The Dilemma Of The Christian Who Struggles With Same Sex Attraction

It is written:

“Surely you know that people who do wrong will not get to enjoy God’s kingdom. Don’t be fooled. These are the people who will not get to enjoy his kingdom: those who sin sexually, those who worship idols, those who commit adultery, men who let other men use them for sex or who have sex with other men, those who steal, those who are greedy, those who drink too much, those who abuse others with insults, and those who cheat. 11  In the past some of you were like that. But you were washed clean, you were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ERV)

“Mark, if I was saved when I was baptized into Christ, then why do I still have homosexual desires?”

This is a question that has been asked of me several times in my twenty years of ministry. One common misunderstanding regarding salvation is that when we are set free from sin, it means that our sinful desires are removed from us. To further reinforce the confusion, there are those who teach that this text promises the homosexual that, in the process of forgiving the sin of homosexuality, God will take away his/her attraction for those of the same sex.

What shall we say to this?

First of all, this passage does not promise to remove desires that would lead us into sin.

Does God take away the desire of the drunkard for strong drink?

Does the Lord remove the desire of the man who would commit sexual sin with those of the opposite sex?

Of course not.

More to the point, the New Testament teaches that we will continue to struggle with sin for as long as we remain in this mortal body (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:42-49; Galatians 5:16-17; Hebrews 12:1-2). Indeed, we are reminded that God allows our struggles to help mold us and make us into what He wants us to become-His workmanship in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10).

Second, this passage is not condemning ATTRACTION but action. It is not a commentary on DESIRE, but on disobedience. As such, the sin of the passage is not in being tempted to sin, but in the choice of yielding to sin . Remember that Jesus Himself was tempted in all points as we are and yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and James reminds us that desire itself leads us to sin but is not in and of itself sin (James 1:13-15).

Third, there are those through the ages who have experienced a change from same-sex attraction (SSA) to heterosexual attraction.

“Schwartz and Masters (of the 1984 Masters and Johnson Institute Report) revealed a 79.9 per-cent success rate of homosexuals changing their sexual orientation to heterosexuality. Their six-year follow-up rate was a highly impressive 71.6 percent. 74 • Dr. Van den Aardweg (1986) reported a 65 percent success rate. 75 • Dr. Nicolosi told Dr. Ankerberg the following when Ankerberg interviewed him in 1992: “I have worked with about 175 men to date, and I can say in terms of claims of cure that when the men stay with me, in a matter of months they begin to experience change in their life.” 76 Even liberal activist Phil Donahue, a former believer in the biological theory, told homosexuals, “If you want to change, you can change.” 77 Thus, it cannot be denied that homosexuals, who want to, regularly do change their sexual orientation. Change can be more difficult for some than for others due to factors of motivation, will and circumstance. But, in actual therapy, with proper motivation and help, it would seem that change is possible, in theory, for all: “Abandoning homosexual habits, like quitting drinking, can be done and is done by tens of thousands each year.” 78,79 A press release dated May 9, 2001 reported: Robert L. Spitzer, chief of biometrics research and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, announced the results of his research regarding homosexuality at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. Spitzer stated, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation.” Dr. Spitzer, a leading figure in the 1973 APA decision that removed homosexuality from the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders, said that he began the study as a skeptic. “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.” Spitzer’s study was “based on 45-minute telephone interviews with 143 men and 57 women who had sought help to change their sexual orientation.”… “Spitzer and his colleagues found that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had achieved ‘good heterosexual functioning.’” “Due to a combination of therapy and prayer, 17 percent of the men and 55 percent of the women reported they had no homosexual attractions whatsoever. Twenty-nine percent of the men and 63 percent of the women reported ‘minimal’ same-sex attractions.”… ABC News confronted Spitzer with the claim by some gays that “change therapy” causes damage, depression and even suicide among clients who are not successful in finding change. “There’s no doubt that many homosexuals have been unsuccessful and, attempting to change, become depressed and their life becomes worse,” Dr. Spitzer responded. “I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing is that is invariably the outcome.” 80 Dr. Irving Bieber pointed out in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, “We have followed some [homosexual] patients for as long as 10 years who have remained exclusively heterosexual.” 81 Describing two books he edited, The Homosexualities: Fantasy, Reality and the Arts (1990) and The Homosexualities and the Therapeutic Process (1991), Dr. Socarides observed, “These two books contain the work of over 30 psychoanalysts—eminent teachers and psychoanalysts and medical men throughout this country—and they all attest to the fact that homosexuality is a psychopathological condition that can be altered if someone knows how to alter it.” 82”” (John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Facts on Homosexuality, 671-728 (Kindle Edition); ATRI Publishing)

Fourth, as these studies also demonstrate, not every homosexual experiences such a change of attraction.

As Brown observes:

“So, as hard as this word may seem, if you are a follower of Jesus who is same-sex attracted, you are called to put Him first and abstain from marriage and sexual activity unless you can find an opposite sex partner who will join you in marriage, even if your attractions don’t change, or unless God changes your desires to heterosexual, which has happened for many.” (Michael Brown, Ph.D., Can You Be Gay And Christian? Responding With Love & Truth To Questions About Homosexuality, 143 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary, Florida; Charisma House Book Group)

With these things in mind, what is a Christian to do who struggles with same sex attraction? Since the Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity (cf. Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Timothy 1:10), there are a few options available.

“For reasons I described in chapter 1, I do not think the option of same-sex, erotically expressive partnerships is open to gay believers who want to remain faithful to the gospel. Which leaves the gay or lesbian Christian with few options, it seems. There is the possibility that a gay Christian—while remaining gay—might choose to marry a person of the opposite sex. I have a friend who is gay, a Christian, and has been married for over three decades to a remarkable woman who knew from the beginning what she was getting into. My friend still experiences only same-sex attraction, but he has remained faithful to his wife. Somehow, they make their marriage work, despite not having sex. Such an arrangement is possible, and many gay and lesbian Christians have chosen this option. But for those who go this route, the experience of mutual desire is often frustrated in a way that it would not be for most straight Christians who marry straight spouses. The homoerotic impulses of one or both partners complicate matters, and desire may turn cold. A pastor friend once told me about a gay man he knew who got married and who, on the first night of his honeymoon, sat in a chair in a hotel room while his new bride sobbed on the bed. The man’s desire for his bride’s body was not what he had hoped, and instead of delighting in her desirability, the bride grieved her husband’s sad realization….Another option open to gay Christians who remain committed to the gospel is celibacy.* 6 Those of us who live day in and day out with the disordered desires of a broken sexuality can opt to live as single people, fleeing from lust and fighting for purity of mind and body in the power of God’s Spirit. But with this option, perhaps even more so than with the first, it seems that the lack of the sort of relationship Hannah Coulter describes—a relationship of mutual desire—is even more searing….“As I write this chapter, I am still single and celibate. I have never experienced—and have no way of knowing if I ever will—an intimate relationship with a woman whom I desire and who desires me. How many of those in my situation feel lost and adrift in the world, as I do so much of the time, without someone, a lifelong partner, who wants them, who longs and yearns for them?…“The gay Christian who chooses celibacy continually, to one degree or another, it seems to me, finds himself or herself longing for something relationally that remains tragically, tantalizingly just out of reach.” (Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, 120-125 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

As noted, It is possible that the Christian who struggles with homosexual desire will experience God’s healing for normal heterosexual relationship in this life. There are some who have been set free from this bondage, by the grace of and to the glory of, God. The homosexual should not give up hope that the Lord will intervene and bring this healing!

However, they must also realize that there are some things that God does not heal a person fully from in this life (for whatever reason).

Finally, what can Christians do in order to encourage and help those who struggle with same-sex attraction? The New Testament is clear that the church should do what it can to provide an environment of understanding and healing love and support; not only for homosexuals, but for every person. Spirits of self-righteous judgment and hatred should be discouraged (Matthew 7:1-6), and we should try to prepare ourselves to become a people who are competent to instruct, admonish, and counsel one another (Romans 15:14). We are called, after all, to be the messengers and ministers of God’s healing Word and grace (Matthew 5:13-16; 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-16).

To the homosexual who struggles with same-sex attraction: know that the God of Heaven loves you and will forgive all sin that we repent of (John 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2; Acts 17:30-31). If you continue to struggle with same-sex attraction after you are baptized into Christ and saved from sin (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38), know that God and your church family love you (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; James 5:16). Remember that even when God allows a person’s struggles to continue in this life, He will do so for good reasons, even if they are not immediately evident (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Genesis 50:20; Psalm 119:67, 71, 75; James 5:11). As Christians, we make it our aim to help bear each other’s burdens and lift each other up (Galatians 6:1-3).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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