A few days ago I came across the most disheartening article on same-sex attraction, celibacy, and marriage that I’ve ever read: Heterosexuality is Godliness. Part of me doesn’t want to give this content any more attention than it’s already getting, so initially I decided that I wasn’t going to write anything in response to it. But realizing that there are people following my blog that 1) may hold to these positions, or 2) may be swayed toward these positions, I’ve decided to address it.
As the title clearly communicates, these guys—these pastors—believe that pursuing heterosexual marriage is the only right and biblical avenue for the person who struggles with same sex attraction. Embracing singleness or celibacy, according to them, is not a godly option for the person wrestling with homosexual desires. They think that heterosexual affection and marriage must be actively sought after in order for someone like me, and like many who follow this blog, to be truly obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are a couple of quotes straight from the article, just so you can get the gist of it:
“When a same-sex attracted individual–a professing Christian–chooses to practice a celibate lifestyle, they are effectively denying regeneration.”
“A requirement for salvation is repentance, and repentance is a turning from your sin. Pursuing celibacy is an acceptance of your sin. You cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). It is, in effect, continuing to act in accordance to your fallen state.”
Obviously, this is pretty unsettling to me—as I am a same-sex attracted Christian who is currently living a celibate lifestyle. Contrary to these guys’ allegations, I’m not celibate because I am accepting my sin. I’m not secretly cherishing my homosexual desires, denying regeneration, or refusing to submit to God’s sanctifying power.
Day in and day out, multitudes of celibate SSA Christians, like me, are fighting tooth and nail against our sinful desires. We don’t make peace with our sin; we ruthlessly attack it. We beat our bodies into submission (1 Corinthians 9:27). We live in constant dependence on the empowering grace of the gospel to submit our lives to Christ. Is this not valid repentance? Is this not the self-denying, “pick up your cross and follow me” kind of life that Christ requires of his followers? Is this way of life not congruent with the regenerating effects of the Holy Spirit?
It is, and shame on Pulpit and Pen for insisting that it’s not!
Additionally, I want to say—and I think I speak for many others—that I don’t embrace celibacy because I think heterosexual marriage is “icky” or because I don’t believe God could make a marriage work that included me. I am wide open to the idea of marrying and starting a family if that’s the direction God wants to take me.
However, I’m not going to pursue marriage unless the Lord connects me with a woman to whom I’m physically and emotionally attracted. I am not going to marry just to marry. I don’t think it’s wrong or unbiblical to say that I must feel some—even if it is slight—level of attraction and affection for a woman in order to pursue her in the way she deserves.
Yet, the folks at Pulpit and Pen would (and did) say, “A biblical marriage is not centered around sexual attraction, it revolves around Christ. God created marriage as a picture of Christ’s covenant relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-32).” Yes and amen, marriage is a picture to the world of Christ’s relationship with the Church. But what kind of picture are we trying to paint, guys? If I seek out and marry someone that I don’t have feelings for because I feel obligated to, my marriage would be telling the world that Christ laid down his life for me out of mere obligation. If I marry someone I don’t have feelings for, my marriage tells the world that Christ didn’t love me or feel affection for me; he just emotionlessly—or even begrudgingly—sacrificed himself for me because he was “supposed to.” It is not biblical or right to paint marriage as some emotionless covenant that is all about sacrifice and “gospel-picturing” and not about attraction, passion, and romance.
I feel that roping a godly woman that I’m not attracted to into a relationship and then marrying her would be massively unfair to her and to myself. I understand that attraction shouldn’t be the sole driving force of a relationship, but as I’ve already stated, there should be some—even if slight—level of mutual attraction between two people if they’re going to move toward marriage. I’m not about playing the “fake it till you make it” game. I will not pretend to have attraction and affection for a woman, marry her, and then hope that as I try to be intimate with her (there’s no certainty that I would be able to!), the Lord will make me more attracted to her. I will not attempt to use heterosexual sex as a “sanctifying method” to wage war against my homosexual desires.
I am glad to say that in a follow up article, the folks at Pulpit and Pen said that “the solution to homosexuality is not heterosexual marriage, but gospel transformation”—and to this I give a hearty amen! However, as I’m sure they know well, gospel transformation will not have its full and universal effect while we dwell in fallen bodies. It is unbiblical to suppose and proclaim that belief in the gospel will produce heterosexual desires in the hearts of men and women that have a mainly homosexual orientation. We are promised that, even in this life, sin will not rule over us—we will be given power to resist, flee, and subdue our evil desires every day. However we aren’t promised SSA believers will develop heterosexual desires. And those who don’t develop them aren’t lesser Christians than those that do.
I know men and women who have faithfully followed the Lord for decades and have yet to feel affection for someone of the opposite sex. They crucify their flesh daily. They don’t indulge in pornography or partake in other activities that would strengthen or sustain homosexual desires. Yet, for some reason or another (not due to disobedience or faithlessness!), they don’t feel drawn to the opposite gender. These men and women rest deeply, and rightly, in the confidence that God has an extremely high view of singleness and celibacy (read Romans 7).
If I ever come across a lady that I’m drawn to physically and emotionally, and she feels likewise, I will probably pursue that opportunity. I’ve pursued a heterosexual relationship once before—with the only woman I’ve genuinely felt a romantic attraction to—and I’ll do it again if the Lord brings someone into my life to whom I’m drawn in that way. But until then, I joyfully embrace the possibility of celibacy.
And when I say, “joyfully embrace,” I mean that I will not be chasing after marriage. I am not embracing celibacy in hopes that it will only be temporarily and marriage will eventually come. I really am content remaining single and celibate for the remainder of my sojourning in this world. I am thankful that this state of life gives me time and freedom to serve my church, share the gospel, and wholly devote myself—as Paul recommends—to the things of the Lord.
In summary, I want to represent my many same-sex attracted friends in saying that my willingness to embrace celibacy for the rest of my life does not indicate that I am accepting my sin, at peace with my sin, or “denying the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.” My celibacy indicates that: 1) I am obeying Christ by fleeing my homosexual desires every day, and 2) I am refusing to pursue a relationship with someone I don’t have romantic affection for—both for her sake and for mine.
If I wanted to accept my sin, I would be in a gay relationship. But I’ve been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt. Obedience to Jesus is far more satisfying.