Sexuality, Identity, Sin, and Denying Ourselves to Follow Christ

I highly recommend you watch “You Are Not Your Sexuality,” a talk by Sam Allberry (a Christian who has same-sex attractions) on sexuality and identity. He has much to say that is relevant to everyone (not just those with same-sex attractions) and relevant to all temptations and sin (not just those related to sexuality). I hope you’ll watch the whole thing (see below), but I want to emphasize three of his key points here.

First, I imagine that many of you were as surprised as I was at how many people were unable to understand how Christians could speak against homosexuality and think the Orlando massacre was an atrocity. Part of the misunderstanding comes from this: Our culture sees sexuality as being fundamental to our identity; Christians do not. Allberry explains:

The first thing we need to know is that our identity is in Christ…. One of the big things our culture around us is saying at the moment is that you are your sexuality. Your sexual feelings define you. They are who you are at the core of your being. They are you at your most you. And because that is the common belief, as you all know, that means everyone’s sexuality has to be affirmed. If you don’t affirm someone’s sexuality, you’re effectively rejecting who they are at their deepest level…. That is the unforgivable sin in our culture, and it is why non-affirming Christians are not just seen as wrong, not just seen as quaint, but increasingly, we’re seen as dangerous….

If you are your sexuality, then sexual fulfillment is key…. Being sexually fulfilled is intrinsic to being complete as a human being, if you are your sexuality. And so it makes the stakes incredibly high. And actually, the real tragedy of that is that it means the world ends up saying, in effect, that a life without sexual satisfaction is not a life worth living. The church doesn’t say that (I hope), the Scriptures don’t say that, but our culture does…. Jesus teaches us, and in His life He shows us, that sex and romantic fulfillment is not the key to making ourselves complete. Jesus was, after all, the most fully human and complete person who ever lived, and yet was celibate.

Second, when we’re tempted to grab something we haven’t been given by God (particularly in the case of sexual sin), it’s easy to tell ourselves the lie that we need to do so in order to be “who we really are.” Allberry points out that when we do this, we’re being the opposite of “who we really are”:

I am not defined by my sin. I’m not defined by my temptations. I’m defined by who I am before God the Father in Jesus Christ…. As I’m battling against those temptations, there are times I can hear a voice saying, “Sam, stop trying to be somebody else. This is who you are. Just accept it and run with it. This trying to be celibate and chaste, that’s just not you.” But actually, as I open the Bible, I realize that, actually, who I most truly, ultimately and fundamentally am is someone who is in Christ. And therefore, when I’m striving to be holy, when I’m striving to be Christlike, I’m not going against the grain of who I really am, I’m going with it. As someone who is in Christ, I am most being me when I am pursuing godliness, not when I'm pursuing sin.

Third, the Bible doesn’t teach that people who have same-sex attractions are in a separate category from everyone else. Jesus’ command, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me,” applies to everybody.

When Jesus says…“Repent” to everyone, Jesus is saying all of us are lined up the wrong way. All of us are oriented, spiritually, in the wrong direction…. Jesus says all of us need to reorient our lives at the most deepest level, and therefore, for any of us, discipleship is going to be costly…. There are things we’re going to have to turn around on that feel fundamental to who we are….

Denying yourself...is saying no to who you have thought you were all your life and saying yes to Jesus instead. That identity you have finessed and crafted over years has to be given over to Jesus. And friends, that is the case for all of us…. If you think the gospel is just kind of slotted in neatly to your life, not really required any particular deep changes, I don’t think it’s the gospel of Jesus you’ve been receiving. And so if we’re tempted to think the gospel is unfair to same-sex attracted people, it may well be that we haven’t really counted the cost of discipleship in our own lives.

Watch the rest of the video below.

 

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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Amy K. Hall

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