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May 14, 2007

Sex and Singleness

I received a post from Brian under the Peter and False Teachers post which I think deserves a new thread to respond to it. Brian writes that he is gay; thus here was his response to another blogger's comments about homosexuality:

I must admit, my heart broke a little as I began to read through the comments. As I heard inclusive teachings about homosexuality called "the most insidious" I felt a gulf swell up inside of me. As I continued to read further, the pain only continued. I was reduced to a sex act.

I am a gay person. No matter what I do or do not do, I will continue to be a gay person. As I sit here typing, I am a gay person. To have the whole of my identity reduced to a sex act... is dehumanizing....

If you would not have me be called to a life of love, commitment and partnership. If you would not have me find a "helpmate suitable for [me]" as the creation account in Genesis describes. If you would not honor my relationships and call them be uplifted and lived out with integrity...

What then would you have me do?

Brian, you ask this question as if the answer were difficult. It, however, is not. It's not what I would have you do, but what the Word of God would have you do.

Simply, as a single person, you are to remain celibate. That is as true for the unmarried heterosexual as it is for the homosexual. While it is true that God ordained marriage, He has obviously not ordained for everyone to be married. So, if singleness (for whatever reason) is the plan He has for your life, then your choice (if you are a Christian) is simple: either engage in sex outside of marriage (fornication) or abstain. One is the path of sin, the other the path of godliness. 

Since I have an unmarried daughter and many unmarried friends, I know that singleness can be both a test and a blessing. It's a test -- especially in our sex-crazed culture (which really does define us by our sexuality) -- to realize that this is part of being human that God has not given you a legitimate outlet for outside marriage. In this case, you should not fall for the culture's lie that having sex is the be all and end all of your existence. On the other hand, singleness can be a blessing -- as Paul points out -- because you may use your singleness to focus your attention on serving God to a degree that married people (with all their attendent responsibilities for their spouse and children) cannot. 

Celibacy does not condemn you to a life without love. You have family members and friends to love -- as any person does. It's just that under God's rules, those are non-sexual forms of love. God can give you great joy in those relationships if you will let Him, and His grace WILL be sufficient for you to live as a single adult without feeling that, somehow, you are missing out on "the fun" (again, this is the cultural lie).

Finally, we all face temptations -- toward every kind of sin. It's not a sin to be tempted; it's only a sin to act on those temptations. We're ALL born with a sin nature; and, as Christians, we're all responsible before God to say "no" to sin. So, in one sense, you have to stop seeing homosexuality as some kind of "special case" that exempts you from the rules we all must live under if we truly wish to love and honor God. Believe me, there are commands in Scripture that I would just as soon bypass as well (I am, after all, a selfish human being); but we either commit to living by the Word and honoring our Lord, or we play games with God that lead us on a path of self-destruction. We really do have a choice. 

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Comments

Brian

I would agree that singleness can be a great blessing and I know that it prepares me well for the ultimate relationship God has in store for me (if that be in His plans). I thank you for referring me to God's word for guidance. I have spent much time there and it is because of my study of His word and my relationship with Him that I felt compelled to comment in the first place.

When I go to God's word, I find it calling me to the very things I posted about in my original comment: to be called to a life of love, commitment and partnership; to find a "helpmate suitable for [me]" as the creation account in Genesis describes; to live out my relationships with integrity.

In Scripture, I find no condemnation for the way God made me as a gay man.

As such, I seek to form relationships that will eventually lead to the lifelong commitment which the LORD saw so vital for Adam. I seek to honor the body and spirit which God has given me and honor the Creator who created me. I praise him for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

My love is not a temptation.

Brian

In Scripture, singleness is borne out of personal conviction, not external mandate. If I fall in love and the Lord lays it on my heart to be married, then I shall marry that man. If I feel conviction in ways that preclude marriage, I shall answer that call.

In Matthew 19, when Jesus speaks about how marriage is not for everyone, personal choice is an integral part of his advice: "...and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should."

When Paul speaks of singleness, he actually advocates AGAINST marriage for everyone. But an important point that seems to be left out is also that of personal choice in the matter. (As a note, I don't often hear Paul's message against marriage preached to anyone besides gay men and lesbians)

God says in Genesis, "It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him." We can look not only to the Bible but also to our churches and our society to see that marriage and lifelong partnership is such an integral part to the human experience.

As such, such extreme calls as lifelong singleness and celibacy are matters of personal conviction.

Again, I'd like to point out the personal hurt I feel in the treatment of this matter. Again, I have been reduced to a sex act. The title "Sex and Singleness" and constant focus on celibacy assumes being gay is nothing more than a sex act. I am a person who desires love, commitment, partnership, the ability to grow in a Christ-centered relationship, to serve the church in partnership and serve the community in partnership; I just happen to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically attracted men instead of women.

I am not asking for special rules or special exceptions. I, like everyone, am a child of God and wish to behave as such. I desire to know Him, know His will, and act that will out in every way I can. I seek to honor God, I seek to honor those around me, I seek to help the poor, I seek to take care of the sick, I seek to protect God's creation. And the list goes on.

I take comfort in Christ, the ultimate defender of the outcasts. And I look forward to the day when I will once and for all say "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh," this is the helper suitable for me. And I will thank God for him.

Hiroshi

Brian,
Respectfully, I blog 2 questions:

Biblically (or scientifically), how do you come to the conclusion that God made you gay?

How do you feel about the infamous passage in Romans 1 that humanity rejected the true God in exchange for worshipping the creation (i.e. humanism, idolatry, animism, New Age theology) and then began to experience a host of disobedient sins, including sexual attraction to those of the same sex?

Are you willing to love God if He turns out to have another plan for your life, rather than a homosexual life?

I'm sincerely interested in your perspective...

Beth

Mine was the original comment regarding false teachings and homosexuality in my denomination. Honestly, I am unsure about how to continue this conversation, although I believe it very much must continue, so I will try.

I have found, on any number of occasions, when discussing this issue with my gay and straight friends an odd phenomenon. We can't actually seem to talk about the issue in any meaningful way because there is no fundamental agreement about the principles guiding the discussion. My original post has as it's unspoken premise (my fault for not overtly stating it) that homosexuality is, in fact, a part of the sinful nature of a fallen world(Please understand that I am not pointing to homosexuality as a sin worse than any other. It does, however, happens to be the issue that drives a lot of decision making at my church, and hence is important to me.). Herein lies the problem, in my estimation. We can't get beyond a discussion of "what is and isn't sin". It strikes me that Brian and I are enmeshed in the same problem. Having said that, let me try to explain in more detail the reasoning behind my original post.

I found it interesting that Brian called the teaching I mentioned inclusive. I have attended a church for many years that describes itself as inclusive with regards to homosexuality. Honestly, I have come to disagree with most of the ways my church defines inclusiveness for three very important reasons. These reasons explain why I purposely called my church's teachings regarding homosexuality insidious.

First, it is at odds with the Bible's teachings. In my church, inculsive means culturally current, apathetic, and offense free. I think most of us would agree that Jesus was inclusive in his ministry. However, Jesus ability to include everyone was not at all apathetic regarding sin. He sat with, dined with and lived with sinners but never made excuses for them. It was that very inclusion that allowed him to point out their sin and call them to repentance. However, if we can't even agree that something is or isn't sinful, how can we begin to repent of it?

Second, in the name of inclusiveness my church excludes many. It communicates, "this is a non-issue; there is no reason to continue the discussion." If I disagree with my church's teaching regarding homosexuality (or foul language, or abortion, or...) I am told that I am self-righteous, judgmental, and need to be more loving and open-minded. My disagreement is ignored as unimportant.

Third, my church's inclusiveness has created a moral vacuum with regards to its preaching, teaching, fellowship and missions. We can't do anything that might offend some group so we preach heaven without hell, we teach salvation without repentance, we fellowship without accountability, and we simply don't do outreach in any meaningful way.

I must say my original post was and this post is specific to my church and it's denomination - that's the false teaching I'm privy to, so that's the false teaching I wrote about. Those false teachings have far reaching effects in my church. I know that there are churches and denominations that discuss homosexuality with Christ-like love.

My prayer is that the discussion will continue with that very Christ-like love.

Diane Singer

Brian,

I believe that Beth is correct. The problem is that you do not acknowledge homosexuality as sinful, though it is confirmed in both Old and New Testaments (Lev 18:22, Roman 1:27). This leads you to make some out-of-context applications of Scripture, including the "suitable helper" concept. The context was Creation; God brought a woman to Adam, and commanded them to 'be fruitful and multiply" (something no two homosexuals can do naturally). While it is true that God made us for relationships, He did not put His stamp of approval on homosexuality. It's simply not logical to assume that He is going to grant you the desire of your heart (another man) when He has declared such a relationship out of bounds.

While you accuse others of reducing you to a sex act, you are actually the one guilty of this. The reason I entitled my response "sex and singleness" was simply to put your situation into a more complete context: ANY Christian single person must deal with the fact that God does not approve of sex outside of marriage. That's not reducing them to a sex act; it's just an acknowledgement that this is one aspect of their humanity that they must deal with in a godly fashion. Even those who are married have constraints upon their sexual expressions. God gives us those limits in order to protect us from sins that not only break our fellowship with Him, but damage the marital bond, harm the family, and pass on lasting hurt to children.

I know that my words will probably not convince you. However, I am praying for the Spirit of Truth to break through the confusion. I sense in your response someone who truly wants to know and serve God, and only He can show you the right and proper way to do that. God bless!

Brian

Greetings. I did not respond yesterday as I wanted to take a pause as the nation observes the passing of Jerry Falwell and spend some time with his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.

Hiroshi,
From the first time that I started to take an interest in others, it was towards boys. When I was young and my friends started to look for girlfriends, that is not what my heart was longing for. It is more than just physical. It is all things: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. A straight man is (hopefully) drawn to more than just a woman's gender... as am I.

As I grew to become aware of what it meant to be gay, I had heard from church and the general religious culture that being gay was sinful... so I would not be that. I tried, and I prayed, and for many years resolved that I would not be gay.

Unfortunately it does not work that way.

Since coming to terms with the fact that I am gay and that God continues to love and affirm me, just as I am, I have seen many good fruits. Jesus tells us that you can judge a tree by its fruits. To pretend that I am not gay or to suppress the natural way in which I was made is to live a dishonest life. When I acknowledge the manner in which I was created, and live it with integrity, I have borne many good fruits.

Additionally, every major medical, psychological, psychiatric organization has concluded that sexual orientation is not a conscious choice and is unchanging; with great potential harm to the individual if change is attempted. I have seen this reality lived out all too often. In myself and my friends on a small scale and on friends and acquaintances who have subjected themselves to years and sometimes decades of so-called ex-gay therapy.

That being said, I have laid my head down at night many times saying "Lord, if you would have another will for me, help me to know it and I will follow it, hard as it may be." Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict our hearts. I have been convicted of many things, my sexual orientation is not one of them.

More on Romans later, I think that's enough for one post.

I am sincerely grateful in your interest Hiroshi.

Brian

Beth, Thank you for your candid address of the issues.

I would like to join with you in concern for the moral vacuum that has appeared in your church. I too have found that in some congregations I have attended and I am troubled by it as well. Repentance, accountability, and outreach are all critical to Christ's purpose.

I would also like to stand with you as we both desire an honest and Christ-centered discussion. That should be embraced, not shunned. And that is why I brought attention to my misgivings.

It is not out of moral apathy, but rather moral imperative, that I have voiced my belief in this matter.

And finally I would like to leave you with a hope: a hope that you can separate the many problems you have with your church (moral apathy, lack of discussion, stalled outreach) from the separate issue of the morality of homosexuality.

Thank-you for being a part of this discussion!

Beth

Brian and others still interested in this discussion,

It is not at all clear to me how I am to partition morality with regards to homosexuality. I have found that if the church takes an immoral stance on one issue it tends to then lead to the necessity for immorality in other areas. For instance, if my church teaches that homosexuality is not sinful, then it is in essence teaching that there is no morality with regards to sexuality isn't it? If we teach that sex is acceptable and not sinful for some single individuals then how can we in turn say that adultery or polygamy or incestuous relationships are not acceptable and sinful? More broadly, if my church chooses to teach that homosexuality is not sinful what leg does it have to stand on in teaching that any other thing is sinful? If we are morally relativistic in one area, it has been my experience that we must by necessity become morally relativistic in others areas too.

Again, I appreciate the discussion.

Brian

I hope that I'm not overpowering this blog. I've tried to space out my comments (especially on this subject) to allow some room to breath and to examine other issues (especially ones where we find much common ground).

I believe that there are strong guidelines for healthy sexual morality. You and I will both agree that adultery, incest, and abuse are both against Scripture and against conscience. I am certainly not advocating for the moral validity of such things.

I desire to be called to a sexual ethic.

This is why I am here to share about what it means to be a gay man...something that I fear is not fully understood in many Christian contexts.

I am not looking for a free pass from sexual morality. Rather, I am saying that the way I can enter into an honest relationship with another individual to whom I am emotionally, spiritually, and physically attracted to and with whom such feelings are reciprocated is with a man. I am not saying that this what is natural for everyone. To the vast majority of straight people out there, a same-sex relationship would be disingenuous.

I desire to be called to a healthy sexual ethic in my relationships: that sexuality should not be taken lightly, that those who can honor celibacy in singleness will be rewarded in marriage, and that love and commitment are not fleeting feelings but require cultivation and work.

I feel confident asking to be called to such things because I look at Scripture and I do not find condemnation in my orientation (not even in Leviticus or Romans, which I would be happy to discuss). I do, however, see countless examples of the blessings of partnership.

Thus, I am not advocating for moral relativism but rather a thorough examination of God's holy word. Because from where I see things, we are misconstruing Scripture to support discrimination and call part of what God has beautifully created sin. So let's know exactly what we are condemning and why.

Thanks again for your gracious participation in this discussion.

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