“I am [insert abbreviation or acronym].” How we fill in that blank has radically changed over the years. Two hundred plus years ago it was, “I am an American.” One hundred and fifty years ago it was, “I am from the South.” Less than fifty years ago it was, “I am having free sex.” If you were to study how our country’s consciousness has evolved on this since our founding, I think we’d see a balkanization, that is, a rapid dividing and sub-dividing ourselves into smaller and smaller special interest (or behavior) groups. Most popularly, today, many answer “I am a homosexual” or “I am a lesbian.” The rest of us don’t know with what to fill the blank and we certainly don’t know how to handle those who fill it with a rainbow word. The cultural stream has been moving us down its length in our little rubber inner tubes until now the Christian finds himself in an unfamiliar and scary land.
In a series of posts, I want to discuss this phenomenon. Not balkanization per se, but how in our cultural moment, our identity – the way we describe ourselves – has been reduced to our sexual practices. At issue today is that there are people (Christians and non) who believe it is correct and morally praiseworthy to fill in the blank with their sexual practices. The line between identity (“I am”) and practice (“I do”) has been painted over. What I believe we cannot do, is turn to the Bible in moments of proof-texting weakness and try to use that as a map and compass to get our bearings. Indeed, the Scriptures are the light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105) when used rightly. There is no other way out of this but we must be circumspect.
This issue, like no other in my lifetime, will explode with the slightest agitation. But in the hands of Christ, the fragility is hardened and dialogue and redemptive action is possible.
First, then, “who am I?” I am a male person made in God’s image. It is very simple: a non-chaotic God fashioned me male in my mother’s womb. As a male, I am in His image. My wife, a woman, is also equally and indelibly in His image, too. Genesis 1:26-27 lays this out clearly
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness….So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Once conceived and then born, there’s no going back. My Mom and Pop looked and, yep, “He’s a boy!” I could’ve been a boy or a girl and it was God’s choice that I am male. My fate was sealed! There is more, however. Genesis 3 narrates a cataclysmic event in the life of mankind. Christians call it the “Fall.” What is described is our forebears’ decision to follow their own dictates rather than God’s. He warned them what would happen if they did; they did it anyway. So, fast-forward to me in my born maleness. This Fall leaned into my life and from the first moment of conception, as I was being made in the image of God, I was also utterly corrupted. Not totally but utterly.
The proof is in the pudding: once when I was young, I threw a potato at my Mom as she was driving down the highway. I was a very little boy and yet I was a very bad boy! I sinned because I was born a sinner. The Bible tells us in Genesis 9:6 that in this Fallen Age at conception of all humans two things are woven together: God’s image and our corruption. Corruption. I am still male but a corrupt one: like a cup of water after a drop of red dye has been added. The red dye is everywhere in me but I’m still the made-in-God’s-image-me. I’m not the red dye.
For me, the difficultly in living as a male takes many forms. In my soul is mingled a love for Christ and love for His competitors, that is, things that will captivate me such that I will want them more than Christ. One of those I call “OSA” or opposite sex attraction. My whole life I have been beset with it: gazing, fantasizing, plotting, hoping…even after I married my dear wife, the battle rages on. I don’t have SSA (same sex attraction). Why? I don’t know. I know two things from the Bible, however. As a single man and as a married man, my battle with OSA (and other things) rages as much as any other human battles a first-tier attraction. As a pastor, though, I know men (and women) who battle these things and more and the instruction to us all is the same:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15)
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
I also know for me to say, “I am heterosexual” isn’t a statement of identity, it is one of practice. Remember: I am not the red dye. Unless we recover an understanding that separates out statements of identity from those of practice, many who self-identify based on their sexual practices will be in the darkness of chaos and confusion. There is a better way: John 14:6.