In a recent post on The Gospel Coalition website titled Godliness Is Not Heterosexuality, which is an excerpt from Ed Shaw’s book, The Plausibility of the Celibate Life for the Same-Sex attracted, Shaw admonishes people to think of same-sex attraction as something that can co-exist peacefully with Christianity. In other words, a person who claims to be a Christian need not pursue heterosexuality to be godly.
A heterosexual minister, he runs his church’s support group for same-sex attracted church members. He’s also the married father of two sons. He said something like this: “We, most of all, want our boys to grow up as godly and mature Christians. Some of the most godly and mature Christians we know are same-sex attracted. So why should we be so afraid of them growing up as same-sex attracted?”
I was flabbergasted by this reply. It finally blew apart my wrong presumption that same-sex attraction and godliness, like oil and water, don’t ever mix. It made me recall that some of the most godly people that I’ve ever known have also experienced same-sex attraction. In fact, one of the Christian leaders I most respect as godly has been made so through his struggle with same-sex attraction.
So Shaw is saying that he once believed a same-sex attracted professing Christian needed to pursue a heterosexual lifestyle, but based on this minister’s statement, he no longer believes this. He now exhorts same-sex attracted people to seek a “celibate” lifestyle and encourages heterosexual Christians to accept and encourage this approach also.
He’s not the only one, however, promoting this line of thinking in the Church. Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist was quoted as saying while denouncing gay reparative therapy,
The utopian idea if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to be immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with, I don’t think that’s a Christian idea… Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change.
So many evangelicals have jumped on to the bandwagon of celibacy as the best and only option for Christians who have struggled with same-sex attraction. Sadly, many same-sex attracted people are being affirmed in their sin and have bought into this lie. But what does the Bible say?
First, what is celibacy? In Matthew 19:9-12, Jesus speaks of celibacy.
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.
Here, Jesus gives three reasons for celibacy; eunuchs from birth, eunuchs made by men, or become a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. An example of the latter would be Paul’s celibacy for the sake of his commitment to travel and preach the word of God, for the sake of the kingdom. Further, Paul speaks of celibacy as a gift from God (1 Cor 7:7). Should we consider same-sex attraction, a result of the fall, as a gift from God? God does not tempt us (James 1:13) Further, nowhere in Scripture does it teach that celibacy is prescribed by God as an antidote or an alternative to a homosexual lifestyle any more than it prescribes abstinence from food as the alternative to gluttony.
However, what the Bible does say is that “it is not good for a man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Of course, when God said this, it was before the fall, and there was no same-sex attraction to deal with. However, man’s sin does not change what is prescribed as “good” by God.
When a same-sex attracted individual–a professing Christian–chooses to practice a celibate lifestyle, they are effectively denying regeneration. Galatians 5:24 says “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Now, I would agree that being born-again doesn’t instantly result in heterosexual attractions. However, being reborn into Christ will result in a desire to pursue his righteousness, which includes what he has prescribed as good for his people.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11
You must die to yourself to pursue righteousness.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
A requirement for salvation is repentance, and repentance is a turning from your sin. Pursuing celibacy is an acceptance of your sin. You cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). It is, in effect, continuing to act in accordance to your fallen state. It is denying that God’s prescription of marriage between a man and a woman is what is best. It is a disobedience to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. It is our responsibility as Christians to pursue that, however, it’s God’s responsibility to provide that.
Many have argued that since same-sex attracted people are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex, that a traditional heterosexual marriage relationship could never work. However, this idea is unbiblical. A biblical marriage is not centered around sexual attraction, it revolves around Christ. God created marriage as a picture of Christ’s covenant relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-32). If you are diligently seeking to pursue righteousness and holiness in a marriage relationship, God promises to strengthen your marriage (Philippians 4:13, Matthew 6:33, etc.). There are many things that our fallen state work against us to hinder a marriage relationship from thriving, yet we must seek holiness.
If God chooses not to provide you with a spouse, he will not provide you with a spouse. However, if you seek a marriage in spite of your sin, you can rest assured that your marriage is covenanted and maintained by him should you seek to obey him, and center your marriage around him. I maintain that celibacy for the believer who struggles with same-sex attraction, porn addiction, or other “youthful lusts (2 Tim 2:22),” is unbiblical. Turn from your sinful ways, and turn to Christ. Pursue righteousness and holiness in all that he has given us.
Heterosexuality, by all means, is most certainly one form of godliness.
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:1
[Contributed by RC]