I’m in a multi-part series responding to a very familiar series of points and sub-points consistent in many evangelical sermons. If you haven’t read the early posts – going and doing so will probably make today’s post make a lot more sense.
At the beginning of the sermon, the preacher indicated that he would offer four theological propositions. Here in part 4 we’ll look at the third of these propositions.
The third proposition declared that “We’re all born that way” which I took to be a nod to both Lady Gaga and Calvin’s notion of total depravity. It is a long held Christian belief that humans are conceived and born into the reality of a broken and sinful world. “No one is righteous, no not one.”
The question is, how are we to understand this theological concept in light of the experience of same-sex orientation? If you’re Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Seminary, then simply the experience of same-sex attraction is sinful. For many other denominations, sexual orientation is understood as not chosen and not something an individual is morally culpable for. Some Christians view same-sex sexual orientation as a gift from God. Some describe it as an expression of God’s love for diversity in his creation. The preacher is trying to say with this proposition that though same-sex sexual orientation may be innate it is still part of the broken, sinful human condition. So a desire being intrinsic doesn’t necessarily make it morally right.
In our years of ministry, we have come to understand that same-sex sexual orientation is not just a matter of sexual attraction or desire. Our sexuality is an intrinsic part of our personhood, part of the unique way in which we navigate the world of people and relationships. And this is fundamentally different for same-sex oriented folks than it is for opposite oriented folks. Our sexuality is our drive to overcome our aloneness and is therefore expressed in a multiplicity of ways beyond just what we do with our bodies to experience sexual pleasure. With this sort of robust understanding of sexuality, it is much less clear what the brokenness and sin-saturated reality of creation means specifically for same-sex oriented individuals.
How does one resist the sinful nature in the arena of navigating the world of people and relationships in a particular manner? It isn’t just a matter of resisting lustful temptations. This is about a unique set of lenses that one uses to see the world around them. To try to take this away results in a harmful reduction of one’s sense of self. While one might claim to experience victory over sexual attractions, the reality may be that this has withered other intrinsic, creative, and beautiful things about that person. I have likened it to seeing walking corpses (no, not a zombie reference – you have to read a post by Beth for that). The shell of the person was still there but there was often low grade depression, a loss of desire and zest for life, and high levels of anxiety.
For many sexual minority persons who have felt the pressure to resist their sinful nature one of the most significant spiritual needs is to learn to rest in the security of being the Beloved of God. Christ IS our righteousness. And Christ can be trusted to help us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Generous spaciousness encourages growth in the journey of sanctification. We are well aware of the gap between who we are and the Christ-likeness to which we are called. Our movement towards maturity is energized by love not by fear. And our focus is on being receptive to the free gift of grace that Christ has secured on our behalf. It is in this space and this confidence that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices.