“You are not being your authentic self, you’re a liar and a fraud.” “You are gay and you always have been, so quit pretending to be something you are not.” “Every time you stand up and tell people how you live a straight life by being married to a woman, you deny your true self. I don’t know how you can live like that!”
I have heard those sentiments many times over the years by people in the gay community challenging me to go back on the decision I made three decades ago to leave a life of homosexuality for the sake of following Jesus, all in the name of being “true to myself,” a sentiment not surprising since most gay people would not care what the Bible teaches on sexual ethics. But I have also received the same message from those who call themselves “gay Christians;” those who do claim to care about what the Bible teaches on the topic. Finally (and most alarmingly for me personally) I have even had the occasional Christian from my own church denomination question why it would be wrong for one to live as they wish, again, all in the name of living an “authentic” life.
In a world that esteems one’s ability to be “true to themselves” and not worry about pleasing other people or living by anyone else’s standards, I understand how confusing it would be to meet someone who actually tries to live his life surrounded by boundaries and restraint and in doing so denies something that feels natural for the sake of a more important cause.
Before becoming a Christian, I lived a gay life into my mid 20’s, acting out hundreds of times with different men. Yet since my conversion to Christ at the age of 24, I have not participated in any kind of homosexual activity and I have no intention of starting now in order to be my “authentic self.” In fact, for the Christian, saying “no” to the temptations and the parts of ourselves that are contrary to the life of Christ is what being a follower of Jesus is about. I realize that living a life full of guardrails is hardly the greatest advertisement for Christianity as it leaves us having to discuss the less exciting parts of our faith, but it is in living a devoted life according to the Bible and its ethic that God is truly glorified, and true freedom is found.
In fact, for the same-sex attracted Christian, I believe that saying “no” to homoerotic temptations is being “true to oneself.” Galatians 2:20 says that when we become Christians we are “crucified with Christ.” Ephesians 4:22-24 says that we must put on the “new self” which is in the likeness of God. Galatians 5:24 says that “those who belong to Christ have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there.” 1 Peter 2:24 tells us to “die to sin.”
If Guy Hammond has been crucified and is dead and it is Christ that now gives me life, then for me to go back to the sin of homosexuality would be resurrecting a dead man. Saying “no” to homosexuality and “yes” to Jesus doesn’t make me a liar and a fraud, it is the very thing that allows me to declare my true identity, which is Jesus, not the dead man I used to be. It is only then that I am being my “true self” and fully “authentic.”
In regard to one being a “gay Christian,” I find the notion absurd. Can someone declare to be a “liar Christian” or a “thief Christian” or a “prideful Christian” and truly be living a Christian life while embracing a life of lying, stealing or arrogance? No. These nouns are completely contradictory to the term “Christian.”
The expression “gay Christian” is a relatively new term to the debate of sexual ethics. Go back in time 70 or 80 years and you won’t be able to find even the concept of someone being able to be actively involved in homosexuality and a Christian. However, its use has risen dramatically in recent years with the popularity of pro-gay theology. I am not arguing that those who embrace this theology don’t believe in Jesus or love God, I’m sure many do. I am also not arguing that God does not love them, for He truly does. Nor am I suggesting that we should show anything but kindness and respect to those with whom we disagree, for that we must surely do. What I am arguing however is that the theological stance is utterly false. The pro-gay theology that is being widely recognized by gay affirming churches in today’s wishy-washy doctrinal world tragically leads people to believe that they can embrace and celebrate homosexuality while following Christ at the same time. That is a lie, even if the relationship is monogamous in nature. I recognize this is not an easy truth to understand, nor is it easy to follow. Trust me, I know first-hand how difficult it is. I even sympathize with those who wish the Bible taught differently on this issue, just not to the point where I’m willing to actually change what the Bible teaches to suit my desires. My point in this article is not to focus on breaking down the arguments of this faulty theology (I do teach a whole class on it in my workshops), but more to make the point that it’s not possible for someone to truly be a Christian while also embracing active homosexuality, therefore the term “gay Christian” is completely antithetical in nature.
In terms of what I call myself as one who lives outside of the heterosexual mainstream, I refuse to use the terms “gay” or “homosexual” to describe what I am experiencing. Those words most often represent people who celebrate homosexuality and do not see it as a moral issue. But I do not celebrate homosexuality and I absolutely do consider it a moral issue. Not only that, but when people hear someone say that they are a “gay Christian” most would automatically assume that he or she is probably involved in a homosexual relationship, something I would never want to infer. So, when describing my own situation, I tell people that I am “same-sex” or “same-gender” attracted.
Ultimately, I don’t want to be reduced to being known by what I am attracted to. I find the concept demeaning and am utterly bewildered that so many do. There is so much more to our lives than what we are sexually attracted to. If I have to be defined by anything though, let it be that I am a follower of Jesus, for He is my true identity. I am a Christian who has some same-gender attraction issues, but I do not want to be defined by anything else other than the fact that I am a Christian; that is my true authentic self, period.