Recently I met a lovely gay couple. They were friendly, they were warm. They were intelligent, respectable and they faithfully attended church. They talked of their love for God and I saw in their lives a value for theology, community and helping those in need. As I meet other individuals who attend church and who also describe themselves as “Christian and gay” I have asked myself the following question: Can an individual be a Christian and practice a gay lifestyle?
I have answered this question for myself by pondering both theological and logical thought processes. I think it is possible to know the Lord and practice a variety of actions. I see this portrayed through the actions of biblical characters such as King David. I recall some of the struggles in my own Christian walk and I observe this through the personal experience of those whom I have counselled. I have acknowledged this dynamic in the bad press surrounding various christian ministers who have made headlines in the last few decades.
There is a difference between knowing and following
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mat 16 v 24)
Jesus did not mince His words here. He was painting a dramatic picture of self-denial whilst alluding to His own execution. The phrase “follow me” suggests that we are invited to actively participate in a journey after Christ. It also implies that there is an alternative way to go. In other words, Jesus is asking that we go HIS way rather than our own. Consequently a Christian may have to put aside certain desires or inclinations in order to follow Jesus. By implication, there is a difference between knowing Jesus and following Him.
Hard is the way
In this same theme, Jesus contrasts a wide and a narrow path.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mat 7 v 13)
The concept that few find this narrow path is startling. Again the implication is that there are various ways a person can go in their life’s journey. The attributes of the narrow path are defined as “hard” much like the picture of self-denial painted in the imagery of bearing a cross.
He is leading us into the light
Lets imagine my husband is physically disabled after a terrible accident. There is no longer any sexual intimacy between us and my role as a wife is now characterized by being a caretaker and nurse. In the course of time I fall in love with another married man who is also in a loveless marriage. This relationship is passionate and I feel alive for the first time in years. I push away the nagging feeling that something is wrong with my actions and justify my affair by focusing on the happiness and passion that I now feel. Afterall this man and I talk about the Lord and we pray together. How can this be wrong? God wants me to be happy.
I can persist in attending worship services, I can continue reading my bible and paying tithes to the local church. I can keep teaching Sunday school and I can know Jesus in all of this. He still loves me. He is with me. But If I were to follow Him, the reality is that He would be leading me out of this affair. This may feel hard, but there is no doubt that Jesus would be leading me into the light and out of this hidden arrangement.
Jesus loves us exactly where we are
We could wander through as many scenarios as we can think of. We could explore motives and ponder the strength of temptation and desire. We may acknowledge that our past can drive our current behaviors and shape our struggles and compulsions. We could empathize with the actions of individuals. We can love and accept people exactly where they stand. We should do all of this because I believe that Jesus Himself is compassionate and understanding. He knows us and accepts us no matter where we are in the journey.
He is leading us on a journey
However, He is also leading us on a journey. This journey is one that travels from darkness to light. From sin to righteousness and from fear into love. We can know Jesus and remain in darkness and unrighteousness but we cannot follow Him without a subsequent radical changes in our personal lives.
Consider for a moment Judas. He knew Jesus. He listened to Him. He wanted to be around Him and perhaps loved Him. However, He was not willing to follow Jesus fully. In the end He betrayed Him. Likewise, the rich young ruler asked Jesus “what must I do to follow you?”
The answer left him feeling sorrowful because it required him to give up a defining element in His life. His Money. He had met Jesus, He wanted to serve God, However, following Jesus was going to require a different set of actions. The actions required were enough to cause him great sorrow.
Can an individual be in a gay relationship and know Jesus?
Can a person experience same sex attractions and know Jesus? Yes, of course. Can an individual be in a gay relationship and know Jesus? Yes, I think so. Does Jesus love them? Absolutely. However, as Jesus said to the women caught in adultery “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.”. There is clearly a difference between knowing Jesus and following Him. There is progression from seeing and hearing Him into obeying Him. The women caught in adultery may have encountered Jesus. She felt loved by Him exactly where she was at. However, to follow Him she would need to change her lifestyle because He was leading her away from her current actions.
Let’s be logical about this
Let us consider for a moment the definition of the word “vegan”:
: a person who does not eat any food that comes from animals and who often also does not use animal products (such as leather).
What if someone described themselves as “vegan and meat eating”? I think it would be logical for me to doubt the totality of their veganism. I also believe it would be fair for me to suggest that the meat eating vegans are digressing from the true code of their professed lifestyle. If it was widely accepted that vegans could now eat meat and still be true vegans, what would happen to veganism? Veganism must be redefined.
“Christians” are defined as those who believe and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. If it were widely accepted that Christians could conduct themselves in a way that was incongruent with biblical sexuality, what would happen to Christianity? Christianity must be redefined.
Its not about casting stones
Consider once again the lovely gay couple that I described at the start of this article. Kind and warm hearted people who feel confident that they can describe themselves as “Christian and gay”. Is this possible? Some things belong to God alone. Only He knows a man’s heart and He alone can judge. However, some things are given into the hands of mankind. One thing that God has given to men is His word, the bible. In my opinion, the word of God is clear regarding the fact that homosexuality is prohibited. As we have discussed there is a plethora of behaviors that are restricted scripturally, that are practiced by Christians. Can we be Christian and sin? Of course. We all stumble and fall. None of us are perfect and knowing this many Christians are concluding: “Who are we to judge, we have all sinned, we have no right to point the finger at homosexuals.”
I agree with this statement. Therefore I am not judging or pointing the finger. I am in fact bringing a scriptural and logical answer to a highly relevant question. I have no desire to cast stones but rather to cast light on this issue.
God’s Grace is Big Enough
Here is the issue. If I get really drunk or watch pornographic films or beat my kids, I am sinning. If I respond to the prompting of the Holy spirit I can repent. I may occasionally stumble in these or other areas but as long as I am moving forward, following Jesus I believe that this is meeting the requirements of the Christian walk.
However, if I harden my heart or allow my mind to become deceived, I may continue in these actions with little or no remorse. I may even justify my behavior or build a theology to support it. I am in these matters no longer following Jesus, but instead I have my eyes fixed upon my own gratification and ideas. God’s grace is big enough to cover all of this and more as we understand that where “sin abounds grace abounds”. But, what about this so called “narrow path”? How is my life correlating with the imagery of bearing a cross and following Jesus if I am doing as I please. These are some questions. I do not have the answers to share here. But, I am pondering them and I believe that all Christians should do likewise.
Can I be Christian and practice a gay lifestyle?
In short, I do believe that a person who is in a gay relationship can know Jesus. However I do not believe they are any longer actively following Him. I write in such clear statements, not to be harsh against those who struggle with a same sex attractions, but to provide clarity for those Christians who are confused about the answer to this question.
Stephanie Jones is the co-pastor here at New Day, alongside her husband Scott. With their 4 children, they moved from Michigan to Summerville to start New Day Community Church over 4 years ago. Stephanie has been radically impacted by the Father’s love and makes it her life’s mission to impart what she has with those around her – healing of the heart, hearing God’s voice, evangelism and flowing in the prophetic. You can listen to their sermons and read more about them on our main site: http://newdaychurchsc.com