Helping men with unwanted Same Sex Attraction (S.S.A.) in the church begins by understanding how prone humans are to being deceived by our desires. According to Scripture, “we all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). This is particularly true of men who have wrongly concluded that their very identity is defined by their desires.
Begin with the Gospel
Wise biblical counselors will use the deep theology of the gospel to help believers struggling with unwanted S.S.A. They will help them find their identity in Christ and overcome the desires that consume them. The place to begin, of course, is with the Gospel itself.
The good news of the gospel is not only about life in heaven forever. It’s also about God’s promise to provide everything we need in this life to equip us to live for the glory of God and our own joy.
Benefits of the Gospel
The first benefit I like to share with young men struggling with S.S.A. is that God has given him a new identity.
Unfortunately, it seems in vogue these days for young men to refer to themselves as “Christian Homosexuals.”1 But this betrays a heart that is looking for identity in all the wrong places.
“We are always living out of some sense of identity,” Paul Tripp reminds us. “You are constantly telling yourself who you are, and the identity you assign to yourself has much to do with how you respond to the difficulties of life.”2 For Christian men who struggle with same sex desires, it is neither biblical nor helpful to self-identify as “homosexual.”
The Christian who considers himself a homosexual must be helped to develop a new sense of self-awareness. We are not just men. We are image-bearers. When God contemplated the creation of man He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God created human beings in such a way that uniquely qualifies us to represent Him on earth. For example, we are able to love because God is love (1 John 4:8). We are able to show mercy because He is merciful (Luke 6:36). We are to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Sin, however, has twisted and severely damaged man’s desire and ability to image forth these and other attributes of God. But once again, this brings us back to the gospel.
The promise of the gospel is that in Christ, the image of God is being restored in us. Paul revealed this when he said to the saints in Corinth, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is what the Christian life is all about. As we fix our hearts upon the glory of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the image of Christ. Every circumstance, every joy, every temptation, and every sorrow, every success and every failure we experience is sovereignly orchestrated by God to produce in us more of the likeness of Jesus.3
Most believers who wrestle with S.S.A. struggle with a case of mistaken identity. They see themselves as homosexuals when in fact they are image-bearers whose identity is found in Christ, not in their impulses and desires.
Wise biblical counselors will be clear on this point. As we counsel men struggling with S.S.A. the goal is not simply celibacy. The goal is Christlikeness. The goal is to live in the freedom of the Spirit rather than the bondage of the flesh. Nevertheless, they will likely tell you, especially in the first several counseling conversations, that they daily feel the gravitational pull of the flesh.
This was exactly Paul’s concern for the church in Corinth. He writes, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
We too are called to live in “pure devotion to Christ.” In other words, we are called to live in undivided loyalty to the One to whom we are married; that is, Christ. There are many terms used in the New Testament that magnify the glory of our union with Christ. “Homosexual” is not one of them. The concept of a same sex orientation is not only unbiblical, it strengthens the enslavement to one’s desires4 and suppresses any hope for change.
A Christian’s true identity is found in union with Christ. Before salvation, all of us stood before God like Adam, naked and alone in our sin, having nothing to anticipate but the experience of God’s just and holy wrath (Ephesians 5:6). Now, however, we stand before God “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-13). This is one of those truths that drive us all into the theological deep end of the gospel.
To be “in Christ” is to be viewed by God as a completely new person. You have been “born again” (John 3:3). You are a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You have been given a new Father (2 Corinthians 6:18), a new name (Revelation 2:17), and a new destiny (John 14:2). To say one is “in Christ” is like saying a person is “legally married to the Son of God.”5
1 Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, (Zondervan: Kindle Edition, 2010), 21.
2 Paul David Tripp, Broken Down House: Living Productively In A World Gone Bad. (Shepherd Press, 2009), 35.
3 See Romans 8:28-29.
4 Albert Mohler, Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the Sexual Revolution, (Multnomah Books, 2008), loc. 545 of 1447.
5 Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change, (New Growth Press, 2006), 53.