In Same Sex Attraction and the Gospel – Part 1, we worked through some of the benefits of the gospel. The wise counselor will also be faithful to discuss the demands of the Gospel.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
To the church in Colossae Paul said, “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
What does the gospel require of us?
Put off Ungodliness
Clearly communicating the believer’s identity in Christ and its resulting benefits are essential for helping believers who struggle with S.S.A. experience real, lasting change. But with these benefits the gospel also makes corresponding demands upon the believer’s life. Paul teaches us that the grace of God instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
The privilege of becoming a child of God comes with the expectation that we will pursue a life that is worthy of our Father, the King (Colossians 1:10). He is not only our Savior and divine benefactor; He is also Lord. Moreover, He has a purpose for our lives that we are invited and expected to joyfully pursue. What is that purpose? Simply stated, we exist to show the world what God is like.1 This has tremendous implications for the kinds of changes that need to take place in behavior for a Christian struggling with S.S.A.
The effective counselor will help men identify and put off every behavior that feeds his S.S.A.
If necessary, this will mean breaking off certain friendships, setting up an internet filter, avoiding certain places and people that have been a problem in the past.2
Put On Godliness
We must also consider what godly practices to put on. Here are just a few examples of godly behavior to put on:
- Daily discipline of reading and meditating on Scripture.
- Build male friendships that will encourage his accountability, show him how to relate to women as a godly man, and perhaps one day even encourage him to marry.
While addressing godly behavior is certainly important, wise biblical counselors know that the goal of ministry is not just behavior change. Our aim is also to bring about significant change at the deepest level of a man’s secret impulses and appetites as well. God wants something more for the Same Sex Attracted Christian than a life of tortured celibacy. He wants him to enjoy a life that is free from slavery to sinful desires. Cravings are not a secondary issue; they are primary because behavior is always the fruit of what we worship and desire. But it’s at this very point that same-sex-attracted men tend to stumble. This brings us back to the idea of sexual orientation.
Many have been told that their same-sex desires are owing to their “natural” sexual orientation.
“Men don’t choose to become attracted to other men,” we are told. “They are born that way.”
At first blush, this appears plausible considering the testimony of many homosexual men. One man writes,
“There was nothing that felt chosen or intentional about my being gay. It seemed more like noticing the blueness of my eyes than deciding I would take up skiing. There was never an option.”3
He goes on to argue that he knows he has a homosexual orientation because same sex attraction feels natural.
Most Christians (and many Christian counselors) who would never condone homosexual behavior accept the idea of homosexual orientation. They may disagree on its cause, but they accept that some people are just born that way and have to learn to cope with it as best they can. But this misses the clear teaching of Scripture. Witness Romans 1:29-32. Speaking of the unregenerate man, he describes them as:
“being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Paul shows us that homosexuality comes from the same heart that generates greed, envy, strife, disobedience to parents, and gossip (Romans 1:29-32). Same-sex attraction feels natural for the same reason many other sins feel natural. Like greed, envy, and gossip, it does not need to be learned, nor does it need to be consciously chosen. It is one of the natural capacities of the idolatrous heart of man that craves and seeks satisfaction in things other than God. Dr. Edward Welch points out that, “Most sin works on a level where we do not feel that we self-consciously choose it. To use Old Testament language, our sin can be ‘unintentional,’ but that does not make us less responsible.”4
The human heart is not born with an orientation toward homosexuality; it is born with an orientation toward sin. And we are responsible for the way we sin even when it appears in the form of desires that we did not consciously choose.
As Tim Chester writes, “The Bible’s radical view of sin tells that we are responsible. We always do what we want.”5 Paul speaks of the Christian life as a battle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). To dismiss sinful desires merely as a product of one’s homosexual orientation (Tim Chester argues) will keep one from experiencing, “the privilege of rooting out sin at the level of the imagination.”6
The good news is that God has provided what we need to overcome our enslaving desires. In fact, it was for this purpose that Jesus came into the world. It is for this purpose that He died on the cross. It is for this purpose that he now says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What requirement must one meet in order to come to Jesus? Only this, that you have a burden. Who qualifies to fellowship with Jesus: “All who are heavy laden.” You need only open yourself to Him and He will receive you to Himself.
One of the most hope-filled Scriptures for men struggling with unwanted Same Sex Attraction is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 where Paul declares,
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality [etc] will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Then he says, “And such were some of you. 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.”
Such were some of you! The implication is, “But not anymore!” Even in Paul’s day men who struggled with Same Sex Attraction experienced real and lasting change. And so can the men who come to you for help.
1 cf. Ephesians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 2:9.
2 John Piper’s A.N.T.H.E.M. plan for dealing with temptation is an excellent resource that should be incorporated into this kind of counseling. http://www.covenanteyes.com/2009/08/04/john-piper-on-fighting-lust-anthem/
3 Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, (Zondervan: Kindle Edition, 2010), 29.
4 Alber Mohler’s book, Desires and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance, offers an excellent treatment of the origin of the concept of homosexual orientation.
5 Tim Chester, You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. (Crossway, 2010), 103.
6 Ibid., 10