Christians have bad press when it comes to homosexuality. This hasn’t been helped by the bigotry and hatred of the Westboro Baptists in the United States and their appalling website godhatesfagsdotcom. The assumption by many is that all Christians are homophobic and therefore God must be anti-gay. The reality is the opposite—John 3:16 famously declares…
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
By extension, this also means…
For God so loved gay people that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Sam Allberry’s little book, Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction is an excellent guide to this issue. It’s not shaped by politics, sensationalism, or right-wing ideologies. It’s not seeking to ride the trends of culture or church opinion. This book is an attempt to seek the mind of God honestly and sensitively from the Bible.
Allberry writes with sympathy for the matters at hand. He discloses to his readers that his own sexual orientation is homosexual. However, he does not presume to speak for everyone for whom homosexuality is an issue. As a Christian, and minister of a church, this has caused him to grapple seriously both with Scripture and it’s application in his life. He prefers not to describe himself as ‘gay’ but rather as ‘someone who experiences same-sex attraction’. He writes:
But describing myself like this is a way for me to recognise that the kind of sexual attractions I experience are not fundamental to my identity. They are part of what I feel but they are not who I am in a fundamental sense. I am far more than my sexuality. (p8-9)
Allberry explains that the way to understand homosexuality is to view it against the backdrop of God’s good purposes for gender and sexuality. We need to understand what it means to be made in God’s image, to understand one-flesh union in marriage, and to explore God’s reasons for the gift of sex. We must also recognise that in our fallen world there will be many temptations to live alternatively to God’s ways. Some of these pressures come from the outside, others come from within us. We will all face trials and temptations of different kinds—this doesn’t mean we blame our DNA or upbringing or culture, but that we seek God’s help to trust and follow him.
While acknowledging that God’s design for sex as outlined in the Bible is heterosexual, within a loving and faithful marriage relationship, this doesn’t mean that God is anti-gay. It is, however, a significant call to trust God when our preferences and passions don’t align with his. Allbery reminds Christians who are attracted to persons of the same sex, that they should take the opportunity to talk to God about it—about our confusion or distress, our temptations, or our failings and sins. He reminds us that particular feelings do not disqualify or define us as Christians. All Christians struggle with a multitude of feelings and temptations. What matters is how we respond to these things. We are also reminded that Christians need to be willing to support one another in these matters.
Sadly, many churches do not engage well with matters of sexuality, and especially with homosexuality. Many people with same sex attraction have felt deep rejection at the hands of Christians. There is much for our churches to change in how we engage with people whom God clearly loves.
Allbery offers helpful advice to Christians in engaging with people who are homosexual in orientation. He prefers to start at the centre and work outwards, rather than start at the edge and work in. The matter of sexuality is not of first importance. Jesus’ death and resurrection take centre stage. This is where God is most fully revealed. It shows his heart towards all people.
This is what I most want people to know—for people to be bowled over by the God of the cross and resurrection. And, once gripped by this, to help them think through what trusting in this God will involve—what will need to be given over to him, including our messed up sexuality.
But I want the conversation to take place in the context of the gospel, rather than start with their sexuality and try to get from there to the gospel … So when a gay couple start coming to my church, my priority for them is the same as for anyone else: to hear the gospel and to experience the welcome of a Christian community. (p63-64)
I found this book to be very helpful in understanding issues of same-sex attraction from the perspective of the Bible. It is written with warmth, insight and compassion. It upholds the dignity of all people, and it demonstrates the depths of God’s love for all, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else. I commend it especially to Christian people wanting to understand the mind and heart of God in todays cultural climate.