by Kendra Perry
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” ~John 9:1-3
Here’s a thought experiment for you: replace the word “blind” in this passage with the word “gay.” Or “bisexual.” Or “transgender.”
Yes, God’s ideal is that marriage should be sacred between one man and one woman (reference). God’s ideal is also that we should be born perfectly healthy and happy, and that we should live forever.
Jesus healed this man born blind, but there are still blind people in the world. When you see a blind person, do you tell him that he is an abomination of sin? That God hates him?
Is it possible to live a life that honors God AND be outside his original plan for marriage? Let’s ask Abraham, Jacob, or David. Ask your friend in church who had to get a divorce because her husband beat her. Or the friend whose wife left him for someone else. Ask how many respected leaders in your church have struggled with pornography. Or had premarital sex (talk about the Adventist sin that dare not speak its name!).
We all die.
Would you dare to say to the child born with a disability that he will burn in hell simply because of who he is?
Should my grandfather be disfellowshipped because he has a genetic neurological disorder that requires him to use a wheelchair everywhere he goes? Should he be required to choose between walking on his own, even though he physically cannot, or always lying in bed because using the wheelchair would stain the ideal of health that God established in Eden?
All of us, in some way, fall short of God’s original ideal. We all bear the marks of sin in our bodies, our minds, our hearts. I was born tongue-tied and had to have surgery to remove my frenulum (the small piece of skin below my tongue). I have a bad temper. I like to eat.
Think of the moment you face your besetting sin, maybe the secret one. The one that so easily ensnares you. Think of the moment BEFORE you act: the overwhelming craving to eat a whole box of Little Debbies. The wave of desire that sweeps over you when you see or think about that person. The hot anger rising in your throat when that stupid person says yet another stupid thing. The knowledge that you should, really should, put down the game controller because there are other things much more worth your time. The critical comment or piece of juicy gossip you find poised on the tip of your tongue even before you think about it.
Now, imagine that everyone and everything you know tells you that HAVING THAT IMPULSE (not even doing the act, just having the impulse) means that you will burn in hell. You are afraid to talk to anyone about it because acknowledging that you have that desire, that struggle, will condemn you. It will put you irrevocably outside your circle of family and friends and church and love.
From what I understand of my LGBT friends’ lives, they are not choosing to be the way they are to spite their families or church or God. In fact, most of them spend a lot of time trying NOT to be the way they are, often falling into deep depression before coming to the conclusion that they can either be honest about who they are or kill themselves. Too many choose the latter.
How can we condemn those who choose to be honest about who they are and the struggles they face? Our condemnation helps drive our brothers and sisters into the arms of the flamboyantly out, often promiscuous LGBT community, where they can find people who acknowledge and affirm their existence.
Their VERY EXISTENCE. While the church too often tries to tell them they do NOT EXIST. Or should not.
Too often, we conflate BEING lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender with outrageous promiscuity. But there are celibate gay people and promiscuous straight people. When a man says he finds women attractive, do we automatically assume that he lives like Hugh Hefner? He is not representative of every straight man any more than highly promiscuous gay men are representative of every gay man.
The attraction is not the sin. Not any more than the thought, “Chocolate is yummy” or that moment you stand before your besetting sin. Yes, leading a promiscuous lifestyle is clearly outside God’s will. But knowing who someone is attracted to tells us NOTHING about the decisions they will make about how to act on that attraction.
Some LGBT Christians (it IS possible to be both at once) believe that God is leading them to a life of celibacy. Should we not honor that heartwrenching decision? Some LGBT Christians believe that God is leading them to a life of committed monogamy with someone of the same sex. Did not Paul say in 1 Corinthians 7:9 that it was better to marry than to burn with desire?
I happen not to be attracted to the same sex, so I haven’t had to wrestle with my conscience before God about this particular issue. I have the privilege of knowing without question that it is POSSIBLE for me to have a romantic partnership according to his will. But I DO have those things in my life that I have to wrestle with him about. We all do.
Like Jacob (the polygamist), sometimes I must hold on for dear life and say, “I will not let go until you bless me!” And in those dark moments, often it is the fellowship, acceptance, and caring of other Christians that encourages me not to give up, to keep holding on, to believe that all have sinned and that the blood of Jesus covers all sins. Yes, even THAT one. Or THAT one.
Would it not be better to embrace our brothers and sisters with the arms of Christ and stand beside them as they wrestle to find a way to be themselves that honors God? How can we presume that our conscience, shaped by our own culture and natural inclinations, can speak for them?
At the very least, can we not compassionately acknowledge that in this world shaped by sin, we all find ourselves in less than ideal situations from time to time, and that it is sometimes difficult to discern God’s will in two less than ideal choices? We do our best to choose rightly, and sometimes we do. But sometimes we don’t. All of us.
But thank God, he still loves us. Still draws us to him. Still forgives and cherishes and leads us.
Someday (soon, I hope), it will get better once and for all when we meet that God face to face. In the meantime, compassionate acceptance and encouragement of our fellow LGBT pilgrims is one important way of letting his unconditional, transforming love shine in this broken world.