Those with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) take different journeys. Like all people, if they are single, they wonder about intergendered union: “Is marriage for me?” But the answer is a little more complex than for most people. Mark Sanders, who took the helm of Harvest USA last year, wades into that complexity with his article, “Celibacy, Marriage or Surrender,” published this month on the Harvest website.
Mark’s article is sensitive and balanced. He is aware that that simple question, “Is marriage for me,” often raises the hackles for the questioner as well as danger flags for us who are trying to help him. Strong feelings attend any discussion of it, some of them good and some not so much. Thus, Mark considers the benefits and drawbacks of three possible answers. While he makes other good points, here is my executive summary of Mark’s article: Insistence on either celibacy or marriage is bad. Surrendering yourself to Christ is good. Good word for Christian believers, Mark.
I like this treatment a lot because it acknowledges some of the good and bad impulses often at play.
I sometimes encounter SSA men and women who long for marriage and rail against God that they are not married. In this case, they are not very different from non-SSA single people who struggle with their singleness. Both folks need to not allow the very very good desire for marriage to become an idol. They need the love of Christ first to overcome their anguish. Otherwise, any marriage they do achieve will not be a good one. I often find myself saying, “No matter what, you will not miss out on the REAL wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Alternatively, I also encounter SSA guys who rail against people pushing them to marry. “You’re right!” I protest with my hands in the air. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to make you get married. There is no command in the Bible that says you have to be married. You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to.” Then, once they’ve calmed down, we can start talking about why one should or shouldn’t marry. Sometimes personal obstacles or a lack of hope are in the way of a good judgement. I say, “You don’t need women in your life to marry, but you do need women in your life.” I tell them to intentionally make friends with women in their church. Often, when they do, strange things start to happen.
So, let’s let the church honor the single (1Corinthians 7) and the married (Ephesians 5). And let us be glad that the new president of Harvest is bringing this kind of wisdom along with him as he guides that ministry.
Sam, thank you for addressing this important topic! There is much wisdom here and in Mark Sanders’ article! We men and women who experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion must refuse to be seduced by Revoicers and academics who are encouraging us to embrace a limiting “gay celibate Christian” identity and are dissuading us from identifying in Christ alone, putting off the old and putting on Christ, discovering and embracing one’s natural maleness or femaleness (the image of God in us), and actively pursuing a sanctification/transformation path with Him. The constructs of fixed, immutable “sexual orientation” and “sexual minority” identities, which are based on worldly assumptions and unbelief, are not appropriate for us followers of Jesus. When Jesus comes into anyone’s heart, He asks for everything, full surrender (as Mark Sanders describes well). I can testify personally and have seen in many others that those who are willing to address their pain, wounds, unmet needs and sin patterns, and who persevere, in hope, over time, see real and substantive change in our individual capacity to relate well to others, whether single or married. Jesus surprises us as we surrender to Him and follow Him! (John 10;10; Luke 9:23-24; Matt. 10:38-39; Matt. 7:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:20; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:22-24; Rom, 13:13-14, 1 John 1:9; Prov. 3:5-6)