by Shane Scott
LGBTQ supporters have adopted the month of June as “Gay Pride” month. Rainbow symbols in support of this movement saturate social media and corporate advertising. And given the fact that those who are gay have often been targets of hateful bullying and violent harassment, I can understand why those who identify as part of that community celebrate the open acceptance of LGBTQ rights in our culture.
But I can’t support this celebration. Our Lord was very clear in his teaching about sexual ethics. He taught that God made human beings as male and female, and that the only context for the “one-flesh” relationship of sexual union is the marriage of one man to one woman for life.
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:4-6).
There are many ways to depart from the teaching of Christ. Divorce ruptures this union; premarital sex ignores this union; extramarital sex betrays this union. And same-sex actions distort this union. So while I love my gay friends, I cannot endorse and certainly cannot celebrate the promotion of conduct that defies the lordship of Jesus Christ.
In response to the observance of Gay Pride month, some heterosexuals have argued that there should be a “Straight Pride” celebration as well. And given the fact that those who refuse to concur with the relentless advocacy for approval of the LGBTQ movement are often marginalized and stigmatized, I can understand why some of those who support traditional sexual norms feel like they should counter with a celebration of their own.
But I can’t support “Straight Pride,” either. The fact that I am attracted to the opposite sex is not my fundamental identity, and it would be a horrible blunder to reduce my sense of who I am to pride in heterosexuality (or homosexuality). The Bible teaches that if I belong to Christ, I have experienced a conversion (Acts 3:19); a new birth (John 3:3-5); a resurrection to “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). And this new beginning means that I have a new identity, an identity not based on race, gender, social class, or sexual attraction. It is an identity based on union with Jesus Christ.
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11).
I love the New Living Translation’s paraphrase of that last phrase: “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”
This means that pride in anything other than Jesus Christ is foolish and misguided. Human beings apart from Christ are dead in sin and by nature children of wrath, whether straight or gay (Ephesians 2:1-3). That’s nothing to brag about! But through the redemptive work of Christ and Christ alone, we can receive mercy and be transformed into a new creation. I have no ground for boasting. All of my accomplishments amount to nothing. Christ is everything.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:7-9).
Gay pride? Rubbish. Straight pride? Rubbish. Knowing Christ? Priceless.
Besides, the reality is that my sexual desires, like my other impulses, aren’t the fruit of any great accomplishment on my part. Rather, they are the result of a complex web of factors, including my upbringing, my life experiences, and my genetics – what C.S. Lewis called our “raw psychological material” in his discussion of sexual morality in Mere Christianity. All of us have this inner swamp of the mind, and we cannot take much credit for what bubbles up to its surface (though we can surely refrain from dumping even more garbage into it).
But what all of us can do – indeed, must do as Christians – is to choose to submit those desires to the lordship of Christ in how we behave. This cross-shaped self-denial is what everyone who accepts the call to follow Jesus has agreed to practice. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Outside of the one-man for one-woman for life relationship of marriage, those who follow Jesus are to live a chaste life that pursues purity of heart (Matthew 5:8) and guards against lust (Matthew 5:27-30).
And even if we are obedient to this call, there is still no ground for boasting, since we can only obey the Lord through the grace he gives us. To be sure, we must respond to his strengthening grace. We “work out” our own salvation “with fear and trembling”, but we do so knowing that “it is God who works in” us, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). And that is why all the glory for our obedience goes to God.
And that is also why there is no room for self-righteousness among the people of Christ. We of all people should know just how unworthy we are on our own, and how undeserving we are of the love of Jesus. So if there is to be any pride, it is reserved for the Savior.
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.
-Beneath the Cross of Jesus, by Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane (1868)