Sex, Love & Celibacy

 

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I know, LORD, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23 HCSB)

When God calls a person to Him, a life once lived by faith in self soon becomes a journey into the unexpected; a trust in His promises and love. To the one who does not know the Lord, passions will guide his choices and behaviors. Fulfillment of desires the ruler of his days. Perhaps appearing a ‘good’ person, yet one led toward making reality of his dreams; dreams built on a foundation of self-indulgence, happiness, satisfaction, and arrogance. A mistaken belief that a man can determine his fate; make his life in this world what he would have it to be; find lasting joy in a dying world.

A New Day

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading. ~Oswald Chambers

For no reason that is of me, God chose me out to be one of many upon whom He would lavish His loving mercy and kindness. Prior to the work He began in me, I didn’t feel any particular need for Him; I was doing okay on my own. Not a fantastic life, but surely an adequate one. A life in which I was free to pursue my own desires and find happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction by whatever means I felt most suited me. I knew of the Christian God from a distance and I determined there is nothing good about a god who would frown upon homosexuality and yet develop in me an orientation hungry for companionship and love in relationship solely with other men. Prior to encountering God, my life on this earth was just fine.

In the opening days, weeks, and months of this new life in Christ, my head was swirling with labels, rules, and what-if’s. Can I be alone with another Christian man, or woman for that matter? Can I have a male roommate? Can I have a non-sexual committed relationship with another man? Can or should I still call myself gay? Am I still a homosexual? Am I ex-gay, post-gay, or pre-straight? Gay Christian, Christian gay, celibate gay, same-sex attracted, or same-gender attracted? Am I a Christian, or am I a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction?

Am I a Christian who struggles? No doubt! But is my struggle now, today, really all that much about homosexuality? I don’t think that it is. My struggle, like every other Christian’s, is in finding complete satisfaction in my relationship with God, through Christ, and in keeping Him #1 in all that I think, all that I do, and all that I don’t do. Sure, largely as a result of being gay I am unable to marry and satisfy my human need for close companionship in this way, resulting in periods of loneliness. I experience temptations related to my attractions as well. But somewhere along the line, and I don’t know exactly when, this struggle of mine has by and large ceased to be one that pits my same-sex attractions against God’s Word. Nor does a sexual relationship continue to seem necessary to me as a means of deriving a sense of security, companionship, and love.

Exchanging Passions

Few things got under my skin with such irritation as the well-intentioned suggestion of a friend that “you never know, God may change you and you will get married to a woman some day”. The line would sometimes come my way in response to me stating something about my life-long celibacy and the overwhelming likelihood that God would not be changing my attractions from gay to straight. I know that the words were offered to me in kindness and compassion, but they led me to feel as if I would really not be whole in my fellow Christian’s eyes until I experienced some sort of divine intervention in my sexuality and a miraculous gay to straight conversion. Of God’s power and ability to change any aspect of me I’ve never had a doubt, however the reality is that despite some claims by ex-gay groups to the contrary, God rarely intervenes in this way. The cases of Him changing a person’s orientation, their sexual attractions, from homosexual to heterosexual are few and far between. And that aside, when I contemplated a radical change like that in myself, I didn’t believe that it would make me any more holy or pleasing to God. In my estimation, God has never been against my love for or even attraction to men; it is sexual behavior outside of marriage that He is against.

Sex ≠ Love

Sex and love are intertwined with each other in 21st Century America. A loving relationship, be it heterosexual or homosexual, is thought to need sex. My thoughts were very much in line with this modern concept of love; that the deepest of love is expressed through sex. And it was a flawed definition of love that perhaps was one of the biggest stumbling blocks as I tried to sort out my attractions and my faith. It was this notion that because my deepest attractions and longings for companionship were for men, I would never find happiness, completeness – love – without a sexual expression within my chosen relationship.

Most any mental health professional will tell you that one of the requirements of a happy marriage is a healthy sex-life. Most LGBT folks and perhaps the majority of heterosexuals as well would propose that a person like me, one who chooses celibacy, is simply in denial. That me and the many men and women who have made the choice to submit our will to that of the Lord’s are dangerously suppressing our sexuality. That is “suppression” is somehow unnatural, unhealthy, and destructive. I disagree. I’m in no way denying who I am, what I desire, and what I’m attracted to. Further, in the event that God suddenly became completely absent from me, I have no doubt that I would again be searching for love within sexual relationships with men. He sustains me on this course He has planned for me and gives me a desire for Him which far outweighs my desire to again place my hope in the fleeting promises of a fallen world. In various passages of the Bible, celibacy and singleness are held up as honorable. Surely God would not hold up a behavior as good which is unnatural or destructive. Simply put, my hope is in Him and in His promises to me.

Real Love

The expression of love is accomplished in many ways. God describes love in detail throughout the Bible and perhaps most thoroughly in 1 Corinthians 13. Worldly ideas and definitions aside, the love God calls us to is one which is patient and kind, humble and forgiving, slow to anger, truthful, self-sacrificing, hopeful, unselfish, and enduring. These things are present in the holiest of love’s. And absent from all these characteristics of love is sex. A loving relationship does not require a sexual component as some sort of reinforcement that love is present or deep. And the existence of a sexual relationship in no way necessitates any presence of real love. The presence of joy in a relationship, including the closest of friendships is not in the least bit dependent on sex. In fact, quite possibly, were a loving relationship to dissolve in the face of any number of sexual difficulties, I would propose that the relationship was never built on a solid, strong love for one another or for God.

Jesus says that the greatest love is in dying for a friend. King David says that the love between himself and Jonathan was more wonderful than the love between him and any woman. It is not my intent to downplay the love between spouses in a marriage. It is, however, very much my intent to build up and encourage those, who like me, have feared that celibacy precludes them from the closest of loving relationships. It does not. Celibacy is many things, including a pathway to loving others independent from the sexual complications that can hinder true, godly love. In fact, in dying to yourself and your worldly passions; in experiencing God’s comfort in times of loneliness, you may find yourself in very close and loving relationships with others, and to introduce sex into the relationship would only serve to cheapen that love. For the celibate gay man such as myself, joy is found in the deep love for another, throwing off the old bondage of the necessity of sex in love. The closest of relationships are those that are not dependent upon sex to sustain them; rather they are ever deepening through one’s desire to see oneself and the other draw ever closer to Christ. Love rejoices in the truth and knowledge that God has a better way than does the world; He has a better definition of love than does the world.

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