I recently talked with a young writer who wondered whether it is ethical to call people who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) to practice celibacy. I answered a rather straightforward “yes.” It might be helpful to explain why, but if you are only up for reading one paragraph, here is the heart of my answer: Jesus. (There, that was simple!)
For starters, homosexuality is viewed in exclusively sinful terms throughout the Bible (see Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 23:17-18; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). There is no form of homosexual relationship or attraction that is moral, therefore. What’s more, the metanarrative of Scripture is that of a self-sacrificing head, Christ, making atonement for his sinful bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). Approving of a homosexual relationship of any kind thus violates both the discrete witness of individual texts and the storyline of the Bible.
So does this biblical testimony consign Christians with SSA to misery? To a deficient and unfulfilled life? It could feel this way. Life as a fallen person is inevitably hard and disappointing. We have great compassion for those who tell us they are lonely. But the example of Jesus, a celibate man all his days, shows us that it is a high calling to live a holy life as a single person. Sometimes Christians are known for our strong support of marriage. We should also be known for our unique view of singleness. We don’t view it as substandard; it is enchanted. It is the life Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived during his earthly sojourn.
The argument that biblically faithful Christians deny people with SSA the opportunity to be loved neglects much, including Christ’s own model. Jesus, as I articulated for The Stream, did not marry. Jesus did not father children. Jesus lay by himself at night, with no one to warm him. In terms of a spouse, he had no inside jokes to share, no walks to take, no hand to hold, no anniversary to remember. If ever a single person feels strange for being unmarried, they may know that Jesus lived that same life.
Given all this, it can only be ethical to advise a person with same-sex attraction to embrace one of two options: to pursue marriage to a person of the opposite sex if one’s desires change (examples abound of this happening, despite regular and severe criticism), or to remain celibate. Christians cannot view the second option as “loveless”; as a single person who never stroked his child’s cheek or sent an anniversary card, Jesus knew the greatest love there is, the love of the Father (John 3:35).
I resonate with the loneliness of single people of varying patterns of attraction. Our father Adam left us all orphans. We all feel his absence. But sin of any kind, including homosexual sin, never closes the gap. Those who find themselves sad and without hope should look to Christ for completion and happiness. He solves the true problem of the human heart, which is not same-sex attraction or heterosexual lust or covetousness or gluttony. Our true problem is a lack of God caused by a hatred of God. Only God can overcome this.
The answer to the person facing a long battle with SSA is the same answer for the person facing any challenge. Jesus Christ is what we need in the morning, as we rise to continue our fight with evil. Jesus Christ is who we must look to when tempted in any way, whether internally or externally. Jesus Christ is the one we identify as our identity when Satan tells us we are claimed–and owned–by our sin. Jesus is the answer; Jesus always has been the answer; Jesus always will be the answer.
In one sense, our counseling and our ethical instruction is complex, untangling complicated personal knots with discernment and massive doses of empathy. In another sense, it is simple. We offer no convoluted solution. Look to Jesus, we say.
Then we do the same thing ourselves.
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