Moving on to the final post inspired by Nancy Pearcey’s new book Love Thy Body. Order your copy here. Pearcey insightfully writes about sexual identity issues, stating that “our bodies are created by God and are intended to give us clues about our sexual identity.” I would add that the same can be applied to gender identity.
The reality is that some people have very real attractions towards the same gender, and others feel trapped in the wrong body. One of the heroes of my faith, Joe Dallas, helps me understand that “these things are a result of fallen human nature and they tend to be discovered rather than chosen.” I have found it helpful to note that all humans have an orientation towards sin. Taking a cue from scripture, I define sin as “missing the mark.” Another way of thinking about it is that sin disorients us from how God designed us to live and who He created us to be.
Folks coming to faith who are gay-identified or deal with gender dysphoria need the church to be a safe place to process and resolve their faith and sexuality, a refuge where people experience both grace and space. Pearcey suggests that the church should be the place where people have “the freedom to work out what it means to be created in God’s image as holistic and redeemed people.” She goes on to quote Dr. Mark Yarhouse: “If you want a person suffering from gender incongruence (I would add sexual identity) to choose a path that seems redemptive, you will want to be a redemptive community that facilitates that kind of decision making. Even if it takes years.”
Here are few ways I have experienced “Grace and Space.”
Christian women who were willing to disciple me encouraged me to deepen my relationship with Christ. They made this the focal point of our relationships. In addition, they challenged me to read the Bible and discover for myself what it had to say about sexuality and gender.
They made themselves available to engage in honest conversations about faith, sexuality, gender and marriage. They held firm to their convictions without being judgmental or condescending in our discussions. There was never pressure to convert from gay to straight. However, I was encouraged to pursue holiness and become more Christlike in every aspect of my life.
These women were willing to just hang out with me and build a friendship with me no matter how I identified. One of them went so far as to say that even if I abandoned my faith and went back to the LGBT community, she was still here for me and would always be my friend. That spoke volumes to me.
One of the things I find most challenging about church culture is the mindset of what healing looks like for those who struggle with same-sex attractions. I have encountered many well-meaning folks who firmly believe the mark of healing for gay-identified Christians is that they date, mate and procreate. While I believe that it is God’s intended design for all people, not all people who surrender their sexuality to Christ experience a change in their attractions. I am one of those people. At times I have felt like I am a second-class citizen because my attractions have not changed and I have no desire to date a man.
The bigger implication I wrestle with is this, if I am not attracted to the opposite gender, does it mean I have some major unresolved sin in my life? I constantly have to remind myself that the goal is not for my attractions to change but the pursuit of holiness. God wants my heart to change, which I can assure you has radically happened. My motivation for living has changed as well. I daily grow in my desire to honor and glorify God with every aspect of my life. My former motivation was completely about self-fulfillment. Now it’s all about Jesus.
Pearcey challenges the Christian community to examine whether their congregations are ready to welcome people who struggle with sexual and gender identity issues into their church life, to make the long-term commitment to support and spur them on in their faith: “Even to people who may never be completely changed this side of heaven.”
Christians, let’s offer grace and space for people to discover who God intends them to be.
Thanks for following my Journey.