Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
When you were in high school you wanted to be part of the cool crowd, or the party crowd, the artsy and theater crowd, the jocks, the nerds, or the hoods. There was some crowd you really wanted to be part of. You wanted to belong. You wanted to fit in. You wanted someone's eye to light up in recognition when they saw you coming. And that's not a bad thing. We all want to feel we have somewhere we belong, people we belong with, a place where we matter. So you changed your clothes. Or you tried a different way of doing your hair. Maybe you even got a piercing or a tattoo. You watched TV or movies and paid attention to how the characters you wanted to be like moved or talked, what they said and how they said it. You lay awake sometimes thinking of witty or biting comments you could make that would impress people and you stood in front of the mirror in the morning and practiced them. Only you probably never had a chance to use those carefully crafted lines. And when you did have an opportunity, you forgot them, or they came out wrong.
And then you left high school and it gradually dawned on you that the advice your mother had given you all along was right; “if people don't like you for yourself, they won't like you if you change yourself for them.” You figured out who you were. In the words of my generation, “you found yourself.” You liked some of what you found and didn't like some of it. There are still things you would like to change about yourself and you are trying to do so – that's part of being human. But you stopped trying to be fake merely to impress people and you began to be you. And most of all you found that there were people out there who really would like you for yourself, who really did make a place for you in their lives with all your good and bad, your strengths and your faults. Your mom was a wise woman. People would like you for yourself.
Unless you were gay. In which case you knew your mom was wrong. In fact, far from liking you for yourself, you knew that the people you cared about most, even more than your peers in school, would not like you. Your pastor, your family, your Christian church, your mom and your dad. You knew that, far from liking you for you, they would be disgusted at what you were. You knew you were different pretty early in life but at 11 or 12 you began to realize what that difference meant. You began to have feelings for others of your own sex that other kids were having for the opposite sex. And you knew there was a term for that; “gay” or “lesbian.” So you began to listen to what your mom and dad, your pastor and other adults you respected said about “gays” and “lesbians” and “fags” and “dykes.” And you figured out pretty quick that if they knew you, they would not like you. They would be disappointed in you. They might even hate you.
So all those attempts to fit in, to change one's self, which for other kids was a budding social skill of learning to appropriately adjust ones behavior and language to circumstances and places, became for you a survival tool. They were looking to find themselves. You were working to hide yourself. Hating yourself and sure that others would hate you too, you learned to say and do the things that would win you affirmation from you parents, your teachers and, to a lesser extent, from your peers. You were the polite kid, the obedient child, the hard worker, the class clown, the artist, the diligent student, the devoted Sunday school attendee, the active youth group member, you were just an all around nice kid. And your efforts paid off. Adults did like you. They did admire you. They did give you the affirmation you wanted.
Only it backfired. Because every time you received that affirmation it was accompanied by the thought in your head, “but they would not really like me if they knew what I was really like, if they knew the real me. The affirmation felt good. But it also felt bad. Because it seemed false. It felt fake. It wasn't for you. It was for the person you pretended to be. So, far from building you up, it tore you down and made you feel even more ashamed of the person you were who was so far from the person every one saw and liked.
But you were a kid. And you didn't have any other defenses against the self hate inside. You had no other resources by which to gain the love and affirmation you wanted and needed. There were no role models. No one had ever shown you how to negotiate being gay in the Christian church, how to be loved without being fake. So you used the same defense again and again, even though it didn't work. In spite of the fact it was just making things worse. You showed a nice face on the outside while inside you ate yourself up and prayed desperately to God to change you – to make you straight.
It was pretty much like a drug. You hated it and hated yourself for needing it. But you could not give it up. Being fake was how you survived. It got you through the day.
By the time you were nearing adult hood you had a pretty impressive arsenal of props for your fake self. You had learned to read people's reactions, to reflect back to them their feelings, to make them feel good about themselves or being with you. You seemed comfortable, confident, talented. People liked you and being around you. But inside, deep in a chest and locked in the closet, was what you called your true self. And by now it was not just your attractions to others of the same sex. It also included every mistake you had ever made and ever negative comment you had received. These had reinforced your view of your “true self.” “See, I really am a mess or I would not have said that or done that,” you thought when you screwed up. “Yeah, that's who I really am, that's what they really think of me, I'm such a screw up,” you reacted to the criticism of any teacher or parent. More and more, you saw everything good about yourself as part of the mask you wore to impress others and everything bad or negative was accepted as part of the “real me.”
The defense mechanism of overachieving while hiding one's true self is not uncommon among kids. But that it is especially common among gay kids has been identified by researches as far apart on the political/social spectrum as Joseph Nicolosi, one of the founders of reparative therapy on the conservative side and Alan Downs, author of “The Velvet Rage” on the gay affirming end. If you read any autobiographies of gay authors, especially those who grew up in religiously conservative homes, you will find it one of the most common themes of their childhoods and young adult years.
“People knew me, but that didn't mean they really knew me. And it is hard to feel loved when you're convinced that people have only ever loved your effigy, when you're afraid they might love the real thing less, or not at all.” (Single Gay Christian, Gregory Coles).
Perhaps this is why “coming out” is such an iconic part of the gay experience. Until people know that you are gay, you don't know how they really feel about you, the real you, whether their love is for you or only for the person you pretend to be. In fact, I have noticed among the gay people I know that many of them have grown closer to their parents, even conservative Christian parents, after coming out than they were before. I think it is because, once the initial shock and negative reactions wear off, they are dealing honestly with one another in a way they never had before. Oddly enough, this is less true of those I know who have chosen celibacy. Perhaps because the celibate gay person is not bringing home gay friends, lovers and potential mates it becomes too easy to pretend that whole “gay thing” doesn't exist. So, even if the person's orientation is known, there is a whole, rather large, part of the celibate gay person's life and experiences that simply don't get mentioned or talked about with family. It is too easy for a celibate gay person and their family to fall back into that defensive mode of pretending, or at least ignoring.
But, in any case, it's time to turn to the gay person's relationship with God. Hiding one's true self in the closet and putting on a good front may work somewhat with parents, teachers, and even peers. But the real problem is that it does not work with God who, as the Bible says, sees the heart. God knows you. He knows all this awful stuff, the sins, the mistaken words and actions that you have locked in this trunk and labeled “the real me.” You can't hide from Him. Furthermore, He can not be fooled by the facade of “niceness” you wear. Your parents and the fellow Christians may see you as the faithful and good Church member. But God sees it for the disguise it is. What does this mean for the gay Christian's relationship with God?
Well one thing it does is to turn the doctrine of Forensic Justification from good news to bad.
In case someone reading this is not familiar with the doctrine of Forensic Justification, it is the teaching that we are condemned to death as sinners under God's Law but that Christ took our place and died for us, paying the price for our sin on the cross so that we now receive eternal life and salvation as a free gift. It is pretty much the foundational and central doctrine of all protestant and evangelical churches in the world today.
Unfortunately, in our culture which seems to always be satisfied with the minimum; “what is the minimum amount of work I need to do to receive a passing grade, the minimum effort to get paid, the minimum I need to do to be a member of this church or that club?” the doctrine of justification, rather than being explored and elaborated, too often gets reduced to merely “God forgives you,” or “God washes away your sin.”
Well, that's if it gets mentioned at all. Far too much of Christianity today seems to be mostly about exhorting people about their failings, motivating them to do better, and offering tips on better and happier living.
But even when the doctrine of justification is brought up, it is boiled down to “God forgives you.”
What does that mean to a gay Christian? If “the real me” is mostly or entirely composed of my sexuality and the other things I don't like about myself then when we talk about forgiveness, does that mean God forgives me for being me? If God washes away my sin, does that mean He can only love me by washing me away? By obliterating me? Is erasing me the only way God can save me? Does God love and want only the mask that I wear while He hates the real me behind it? We hear a lot of whining these days from many Christian sources that our identity should be in Christ, not our sexuality. But, while that is true, if the doctrine of justification is not applied and elaborated, if it is reduced to a minimum and left there, then the gay Christian's identity will be tied to his or her sexuality and the doctrine of justification becomes, for the gay Christian, the doctrine of obliteration. It is anything but good news.
So let's do that. Let's elaborate on the doctrine of justification for the gay Christian. And to do that we will have to start with the first step, Forensic justification, Christ paying for our sin. But don't worry, we will move on from there.
There is in the Old Testament an amazing and somewhat controversial account where Ahaz, the king of Israel, has decided to turn to the empire of Assyria for help in order to protect the nation of Judah from the aggression of Northern Israel and Syria. God sends the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to warn him against such an alliance. In chapter 7 of Isaiah we read:
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be ideserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
The controversy, and as a pastor I am sure you are familiar with it, is over the meaning of “virgin” and Matthew's use of this verse as a prediction of Christ. Some claim that “virgin” should simply be translated “young woman” and that it referred to a child born in the days of Ahaz and Isaiah rather than Christ. According to this view, Matthew wrongly used the verse as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus. This view, however, is wrong. And if we really look at the context we can see that.
Firstly, the birth of a child is hardly a “sign” as children are born all the time. What child? What young woman? Not much of a sign really. What is significant about this child is that he will be eating curds and honey, which essentially constituted baby food, when he is old enough to know right from wrong. Later in the chapter we are told what this means. In fact, the explanation of this takes up a lot of the chapter. The land will largely be returned to an abandoned state, to the condition it was in before Israel crossed the Jordan under Joshua's command. It will be, once again, an uncultured land, flowing with milk and honey. That boy will be eating curds and honey at and age when children move beyond baby food is a symbol of poverty and abandonment. But if this is the significant part of the sign of the child, what good is it? It happens AFTER the fulfillment of the prophecy. AFTER God has dealt with the northern kingdoms threatening Judah. “For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be ideserted.” What good is a sign that happens after that to which it points? It's like seeing the “bridge out” sign after your car is already in the ditch.
Further, the destruction of Israel will not come until the siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah some 20 years later and it will not be complete until the conquest by Babylon. Apparently that kid was going to take an awfully long time to learn right from wrong?
It just doesn't fit.
But what if we reverse what we assume to be the sign and its fulfillment?
What if the child is not the sign of the defeat of the northern kingdoms but the other way around? What if the defeat God will bring on Norther Israel and Syria is the sign and the child is the fulfillment.
Then something incredible happens.
Because now the chapter says this:
God is telling Ahaz “I will do what I said. Even though you have disobeyed and turned to Assyria for help instead of me, I will still protect you and protect Judah. But when you see the northern nations destroyed, take that as a sign and understand that here is what will happen: I will take the nation you have turned to for help and I will use it to begin a series of events that will bring disaster on Judah – so much so that Judah will be abandoned and returned to what it was before I brought the nation into the land. Because of these events, one day a child will be born, a royal child (Isaiah 9). But He who is king of Israel will be born in poverty and obscurity. He who should have sat on the throne will be among the poor and the abandoned.”
It is not the Child who is the sign of the defeat of the northern kingdoms but the other way around. The defeat of the north is the sign that points to the child.
Matthew, it turns out, got it right.
But here is the incredible thing about the passage. The child who bears the weight of the penalty of Ahaz's unfaithfulness is God Himself incarnate. The judgment God pronounces on Israel and her kings becomes a judgment God pronounces on Himself. He will bear the greatest weight of the results of Ahaz's sin. God will be born in poverty and obscurity!
This is the amazing thing about the doctrine of forensic justification. It is not just a legal fiction. The judgment God pronounces on us “In the day you eat of the tree you will die” (Genesis 3) is really a judgment God pronounces on Himself, “Who on the tree of the cross didst give salvation unto mankind that, whence death arose, thence Life also might rise again; and that he who by a tree once overcame might likewise by a tree be overcome” (Proper preface for Lent). In the cross we see Christ not only legally taking our place but also bearing the greatest results and affects of our sin in actuality and in his own Body.
Because Christ is on His way to that cross in the Gospels, He is able to do something else that is really amazing.
In the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 the scribes and pharisees do something they had never intended to do. Their intention was to cause trouble for Jesus. They bring a woman caught in adultery and ask Jesus what the law demands should be done with her. They think they have Him cornered. He has two choices. On the one hand, he can admit that the Law says she should be stoned to death. If He does this He will either have to take part in executing the woman, in which case Rome will arrest Him for defying Rome's authority which put all capitol punishment in the hands of the Roman governor, or he will have to lament the powerlessness of Israel to follow the Old Testament commandments because of Roman subjugation, which will make Him look ineffectual in the eyes of the people. Or, on the other hand, He can tell them to simply let her go free, which will also earn him the scorn of people for denying the Old Testament law. Whatever He does, the rulers of Jerusalem think they have him cornered. They are going to neuter his ministry.
But what the rulers of the people forgot or refused to acknowledge is that Jesus is God in human flesh.
In Numbers 5 there is what is sometimes called the trial by ordeal. The law said that a woman suspected of adultery and whose husband was overcome with jealousy was to be brought to the sanctuary. There she would be made to drink a combination of water, ink, and the dust of the sanctuary. If she were guilty her “womb would fail and her thighs fall away.” But if she were innocent nothing would happen to her. This is actually really interesting because most ancient trials by ordeal put the person's life or health in danger and the gods were supposed to act to save the innocent. This trial is the opposite. The water poses no danger in itself. And God is expected to act only if she is guilty. In effect, this law is for the benefit of a woman falsely accused. Her husband is jealous and angry. He brings her to the temple. But nothing happens. The husband, therefore, has to shut up. God Himself has acted as witness that the woman is innocent simply by not condemning her. If her husband continues to accuse her he is in danger of committing blasphemy and of calling God a liar. In a time when women had little power, it protected a woman who might have little other defense against the unfounded anger and abusiveness of a jealous husband. The community and the entire religious establishment are now obligated to defend her should her husband continue to accuse – for God Himself has not condemned her.
The pharisees and scribes bring an adulterous woman before Jesus, God Himself, in the temple of Israel. I doubt if it ever occurred to them that, because Jesus is God, they were triggering this Old Testament ordinance.
And Christ writes in the dust – both writing and dust were important components of the rite.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone...” No religious leader of the day claimed to be without sin. They did not claim to be perfect. What they taught was a form of works righteousness, that by following the code of the law a person could make up for his or her sins. None can pick up a stone for none can claim to be without sin. They can not and will not lie like that in God's own temple only yards away from where sacrifices are being offered, as their own teaching proclaims, for their own sin. Their plan having failed, they silently leave.
“... then neither do I condemn you.”. It doesn't seem like the most affirmative phrasing of absolution. It sounds kind of weak, in fact. Perhaps this is why I do often hear the second part of Jesus's statement emphasized these days, “Go and sin no more.” Hmph, kind of sound like Jesus is saying “you got off this time, don't let it happen again.”
Unless, of course we understand Numbers 5 in which the refusal of God to condemn is the affirmative declaration of innocence. This woman has sinned, yes. But because Jesus is God, standing the temple of the Lord, His refusal to condemn her means so much more. He has not merely declared her “not guilty,” He has proclaimed her “innocent.”
He can do this because He will bear the penalty and guilt of her sin, of all sin, on the cross.
Just as the refusal to condemn the woman is, in fact, a positive declaration of the doctrine of justification, so also justification needs presented to LGBT kids in more than a negative. We can't merely tell the gay kid what God does NOT do; “God does not condemn you.” We need to figure out and proclaim what God DOES do.
Perhaps here it would be good to see homosexuality and gender dysphoria through the lens of disability.
Dr. Mark Yarhouse, in his work, identifies three common frameworks through which people see gender minorities; Integrity, Disability, Diversity. The integrity framework says that male and female are integral to human identity and that things like homosexuality and gender dysphoria threaten that integrity. The disability framework sees sexual variations as being a result of the fallenness of mankind since the Garden. The diversity framework sees gender minorities as people with a variation on common sexuality, a variation that is to be recognized and celebrated. I see good and bad in each of these frameworks. I am not sure I fully agree or disagree with any of them. But for the moment let's look at LGBT people through the framework of “disability.”
I suggest, however, that as we view homosexuality through the framework of disability, that we do so with this caveat: heterosexuality, at least as the term is used today, is also a disability and and aberration of God original good plan. We usually think of disabilities in contrast to those who have “normal abilities.” But I am not sure we can do this with sexuality. Rather, I think we need to see all sexuality; homosexual and heterosexual alike, as a disability.
For instance, we hear terms used like “the burden of homosexuality” or “struggling with same sex attraction” used of homosexuality. We never hear anyone speak of “the burden of heterosexuality” or “struggling with opposite sex attractions.” This false distinction between two sexual temptations does three things:
First, it makes it seem as if being attracted to ones own sex were somehow painful in and of itself. In this, however, homosexuality is unlike many other disabilities. There is no particular pain or difficulty that is a direct result of being attracted to ones own sex. It doesn't “hurt” to fall in love with one's best friend – other than a broken heart which may be likely but is no different than a straight person who falls in love with someone who does not return their affection. The burden and struggle are less with the actual temptation than with the way we are seen and spoken of by our Christian friends and loved ones. It is the social milieu that is the burden and the struggle. (Here, in the LGBT rainbow, I think there is a difference between homosexuality and transgenderism. It does not cause distress merely to experience sexual desire. I believe it probably DOES cause significant distress to be alienated from one's own body. What this does in terms of ministry, I am not sure as I don't experience gender dysphoria, at least not since I was 15 or so. I hope some one will someday suggest ways in which we should minister to transgender kids because, although I think much of what I say here is helpful, I also think we need to hear from those who experience gender dysphoria and can tell us what they need specifically in relation to their experience.) But, in any case, terms like “burden” and “struggle” emphasize a difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality and put the focus of the problem in the wrong place. This distinction between homosexual and heterosexual, as if one were a burden and the other not, is false and not really helpful.
Secondly, by placing the locus of the burden or the struggle on the internal experience of homosexuality, on the temptations or desires instead of the social reaction, it also places the hope and solution on curing the individual rather than on changing the ways Christians speak and act toward LGBT people. So we hear Christians speak of “hope of change,” “freedom from homosexuality” and “healing” as if what we really need to do was to either help people stop being attracted to their own sex or point them to someday when God will “fix” them. This too is not really helpful. Such a promise or hope is not really helpful to those with other kinds of disabilities either. Pointing a person with cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness to “someday” when they will be “healed” is not particularly helpful. Yes, it's good news. But they also need Christian fellowship, comfort and assistance in the present life. And sometimes, limiting ministry only to the future can even be insulting. Especially when done in isolation of ministry in the present time, it can imply that the person with a disability is, in some way, defective or worth less than a fully abled person. They need to know that God gives more than physical healing someday. They need to know they are a valued part of God's Body now. Even more so when the distinction is given a moral weight as with homosexuality.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it presents heterosexuality as normal and healthy in distinction from homosexuality which is seen as a disability.
Recently Issues Etc interviewed Andrew Walker about an upcoming Revoice Conference in which LGBT Christians committed to a biblical view of sexuality (ie to be used between a man and a woman who are married to each other only) will discussing how they can find support in conservative churches. Part of the objection to the conference was the choice by the organizers to use LGBT language to identify themselves. (By the way, there is no good or neutral choice here - “same sex attracted” has its own baggage which brings up for many people the failed promises of Exodus and the damage done by orientation therapy. So complaining about terminology is bit silly) The host made the comment “It (Identifying ones self by gay or lesbian) would be like me identifying my self as an 'adulterous Christian.'” I almost spit coffee through my nose laughing when I heard that. Because, guys, you do that all the time.
Oh you don't use the words but think of the music you listen to, the fiction you read, the movies you watch. How much of that is inundated with some kind of message about falling in love, with or without marriage. Even action movies involve sexual themes. Let's face it, I suspect you don't like the new sexless James Bond nearly as much as the playboy presented by Sean Connery and Roger Moore. When you let your hair down – which isn't far since most of you probably don't have a lot – like most pastors, you probably tell and laugh at mildly sexual jokes. When you talk to the youth and confirmation classes about the 6th commandment you assure them that “we all experience sexual temptation” in a manner and tone of voice that lets them know they are not in this alone but that you fight the same desires they do. In fact, a popular book about sexual temptation in Christian circles a while back was even titled “Every Man's Battle.” And can you honestly tell me that you have never been to a pastors' conference in which suggestions for proper conduct around women were discussed (you know, things like “never meet alone with a woman in your office without leaving the door open or making sure your secretary is nearby”)? Not to mention you have probably complained with other church workers about young women who wear revealing clothes to church because it is distracting. All of these things say that you do know that sexual desire and sexual temptation toward those who are not your spouse are a part of who you are and a significant part of what you face in your life. You are collaborating, in a good way, to figure out positive ways to face that temptation together. Being adulterous and dealing with lust is such part of the human experience that we have all kinds of social conventions about how men and women are supposed to act together, both to place barriers to adultery and to allow flirting and the breaking of those barriers. Yes, it is part of your identity. It's just so ubiquitous for 95 percent of humanity that you have never needed language to describe it. The organizers of the conference are no different than you except they are trying to figure out how to work with a desire/temptation for which they have received basically zero help from other Christians and for which there is no good “neutral” language and for which they have often been ostracized and separated from the Body of Christ.
Maybe it is because I am celibate but it seems I have a very different view of what most people consider “normal” sexuality. We look at the Bible and the only time sexual desire and falling in love are treated with honor and celebrated is when they occur between a man and woman who are already married. Isaac and Rebekah or Adam and Eve. Ruth and Boaz do seem to feel strongly toward one another prior to marriage but are very careful to follow the restrictions of the law in coming together in marriage, waiting until even the law regarding the kinsman/redeemer is satisfied. The beautiful discourses on marriage in Ephesians are addressed to married couples. And the two protagonists of Song of Songs, the most erotic book in the Bible, are engaged and, therefore, officially married under Old Testament Law. Meanwhile, whenever sexual desire or falling in love happen outside or prior to marriage, disaster follows; David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah and Jacob and Rachel are prime examples.
Frankly, sexual desire is different from nearly every other desire I can think of in that most desires find their fulfillment in an object. Hunger is not of itself a pleasant feeling. It is satisfying that hunger with food that is pleasant. “Falling in love,” however, seems to me to be the result rather than the cause of a relationship. Properly speaking, in falling in love, the object precedes the desire. Falling in love itself is a highly intoxicating and delightful experience. When experienced properly, falling in love is the icing on the cake of a relationship that is already established and built on friendship or mutual shared interest. Even today, as in the Bible, falling in love outside the proper context usually leads to heartache and disaster. I just really, honestly, don't see God creating a world in which a kid experiences the release of hormones at age 11 or 12, spends the next decade or having trouble keeping thoughts of naked people out of his or her mind, experiments with kissing and maybe sex, has their heart broken multiple times, falls in love with someone they just feel they can't live without and then gets married, expects to remain in a euphoric state of romantic love, only to have the feeling fade and the relationship fall apart. I can't imagine God declaring such a thing “very good.” And yet, as I observe you straight people from the standpoint of someone who has put aside the pursuit of a sexual relationship, I see so many foolishly mired in that kind of lifestyle experience and I, frankly, wonder why you do it to yourselves.
I would suspect, frankly, that God's original creation would not have seen sexual desire awakening until after the marriage was established and built. And I think this is born out by the Old Testament accounts of the antediluvian world. Admittedly the people listed are a small sampling of vast number of people who must have lived before the flood. But I find it interesting that the youngest anyone is mentioned as becoming a parent is age 65. Imagine having decades to find a wife and establish a marriage and then having sexual desire add spice to an already strong relationship. That, I think is what God probably intended at the beginning. Of course, because of sin, by 65 today we are already nearing the last decades of life. By necessity, therefore, sexual maturity must come early if the race is to continue. Hence the modern experience of falling in love before the marriage. But I honestly believe this is the result of sin, not the pattern God originally intended our lives to follow.
So, for these three reasons, as I speak of homosexuality as a disability, I want to suggest that we see it as one disability in contrast to another (heterosexuality) rather than in contrast to something which is healthy and planned by God.
That being said, the disability framework is useful for applying the doctrine of justification in a positive manner. A parent of a disabled child does not love the child less because of a disability. In fact, in many cases, such a parent could be said to actively love that child more. In the field in which I work, providing community services to those with disabilities, there are certain parents we nickname “mama bears.” These are the parents who are very pro-active in the care and services provided to their adult children. They will quickly point out any time their child has been neglected or improperly served. I am glad they do because they keep us on our toes and make sure we deliver proper service to our clients. They are also the ones who will not hesitate to help with fundraising and communication with state legislators to make sure funding is available and adequate to care for their kids. Having disabled children allows these parents to continue to provide active applications of love they do not need to provide for their abled kids who have grown up and established independent lives of their own. The need presents an opportunity for love.
The LGBT kid or adult may hear the doctrine of justification in the negative – that God can only love me by getting rid of me. “I am so perverted that God can not love me but can only love the mask I wear.” This needs to be turned around. Christ's refusal to condemn the woman caught in adultery was a positive defense. So, also, justification is a positive. God does not love us by pretending we are something we are not. In a forensic sense, yes, he does not see our “sin.” That is, because of Christ it is legally erased. However, He still sees us as we are. He knows the real us and, yes, He loves us, not in spite of specific disability, in this case homosexuality, but with that disability, perhaps, in a sense, the disability allows Him to show even more love. After all, Christ told Paul “My power is made perfect in weakness.” It is when we are weak in ourselves that Christ is strong for us. Homosexuality, because of the cross, is not something which drives Christ away but, in a very real sense, may be the very door through which Christ's strength and love work in our lives.
He does this all the time, doesn't he? Remember the blind man on the steps of the temple. Even the disciples were sure his blindness was a penalty for sin and a very bad thing. Christ turns the bad into good; “this happened that the glory of God might be revealed.”
Think of death. I hear many pastors these days lament that our culture no longer sees death as death. They opine that we need to call death what it is: “death and the result of sin.” They opine that we should not use euphemisms like “falling asleep” or “passing on.” Partly they are right. Death is a very bad thing – pretty much the ultimate bad thing. And it is a result of the fall and a curse which God never created as part of His very good world. When society calls it anything other than what it is, we are wrong to do so. Unless we are speaking in view of the cross and Christ. In Christ's cross, death becomes something completely different. Because of Christ's death for us, Paul does speak of death as “falling asleep” and even “going to be with Christ.” Death is transformed in Christ, and only in Christ, from the ultimate tragedy to the means by which we are finally released from the sin and pain of this world while we await the return of our Savior and the resurrection.
Can Christ do this with homosexuality and transgenderism? Can He love us not “in spite” of homosexuality or gender dysphoria but turn them into a means through which His love comes to us? If He can do this even with death, then surely He can do so with sexuality. That is what we explore in the next two sections. We will look at how Christ's justification changes that “fake self” of works righteousness into something new and different, how it changes the “real self” and by re-integrating the two parts bring the LGBT person into an identity in Him, in Christ's love and mercy. Then, at the end, we will look at how this, the Gospel rather than the condemnation of the Law, informs and moves myself and others like me to choose a particularly difficult road of celibacy or mixed orientation marriage.
Continue to Part 5: How the Doctrine of Justification may be applied to both aspects of the LGBT person's identity and to inclusion in the Body of Christ