“Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime condemned to being alone. . . . We had unintentionally taught Ryan to hate his sexuality. And since sexuality cannot be separated from the self, we had taught Ryan to hate himself.”
I found these sentences in an article which appeared last week in social media land — I don’t know why it was there last week, since it was published over a year ago. Titled “Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love our Gay Son,” it is a first-person account from mother Linda Robertson about her and her husband’s struggle to love and understand their son who “came out” to them when he was twelve years old. Evangelical Christians at the time — I can’t tell about now — they encouraged him to follow God and resist his sexual desires. His rebellion, which led into addictions and rehab — and, eventually, his death — changed his parents’ views.
I don’t propose here to argue the rights and wrongs of homosexuality, though no doubt some of you will want to argue it. The statements I quote above, however, struck me because of some of their underlying assumptions.
First, there’s an assumption that the self, with all its urges and desires, is intrinsically deserving of love; that no one should hate him or herself.
Second, there’s an assumption that God would not ask anyone to actually choose between Him and his or her other desires (sexual or otherwise).
The problem is, according to the gospel, both these assumptions are false. We don’t deserve love — none of us deserve it. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with what happened in the Garden of Eden when the woman met the serpent and with her husband ate of the forbidden tree: sin, born in us, wrapped round all our doings, making even our best deeds base, our righteousness like filthy rags. Sexual orientation is no merit, no matter which way it is oriented, and our “desires are twisted in a thousand ways,” as minister Glen Scrivener says, refuting the idea that anyone can properly be called “straight.”
The apostle Paul neatly sums it up: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me.” When Christ calls us, He calls us to put to death the self-ness of ourselves, to leave behind that “nothing good,” and to deny ourselves: to choose between Him and our other desires — all of them.
But the gospel doesn’t leave us there, condemned to be miserable and unloved, fighting perpetually unfulfilled desires. It tells us that we are not worthy of love, but it also tells us that we are infinitely beloved. It tells us we must give up our desires, but it also tells us we may expect infinite satisfaction.
We could argue about whether sexuality should be the defining characteristic of self, but, however we might have defined ourselves before, the gospel redefines us. “You have died,” it says — you, the fleshy part, full of desires and pains — “and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The gospel offers us Christ’s identity: His perfection for our twistedness, His status — beloved children of God — for our loneliness and longings. In Christ, our desires do not define us.
To quote Scivener again, “there are very few things I can do to change what or who I desire. But what I do choose is not to define myself by those desires. I choose to let my desires be desires and to let my identity be in Christ.”
It may seem a cruel thing, that Christ calls us to deny ourselves, but He offers us Himself. He promises to satisfy the longing soul, to fill the hungry soul with good things. He promises fullness of joy, pleasures forever at His right hand.
God calls us to choose between Him and all else, but He gives us all in Himself. He offers a love which has nothing to do with what we do or desire, not even the fact that we breath — we only breathe because He loves us — and everything to do with His actions on our behalf, His desire to make us His own. And since it rests entirely with Him-who-does-not-change, we need not fear, in spite of our changefulness, that we will lose this love.
Do you define yourself by your desires and your doings or by the love of Christ?
©2014 by Stacy Nott