Last year, I was tabling for our on campus Christian fellowship, holding a box of cookies in my left hand and a handful of fliers in my right. Normally, people don’t come up to us and ask questions regarding what we believe. But for some reason, during my shift, a guy came to grab a cookie and said, “I’m gay. Can I be a Christian?”
Woah. Wha? I’m just standing out here on Sproul Plaza giving out free cookies trying to get people to come to our fellowship… And you have to come and hit me with that?
Needless to say, I really wasn’t ready for a question like that, but I answered it to the best of my ability.
Before I get into my answer to this question, let me just say that this topic was not easy for me to write about. I attend UC Berkeley, a place that’s known for having widespread acceptance of the homosexual community. So why am I writing about this? Because this is a matter of life and death. To not write about this topic would be a hateful act, in my opinion. So please, if you are struggling with same-sex attraction, don’t think of this article as an attack on your identity, or an attack at all. My motivation for writing about this is not condemnation, but rather a motivation to love you. I simply want to extend the radical, life-changing love that has changed me, to you.
In short, yes I think that gay people can be Christians. Why? Because to say that they can’t is to say that our God can’t forgive homosexuality, which I don’t believe is true.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says,
“9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
I think that the key to these few verses is the last one. We are all guilty of these sins. We don’t deserve to inherit the kingdom of God. None of us are good enough, but God came down and washed us. However, just because we are washed from our sins doesn’t mean that we can abuse God’s grace and go out and do whatever we want. If we are to truly follow in Christ’s example as best as possible, we should abstain to the best of our abilities. After all, we’re called to die to ourselves daily, to take up the cross and walk in the same way that Christ did.
Now comes the hard part. If homosexuals are called into a life with God, do they have to remain celibate? Or can they be married? That’s the real question, isn’t it? The Christian life is defined by constant repentance and forgiveness given from the Father. However, if homosexuality is a sin and people are living a life that perpetuates that sin, what happens?
I think the most similar scenario, and the closest thing I have to an answer to this comes from an apologetics speaker that has deeply influenced my own faith, Nabeel Qureshi. He was born into the Muslim religion and was a very devout follower of Islam during that time. In his search for the truth, he came to the conclusion that the Christian God was the truth. Along with that realization, however, came the knowledge that if he gave up his life to follow Christ and declare Him Lord and Savior over his life, Nabeel would have to give up everything that he had ever known: his family, his community, everything would be gone because of his decision to follow Christ. His life would be flipped upside down, but there was no way he could possibly continue following a religion that he knew was false, so he converted to Christianity. Like he expected, his life changed drastically. He said that his parents felt betrayed, and had he been part of the more extreme Muslim sects, he could have been killed for his conversion.
I imagine that’s what it’s like for homosexual people who are trying to become Christians. I believe that yes, homosexual people have to give up their ways of life in the same way that Nabeel had to give up his. In a way, they face death too. A death to themselves, a death to their identities. They have to give up their communities and their comfort. But if Christianity is the truth, I also believe that it will be worth it in the end. In giving up your identity, you take on Christ’s identity.
I know that it may seem like I am approaching this topic very lightly because I am not homosexual and I’ve never experienced what it is like to be part of the homosexual community. But I do know that asking people to step away from those they consider family is the hardest thing to do. If you were to tell me that I would have to give up my family in order to believe in Christ, I would have a hard time too. I may not understand the full implications of what I’m saying, but I understand the fullness and faithfulness of the Father. I know that whatever the world considers “pleasure” is nothing compared to the satisfaction that God gives.
For those of us Christians who do not struggle with these thoughts, but know people who are, I hope this article opened your eyes just a bit to what homosexual people have to go through in order to become Christians. I think that there are certain taboos when approaching the subject, especially in today’s society. But we, as Christians, are called to be the salt and light of the world. We cannot endorse something that is wrong and could potentially keep someone from coming to Him. The church is in the saving business after all, is it not? So let us love our brothers and sisters, let us be a community that loves and supports, but rebukes as well. Let us not forget that this community exists. Let us not push the people of this community away because of their sexual orientation. We are the church. We are called to love the broken, the weary traveler, the unloveable– that’s what we all are in the eyes of God, after all. Yet He loved us. So yes, we as a church should not endorse a life that goes against the laws of God, but we should love all of the people living that life. Love them until it’s unthinkable for them to think that the church is the enemy, but rather a place of refuge and grace. So often, the church is looked upon by the homosexual community as a hateful place where they are not accepted in any way. Let us change that perception! I pray that you and I are the first ones to show by example that the church is a place of love and refuge for this community.
If you are struggling with homosexual thoughts, I just want to say that God loves you. There are many people out there condemning you to Hell because of your thoughts and your life, but the God that I know loves you, and just like He came to save the likes of someone like me, He came to save you as well. I understand that becoming a Christian is dying to yourself, but that’s what we are called to do as Christians.
D.A Carson says in one of his books:
Jesus universalizes the principle that is at stake: “If anyone would come after me,” he says, “he must deny himself and take up the cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (vv.24-25). This expression “to take up one’s cross” is not an idiom by which to refer to some trivial annoyance– an ingrown toenail, perhaps, or a toothache, or an awkward in-law: “We all have our crosses to bear.” No, in the first century, that sort of interpretation would have been impossible. In the first century it was as culturally unthinkable to make jokes about Auschwitz. To take up your cross does not mean to move forward with courage despite the fact that you lost your job or your spouse. It means you are under sentence of death; you are taking up the horizontal cross-member on your way to the place of crucifixion. You have abandoned all hope of life in this world. And then, Jesus says, and only then, are we ready to follow him.
In the end, all I can say is that I’m a sinner. The worst sinner that I know. I know my thoughts, I know the actions that reflect those thoughts. I know that I don’t repent nearly enough. Yet God forgives me for all the things that I’ve done wrong in my life. I also believe that if He can forgive me, the worst sinner that I know, then He can forgive those who struggle with homosexuality, and He wants you to come to Him.
Something that I heard a pastor say once is, “Once you know Jesus, the gospel, you are free not only from the punishment of sin but the power of sin. At the end of the day, you might struggle with same-sex attraction for the rest of your life, just like someone else might struggle with hardcore lust with the opposite sex for the rest of their life. But the question is, do you trust Jesus?”
So, my dear friends, let us trust Him. Trust that He can and will change us, regardless of the sin. That His intention is to save, not condemn. And to my brothers and sisters of the church: Let us be an example of love and inclusivity, not one of exclusion and hatred. We are all broken in some way. That is why we must become a refuge for all, not just the ones we deem worthy.