Identity and sexuality

Gender symbols graphic found via GoogleA few posts ago I wrote about how a baptized believer’s first and primary identity is in Jesus. I said that how believers identify themselves in connection with, as examples, their family, occupation, wealth, nationality, and political leanings all fall under the lordship of Christ. One other example I gave was how one sees oneself sexually, adding that “if you are straight person who loves Jesus, you have more in common with a gay person who professes Jesus than you do with a husband and wife who profess nothing.”

A few people asked me to clarify what I mean by that. It was also suggested to me that only straight people are part of God’s Kingdom. Based on Scripture and my particular church tradition along with knowing Christians who do not see themselves as straight, I cannot believe that. Here’s my attempt to clarify and explain.

First, it’s important to hear that I was writing about identity not behavior, though I recognize the distinction between the two is often tenuous. I was referring to the labels one might put on oneself or have put on them by others.

Every human being on the planet is created in the image of God, and every Holy Spirit-filled person has Christ at the center of their being. Yes, sin brings catastrophe to our world, to our relationships, even to our selves. Yet God saves us by His grace, equipping us to do good in his world as His ambassadors. This is critical and central to who a Christian is.

Contrary to this biblical worldview, voices in our culture – both within the church and in society more broadly – would advocate that who one is sexually is at the core of their being, as though whether you identify as straight or as part of LGBTQ+ community is the most important thing about you. Such a stance, however, puts one’s sexuality above the lordship of Christ, saying implicitly or explicitly that being straight, gay, or other is beyond the range of Christ’s redemptive work. Jesus, however, “is Lord of all.”

My tradition, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, holds that one’s sexual orientation on its own neither qualifies nor disqualifies a person to be a follower of Jesus under His lordship. It’s what people do in light of their sexual orientation that reveals whether they are in Christ and Christ is in them.

In contrast to “homosexualism” (defined as “explicit homosexual practice” that “is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture”), same-sex attraction is something many genuine followers of Jesus experience. I know some who are comfortable with the LGBTQ+ label; others are not. Regardless, these are Christians who participate in God’s Kingdom-building endeavors and who will enjoy eternity with Jesus.

Therefore it makes sense that, to continue quoting the CRC’s position statement, “persons of same-sex attraction may not be denied community acceptance solely because of their sexual orientation and should be wholeheartedly received by the church and given loving support and encouragement. Same-sex oriented Christians, like all Christians, are called to discipleship, holy obedience, and the use of their gifts in the cause of the Kingdom. Opportunities to serve within the offices [i.e. deacon, elder, and pastor] and the life of the congregation [i.e. participating in ministry and fellowship] should be afforded to same-sex oriented Christians as well as to heterosexual Christians.”

This posture shows the church is different from the world in that a worldly label can never ultimately define a person. One’s identity in Christ supersedes all other identities, including sexual identity. The alternative would be confessing that Christ is not actually Lord of all. And that is a confession I am unwilling to make.

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