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Select a category from the menu below to view Christian perspectives on timely questions related to LGBT+ culture and same sex attraction (SSA).

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  • What is SSA?
    SSA stands for same-sex-attracted or same-sex attraction. It is, quite simply, attraction to members of the same sex. It can be experienced as physical attraction, emotional attraction, mental attraction, or a combination of these. Some SSA individuals may feel attracted to their same sex only along one of these dimensions, for example: physically attracted to the same sex but emotionally attracted to the opposite sex. Others may be attracted exclusively to their same sex. Still others may be attracted to their same sex or to the opposite sex—or even both—at different times in their lives.
  • Is SSA a sin?
    SSA is a kind of temptation. It is no more a sin than the temptation to commit any other sin. This does not mean temptation is morally neutral, but rather that all temptations can open the door to sin and should therefore all be taken seriously. It is unhelpful to perceive certain temptations as "bigger" or "worse" than others, since all sin—even the slightest one—is against God. Sexual temptation is no more a sin than the temptation to lie or gossip or slander. In the modern Church, it is common to confuse temptation and sin and assume that they are the same thing. It is possible, however, to be tempted but not follow through on the temptation by actually sinning. Jesus Himself demonstrates this in Matthew 4: 1—He was tempted yet did not sin. A common response to this is that He did not sin because He was God, and we as sinful humans cannot hope to be as steadfast as He was in the face of temptation. But if temptation is itself sinful, then Jesus could never even have been tempted. Jesus' temptation in the wilderness shows us definitively that temptation isn't sin. Another sticky point for Christians is that modern culture tends to confuse love and desire. But the statements "I love my cat" and "I love cookies" don't really convey the same experience, do they? Because of this confusion, we tend to desire the things we love. In a similar way, modern culture falsely assumes that if a person is attracted to someone of the same sex, they must necessarily also be (sinfully) desiring that person.(1) This worldly perspective sees people as walking flashpoints of desire, unable to control or even regulate their desires. Free in Christ Ministries supports Christians who experience SSA but who strive to avoid acting on their SSA, for example by actively unlearning habits of lust, fantasy, or seeking sexual fulfillment with people of the same sex. They accomplish this through the power of the Holy Spirit, through Christ. To read a blog article that looks at this topic in greater detail, click here. References: (1) The interaction of desire, temptation, and sin are explored masterfully in A.J. Swoboda's (2024) book The Gift of Thorns (Zondervan).
  • Is SSA a choice?
    Christians often consider that SSA is the result of a choice (or choices) that a person has made at some point in their life. From this perspective, they find it hard to understand why an SSA person would not simply "give up" their SSA and choose heterosexuality. Because of this, SSA people, including SSA Christians, may appear to be clinging stubbornly to something that they should be letting go. The truth, however, is that many SSA Christians do fight against their SSA, or try to ignore it, or pray that it will simply go away. Though some SSA Christians report dramatic changes in sexual attraction due to prayer or therapeutic intervention, these results are the exception. In most cases, God allows SSA to persist in the lives of even the most devout, Christ-loving men and women, sometimes for years or even decades, even while growing them in sexual purity. All forms of attraction bring temptations that must be managed successfully, with God's help. It is how a person acts on their attractions that determines whether they have sinned or are living a sinful lifestyle. SSA may remain a part of a Christian's life for years or decades—even a Christian who has remained celibate and made Christ the center of their life. This ongoing presence does not mean, however, that they have "chosen" SSA, or that they are handling their SSA irresponsibly. One way of looking at it is that they accept the their SSA as a fact about themselves, but at the same time they also trust God to carve a path for them through their SSA, to help them live above it, not in submission to it. Regardless of whether a person accepts their SSA a fact that is temporary or permanent, they should always handle their SSA and the temptations that spring from it with caution. The fact that sexual temptation is not chosen does not make it morally neutral. Christians should be careful to understand its effects on them individually and personally and make every effort to anticipate and avoid it. Jesus had strong words about resisting it: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5: 28). In the Lord's Prayer, He also taught that we should pray not to be led into temptation: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6: 13). The SSA Christian may not have chosen their SSA, but they can still choose to live in sexual uprightness before God and grow in purity before Him.
  • Are SSA people "born that way"?
    There has been extensive research on this question going back several decades. Some of the research suggests that SSA may have a genetic or congenital component. Genetic predispositions do not necessarily correspond to morality, however. For example, there has been research linking genetics to violent behavior (1) and lying(2)—among other things. But who would think that a person "born violent" or "born a liar" should be free to be violent or to lie simply because it's "innate?" In the same way, the conclusions made by studies identifying a genetic or congenital basis for SSA have no bearing on the morality of same-sex eroticism. Morality isn't dictated by our genes, but rather is given to us by the Holy Spirit when we come to faith in Christ. ​ Jesus weighs in on this question when He advises Nicodemus on the need to be born not just of water and flesh, but also of the Spirit—that is, born again: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3, NIV)​ The Apostle Paul reiterates this point in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: [I]f anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:16-17, NIV) ​Christian theologian Christopher Yuan, who is SSA, sums it up this way: It doesn't matter whether you think you were born an alcoholic; you must be born again. It doesn't matter whether you think you were born a liar; you must be born again. It doesn't matter whether you think you were born a porn addict; you must be born again. It doesn't matter whether you think you were born with any other sexual sin struggle; you must be born again.(3) If there is a genetic or congenital component to SSA, it makes no difference for how a person should (or shouldn't) live their life. Believers in Christ are new creations, and the only genetics that matter are the genetics of the Holy Spirit. References: (1) (2) (3) Yuan, Christopher. 2018. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story. Colorado Springs: Multnomah.
  • What role does upbringing play in SSA?
    Upbringing plays a role in every disposition. That being so, the question we should be asking is, "What role does upbringing play in one's rebirth in the Holy Spirit?" The answer is none. Jesus did not say that everyone needs to be reborn except those with doting mothers or absent fathers, or those who had bad influences or bad role models, or even those who were sexually abused. If we are to believe that the spiritual rebirth Jesus spoke of in John 3: 3 is a real thing, then we must conclude that no detail of our upbringing, however sordid or neglectful or painful or harmful, poses a hindrance to the healing blood of Christ. ​ It is also worth noting that sin runs much deeper than the evil action that played out around us or was inflicted on us by others when we were younger. Sin is an illness of the human spirit. That explains why God sent humanity a savior. If the solution to human sin were merely to make sure everyone has a perfect upbringing, then all the commands of the Old Testament would probably have been sufficient. But God sent a savior to die for human sin, because the problem was sin. Christian theologian Christopher Yuan puts it like this: [I]f our environment causes us to sin, then there's no need for Jesus—all we need is a better environment. His death on the cross is then insufficient, and justification and sanctification depend on human effort.(1) Jesus came to save us from sin, because sin (not upbringing) is what stands between us and God, as Isaiah proclaims: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59: 1–2). The key is not to overstate the impact of upbringing on any disposition associated with sin, including SSA, if a person has come to faith in Christ. That said, as Christians we should always work to improve the conditions and quality of life in every environment around us, including the ones in which we don't regularly live and move, as an act of love for our fellow human beings. But we must not jump to the conclusion that a particularly harsh or strenuous upbringing gives us a reason or justification to indulge temptation, including SSA. References: (1) Yuan, Christopher. 2018. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story. New York: Multnomah. p. 36
  • What does the Old Testament say about SSA?
    In the Old Testament, same-sex acts are explicitly prohibited on two occasions: Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable (Leviticus 18: 22). If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads (Leviticus 20: 13). These prohibitions occur among numerous other laws regarding improper sexual relations within families, such as between a man and his mother (v. 7), stepmother (v. 8), sister (v. 9), grand-daughter (v. 10), step-sister (v. 11), paternal aunt (v. 12), maternal aunt (v. 13), sister-in-law (v. 14), daughter-in-law (v. 15), sister-in-law (v. 16), and other family relations. In Genesis 19, we learn that Lot was approached in Sodom by "men both young and old" who wanted to have sex with his sons (v. 4-5). Two angels informed Lot that he and his family were to flee the city as quickly as possible because God was about to destroy it because of the evil practiced there (v. 12-13). In the morning, after Lot and his wife and daughters had fled, God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulfur from heaven (v. 23-25). While the story in Genesis does not state that same-sex activity was the specific reason for God's judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, in the New Testament, Jude informs us that the guilt of these cities was "sexual immorality and perversion" broadly: Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire (Jude 5-7). Some modern Christian theologians claim to have identified a same-sex romantic or sexual relationship in the story of David and Jonathan, and in the story of Ruth and Naomi. After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt (1 Samuel 18: 1-4) “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1: 15-18). The argument that Jonathan and David or Ruth and Naomi had some kind of romantic or sexual partnership is tarnished with modern wishfulness. A modern reader might feel that Jonathan could not possibly have "loved" David "as himself" unless his love was romantic or sexual, but that is only because we live in a society in which all different types of social interaction are so readily sexualized. Strong heterosexual love between two men or between two women may be rare in the 21st century, because in our society we expect that love and commitment between same-sex peers must be sexual in nature. So the argument is anachronistic and self-assuaging: "David and Jonathan must have been lovers because if they had talked and behaved like that today, everyone would have thought they were gay." Obviously this logic is flawed. The idea of loving a person "as yourself" is a very biblical one. As such, it has nothing to do with romantic love or sexual longing. In the Book of Leviticus, the Israelites were instructed by God to love their neighbor in this way: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19: 18). It makes more sense to view Jonathan's love for David as obedient neighborly love in fulfillment of God's command. That being the case, the love is beautiful and godly. Ruth's love for and commitment to Naomi was beautiful and godly in the same way. What about the claim that Jonathan and David "became one in spirit?" Could this indicate a same-sex marriage of some kind? Definitely not. The phrase "one in spirit" (and its associated concept) is found elsewhere in the Bible, but never as a reference to marriage. In marriage, a man and woman become "one flesh" (Genesis 2: 21; Matthew 19: 5; Mark 10: 8; Ephesians 5: 31), not "one spirit." The idea of being "of one spirit" or "one in spirit" is heralded in the Book of Philippians as a characteristic of unity in Christ, something all believers—not just husbands and wives—should pursue with each other: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2: 1-2). So there is no basis to interpret Jonathan's commitment to David as anything but strong, upright brotherly affection. To interpret it as romantic love or sexual longing is to force on the story a 21st century idea and miss its true significance. Christians (and others) often wonder why the verses in Leviticus 18 and 20 are "singled out" to bring unjust pressure against SSA people. It is true that many other laws in Leviticus are no longer widely followed. For example, other laws commanded men not to shave their beards (19: 27), not to build a parapet around their roof (Deuteronomy 22: 8), and to wear tassels on the corners of their garments (Numbers 15: 38). Since "breaking" these laws is not generally considered a sin anymore, why is the command for men not to have sex with men still considered a sin? The answer requires us to peek ahead at the New Testament. In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul wonders these same things, specifically about which of the 613 Old Testament laws (if any) gentile converts should expected to follow. It was a question that needed an answer. According to Acts, Paul went to Jerusalem to ask Peter, James, and John for their opinion. The Jerusalem patriarchs came back with a ruling in the form of a letter for Paul to take to the church in Antioch with Barnabas, Judas (called Barsabbas), and Silas, in which they wrote: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things (Acts 15: 29). What is interesting here is the inclusion of sexual immorality as something that gentiles shoud avoid. Of all the 613 Old Testament laws that were discarded, the Holy Spirit chose to keep those pertaining to sexual immorality (Greek: porneia), defined as any sexual act outside the bond of male-female marriage. Although gentiles would now be officially released from laws against beard-shaving (and so on), they would still be held to laws relating to sexual immorality, and this includes the laws against same-sex activity in Leviticus 18 and 20. Paul accepted the ruling as final (it has come to be known as the Council of Jerusalem), and subsequently upheld the ruling in his teachings.
  • What did Jesus say about SSA?
    It is often claimed that Jesus did not preach specifically about SSA, so He had no opinion about it. This claim is false. Jesus did, in fact, speak on the matter of SSA, but He did so using the terminology of His time. His statement is, nevertheless, perfectly comprehensible to a believer in any time. When asked about marriage, Jesus taught thus: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19: 8-12). ​The key word in this teaching is eunuch, which refers to a man unable to have children. In this teaching, Jesus refers to three different types of eunuchs: those born that way those made that way by others, and those who choose to be eunuchs "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." The eunuchs who were "born that way" were probably men who were physically unable to perform sexually due to a congenital birth defect. The eunuchs who were "made eunuchs by others" were probably the so-called "palace eunuchs", who were sterilized (by castration) so they could be put in charge of women without any cause for concern that they might have sex with the women. The third category, "those who choose to live like eunuchs," has been interpreted various ways. The most plausible interpretation is that these were men who chose celibacy for God's own sake. It is not certain that Jesus was referring to SSA people here, but one must ask the question: if Jesus were to make reference to SSA people using the vocabulary of the time, would he have referred to them much differently than this? This teaching follows on the heels of a difficult teaching about heterosexual marriage and not getting divorced. Jesus' mention of the eunuchs is given as the only alternative to heterosexual marriage. Either you marry a woman and stay with her, Jesus is saying, or you remain unmarried and live like a eunuch. There is no middle ground.
  • What did the Apostle Paul say about SSA?
    The Apostle Paul's strongest statement against same-sex eroticism is found in his Letter to the Romans: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1: 18-26). Paul's position in Romans has often been taken to refer only to same-sex acts associated with pagan ritual. This view is naive, since elsewhere Paul makes it very clear that same-sex acts of all types are sinful. Paul wrote in Greek, and though Greek had several different words to refer to same-sex acts and the people who perform them, Paul took the liberty of inventing a new word to refer to those who engage in such acts: arsenokoites. He used this word twice in his letters: Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men [=arsenokoites] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, NIV). We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality [=arsenokoites], for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me (1 Timothy 1: 9-10). Paul's invented word is undisputably based on the prohibition against same-sex sex acts found in the Greek version of Leviticus: And with a male [=arsenes] [you shall] not lie down the lyings [=koiten] of the woman (Leviticus 18: 22, Greek interlinear). There are different theories as to why Paul felt the need to invent a word rather than use one of the many words already available at the time. The most plausible reason is that the existing words were associated with specific types of male-male sexual activity. The word pornos, for example, referred to a male prostitute or call boy. An erastes was an adult male who sought the affection of prepubescent boys, and an eromenos or ganumedes was the youthful, passive object of his affection. All of these words designated specific types of sexual relations between males of different ages and degrees of power with respect to each other. If it was Paul's intention to dissuade all same-sex eroticism, it makes sense that he made up a word, since Greek did not have an all-purpose word for same-sex eroticism. It also makes sense that Paul would only invent a word if its meaning could be understood by his readers without additional explanation. The easiest way for him to do this was to refer his readers back to the law in Leviticus—which they were undoubtedly familiar with—the one prohibiting all male-male sex acts. The fact that Paul's word arsenokoites does not occur frequently in other Christian writings has often been used to argue that we don't really know what arsenokoites means or whether other early Christians agreed with Paul. That is a vapid argument. The earliest Christian theologians understood Paul's prohibition against same-sex eroticism to be a general one, not specific to certain acts or relationships, and that they agreed with him. For example: Tertullian (AD 210) wrote that "the Christian confines himself to the female sex." Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 319) referred to the "union of men with men and women with women" as an "unseemly practice." Basil the Great (AD 367) wrote: "He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers." In his Confessions (AD 400), Augustine wrote in reference to sexual sin between males that God "has not made men so that they should use one another in this way." The Vulgate, a translation of the Bible into Latin completed in AD 384, translated arsenokoites as masculorum concubitores, which literally means "bed-fellows of males" (males who go to bed with males in order to have sex). This translation captures the generality of Paul's arsenokoites perfectly and dispels any doubt that Paul's word was misunderstood or taken to refer only to certain kinds of same-sex eroticism.
  • Doesn't how "affirmative" you are depend mostly on the Bible translation you read?
    It most definitely does, especially if you choose a version of the Bible to match what you already believe. A Google search of the string "gay affirming bible version" pulls up a vast catalogue of webpages, showing that this is a widely explored question. Two Bible versions are mentioned repeatedly in these pages for being LGB-affirming: the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the Message (MSG). Both versions are considered affirming because they supposedly don't cast same-sex eroticism in a negative light. We examined each version to verify their accuracy on this particular issue. The results of our examination follow: New Revised Standard Version—"updated edition" (NRSVue) This version was published in 2021 by the National Council of the Churches of Christ. It incorporates "revisions based on new textual evidence, historical insights, and linguistic precision," so as to deliver "a translation of Scripture based on meticulous care for accuracy and readability." The "historical insights" include removing mention of same-sex eroticism in the New Testament as a sin. Instead, it incorrectly translates the Greek word arsenokoites as "men who engage in illicit sex" in 1 Corinthians 6: 9 and 1 Timothy 1: 10. This choice of words makes the NRSV passage more specific than Paul's original Greek text, and therefore changes its meaning. In 1 Corinthians, Paul was not referring strictly to same-sex sex eroticism that might be classified as illicit, such as prostitution or pederasty, but rather to sex of all types between males of all ages. The notion of "illicit sex" in the NRSV is furthermore anachronistic, since all sex outside of male-female marriage would have been perceived by the readers of Paul's letters as illicit. The Message version This version of the Bible was published in 1993. Unlike the NRSV, it is not a translation but a paraphrase or retelling of the Bible in a lively, almost chatty style. This means that it contains cultural nuances added by its 20th century American translator that were not in the original text but which help express its meaning to a modern American reader. An article by the publisher makes this point clear: "This is not a study Bible, but rather a reading Bible'"(1). Despite this disclaimer, Christians often read The Message as if it is an authoritative translation and lean on it to clarify questions of doctrine and practice. This is risky, since The Message is written in a 20th century style that tends to confirm 20th century cultural biases, including the bias that homosexuality is not a sin. To see this bias in action, look at the translation of 1 Corinthians 6: 9 alongside a literal Greek translation: Notice how The Message presents the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6: 9–10 in broad overview, glossing over all of Paul's specificity and detail: "those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse the earth and everything in it." A person reading this passage in The Message will come away from this important text with a defective understanding of Paul's warning to the Corinthian church and believers everywhere. It's risky to choose a version of the Bible that merely confirms on one's own cultural beliefs. Rather, we should formulate our cultural beliefs around truths revealed in versions of the Bible that have stood the test of time and academic scrutiny. If we choose the Bible version that approves our pre-existing views, what power can the Bible have over us? Standing in judgment of the Bible on matters of sexual immorality should remind us of Jeremiah's warning against teachers who teach by their own authority, rather than by God's: A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5: 30–31). The Apostle Paul issues similar warnings: For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4: 3). Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4: 1–2). So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4: 11–15). It's tempting to define what's right around all the things we already do and like to do, but this removes God from the heart of scripture and places sinful mankind there instead. It is, furthermore, the very definition of self-righteousness, something Jesus preached strongly against. Recall this parable: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted" (Luke 18: 9–14). The Apostle Paul also warned against falling back on one's self-righteousness, which is a denial of Christ's imparted righteousness: Since [the Israelites] did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes (Romans 10: 3–4). Gregory Coles, an SSA Christian, expresses a humble alternative: If we truly love Scripture, we have to love it enough to let it prove us wrong. And at the same time, we have to love it enough to let it tell us what we don't want to hear.(2) So does Ed Shaw of the organization Living Out: When I want to live life as a gay man, to embrace the whole modern identity and lifestyle, God’s Word assures me that it will not make me happy.... That’s why I’m seeking to make God’s Word the authority in my life rather than what I (or any other human being) might think will bring me happiness. Which, of course, is what being a Christian is really all about: taking God at his Word, and so trusting him.(3) It is true that there are many Bible translations to choose from. Unfortunately, not all of them are equal. While some strive to capture hard teachings without watering them down, others distort certain messages to make them "friendler" to modern readers. Christians must be able to tell the difference. References: (1) Navpress, history and FAQs. (2) Coles, Gregory. 2017. Single Gay Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, p. 35. (3) Shaw, Ed. 2015. The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction. London: Inter Varsity Press, p. 69.
  • What is sexual wholeness?
    Sexual wholeness is a specific kind of spiritual health. It includes two equally important facets: faithfulness in marriage and chastity in singleness. Faithfulness in marriage Spouses (one male and one female) maintain their own sexual wholeness by reserving themselves for each other. God's will for married spouses is summed up in the Book of Proverbs: Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? (Proverbs 5: 15–20) Chastity in singleness Single people remain sexually healthy by denying themselves sexual temptation, lust, and sex with persons of either sex. Paul gives several clear statements on the importance of this: Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy (Romans 13: 13). But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5: 3). It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4: 3–6). For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2: 16). God's standard of sexual wholeness is a high one, but He provides guidance and help—and even a measure of protection—to those who accept it from Him: [God] gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 29–31). So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. "All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish," (...) declares the Lord] (Isaiah 41:10–14). And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6: 9–11).
  • What does sexual wholeness look like for an SSA person?
    There is disagreement about what restoration looks like for an SSA person. It is our position that that an SSA person needs to repent of sexual sin to be restored before God—but they do not need to repent of SSA. This is because SSA is a form of temptation and therefore not inherently sinful. To clarify this position, let's think about some specific sins and the way Christ heals them. We'll start with a short list from the Book of Mark: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7: 20–23). These sins, like sin in general, are a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, which affected Adam and Eve, their descendants, and all of creation, as Paul tells us: For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8: 19–21). The good news is that there is a path of restoration (healing) for every sin we might commit. For example, envy is restored as gratitude, greed is restored as generosity, etc. We can show each path of restoration in a diagram (see below), where the red arrow shows the "fall" and the green arrow shows restoration. The cross by the green arrow indicates that restoration is provided by Christ, who is the Restorer (2 Corinthians 5: 17). Sexual impurity is also a fallen condition. So how is sexual impurity restored? The ancients did not distinguish different types of sexual impurity. Sexual impurity was any sexual act outside of the male-female marriage covenant. That's why Paul's instruction to "flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6: 18) was enough to get his whole point across—he didn't need to spell out what exactly he meant by "sexual immorality" every time he mentioned it. The writer of Hebrews had a similar perspective, juxtaposing the purity of the marriage bed and sexual immorality: Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13: 4). Since sexual purity has only two expressions—faithfulness in marriage of one man and one woman; or chastity in singleness— it makes sense that all forms of sexual impurity are restored only as sexual purity. The path of restoration for sexual impurity can be diagrammed like this: Note that this diagram gathers all types of sexual impurity under a single category, including: lust — fantasizing about sinful sexual liaisons (Proverbs 6: 25; Matthew 5: 28; Galatians 5: 16; 1 John 2: 16) fornication — sex between unmarried persons (Colossians 3: 5; 1 Thessalonians 4: 3–4) adultery — sex with a married person (Exodus 20: 14; Deuteronomy 5: 18; Hebrews 13: 4) incest — sex with a family member (Leviticus 18: 6–16; 20: 10–14, 17–21) bestiality — sex with an animal (Exodus 22: 19; Leviticus 18: 23; 20: 15–16; Deuteronomy 27: 21) homosexuality (Leviticus 18: 22; Leviticus 20: 13; 1 Corinthians 6: 9–10) Viewed in this way, sexual restoration for an SSA person does not entail trading one form of attraction or temptation for another, but rather achieving a condition of faithfulness to one's spouse in marriage, or of chastity in one's singleness—that is, sexual purity. The path to sexual purity is essentially the same for an SSA person as it is for a heterosexual person (see below). This view of sexual wholeness captures two important truths about SSA: SSA is not a part of God's plan. God did not create people with SSA, just as He did not create people with an inclination toward any other kind of sexual impurity. He does, however, deliver people from the temptations of SSA, so that they become less vulnerable to them over time. The restored state of SSA is not attraction to the opposite sex. Though it is possible for a person to experience a change in sexual attraction, a more typical (and realistic) path of restoration is toward sexual purity in a general, life-changing sense. For those who don't want to marry a person of the opposite sex, the alternative is chastity in singleness. SSA men and women have often felt pressured to marry a person of the opposite sex, thinking that heterosexual marriage would "cure" them of SSA. While heterosexual marriage has been known to bring about changes in orientation, this result is far from typical. A 2002 survey of Australian men seems to confirm this. The survey included 24 men from a Christian background who were married to women or who had been married to women. All had experienced SSA at the time of their marriage. At the time of the survey, only 2 of the men were still married, but all of them reported being "predominantly homosexual."(1) On average, the marriages lasted 16 years. Most of the marriages had children. These findings tell us that even with the best of intentions and a strong desire to rid oneself of SSA, it is common for SSA to persist even in a sexually active heterosexual marriage. They also underscore what we know about restoration coming from the Lord, not from our own interventions: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40: 30–31). The goal of sexual purity should never be a change in orientation to heterosexuality, but rather Christ Himself: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3: 23–24). References: (1) Higgins, Darryl. 2002. Gay men from heterosexual marriages: Attitudes, behaviors, childhood experiences, and reasons for marriage. Journal of Homosexuality 42(4): 15–34.
  • Why would God call SSA Christians to celibacy?
    The call to chastity in singleness can be perplexing and even frightening. Chastity is, however, a key part of God's plan. In this article we look at what celibacy is and why God might call individuals to celibate lives, not as a form of punishment but as a way of drawing them close. What is celibacy? Celibacy is sexual abstinence, the denial of sexual relations of any kind in a person's life. A celibate Christian gives up sex as an ongoing act of devotion to God, particularly in anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God. In the Catholic Church, priests are called to live a celibate life as part of their pastoral vocation. This is known as clerical celibacy. The kind of celibacy discussed here is not associated with any religious denomination or movement, and is considered to be a response to a call from God in Isaiah 56: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever" (Isaiah 56: 4–5). The eunuchs God is referring to in Isaiah are people unable to fulfill God's command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9: 7), for whatever reason. When asked about alternatives to marriage and divorce, Jesus describes three types of eunuchs: For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19: 12). These three types can be described as follows: Eunuchs "born that way" — people born unable to procreate, for example with a genetic abnormality causing intersexuality. Eunuchs "made eunuchs by others" — people (usually men) made unable to reproduce for various practical reasons, such as by forced castration. Eunuchs "who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" — people who are fully functional in a reproductive sense, but who choose to live as if they were not: abstaining from marriage and sexual relations. Considering the context of Jesus' words (alternatives to marriage, understood as heterosexual marriage), the third category must include SSA people. God's plan for celibate believers By choosing to give up marriage and any form of sexual relations "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," a celibate person lives in anticipation of a future state in which all believers (not just SSA believers) will stand singly before God: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven" (Matthew 22: 30). “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection" (Luke 20: 34–36) Those who live today as if the kingdom has already come join the crowd of believers through history who have longed for things to come, such as Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11: 13–16). The Apostle Paul (who was celibate; 1 Corinthians 7: 1-7) describes the "groaning" as we await the future in which God's Kingdom is fully established: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8: 22–24). Wesley Hill, an Episcopal priest and professor of New Testament who is SSA, offers this perspective on celibacy in the context of God's Kingdom: Jesus chose to practice celibacy himself and commend it to others as a radical sign of the turning of the ages.... As most scholars now recognize, Jesus’ practice, along with his encouragement of some of his followers to choose celibacy, is not a timeless asceticism but rather an eschatologically charged symbol of the lateness of the hour and the significance of his advent.(1) In other words, the celibate lives of Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, Jeremiah, Naomi, and numerous others point us to God's future Kingdom. By responding to the call of celibacy, we align ourselves with these individuals and assert our longing for Christ's eternal reign. The practice of celibacy Traditionally, celibacy has been practiced in community, with spiritual direction and disciplined prayer.(2) All three are essential, since the pursuit of celibacy is counter-cultural and involves developing Christ-focused discipline over the long term. The path of celibacy taken by Christians today is also quite different from that taken by monks over the centuries: whereas monks have usually undertaken celibacy voluntarily, SSA Christians may feel "forced" into celibacy. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that the celibacy "forced" on SSA Christians is the only one of the three types described by Jesus that is, in fact, freely chosen. Recall His phrasing: "those who choose to live like eunuchs" (Matthew 19: 12). Celibacy may be chosen or not. Likewise, the eunuch in Isaiah 56: 4 to whom God promises "a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters" is one who chooses celibacy. It is the element of choice that makes this variety of celibacy all the more meaningful from a Kingdom perspective. Since it is a choice, it must be chosen and re-chosen. Such disciplined, ongoing renewal of one's choice to deny oneself is, in fact, the mark of a disciple of Christ: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9: 23). Self-denial as a discipline also responds to Paul's charge to all the faithful not to use our freedom (of choice) to selfish ends, but rather in service of God's Kingdom: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5: 13). The irony is that celibacy does not imprison us, but rather frees us: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin (Romans 6: 6–7). Our choice to respond to God in celibacy is precious to God because it mirrors His own choice to draw us to Himself: For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1: 4–6). Notice the emphasis in the above quotation on God's sovereign choice, done "in accordance with his pleasure and will," and the adoption to sonship that He has "freely given us." Our choice to live a celibate life is therefore one of many ways we can respond to God's choice to redeem us through Christ. For a beautiful defense of Christian celibacy in the context of singleness, listen to or watch John Piper's (2007) powerful sermon Single in Christ: A name better than sons and daughters. References: (1) Hill, Wesley. 2016. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness & Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 185–86. (2)
  • Why doesn't God just make SSA people heterosexual?
    This question has stymied many SSA Christians, including many who have lived devout, upright lives before God and who have committed themselves to a biblical standard of sexual purity. Some Christian leaders tackle the problem as a prosperity concern: if an SSA believer is not experiencing a change in sexual orientation it is because of lack of faith. Without getting into the complexities of prosperity-based interpretations of the gospel, we'll just say that this approach is almost certain to cause SSA Christians grief and possibly even turn them away from God. A better approach is rooted in sexual wholeness. God wants sexual wholeness for everybody regardless of sexual orientation, but sexual wholeness is not about the object of one's sexual attraction. Why would it be? Fundamentally, attraction is a kind of temptation. It makes sense that God does not heal His children by replacing one form of temptation with another, but rather by strengthening them against temptation. It is also well known from scripture that God often leaves "thorns" in our lives as a way of galvanizing our faith and dependence on Him during our sanctification. This is what happened to Paul: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12: 7–10). God is being true to His nature when He gives us what we need rather than what we merely desire. What we need most—all of us—in today's world is not different sexual appetites but sexual appetites brought under His sovereignty. Christ came to take away the sin of the world, as John the Baptist proclaimed (John 1: 29). Even so, we must understand that "take away the sin of the world" means "take away the power of sin," not "take away our desire to sin." The Apostle John makes it clear that even though Christians have passed from darkness to light, they still must deal responsibly with sin: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us (1 John 1: 8–10). Though a few Christians may experience dramatic physical or spiritual healings, for most Christians conforming to Christ is a gradual, lifelong transformation toward purity: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3: 17–18). During this transformation, we will still encounter temptation and must still make the right choices to resist it, literally "taking up our cross daily" (Luke 9: 23). This is the great challenge of our lives, but we do it for a great cause: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8: 18–23). In other words, we are not alone in our struggle. All creation is groaning in anticipation of the glory of our coming Christ.
  • What is the difference between "gay", "LGB+", and "SSA"?
    For many people, the terms gay, lesbian, LGB+, and SSA mean roughly the same thing. Many Christians prefer the term SSA because they feel that gay and LGB+ carry cultural associations that misrepresent their identity in Christ. For these Christians, such terms might refer to a mindset or lifestyle that they no longer relate to, even though they are still same sex attracted. The term SSA, on the other hand, allows Christians to express their same sex attraction counterculturally. It's important to keep in mind that many Christians who use the term SSA to refer to themselves do so cautiously, realizing that using the term may appear to others as an expression of pride or identity that they don't actually feel. Christians in this group are usually quick to point out that they use the term SSA as a kind of practical shorthand to refer to their experience in ways others will more or less readily understand. They don't generally use the term to emphasize a personal identity or membership in any kind of community. Andrew Bunt, a Christian author and director at Living Out, puts it this way: When I talk about sexual orientation, I’m referring to an enduring pattern of sexual attraction and desire. I describe myself as having a same-sex or gay sexual orientation because ever since my early teen years I have only experienced sexual attraction to other men. The concept gives me a helpful way of talking about my experience, especially when talking to others. It gives me a quick and easy way of communicating to those around me about this aspect of my experience of life.(1) There are quite a few SSA Christians who uphold a biblical standard of purity for themselves but still use words like gay and lesbian. This is especially common in the "Side B" stream. Gregory Coles, for example, who is a celibate Christian, often identifies himself as gay. The reasons for adopting the term vary by person, and include everything from wanting to be clear in one's self-presentation (some say that same sex attracted and SSA are too obscure or too clinical-sounding to be practical in everyday usage), to appropriation of a traditionally negative term (a bit like a Christian calling themselves a "Jesus Freak"). Some SSA Christians accept SSA as a gift of God to be embraced and celebrated even while practicing celibacy and upholding biblical teaching on sexuality, but Free in Christ Ministries does not take this position. Whatever the term of choice may be, Free in Christ Ministries generally encourages its use only as a point of reference, not as a point of identity. This is because we are to locate our identity in Christ, not in our dispositions—sexual or otherwise. Free in Christ Ministries does not acknowledge, for example, "SSA culture" or "gay culture" or "LGB+ culture" within the Church, since Christians are to be united in one identity group with one culture: the Kingdom of God. References: (1) Bunt, Andrew. "Should Christians Use the Concept of 'Sexual Orientation'?" Blog article.
  • What is the difference between a "Side A" and a "Side B" Christian?
    "Side A" and "Side B" are terms used to describe the two main Christian responses to Biblical teachings on sexuality, specifically same-sex sexuality. Keep in mind that the categories are somewhat general and may not adequately describe all persons who align with the categories. Side A generally describes Christians who accept or affirm same-sex relationships, intimacy, or marriage. While Side A Christians are a diverse group, they generally agree that Biblical prohibitions on same-sex intimacy have been misunderstood or are simply no longer applicable. Side B Christians take an admittedly more traditional view of same-sex sexuality and generally believe that same-sex intimacy is inherently sinful. While Side B Christians believe that they should not engage in same-sex intimacy, they do agree with the Side A camp on one key point: that SSA is not generally "curable" and that efforts to change a person's SSA to heterosexuality (through conversion therapy) tend to be unrealistic. ​ There are two additional categories that have become increasingly common in recent years: Side X Christians believe that SSA is something to be changed or even cured through a regimen of prayer, counseling, and/or psychotherapy—often referred to as conversion or reorientation therapy. While the main Side X organization in the United States, Exodus International, is now defunct, many churches and organizations still preach a Side X position, often identified as "transforming" or "sanctifying." Side Y is an offshoot of Side B. Coined by an SSA Christian named Gabriel Blanchard, this category includes Christians who feel that Side B has identified too closely with the mainstream gay (LGB+) community, such that the lines between worldly gay culture and proper Christian discipline have become problematically blurred. From Gabriel Blanchard's blog (2016): The essential character of Side Y, I think, is that it disclaims gay identity: insofar as one’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences deviate from the normal heterosexual pattern, they are to be simply opposed, and normally, shared with others only to gain the needed support for living with this—not disease, maybe, but certainly condition. Their accent tends to be on being a new person in Christ, without reference to sexual orientation as an element of identity. So while a Side B Christian may embrace their SSA nature as a "fact of who they are," Side Y Christians tend to reject SSA as a "nature" and assert their identity in Christ alone. The four "sides" (positions) of Christian SSA can be summed up in a table (see below). The table is not a perfect representation of the four sides, but it is useful for a big-picture perspective. The following table, borrowed from Strength of His Might, offers a slightly different perspective on the different "sides." In its ministerial approach, Free in Christ Ministries falls between Side B and Side Y and leans strongly toward Side Y in that: We view SSA not as a morally neutral condition but rather as one that must be handled and responded to with sober attention, calling upon God's Holy Spirit; We believe that Christian identity and experience are best expressed in Christ alone. For more information about what Free in Christ Ministries believes on these and other matters, please see What we believe.
  • Are there such a thing as "gender roles"?
    Biblical commentary on what we call gender roles is sparse, since gender roles were not a concept in Biblical times. The Old Testament contains a declaration that God created two sexes (male and female): So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1: 27). Jesus referred to this passage: “Haven’t you read ... that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’?" (Matthew 19: 4) The Apostle Paul adds the following: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 26-27). Paul's statement has often taken to mean that the male-female binary that God created no longer exists or is somehow "fluid," but that interpretation is anachronistic. Paul is not saying that maleness and femaleness become absent in Christ, but rather that these labels are overshadowed by the identity that both males and females acquire when they join the body of Christ. If that were not the case, then we would need to conclude that Paul declared that Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free stopped existing also, which is obviously untrue. What Paul meant was that the "big labels" people take for themselves and give to others become insignificant when a person (male or female) is "in Christ." For Christians today, this means that we need to be careful how we identify ourselves as believers. On the one hand, God created the male and female sexes, but the sexes are insignificant relative to our identity in Christ. One way of looking at it is that maleness and femaleness are points of reference (and very important ones), but not points of identity. In other words, when we stand together as believers, all that matters is our faith. Our God-given maleness or femaleness has no bearing on how God sees us or engages with us from the perspective of God's Kingdom. We hold to a binary view of male and female, but what about "gender roles?" These "roles" are notions of correct attitude and behavior that have been ascribed to each biological sex over time. Here are some traditional characteristics for each sex that have been common recently in Western society: Although these characteristics are less stringent than they were 50 years ago, it is still often the case that a boy or girl, man or woman will feel pressured to conform to the items on "their list." All of these, however, have been determined by culture, and many have changed dramatically over the centuries. For example, in earlier times, long hair on a male was considered "feminine" and was common among male prostitutes to signal a willingness to have sex with other men. A clean-shaven face was also considered "feminine." Wealth and material excess were also considered "feminine," as were reading and learning. On the other hand, virtue (being of high morals) was formerly considered a "masculine" trait; in fact, the Latin word virtūs from which virtue derives is related to the word virile. Prescriptions of "masculinity" and "femininity" have also changed with respect to professions. In early times women were barred from professions that were considered to be "a man's work" (like military), and men seldom entered professions that were considered to be "a woman's work" (like nursing). Few Christians today believe that these categorizations reflect a biblical standard. Most would agree, on the other hand, that this kind of pigeon-holing has held people of both sexes back, and that we are better off today without it. While the Bible makes the facts of maleness and femaleness clear, it has little to say about masculinity and femininity as character traits. Presumably this is because God does not care about our mannerisms, demeanor, and dispositions as long as they do not cause us or others to sin. This means there is a lot of freedom in how men and women (and boys and girls) can act. It is why Jacob, for example, was free to be "a quiet man, dwelling in tents" while his brother Esau was "a skillful hunter, a man of the open country" (Genesis 25: 27) without being reproached by his father for being "unmasculine." In a 2023 artice in Eikon, Ronald Phillips points out that the first man was called by God to tend to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 15), which means that Adam's fundamental vocation was that of cultivation and nurturing: It is commonly realized that men were made to be productive. Yet the idea here is not simply labor, but specifically the work of cultivating.... This idea should be extended beyond Adam’s local context to the relationships men are called to serve today. We are intended to “work” whatever field the Lord places us in, investing our energies, ideas, and passions to make good things grow. A biblical man, then, is one who has devoted himself to cultivating, building, and growing.(1) The "biblical man" to whom Phillips refers is quite different from the "stereotypical man" of decades past, including—all too frequently—the "Christian man" within the Church itself. To quote Sam Allberry, "we don't need to go further than the Bible" when talking about what it means to be male and female.(2) When we do that, we subject ourselves to legalisms of our own making. Christians may feel uneasy about the freedom we have been given to live out our biological sex. Some might argue that a line must exist, that there are "feminine" things men simply should not do and "masculine" things women simply should not do. But biblical arguments in support of this kind of line-drawing are strikingly rare. In the Old Testament, we do find a prohibition against men and women wearing clothing inappropriate for their sex: Not shall wear anything that pertains to a man upon a woman. Not shall put on a man [a] garment of a woman, for an abomination to Yahweh your God [are] all who do these [things] (Deuteronomy 22: 5, Hebrew interlinear). This statement has often been read as a prohibition against men and women wearing specific items of clothing, for example against women wearing trousers or men wearing skirts. This interpretation overlooks the fact that in some cultures, such as the Inuit, women wear trousers, and in traditional Scottish culture, men wear skirts called kilts. These practices are typically excused, however, as innocent or at least morally neutral. Why is this? Because the intention behind the clothing worn in these traditions is not inclined toward reframing one's maleness or femaleness. The takeaway from Deuteronomy 22: 5 is not that certain types of clothing are prohibited for men and women, but that certain types of clothing are prohibited when and to the extent that they confuse or distort a male's self-perception as a male or a female's self-perception as a female. So there is a biblical standard of male demeanor and female demeanor. Stated simply, the line divides action and identity. When a man determines that his "feminine" attitudes or actions establish his identity as female rather than male, or when a woman determines that her "masculine" attitudes or actions establish her identity as male rather than female, the line is crossed. Feeling or acting a certain way does not make a person more or less male or more or less female than they were at birth. This kind of determination is sinful because it submits to cultural stereotypes regarding "masculinity" and "femininity" rather than to God's sound proclamation regarding the categories of male and female. Fortunately, these stereotypes can be unlearned. When it comes to children and teenagers, none of these expressions should be discouraged unless a sin is actually being committed. A boy with "feminine" attitudes or interests or a girl with "masculine" attitudes or interests is not necessarily sinning. It is extremely unhelpful for parents or Christian leaders to say that there is something wrong with how a young person "simply is" in absence of a specific sexual sin. Therefore, no male or female of whatever age should be pressured to change their interests or attitudes simply because they aren't "masculine" or "feminine" enough. References: (1) Phillips, Richard D. 2023. A masculine mandate for today. Eikon 5(2). (2) Sam Allberry, talk at Immanuel Church, Nashville, 11/2/23.
  • Should Christians use a non-gender-conforming person's "preferred pronouns?"
    There are different perspectives on this question, even among Christians. The underlying question is whether using a person's adopted pronouns somehow participates in their sin. There is reason to be cautious about participating in the sin of another person, but it is unclear whether something as simple as a form of address condones or ratifies another person's self-perception. Let's consider both angles. On the one hand, Paul warns believers to keep a healthy distance from the sins of others : [D]o not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure (1 Timothy 5: 22). Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.Paul's warning reiterates plenty of others like it throughout scripture (Ephesians 5: 11). These warnings reiterate one found in the Psalms: I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil (Psalm 101: 3–4). In the Old Testament, furthermore, we find warnings of generational curses, in which the consequences of a person's sin are transmitted to their offspring as a generational curse: Because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die (2 Samuel 12: 14). The transmission of guilt within family lines was actually quite common (see Exodus 20: 5; Deuteronomy 5: 9, 23: 2; Exodus 34: 7; Numbers 14: 18; 1 Kings 2: 33, 21: 29; 2 Kings 5: 27; Isaiah 14: 21; Jeremiah 16: 10-11, 32: 18; and others). Outside of family lines, however, the consequences of sin usually apply only to the person who commits the sin. There is further evidence that within families, the transmission of guilt would eventually be brought to an end. In Ezekiel we read: The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them (Ezekiel 18: 20). Through Jeremiah, God confirms that a time is coming when each person will be accountable only for his or her own sin: In those days people will no longer say, 'The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge (Jeremiah 31: 29-30). These scriptures only get us so far on the question. The concern here is not whether guilt is transmissible, but whether giving voice to the sin of another person is a sin in itself. Christian author Sam Allberry offers an excellent answer to this question. First, he directs our attention to two apparently contradictory verses in the Book of Proverbs that deal with "answering a fool": Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him (Proverbs 26: 4). Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26: 5). Sam proposes that both pieces of advice answer the question of whether Christians should use a person's non-conforming pronouns: This is a wisdom issue. In one situation it might be wise to do one thing and in another situation it might be wise to do the opposite thing. So because of that I don't think I can say it's always wrong to use someone's chosen pronouns, and I don't think I can say it's always right to.(1) In other words, the choice of whether to use a person's non-conforming pronouns will depend on how the Spirit leads. Which way creates an opportunity to shine light on the gospel and possibly show the person a better way? Which way does a better job of making the love of Christ known? The answers were not always clear to the early Christians either, which is probably why Paul prayed for them in this way: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1: 9–11). In absence of a clear leading from the Spirit, one might heed the advice of Denny Burk, President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who offers a plainly practical solution: When it comes to pronouns, really the issue is not when you're talking to someone but when you're talking about them. So if you're talking to someone who is trying to identify as transgender and you're at work, you'll say 'me,' you'll say 'you,' but those aren't gendered pronouns. It's when you're talking about that person to colleagues or coworkers where it comes up, and I think Christians have the freedom, if they want to not pursue the conflict in a given situation, just to use the person's name.(2) References: (1) Talk by Sam Allberry, Immanuel Nashville, 11/2/23. (2) Denny Burk, CBMW podcast, 5/23/23.
  • Should an SSA Christian adopt a "preferred pronoun" contrary to their biological sex?
    As stated elsewhere in this FAQ, sex (male or female) is something created by God (Genesis 1: 27). It serves an obvious function in God's creation, to propagate the human species (Genesis 1: 28) and also symbolizes the relationship between God and His people, whom God sometimes describes in the Old Testament as His bride. Feeling "at odds" with one's God-determined male or female sex is generally the result of cultural conditioning, which "tells" a man that "feeling feminine" makes him female, or which "tells" a woman that "feeling masculine" makes her male. One way to manage this "gender dysphoria" is to adopt a pronoun (self-designation) that feels more suitable than "he" or "she." This may mean taking the opposite pronoun (a biological male adopting the "she" or a biological female adopting the "he"), taking on a "gender-neutral" pronoun such as "they," "ze," "xe," "per," "ey," or simply avoiding pronouns altogether, using instead a first name in place of "he" or "she." While this practice is widespread, scripture only ever refers to "male" and "female" as biological categories, never as a sense or feeling one has about themselves. In other words, it never allows for a variance between sex (determined by sexual anatomy at birth) and gender (determined by "how one feels" with regard to their sexual anatomy). This means that while "male" and "female" mean specific things from a biblical perspective, the categories "masculine" and "feminine" have no biblical basis. With this in mind, a Christian should be careful about self-expressions that explicitly disagree with their biological sex. Few people who adopt a non-conforming pronoun would claim that it is "just a word." If it were just a word, it would have far less expressive power than it does. Our identity as Christians must be premised not on a feeling or sense, however, but rather on what we know to be true. Paul offers some very incisive statements about our identity: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5: 16-17) This proclamation might obvious to Christians, but it is worth considering carefully. Following Christ brings about a change in self-perception based on what God has done, not on how a person feels. This is not an easy teaching, since human beings tend to rely heavily on emotions and feelings. But we are instructed to heed the wisdom God offers, even when it is at variance with what we sense to be true: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5). Our feelings can be confusing or fickle, after all: Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief (Proverbs 14: 13). Or simply misleading: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17: 9) It can be hard to give God's Holy Spirit the final word when it comes to the truth about our identity, as revealed through Paul: In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2: 11-12). As Christians, we are not to accept this new beginning as mere symbolism, but rather we are to follow Paul's example and grow into our new status cooperatively. That includes actively relinquishing any old self-perceptions that may misalign with the truth about us as regenerated followers of Christ: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3: 12-14). There is deep disagreement in the Church today as to whether perceptions about our sex (or our masculinity or femininity) are essential pieces of our identity to be carried with us in our walk with Christ, or whether they represent the "baggage" of our pre-believing life and should be discarded. A proper focus on Christ as the source and goal of our salvation leaves no doubt that we are to leave everything of our old selves behind. This includes rising above the names the world wants us to call ourselves or the way the world wants to (re)categorize us, so we can "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold" of us.
  • How should Christians approach transgenderism and non-binarity?
    Transgenderism and non-binarity refer to similar psychosocial conditions. Both conditions involve feeling psychologically at odds with one's sense of sexual identity. For example, a biological male might feel "mismatched" with his maleness, or a biological female might feel "mismatched" with her femaleness. In other words, their biological sex and "gender identity" (psychological sense of one's sex) do not align. This experience has been described as feeling as if one has been "born in the wrong body." A person can be transgender without also being non-binary. In fact, only 25.6% of transgender adults consider that they are non-binary. This means that a large majority (74.4%) of transgender adults identify with either the category "male" or "female." In the same way, a person can be non-binary without being transgender. This just means that they don't see themselves as falling neatly into the "male" or "female" categories (see chart below). As more and more people identify as transgender or as non-binary, Christians have been pressured to re-evaluate their "traditional" stance on human sexuality. It is a difficult debate, since "gender identity" (psychological sense of one's sex) is not a biblical concept and so the idea of mismatch between a person's biological sex and "gender identity" is unbiblical. Here's what the Bible tells us. In the beginning, God created two sexes (male and female): So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1: 27). Jesus vouched for the passage in Genesis in the gospel of Matthew: “Haven’t you read ... that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’?" (Matthew 19: 4) Beyond serving the obvious function of propagating the human species (Genesis 1: 28), biological sex also symbolizes the relationship between God and His people, whom God sometimes describes in the Old Testament as His bride. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62: 5). In the New Testament, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the "bridegroom." When questioned about his followers leaving him to follow Jesus, he replied: “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3: 27-30). Jesus referred to himself as the bridegroom when asked why his disiciples did not fast in his presence: “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast (Mark 2: 19). In Revelation, the New Jerusalem (God's Holy City) is described as the "bride:" I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.... One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21: 2; 9-10). The important take-away from this rich symbolism is that sex (as male or female) is not arbitrary or accidental or determined by "internal knowledge of one's gender identity"(1), but rather is determined by God as an act of creation and is designed with His future Kingdom in mind. Let's consider this perspective in light of both transgenderism and non-binarity. Transgender people often have similar experiences of having felt pressured or isolated by a sense of "being different" from an early age. As one FAQ describes it: Some [transgender] people may spend years feeling like they don't fit in without really understanding why, or may try to avoid thinking or talking about their gender out of fear, shame, or confusion.(2) While feelings of isolation and non-acceptance relate primarily to a sense of sexual self than to a sense of sexual attraction, transgenderism is associated with same-sex attraction (or at least non-heterosexuality) at a very high rate. For example: A 2018 survey of 108,000 people aged 16+ in the United Kingdom found that just 9% of transgender respondents identify as "heterosexual." [Most transgender respondents identify as "bisexual" (32%) or "pansexual" (14%)].(3) A 2008 study of sexual orientation in 77 transgender youth found that a majority identified as "homosexual or bisexual" roughly 10 years after initial referral.(4) The obvious parallel between transgenderism and same-sex attraction has led some LGB+ advocacy groups to view transgenderism as the expression of a new kind of homophobia. They argue that this expression comes from social pressure to conform to traditional categories of masculinity and femininity, which include attraction to the opposite sex, and which push a person to dislike and distrust any same sex attraction they might feel. This homophobia, which is internalized, causes dysphoria with one's same-sex attraction: Many people grow up exposed to antigay bias. As a result, they may fear the consequences of being gay or others viewing them as gay. They may unconsciously accept antigay bias or fear that acting in a “nonheterosexual way” might lead to rejection at work or school or in their family.(5) Transitioning to a biological sex that feels more harmonious may ease these perceptions, since a transgender person now looks, acts, and feels like the sex expressed by their physical body. Many SSA people question the motivation behind transitioning, however. They ask, "Wasn't the whole point of the Gay Rights movement from the 1960s onward to break down stereotypical perceptions of masculinity and femininity?" From that perspective, transgenderism is a big step backward. Instead of embracing the wide range of expressions associated with being male and female, transgenderism embraces the very stereotypes that the Gay Rights movement has sought hard to dismantle. A major (non-Christian) LGB+ organization called LGBAlliance has made opposition to transgenderism, particularly among children, the cornerstone of its activity: We oppose the harmful, unnecessary, and unscientific medicalization of children in the name of “gender transition.” We oppose ideologies promoting the belief that gender-nonconformity or dysphoria requires physical alteration through medical intervention. With research indicating 60-90% of gender-nonconforming children who identify as trans eventually desist and become LGB adults, we believe all children should be free from the constraints of gender roles without medicalized “transition” or the need for a new “identity.” We understand gender dysphoria as a psychological reaction to a sexist society, and view “transition” as a new form of conversion therapy designed to “fix” gender-nonconforming and LGB youth. We instead support ethical forms of counseling intended to help dysphoric youth become more comfortable in their bodies.(6) The response of LGBAlliance (and other groups like it) has been extremely controversial within the LGB+ community. Its view that transgenderism is homophobic is typically misrepresented by other LGB+ groups. For example, it has been argued that transgenderism can't be homophobic because it doesn't actually eliminate same-sex attraction! However, this argument has to do with motivation, not outcome. Transgenderism is homophobic because it is motivated by sexual stereotypes —outdated and unbiblical perceptions of how males and females should look, feel, and act. God's creation has just two sexes—but each sex has many, many possible expressions. This means boys and girls, men and women, have lots of freedom to live and thrive and still be well within the bounds of what God allows. Identifying as transgender or non-binary restricts this freedom by adopting an unnatural, narrow view of sexual expression. This narrow view can be unlearned through counseling and prayerful self-help. References: (1, 2) (3) National LGBT Survey Research Report, p. 15. (4) Wallien, S.C. & Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis. 2008. Psychosexual outcome of gender-dysphoric children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 47(12): 1413–23. (5) (6)
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