At times a call is made to reach out to those who might follow Christ, but who struggle with unbidden sexual desires that contradict Christ’s call. The call is to deal with those unbidden desires with understanding and mercy. (By the way, that “unbidden” is a little redundant. What desire ever arrives because we have asked for it? When is a desire ever an act of will? It seems like “will” and “desire” live in separate houses inside of me. Isn’t it so also for you?) This is a good call. While Christ calls people to take up their crosses and follow Him, He does so while bearing their burden. But then, we need to be truthful about what understanding and mercy are.
The all-important question this month is whether unbidden or unwanted same-sex desires are themselves sinful. Let’s ask a more basic question: Are desires moral? I think that the Christian must answer ‘yes.’ I explain why in this post: “Desires are Moral.” Some might claim that desires are neutral. They are just there, and what matters (morally) is what we do with them. But take a look at how sin happens according to the NT writer, James:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James’ pregnancy model of temptation, if I can call it that, implies that our desires are part of the problem. There might be a long gestation period, a long time before we ‘show,’ but sin begins with us coming into union with our wrong desires. I mean, if you believe that life begins at conception, then I think that you have to grant that, according to James, so does sin, when we join ourselves to wrongful desires. We had better heed James’ analysis and stop the inevitable birth by preventing the moment of initial union with those desires.
And this is the crucial point. If we really want to help people live in God’s way for them, to be able to consistently say no to temptation, we need to help them be honest about the depth of their trouble. Repentance, if lasting, must be deep. In my experience helping people with any wrongful sexual attractions, I find that they need to disassociate themselves from these desires. They must do just what James’ analysis implies, to NOT own them, NOT come into union with them, NOT become one flesh with them, NOT identify with them as part of themselves. This is just what a husband and wife do at the moment of impregnation. He is saying at that moment, “you are a part of who I am.”
A comparison to other unwanted wrongful desires is always helpful. I offer such a comparison in the post, “Ever Since I Can Remember“. If you adopt the idea that, because your desires are persistent, you have an orientation, an unchangeable part of who you are, you have defeated yourself before you begin. Maybe some people can remain celibate with such a mindset, but such people are very few.
Yet notice in that same quotation that James also affirms the goodness of what God has created. There are good desires that should be welcomed in and embraced. Desire for companionship is good. Desire for marriage is good. These desires do not “lure and entice” us, but direct us to God’s will for us. More specific desires, that involve an object of desire, must be judged by whether they align with God’s will for us. Thankfully, we all have many good desires from the Father of Lights which we can celebrate.