Can A Celibate Gay Be A Christian?
by Rajkumar Richard
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Celibacy refers to abstaining from sexual relations. Celibate gay refers to a person who is attracted towards same sex people but does not indulge in same sex sexual intercourse. When Christianity, which deems homosexuality as a sin, is brought into this context, a pertinent question is whether a Christian with homosexual orientation, but not practicing homosexuality, claim to be a genuine Christian?
Homosexual Orientation: A person who is attracted tomembers of his own sex.
Homosexual Behavior / Practice: A person who practices sex with members of his own sex.
Homosexual: (A homosexual could address himself / herself so by virtue of his / her sexual orientation or by virtue of his / her sexual behavior.) From a Christian standpoint, a person is a homosexual when he engages in homosexual behavior (practices homosexual acts). A person with heterosexual tendencies could also be a homosexual. In other words, a heterosexual person could have homosexual orientation to practice homosexuality.
A person desiring to rob another person is not a thief. A person who physically robs another person is a thief. A person who desires to rob merely has the potency or the capacity to become a thief. Until he / she physically robs another person, this person cannot be termed as a thief. Just as how a thief is a thief only when he physically robs his victim, a homosexual is a homosexual only when he engages in homosexual behavior.
Why Can A Practicing Homosexual NOT Be A Christian?
The Bible deems homosexuality as a sin. Hence Christians cannot practice homosexuality. A practicing gay person cannot be a Christian, for the simple reason that sins cannot be legitimized and a Christian cannot volitionally live a sinful life.
The Bible does not condemn homosexual orientation. But the Bible categorizes certain actions as sins. So they remain to be sins irrespective of any compulsions – sociological or biological or whatever. When Christians endorse homosexuality, they declassify homosexuality as a sin. This is a problem. Why?
Certain actions (and thoughts too) have been classified as sins by God. Sins such as homosexuality or child sex cannot be declassified as sins by man. Fundamentally, sins are an assault on God (i.e. HIS commands). Hence God alone has the authority to declassify a sin. Since the Bible, which is the Word of God, does not declassify homosexuality as a sin, homosexual practice is a sin.
If a gay person claims to be a Christian, he or she has taken the prerogative of declassifying homosexuality as a sin (by twisting the relevant verses in the Bible). Since man has no authority to declassify a sin; man’s declassification of homosexuality as a sin is moot. Therefore, Christians cannot practice homosexuality.
Can A Celibate Gay Be A Christian?
A genuine Christian recognizes sins and keeps them in their proper place. Sins are a part and parcel of a Christian life in the sense that the Christian could be a victim of sporadic or constant temptation.
From the perspective of temptation, a Christian is oriented to sin when he is tempted. But when a Christian is tempted, he may or may not sin. (When the Christian sins, he confesses his sins to God and repents.) If a Christian does not sin, he is not a sinner per se. Hence, even if a Christian is oriented to sin, he is not a sinner unless he performs that sinful deed.
A married woman may be sexually attracted to a man, who is not her husband. But if she controls her sexual attraction, by the grace of God, she remains sinless in this context. Similarly, Christians with homosexual orientation would remain sinless, if they control their sinful urge, by the grace of God, and do not indulge in sinful sexual practice with members of their own sex. So a person with homosexual orientation but not practicing homosexuality can surely be a Christian.
Orientation Need Not Translate Into Sins
If a person was brutally deceived by his friend, he could be oriented to attack the deceiver (the attack need not necessarily be a physical attack). But the Bible mandates us to love our enemies. So even if we are oriented to deceive or injure the person who betrayed us, we are called to suppress that orientation by the grace of God so to not indulge in sin. Similarly homosexual orientation or the sexual attraction to members of same sex could be suppressed by the grace of God.
Could Christians Embrace Celibacy?
Celibacy certainly has its place among Christians, “…Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman, rather than two persons of the same sex. In Matthew 19:4–5, Jesus connects the phenomenon of marriage with the fact of our having been created male and female. Marriage is predicated on gender difference; it’s because we’re male and female that we have this thing called marriage. Jesus then goes on to show that the only godly alternative to marriage is singleness. When the disciples balk at the intended lifelong implications of marriage (v. 10), Jesus points them to the example of the eunuchs—the long-term singles of his day (vv. 11–12). If marriage is too much commitment, there’s the option of celibacy. Jesus gives no third alternative, whether cohabitation or some alternative construal of marriage.
For marriage to be a parable of Christ and the church, it must be between like and unlike, male and female. Change this arrangement, and you end up distorting the spiritual reality to which it points. Alter marriage, and you end up distorting a picture of the gospel itself…So if this is the ultimate purpose of marriage, where does that leave singleness? Are those of us who are celibate wasting our sexuality by not giving expression to our sexual desires?
It means singleness, like marriage, has a unique way of testifying to the gospel of grace. Jesus said there will be no marriage in the new creation. In that respect we’ll be like the angels, neither marrying nor being given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). We will have the reality; we will no longer need the signpost.
By foregoing marriage now, singleness is a way of both anticipating this reality and testifying to its goodness. It’s a way of saying this future reality is so certain that we can live according to it now. If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. It’s a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate, and that in Christ we possess what is.
This doesn’t mean our sexual feelings are redundant, dangling unfulfilled like the equivalent of an appendix. The consummation our sexual feelings long for can (if we let them) point us to a greater consummation to come. They remind us that what we forego on a temporal plane now, we will enjoy in fullness in the new creation for eternity. Sexual unfulfillment itself becomes a means of deepening our sense of the fuller, deeper satisfaction we await in Jesus. It helps us to hunger more for him. We skip the appetizer, but we await the entrée.
Celibacy isn’t a waste of our sexuality; it’s a wonderful way of fulfilling it. It’s allowing our sexual feelings to point us to the reality of the gospel. We will never ultimately make sense of what our sexuality is unless we know what it is for—to point us to God’s love for us in Christ.”1
Dangers in Celibate Gay Christian Movement
Celibate gay Christian movement, as the name suggests, is a growing movement of celibate gay and lesbian Christians, who teach gay people to use their same sex attraction to serve God. Hence, on this view, the celibate gay Christian movement purports the sinlessness of same sex attraction because of their celibacy.
There are two innate dangers in the conceptualization of this movement:
(1) Flawed Identity: The members of this group need not be identified as celibate gay Christians. Instead, they could identify themselves as celibate Christians, who struggle(d) with gay attraction.
Christians are identified as the disciples of the Lord Jesus and the children of the living God. Identifying ourselves based on our sinful proclivities is unnecessary, for we are redeemed people.
(2) Flawed Thought Process: If a Christian wife is sexually attracted to a man, who is not her husband, and if she does not control her sexual urge, she has sinned in her thoughts. The engagement of this sexual attraction, even in thought, is sinful. Hence, this sinful thought ought to be confessed to God and repented to gain HIS forgiveness and liberation from this sinful thought process.
Similarly, Professor Denny Burk posits the sinfulness of same sex attraction (SSA), “The defining element of same-sex attraction is desire for a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. Once that desire is removed, it is no longer SSA. It is just friendship. In that sense, same-sex attraction is not a means to better, more holy friendships. It is an impediment to them. When one feels himself desiring a sexual relationship with a person of the same-sex, the only appropriate response is repentance from sin (2 Tim. 2:22). It is not right or helpful to think of that sinful attraction as the foundation for building holy friendships. It is not.”2
Just as how the Christian wife struggling with her sinful sexual attraction cannot legitimize her sin by claiming that she is hardwired to be sexually attracted to men, Christians struggling with same sex attraction cannot legitimize their sinful same sex attraction. Just as how a Christian with sinful thought process ought to repent and claim forgiveness, the celibate Christians struggling with same sex attraction ought to repent and claim forgiveness, so to continue living as normal people and not as gay people.
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