Originally written in August 2014. Please note that some of my language and theological understandings have changed since writing this.
Let me begin in the only way I know how to; in prayer. To a God whose works are perfect, and who acts through ours when they are not.
I ask that as I write these words, and as my listeners hear them, your Spirit will be active. I pray that our love will grow. That through knowledge and understanding, you will help us to know what is best. Help us to live holy and loving lives, produced by Jesus Christ, until the final day. May we bring you glory and praise, in Jesus’ name.
As my father tucked me into bed, he would pray before kissing me good night. This particular day, I must have been upset or anxious because he spoke to me about heaven being a place where everyone would feel completed and happy and perfect. It was this thought that provoked me to ask if I could be a boy when I went to heaven. His response, while I don’t remember in words, was humble, diplomatic and filled with love.
Fast forward with me through a range of events; dreams of being a boy and dating the girls I knew, not kissing anyone in high school, the period of time when I was protectively jealous of my friends as they started dating, and the few weeks I cross-dressed in a drama play absolutely adoring it when the girls in my class pretended to flirt with me.
Stop now, at a 19-year-old girl, who acted on a subtle desire she had been holding onto for years. In the words of Katy Perry, ‘I kissed a girl, and I liked it’. She was one of my best friends. She was stunningly beautiful inside and out. My first love.
Two years later she was still stunningly beautiful, she was still one of my best friends, and we were still kissing. Yet, I had never considered that these feelings were a part of who I was. Because, for the most part, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. Largely due to the subtle messages I received growing up – from a rural town, from the church I grew up in, from the Christians I loved. It was something along the lines of:
‘Being homosexual is a sub-par way of life and being a Christian means you having nothing to do with anything gay.’
So when you realise that something you cannot change about yourself is supposedly incompatible with what you believe, it drives guilt into the very heart of who you are. To discover a new aspect of your personality that is not meant to fit in with what defines you most strongly, things get confusing at best. To acknowledge that you are gay but stay true to your faith in Jesus when you have been taught they cannot be complimentary, divides your whole being into two parts. And without wanting to, a dangerous battle begins.
Your heart is pulled in opposite directions as you feel forced to follow the teaching you hear at church or the continued attractions within. Every sermon, no matter the topic, is one of judgment and guilt, and most weeks you leave in tears. Your feelings are labeled as shameful so you dare not share that inner battle. For a while you live a double life. Until you finally confess to a friend that you have been engaging in actions which are ‘the most sinful of all the sins’. Where in the Bible did you find that conclusion?
When I fell in love for the second time it became obvious that these feelings were here to stay. I looked back on the events of my life and it was all too clear. The reality hit me. I could no longer deny these desires as hard as I had previously tried, and I became emotionally exhausted. I could not bear my secret any longer. I wanted people to know about the girls I had found love and care for. I wanted people to know I was gay.
Just as the options for choice were set up for me, the decision I made felt similarly forced. I did not want to choose (or feel like I chose) my sexuality over my faith – Jesus is everything to me. I did not want to step down from leading my music team at church – I love singing praises to God. I did not want to be labeled as inadequate for church leadership – I have been given many skills to serve my body of believers. However the message I heard was familiar:
‘Being homosexual is a sub-par way of life and being a Christian means you have nothing to do with anything gay.’
Let me side track here to voice an important point. I did not choose to be gay. I did not choose to have my whole identity shaken. Growing up in a conservative Christian environment, I was not influenced into my sexuality. However, even if my upbringing had been completely different, I did not make the choice to feel attraction and love for the girls I have fallen for. Just as you did not choose to feel attracted to or fall in love with the males or females you have felt that for.
I was fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in my mother’s womb by my Creator… to be gay, same-sex attracted, homosexual, a lesbian. It is how God intended me to be, and his works are good.
And how wonderful it is! For God to create me within a community of people who need the gospel, just like everyone else. You and me included. It is a community that has been told the Christian faith is incompatible with who they are. I have friends who have been made to feel like God’s grace is not for them, and it is heartbreaking to see such barriers. Because as Christians we know that the gospel is not different for different people. We do not have the faith we have because of anything we have done. And we do not do anything now to save ourselves.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10
Praise God that I am gay! So my LGBTIQA+ friends will hear about this beautiful message of love! God’s grace is for anyone willing to accept that they are one of the seven billion people right now who were created in God’s image and God’s life and love is for them. The good news is for anyone who believes they are to follow God in the unkown. And the Christ who died on the cross and rose as Judge of the Earth, will stand beside anyone who receives his gift and believes in him – Jew or Gentile, gay or straight.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
“As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” – Romans 10:9-13
I want to convey a serious challenge to my believing readers at this point. One of the hardest things I have faced in my journey so far was at a time when I was not in a relationship. But I was confused about how my sexuality would look in the future. I had spent years reading the Bible and other texts to understand how God saw my sexuality. There were hours I spent praying to God, asking God to reveal his/her/their heart to mine. One day, my bible study leaders asked me out for coffee. This was a group who had been central to my support and growth as a Christian when at church I felt inadequate.
Instead of being met with an opportunity to share my struggles and start a conversation within a realm of grace and love, I was asked about my general view on what the Bible taught about same-sex attraction. I wished I could give a better answer: ‘I do not know’. I was invited to take two weeks to align with the view that the practice of same-sex relationships was a sin, or be asked to leave the bible study. So in tears I walked away from leaders who I truly respected and admired, not because I was preaching an incorrect gospel, or because I was leading people away from Jesus, but because I was unsure as to whether God intended for me to be in a relationship.
I struggled personally with the disappointment of being let down by a group of believers who I thought would support me during this difficult time. But I was mostly heartbroken by the wave of struggles that spread from this incident. Many of my friends of faith and friends without, who knew me as someone who loved Jesus, were disheartened and some with weaker faiths turned away. If I, as someone with a firm faith in Jesus, was not welcomed into the family of believers with love, what hope would they have to find love in the church? And why would they want anything to do with Jesus Christ, whose name we bear?
Friends, as people who proclaim the love of Christ, please take very seriously your actions when you make a judgment about someone’s heart. Particularly when it involves excluding them from taking part in Christian community. Someone’s spiritual identity is far more important than their sexual identity. And remember, it is Jesus who is the Judge.
To those who have been hurt by the actions of Christians or church members, whether it is related to sexuality or not, I am so dearly sorry. People are painfully imperfect at the best of times, and as selfish individuals we find it difficult to look outside ourselves. I hope that our experiences will not make you bitter towards the imperfections of humans, but rather direct you to the perfection of Christ. For where people fail, Christ does not.
In all my struggles to find an inner peace, and to be comfortable and confident in who I am as a queer Christian, Christ has been my rock. In the midst of different people saying different things, as people came in and out of my life in varying relationships, and as this up and down journey has progressed, on Christ the solid rock I stood. And still stand. As such, my faith in Jesus has grown so beautifully and strongly. I advocate and pray for anyone who is facing a similar journey, that they can come through trusting in their Saviour all the more intimately.
“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” – Psalm 18:1-2
This wonderful journey has led me to a few early insights:
When I focus my attention on controlling my actions through boundaries or rules I am not looking to God, which draws me away from them. Each decision I make is simple: ‘Is this loving God and loving others? Will this glorify God? Do I see Jesus here?’
The gospel is the only thing in this world that saves lives, changes hearts and points people towards God. It is God who writes the law on our hearts, and God’s gospel is the power through which God works. Let us not try and change people, but rather, let the gospel change them.
Jesus is Judge.
God is merciful, but also to be feared and God’s teachings should not be taken lightly. Please make sure you have the right view of God and yourself.
Open, loving conversations are the best; ones where we let people know they are loved, we pray with them and direct them to Jesus. And never underestimate the power of a listening ear. We want to be a church for Christians to explore their sexuality with love, and for all to know Jesus without human judgment.
The LGBTIQA+ community needs a different message from Christians: ‘I am human just like you, and God’s love and grace in Jesus is for you, just like it is for me.’
When a straight couple and a same-sex couple enter a church, they should be treated the same: as people welcomed into the grace of and love of Jesus. Our priority is to preach the gospel to them out of love.
I would like to finish by telling you about my parents, who happen to be Anglican Ministers, but that fact is not important. After their initial surprise, they have been the most wonderful people to share my struggles with. They have firstly listened and loved. They have explained their views surrounding sexuality and the Bible, but supported me in mine – ‘We give thanks that you keep Jesus as your Lord, and we pray that you keep submitting to God’s authority and seeking God’s leadership. We will support you in whatever decision you make, even if it means agreeing to disagree.’ They have loved me and prayed for me. They model the way I hope all Christians will approach these situations.
So whatever your sexual identity is, let love be priority.
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
Finally, call me repetitive, but let me conclude in the only way I know how to; in prayer.
I pray for the hurt, conflict and confusion that rises from the sensitive issue of sexuality, sex and gender identity. Please provide healing and comfort to those who need it, and restore relationships of love. I ask that your Spirit will be active and that our love will grow. Please grow our wisdom and understanding, and help us to know what is best. May we stand on Jesus Christ, the solid rock who gives us life and strength, and help us to know him more intimately. May we bring you glory and praise, in Jesus’ name.