There are some things the Bible calls “sin” that almost everyone agrees are wrong. Hardly anybody in his or her right mind would look at adultery, rape, or murder (at least of a post-womb person) and say, “I mean, I really don’t see anything wrong with it.” No! The corporate human conscience sees atrocities such as these and calls them what they are: evil.
And then there are some things the Bible calls “sin” that are constantly debated. One that has been a hot topic of conversation over the last few years is same-sex behavior and relationships. In a time not too distant, most Westerners viewed all forms of homosexual expression as vile. But today, the pendulum of cultural thought has swung all the way to the other side. Most people–including many church-going people–don’t see anything wrong with two people of the same gender expressing romantic love for one another in the context of a monogamous, committed relationship.
The overall “go for it!” vibe in the air of our society really amps up the temptation for Christians with same-sex tendencies, like myself. I’d like to be able to say that everyone and their mama saying its okay for me to date a guy doesn’t ever faze me. I’d like to be able to say that the resolve in my soul to be faithful to God is so constant and unwavering that the opinions of the multitude don’t ever sway me in the slightest.
But dang it, sometimes they do. Sometimes they really, really do.
I know what the Bible says. In Hebrew, Greek, and English, God’s Word clearly condemns homosexual behavior. It doesn’t matter how much the world softens the sin in their minds by viewing it through the lens of “romance” or “love”; God has spoken and his word endures forever. All expressions of homosexuality are condemnable. The Spirit of God faithfully whispers this truth to my soul every day.
But sometimes, the voices around me begin to overwhelm the still, small voice inside me. The beckoning of the world away from the loneliness of singleness and toward the happiness of a gay relationship is enticing at times. I’ll have moments, like just a few minutes ago, when I make awkward, prolonged eye contact with another guy in the coffee shop and everything in my flesh tells me my attraction toward him is right. Everything in my flesh desires to find some random reason to strike up a conversation with him. The voices in my head–words of friends and family buried deep into my memory–start to chatter.
“God doesn’t want anyone to be alone, Matt.”
“If God were really good, he wouldn’t allow you to struggle with something like this.”
“You won’t ever be able to be happy unless you find someone to love that you’re actually attracted to.”
So what do I do? In these moments when I know that hardly anyone would blame me for setting aside the faith I’ve held to for the last five years to pursue a relationship that everyone says will make me happy, how do I resist?
I plug my ears to the wisdom of this world and look to my Creator–that’s what I do. I know that sounds like a super cliché, Christianese thing to say, but hear me out. If the God of the Bible is the engineer of my soul, then he knows the ins and outs of my being more thoroughly than I or anyone else ever could. If the God of the Bible is responsible for all of the intricate complexities of my spirit, mind, and body, then he knows better than anyone else what will actually bring me the deepest and most enduring joy.
So when I start to question what will truly make me happiest, by the power of the Spirit, I shut out the world’s ignorant opinions and run to the One who knows me best. I go to Jesus, and I listen to him instead.
The entire trajectory of Jesus’ earthly life contradicted everything the world expected. The Divine Majesty enters into the universe he created, not with some prestigious last name or a trust fund, but as the son of a young, poor carpenter. He launches his ministry, not as the 1st century equivalent of a seminary grad, but as an “uneducated” Middle Eastern man barely out of his twenties. He performs marvelous miracles, demonstrating his sovereign power over disease, death, and all of the natural elements–and then tells the recipients of his healing to go and tell no one what he’s done. He accumulates no wealth and builds no massive house for himself and his friends, but travels around from town to town with nowhere to lay his head. When the people try to make him king, he disappears. When they throw him upon a cross to be crucified, he stays. When they bury him in the ground, he gets up.
Jesus Christ lived a very backward kind of life–and he calls us to live likewise.
Friends, following our crucified and risen God is almost always going to run against the grain of popular thought. It just is. Whether it’s you resisting your instinctual sexual desires, liquidating your property to build houses for the destitute across the world, moving your wife and kids to South Sudan to live as permanent missionaries, or some other form of self-denial, the world is going to frown upon your sacrifice and tell you that you need to take a different route. They’re going to tell you you’re on a path that will only result in loss and misery. They’re going to tell you there’s no happiness for you if you follow Jesus in such an “extreme” way.
But Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25.
The road to lasting joy and fulfillment is not paved with self-indulgence and worldly abundance but with self-denial and sacrifice. So when the world looks at your life and with a sympathetic shake of the head says that you’re robbing yourself of happiness, don’t be surprised. They are blind to the way, the truth, and the life, enslaved to their passions, and find all their hope in what can be attained and experienced in the here and now. You and I, friend, are citizens of another world–a renewed world that is quickly approaching. So plug your ears to their opinions and stand firm in the faith. Fix your gaze on Jesus. Listen to him. Believe him. Follow him.