I shouldn’t be writing this today. Statistically, if you are reading this post after reading yesterday’s post and Monday’s post, you are an anomaly. With so much else to click on from your timeline or inbox, this blog has technically passed its weekly quota. Sorry about that. I feel like there is a lot we need to process right now. I’m writing today because there is more to be said. Dialogue is vital when the fog is thick.
Our culture loves labels. Whether it has to do with race, education, socio-economic status, sexuality, even sports allegiances—we love to categorize ourselves and others in neatly defined boxes with lids taped shut. When it comes to the issues of sexuality in particular, labels propagated by our culture have unfortunately created a thick fog that is hovering over the church to the detriment of the gospel and everyone who needs it. And in case you are unaware of the gospel of Jesus, EVERYONE needs it.
It breaks my heart to see the confusion on this issue, and how Satan has used it to harm so many of God’s broken image bearers. Matthew Vines tells some heart-wrenching stories in his book (which I addressed yesterday) about the brutal despair and heart-wrenching realities that those dealing with same-sex attraction wade through in the church. It’s not right, and every single person who believes the gospel needs to face it.
What is it we need to face?
There is a difference between what our culture says about same-sex issues and what the Scriptures say. I’m not talking about the obvious stuff here, I addressed those issues on this blog already this week. I’m talking about the fog.
Carissa and I were watching a rerun of Season 2 of Seinfeld the other night. In the episode, George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander), displaying his usual paranoid anxiety, is trying to come to grips with sexual feelings that he thinks he may have experienced during a trip to the chiropractor. To his intense discomfort, the only available masseuse was a man, and during the massage he thinks he might have felt a tinge of attraction to the man. In a classic case of George being George, he spends the rest of the episode wondering if what he felt was “real or imagined” and if it was real, just exactly what it may mean for his sexual identity. He and Jerry go back and forth about what it may mean, if he might be gay, and what level of attraction to the same gender constitutes that sexual classification. Seinfeld is probably one of the funniest shows in television history, but the fog on this issue is not a laughing matter for millions of people.
Our culture’s narrative claims that your ultimate identity is your sexual identity. And you personally discover your sexual identity by coming to grips with what you feel attracted to, what you prefer sexually, and how you believe you are made. This equals your orientation. You discover your orientation by walking the path of our culture’s gospel, which is find yourself and be true to yourself. As Matthew Vines spoke about coming to grips with his sexual identity as a 19-year old, he used the language of “discovering” something, “processing” something, and “coming to grips” with a reality.
Here is where the fog comes in: for our culture, your feelings determine your orientation and then you get a label. Sometimes others put the label on you (“gay,” “straight,” etc.), other times you place the label on yourself. Meanwhile, the fog thickens as the entire situation is couched in universal language and absolutes: “It’s not a choice, it’s a reality you are born with, it is who you are at your core, it is the truest thing about you, it is your deepest reality.” The fog gets even thicker because the overwhelming majority of people discover this about themselves in their adolescent years. When searching and grasping for “who you are” is at its height, the labels are there for the taking. After 10 years in youth ministry, I still weep over the horrendous reality that when a person is at their most developmentally vulnerable in terms of issues of identity, our twisted culture stands there with a handful of labels as if they are a deck of cards being offered up for a magic trick. “Pick a card, any card, but you better pick one.” The gruesomeness of the trick comes from the fact that everyone is forced to pick.
We need to get clear on this in the church. There is a difference between sin and temptation. It is not a sin to feel attracted to the same-sex. It is not a sin to feel sexual temptation or even “sexually oriented” toward homosexuality. The Bible clearly defines sexual sin as either lust or action. Where is the “lust line” in attraction toward sexual sin? Well, it is obviously at the same place for those attracted to fornication, pornography, adultery, or any other sexual sin, as it is for those attracted to homosexual sin. In the church, we must refuse culture’s trick on this issue. Culture would have the church put homosexuality in a different classification of sexual sin. It would have us identify those wrestling with same-sex feelings or gender identity with the culture’s pre-determined labels: gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender. We can’t buy into this lie. We can’t rank one sexual sin above another, by reacting to the twisted labels our culture is selling. And we must refuse to put people in the “your sexuality is your ultimate identity” box.
The fog is not going to lift and the gospel is going to be impeded in this dialogue until we get past the labels. For Christians to be the Church on this issue, we need to get clear that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of every sinner.
This means: You are not what you feel tempted to do, any more than I am. You are not your sexuality. You are not the label culture assigns to you. YOU DON’T HAVE TO COME TO GRIPS WITH YOUR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. There is no law that says you do. You don’t need to “search for yourself” or “find yourself” because God sent Jesus so that you could discover your true identity as His beloved son or daughter. You can be, like every other human on the planet, simply a broken person in the hands of the loving and righteous God who created you in His image. The gospel of God’s love tells you and me both that despite our brokenness, despite the labels we’re assigned by our culture, God’s never-stopping, never-giving-up, always-faithful love pursues us in Jesus Christ, calling us home to Him.
LifePoint Church: let’s be the Church on this issue. The gospel demands that we be a people, formed by God into a dwelling place for His Spirit, where labels go to die. This includes culture’s labels on race, gender, sexuality, education, socio-economic status… and (yes)…even sports allegiances.