Pursuing Godliness with SSA
It’s a hard thing to start writing a blog about my pursuit of life and godliness. I have such high expectations, and don’t want to disappoint myself.
The hardest thing, I think, is knowing what I ought to write about. I should know what topics are most important and interesting. I should anticipate which questions and objections will be raised. My comments should shape and direct people’s conversations, and should bring instant conviction about the truth.
Well, that’s not likely to happen. I will just have to do my best.
I just shared my testimony publicly, and now I want to go deeper. Not knowing what questions are the most important to raise, I’m just going to address the ones on my mind right now.
First of all, when I abbreviate the term “Same-Sex Attraction” into “SSA” I always think of the Social Security Administration. That’s a joke.
It was awkward when I would laugh out loud in Administrative Law lectures as someone talked about a lawsuit against the “SSA.” The abbreviation had a different meaning in my head than in everyone else’s.
Same-Sex Attraction is the term that I use to describe the struggle that I have. More accurately, it is same-sex sexual attraction. Nearly every person has some level of same-sex attraction. Far fewer have sexualized same-sex attractions. It’s not abnormal for me to recognize the admirable traits in another man, and to be attracted to those traits in him. What is abnormal, is that I sexually desire other men.
Those who are “same-sex attracted*” are only different from those who are not by the type of attraction. Sometimes I wonder if I must withdraw into a cave and never see another man (at least, not an attractive man) again. Then I remember that most of the same-sex attractions that I experience are not wrong. Only the sinful same-sex attraction is a problem. This includes sexual attractions, but also idolatrous attractions, envious attractions, etc.
All Christians struggle with these same types of sinful attractions. Those who do not struggle with same-sex sexual attraction can certainly learn a lot about how to love those who do. Once I heard someone talking about the political movement advancing a particular ideology of “LGBT Rights.**” He was talking about the group of people behind these policies as “the gays” the entire time. I wanted to explode. What on earth does it mean to refer to those made in the image and likeness of God as “the gays?”
Let’s use some clear terminology as we talk about these issues. We are men and women made in the image and likeness of God. We are not “gays,” “straights,” “bi-s,” or any other descriptor. Our sexual desires do not determine our identity. There are only two types of people in the world: those who are in Christ, and those who are not.
Obviously I think that the above is very important. I had planned to cover nine topics in this post. That’s not going to happen.
I do want to talk about how some people think Christians ought to respond to a struggle with same-sex sexual desires. Some people think that the desires can be acted upon consistent with a Biblical ethic. Others think that the desires must themselves be erased before a person can approach the throne of grace. I think that the desires, like all sinful desires, must be subjected to the rule of Christ operating in my life.
Jen Hatmaker is the most recent and popular advocate of sanctifying same-sex sexual behavior that I’m aware of. She said in an interview that same-sex marriages could be holy. Generally, people who advocate for this kind of approach have some understanding that God’s moral imperatives against same-sex sexual behaviors either don’t exist or don’t apply to people who have consistent same-sex sexual desires. Gay-affirming churches often say that God doesn’t expect a person with consistent same-sex sexual desires to live according to the same sexual ethic as those who don’t. They believe the standards are different, so they advise indulgence.
This approach is wrong. It sounds kind, but is an invitation to the broad way leading to destruction.
Other Christians have completely the opposite attitude. I’ve met people who say that those who have same-sex sexual desires are sinning simply by experiencing the same-sex sexual desire, and that the sin has damned them to hell. Ok, they don’t say it in so many words, but that is their message. People actually ask the question whether anyone who struggles with same-sex sexual attraction can be a Christian! They aren’t kindly inviting strugglers to walk in the narrow road, which is hard, they are hatefully declaring that anyone who struggles with this is damned already and can’t be saved until they stop choosing to be gay!
(Of the two responses, I think the former is more deadly than the latter. The hateful rhetoric of the latter has limited impact, but the subtle deception of the kind-sounding invitation to embrace sin may deceive many for decades.)
Looking at these two views, I see two ways being offered to me. I could follow the first idea, and embrace my own sinful desires and live in a monogamous same-sex sexual relationship, claiming that God will understand and forgive me. That would be sin. And would be presuming on God’s grace at the very least. Alternatively, I could follow the second idea, and suppress my same-sex sexual desires and pretend that they don’t exist. I would have to act like they were not there so that I could pretend that I’m worthy of Christ. The likely result of this would be either; 1) lashing out against anyone who disagrees with me or 2) acting out on my suppressed desires.
The ends of both of those views sound terrible. Fortunately, neither of them is supported by the truth of God’s word.
God’s word commands that we “put to death" the "evil desires" within us. [Colossians 3:5] God’s word tells us that we must press on towards this goal. [Philippians 3:12] God’s word tells us that He has provided righteousness for us. [2 Corinthians 5:21] It is not my job to become Godly in order to be saved. [Romans 5:8] God has saved me by his grace, and there is nothing that I have to do to earn my salvation. [Ephesians 2:1-10]
The truth is that we must subjugate the sinful desires within us. This isn’t the same thing as suppressing them. It’s not the same thing as celebrating them. There is a line between those two. That is the line that I must pursue. It is the straight and narrow. It is a way of suffering. It is the way of the cross.
That is my pursuit.
*This Sam Alberry’s description. I will address this at other times, I’m sure. For now I’ll just say this: I think it is an appropriate phrase, but it doesn’t sound natural to me.
**This is a huge topic, and one which I will have to address later. The reason for the quotation marks is because I want to identify this as a bigger topic to be addressed.