I’ve come across a book recently which I’ve appreciated, by author Sam Allberry; and its title is a question: Is God Anti-Gay?
The answer the author proposes is “no”: God is no more anti-gay than He is “anti-sinner.” But Allberry, in the course of his writing this little booklet, touches on a number of other important aspects to this topic which I’d like to explore here, as well as raise a few critiques, which I hope will be constructive.
First, some background. The seventh commandment (“thou shalt not commit adultery”) is the command that addresses mankind’s sexual behavior, or as it has been called God’s Law of Sex. In this law, we see implicitly several important truths, especially this one:
God is not opposed to sex; nor is he opposed to sexual desire. These things are not wrong; in fact, so far from being wrong, they are gifts of God to be celebrated and enjoyed.
But here’s the rub: sex, and sexual desire, are to be celebrated and enjoyed according to His Word, and not merely according to our own way of thinking. He created sex, and sexual desire; He is therefore entitled to govern sex and sexual desire by His Revealed Word.
Among the things that are unlawful expressions of sex, and sexual desire, include any sexual behavior that is outside the boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman. By “behavior” I mean everything from sexual thoughts and words, even to sexual actions.
This also includes some kinds of heterosexual behavior (of the unmarried, intermarried, or non-married kind), and all kinds of homosexual behavior (whether married or unmarried).
From this last sentence, it should be clear that sexual behavior between persons of the same sex is more serious than that which takes place between persons of the opposite sex. Why? Because the adultery in the former case adultery takes place which is not only outside the boundaries of marriage, but also outside the boundaries of God’s creative design.
Having said this, it is also important to emphasize that all sexual sin deserves “God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and in the life to come” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #84).
With this in mind, Sam Allbery writes, “contrary to what most people think, God’s message to gay people is the same as it is to others: repent and believe.” This is an important theme in his book, and one which he develops along several lines.
- Along the lines of human identity: if God’s message to gay people is the same as to other sinners, then being Gay can’t be a primary identity issue for me; being a repentant Christian should be.
- Along the lines of Christian ministry: if God’s message to Gay people is the same as to other sinners, there’s more to our relationship to someone who identifies as “gay” than simply his or her experience of sexual desire; they are more than this, not less.
I’ll address with the remainder of this post the matter of human identity.
The problem with sin is that it vies for our attention at the expense of God. So, there are relationships which might be blessed and approved by God, but when we put them ahead of God in our minds, hearts, and lives, they become an idol, and, by their position, and because of their position, are wrong.
In this regard, Allberry points out: “For people who experience same sex attraction, biblical Christianity can be a tremendous source of comfort and joy” because it doesn’t require you to find your identity in something that is ultimately secondary to who God made us to be.
So if I’m gay or straight, my ultimate identity is not in my sexual preference, or orientation, or whatever you may call it: my ultimate identity is that I belong to Jesus Christ. Any questions about sex and sexuality follow after that, and are subordinate to that primary matter.
In this way, Allberry’s book points a pathway for people to come together in Christ’s church regardless of their background or sexual struggles. The Church is a body of people who are made up of sinners saved by grace, or those who are moving in that direction. You don’t have to be “together” to start exploring what it means to love, follow, and obey Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But you do have to put aside your agenda for your life, your preferences, and your hopes and dreams: and exchange them for God’s plan for your life, a plan that will absolutely challenge what you originally had in mind.
I heard it once said: all ground is level at the foot of the cross.
Therefore, the good news is that for those who do abandon themselves, and their own “identity,” they will find ultimate happiness far beyond anything they could have expected or hoped for in Christ, and in Christ’s family.
CS Lewis wrote a chapter on this subject in his famous book Mere Christianity. I quote a section of that chapter here, which I mentioned in this past Sunday’s sermon:
Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’ (quoted by Fr. Bryan Owen, Episcopal priest who writes at the blog, Credal Christian.)
I like how Lewis says, “No half-measures are any good.” God wants us to hand over our whole selves, not half to of it. One message that runs through the whole Bible is this prayer: God, give me an undivided heart. Put another way, “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
Understood in this light, its easy to see how people who talk about wanting to be both “gay” and “Christian” are simply playing with half-measures. But so also are those who chatter about being “divorced” and Christian,” as so much of what passes for acceptable divorce in the Church these days is really nothing more than what I once heard called “serial monogamy.” And if St. Paul is right, that homosexual offenders “won’t inherit the kingdom of God,” neither will adulterers or any other number of categories of people that could be named here, who want their cake and eat it too: who play with their sin, and pretend at the faith with Lewis’s “half-measures.” (1 Corinthians 6:10-11)
Next post I’ll discuss how Allberry proposes we who are Christians serve and minister to those who experience same sex attraction.
Here is a four minute trailer for the book, a brief interview with the author, Sam Allberry. The book is published by a solid group called The Good Book company; you can purchase the book from them here.