Imagine thinking sunlight was sinful.
Your bedroom is in the basement. You go out with friends, but only at night. You keep your blinds drawn. Vitamin D deficiency is worming its way into your bones, and your depression has gotten worse. You have low energy, and some days can barely get out of bed. You miss picnics and feeding the ducks at the pond and walking for ice cream and watching oak trees move in the wind. You have never seen a storm roll in in the summer and have never gone swimming in the ocean. You’ve never been caught blinking in the glare of sun on fresh snow, and you’ve never had a garden.
Imagine being convinced that something healthy and sacred and life-giving was sinful.
And then imagine trying to give that thing up.
Instead of spending your time fighting sins that are hindering your ability to love the world, you spend every day praying for forgiveness for stolen moments in the garden watching the sun rise.
You are begging Jesus to forgive you for that cup of coffee you sipped guiltily under the arbor while light scattered down through the leaves.
You are weeping at the foot of the Cross, trying to die to self, because of that secret afternoon moment of bare feet in dense summer grass.
Your whole life is consumed by the desire for sunlight – a desire that you know is wrong and not who God created you to be – but you can’t shake the longing.
You spend so much time praying for relief, and when you don’t get relief, you pray for the grace to bear this heavy burden of desire.
There are some ways in which this draws you closer to God. But it’s intimacy born of tears and heartache and shame.
Jesus, take this Cross from me. I know it is evil. I know it isn’t from you. I know you want better for me. But Jesus, I can’t carry this weight any more.
Imagine how the heart of God breaks for God’s children when they carry the weight of sin that isn’t sin.
Imagine how the heart of God breaks for us when we reject holy and healthy and beautiful gifts that God is longing to give to us, because we have gotten it stuck in our beautiful, scared souls that those gifts will kill us.
Imagine, my loves.
I read the piece from Jackie Hill Perry in Christianity Today, and it made me so sad.
In so many ways, Jackie is right. Jesus is saving every single piece of us. There isn’t “a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” (Abraham Kuyper). And if I’m going to be gut-level honest with you, when Jackie preaches, my souls sings. She’s one of my people – people who wants to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth, no matter what it costs.
But the hard path by itself isn’t inherently valuable.
And self-denial is not an end in itself.
Whenever we name something unclean that God has called clean, we are ripping roses and sunflowers out of our garden and calling them weeds. And we’ll never see how beautiful springtime will be.
Conservatives tell us that it is a choice between the holiness seekers and the happiness seekers. They say there is a choice between those who seek identity in Christ and those who seek self-identity as an end in itself. They tell us that everyone who identifies as a “queer Christian” is necessarily the latter.
But all of this assumes that LGBTQ relationships are sinful.¹ But what if they aren’t?
There is nothing holy about giving up something that God has called good.
In fact, it isn’t just “not holy” – it is a waste of our sacred energy that God gave us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
This frantic effort to stay on a “narrow path” that Jesus never demanded of us – how much of this energy could have been used to love and heal a broken world? How much of this energy could have been poured into the prophetic work of fighting evil and protecting the least of these?
Chop off your hand if it causes you to sin, certainly, but if you chop off your hand for something that isn’t sin, all you have left is one less hand to love your neighbor with.
We are using up our precious energy to fight sin that isn’t sin, to deny ourselves things that Jesus never intended us to deny, to give up what was never intended that we give up.
And frankly, I’ve got plenty of sins to be repented of without making sins up.
I’ve accepted my queerness as good, and y’all I am still absolutely rife with sin in every other area of my life. Every day that I move towards God and my neighbor I uncover more sins. I’m with Dostoevsky when his character mourns that “the Lord God has given us so little time, only twenty-four hours in the day, so that one hasn’t even time to get sleep enough, much less to repent!” (The Brothers Karamazov). So I’ll laugh a little, and mourn a lot, that I’ll be uncovering horrendously unexpected sins in myself until the day that I die.
But precisely because of that – precisely because I am such a damn mess, and because the world is such a mess of sin and sadness and generational sin and systemic sin and wounds that need to be held closed and evil that needs to be struck down, no matter what it costs us in power and money and prestige –
it is precisely because I am so broken, and the world is such a mess, and because I take sin so seriously, that I simply do not have the time or energy to waste repenting of things that are not sins.
The #faithfullyLGBT have too much to give to the world for us to waste away praying against a self that is God-created and God-blessed and God-ordained as holy and good.
Do not call unclean what I have called clean, the Lord begs us.
Do not, my loves. There is too much to do. There is way too much to do.
To all the young, barely out to themselves LGBTQ kids who are crying and praying in the closet – I hope you don’t hear any of this as shaming, or judgment, for where you are right now. God has infinite grace for us, wherever we are on our journey.
I just hope you know that believing it is OK to be gay, or trans, or queer, does not mean giving up the idea of following Jesus on the hard road.
I hope you know that believing you are made exactly right, in this area, does not mean you have to give up the idea of wrestling with sin.
I hope you know that costly discipleship will be just as costly if you get married to someone of the same gender or sex. I hope you know that your gay marriage will be just as sanctifying as a straight one.
And above all else, I hope you know that even if you are wrong – in either direction, whether you are wrong that it is OK to be gay or wrong that it is not OK to be gay – the wages of that sin is not death for those who are in Jesus Christ.
Even if you are wrong, you are not going to hell, you are not abandoned by God, you are not forsaken by Jesus, you are still loved for now and for eternity.
Because that is where Jackie Hill Perry is absolutely, totally, dead wrong -when she says that the wages of this sin is death.
Jesus doesn’t let any of His children escape from His love. Jesus is the shepherd running after the one lost sheep. Jesus is the woman hunting for that one coin. Jesus will never, ever let us go.
I think Jackie Hill Perry is living in sin right now. She is calling unclean what God has called clean, and that causes these little ones to stumble, and that is heartbreaking and yes, that is sin.
But she is loved and saved and sanctified by the grace of Jesus Christ, and she will be even if she calls clean things unclean until the day she dies.
And you are loved and sanctified and saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, too, my beautiful LGBTQ Christians brothers and sisters and nonbinary rainbow people. You are summoned by name, and that name is Beloved, Bride of Christ, the love of the Lover of your soul.
I pray that you find yourselves suddenly and irresistibly in the grace of Christ who calls us to taste and see that God is good. I pray that you begin to believe that sunlight is good, and it is for you. I pray that you hear the voice of Jesus inviting you into goodness and wholeness and health that is for you – for every piece of your queer, gay, lesbian, asexual, transgender, nonbinary, bisexual, beautiful, wonderfully made whole self.
Go in peace!
To love and serve the Lord.
1. I didn’t argue for a Biblical case for LGBTQ theological affirmation in this piece, because it has been done elsewhere by others, and done very, very well. Here are some great resources that can help set you on a track to understand why some of us believe that being queer isn’t part of the fall, and isn’t broken and sinful, but a gift from God, just like sunlight and grass and nourishing food. Blessings on your journey!
Websites and Organizations:
- The Reformation Project: “A Bible-based, Christian grassroots organization that works to promote inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. We envision a global church that fully affirms LGBTQ people.” This site also links you to Matthew Vines‘ great book, God and the Gay Christian, a good introduction to the scholarship.
- Queer Grace: “A growing resource-rich encyclopedia of existing and new content around LGBTQ life and the Christian faith.” Run by Emmy Kegler, this site has fantastic and accessible articles and resources on any topic in the Christian LGBTQ+ spectrum.
- Resources curated by Nathanial Totten: Nathanial is a joy, and his blog is a gift to me. This resource page is a solid place to start for LGBTQ+ Christian blogs, books, and podcasts.
My favorite books:
- A Letter to My Congregation, Ken Wilson: for the Pentecostals and charismatics among us, this is a faithful Scriptural interpretation of LGBTQ issues with a huge dash of mysticism and Holy Spirit thrown in there. My absolute favorite book on queer Christianity.
- Changing Our Mind, David Gushee: for the evangelical crowd, a scholarly and personal approach by a leading evangelical scholar.
- Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Queer Christians, and Women are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, Deborah Jian Lee: less of a scholarly argument and more of a religious journalistic approach to documenting how people historically marginalized in evangelicalism are fighting for a place at the table.
Some of my other articles on Queerness and Jesus: