Today, we do not live in a traditional culture. We do not even live in an industrial culture. We live in an individualistic, narcissistic culture. Which means, when you are ready to give yourself a story-to give your life meaning and to define who you are-you do not look outside yourself. You look inside yourself. You see how you feel. You follow your dreams. And when you combine that viewpoint with a sexually liberated culture that holds sex up as the ultimate expression of your humanity…well, there you have twenty-first century America. As a culture we have created a story for ourselves. The story is that to find meaning, you have to look at your strongest desires, because your strongest desires are your truest desires. Therefore, before you can get very far in that self-discovery, you will need to figure out your sexual desires. The story says until you follow and chase down that dream of self-discovery and until you express sexually on the outside who you really are on the inside you cannot really be a person in the truest sense. Many believe that identity is achieved by your full expressions of what you feel about yourself and sexuality is the most important thing about who you are. That is the story we are hearing. That is the story we believe is saving us, but that is the story that is killing us.
If you want to test my philosophical theory on a street level, go into Starbucks and tell someone you are a virgin because you choose to be. Recently Starbucks featured quotes from Oprah Winfrey on its coffee cup sleeves. Let me share a couple with you:
“The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want.”
“Follow your passion. It will lead to your purpose.”
See, even while we sip our six dollar coffee, we are telling each other, “If you are going to find a story and a purpose, you need to look inside and follow your desires and your strongest passion”. So, if you walk into Starbucks and tell people you are a virgin only because you choose to be, brains will explode, but not from caffeine! This is because if the coffee sleeves are true, and if the idea that “you cannot be a true human until you have sex” is true, then the story collapses when you find a complete person who is denying him or herself sex-even if they wants it. When the stories we create begin to crumble-the very stories Errol Morris says “are the way we survive”-well, we will do anything we can to save ourselves. We will attack. We will say hateful things. We will call names. We will ostracize. We will write blogs. We will leave comments on those blogs and then comment on the comments. That is the problem with both the church and the prevailing culture when it comes to what we are saying about homosexuality, being LGBTQ, or same sex attracted. We cannot even talk about it without stepping on a land mine or violating someone’s taboo.
When we all begin to look at the Bible to figure out what the Bible says about homosexuality, we are like most “Christian movies”. In the words of a reviewer of the new Left Behind movie, “There is always a message, but rarely a story”.
We approach the Bible as if it were six isolated passages from Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, and Timothy and if we can just prove that those passages say what we want them to say, well then, we win-whatever side we are on. However, this is not about winning. This is not even about me or you or our agendas. This is not about a specific community. It is about people. It is about your sons and daughters and your brothers and sisters. It is about our children. It is about our future. More importantly, it is about what we are telling each other about God.
Listen, you have not suffered in the same way I have. I have not suffered in the same way you have. I have never been locked in a concentration camp. I have never had a sword at my throat or a gun at my head. I have always had full use of all my limbs. I can see. I can hear. I can breathe without a machine to help. I have always had relatively good health. I am sure that without a doubt that there are those of you who would look at me and say that you are depressed, chronically sick or even gay. You might look at me with disdain, but Jesus does not give us license to spend our days comparing our suffering to other people’s suffering and feeling sorry for ourselves because one of our lives seems particularly more difficult than someone else’s suffering. The good news Jesus brings is not “Follow me and I will be fair with your suffering”. The good news Jesus brings is, “come and die with me, and you will also live with me. Put to death the deeds of the flesh, and get ready for resurrection.” Jesus comes saying, “take up your cross which may be of a profoundly different weight than your brother or sisters, but as you follow me, I will not leave you for a second”. When Jesus addresses our suffering, He says to focus on following, not fairness. This is because you have been adopted and that means that Jesus walks with you in your suffering. Even if you are sexually attracted to the same gender, He is going to do some very beautiful things with you. It means that even when it feels like you are missing out, God is not offering you less. In fact, He is given you a unique kind of grace to help you in your time of need. So, let me share with you three things that God is doing for you, and in you, and with you. Three things you can take deep comfort in whatever your suffering is.