationship if there ever was (1 Sam 18:1). When celibate gay Christians sublimate their sexual desire and lean into the other pathways for love that God has given them, they can pursue these same types of “soul-knit” relationships, experiencing a depth of relational intimacy that is rich and beautiful and sanctifying.

Good News for Celibate Gay People

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Tim 1:7

A redemptive approach to attraction is good news for gay Christians like me. Just like straight people, when LGB Christians experience attraction, those attractions may include a whole gamut of feelings that, yes, create the potential for sin, of course, but that also create the context for beautiful, Christ-like connections. Even sexual attraction creates the potential for sin or the potential for sublimation to Christ — no different from any other!

Every Christian, gay or straight, must cultivate the Spirit of Christ while putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13-14). We are no longer slaves to sin and subject to its power. In fact, it’s for this very reason that Paul says, “[Y]ou did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15). And elsewhere, he said, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Ultimately, the potential for holiness defines our thoughts, feelings, and attractions. Not sin. And not sex. Human attractions are far more complex than the “sin-sex” narrative that so many gay people get. Both same-sex and opposite-sex attractions include a wealth of different feelings, most of which are not sexual. All of which could lead to sin or to righteousness. And all of which, by the grace of God, play a part in our sanctification.

So LGBT+ Christians, let’s dive deep into the relationships that God gives us — relationships that are fallen, like any other, but also sanctifiable, beautiful, and good. By the grace of God, we have nothing to fear. By the hope of redemption, we have so much to gain.

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