Two years ago in my customary email review, I read a newsletter from Matthew Vines’ The Reformation Project that referenced the InterVarsity staff “purge.” Perhaps you remember that. The email linked to an op-ed piece written by Michael Vazquez, a gay Christian who resigned from InterVarsity “due to their discriminatory position.”
The following is an esssy I wrote in response that I feel worth reprinting...
I was moved by his report. Having once been a “gay Christian” I deeply resonate with his position, the fear he expresses and the dismay of his circumstances. I wondered what he would say to my story of freedom from homosexuality.
Most likely he would look at any fight or struggle for freedom by a lesbian with pity saying, “why not rather accept and love yourself? Eventually, you will be forced to return to the truth of who you are, a lesbian.” LGBT Christians see this passion for freedom as ridiculous—a painful and unnecessary waste, that actually suppresses the beautiful truth of who one is. They might see my current heterosexuality as a distortion of my true self.
By suggesting freedom is available am I encouraging the same “spiritual abuse” that led him to leave InterVarsity?
But why not expect change as part of the Christian experience? The fruit of “regeneration,” the theological term for the new life gained through faith in Christ, is transformation. Every ungodly mindset (behavior) begins to be purged as the Holy Spirit leads us into the promise of Romans 8—the fullness of our identity as sons and daughters of God. It is an experience of communion with God. In this process, one recognizes that certain experiences trigger thoughts and feelings that have many layers of meaning. By submitting those to the Lord we move on in greater wholeness. We move closer to the fullness of our identity as sons and daughters.
Regeneration is evidence of the Kingdom of God on earth.
One can change their life and values to accommodate or appease a deep inner brokenness. That is common. Every one of us have genes, lifestyles and behaviors that have been shaped by experience. Sometimes very painful circumstances yield powerful and wonderful character. History is dotted with leaders who have grown up in the crucible, so to speak, and emerged with timely, influential leadership. Winston Churchill is a fine example of this. However, the majority simply cope. They find ways to live with the difficulties.
Christians may break free of these traumas. They are empowered by the Holy Spirit to rise above the nature of their broken history and engage a more glorious reality—one that entirely leaves behind human nature shaped by dark circumstances. This is the promise of the gospel, our invitation to live in the Kingdom of God.
The gay Christian community contends they were born gay and therefore God blesses their nature. This decidedly unscriptural approach recognizes the fruitlessness of trying to manage human instinct through self-control. Truly, homosexuality is a human experience that seems completely natural, even God-given. Changing one’s mind, or disciplining one’s lifestyle does not release one from the inclination. Rightfully they contend that God loves us fully and completely in our human predicament. Why struggle against something that cannot be controlled?
But there are “once-gay” Christians. Those are the ones who have embraced regeneration and gained joyful heterosexual lives. They see change as the fruit of their relationship with God, not the reward of self-discipline. Both groups seek to flourish and prosper. Both should be equally respected. Both are living realities in our culture today. The difference between once-gay and gay Christians is the power of God. Both recognize the fruitlessness of using one’s own strength to engage the behavior. But gay Christians assume God will not require of us something outside of our control.
Once-gay Christians see scripture as an invitation to engage the power of God for the promise of becoming a New Creation. But why bother? God certainly loved them before they embarked on the journey for freedom.
In 1 Samuel we read the story of Israel’s desire for an earthly King.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. (1 Sam 8.4-7).
15 Now a day before Saul’s coming, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel saying, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have regarded My people, because their cry has come to Me.” (1 Sam 9.15-16.
When Israel rejected God as their king, He seeks to satisfy their desire. Rather than respond with rejection, He searches for a man among them to endorse. He elevates Saul, who looks exactly like what they are looking for. God knows that Saul’s heart is fearful, yet Saul has the appearance of a king. And so, God perfectly serves Israel with a “Prince” that matches their desire. He remains King, but elevates a prince, out of love for Israel. But greater Israel has rejected Him. They do not love Him.
Jesus says, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14.15) And, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15.13)
How do we love the Lord? We love God by contending for the scriptural promises. This journey to obey His commands yields great intimacy. It is a journey of communion and exchange. I believe we respond in love for God by laying down our lives, by seeking to obey Him with our whole hearts. This grace-filled exchange yields transformation. For some, it is a life-long process full of unexpected turns, but when it is engaged with a pure heart, it never disappoints.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16.25)
This is the challenge the Church today is facing. Are we willing to contend for the fullness of the power of God, or will we submit our lives to a philosophy that denies His power for healing and wholeness simply because it is out of our hands?
The once-gay movement is more than a counter-cultural movement. It reflects the next move of God.
Copyright © 2018 Elizabeth Woning. All rights reserved.