Forbidden To Love?

Here is a quote from twitter

“Some people (straight and gay) are called to celibacy. That’s great. But does not mean that all gay people should be celibate. Why would God create someone gay then not allow them to love? There is simply no way that supposition could ever make sense.”[1]

I want to pick up on it because:

  1. It’s written by a clergy-person, someone who claims to teach God’s Word, pastor people and speak for the church.
  2. It’s strongly representative of a dominant position in contemporary thinking.

So, I want to pick up on two serious misconceptions in the general argument before looking specifically at love.

  1. Why Would God create someone gay …?

The assumption here is that because someone has a specific sexual orientation and specific desires that this means that God has created them that way and so that is what they are ought to be like. This is the point that we keep coming back to. Philosophers put it in terms of the disction between “is” and “ought.” We cannot say that because something “is” the case that it “ought” to be the case. Christians talk in terms of Creation and Fall. We know that God made the World “Good” but we also know that because of Sin, the Creation is now fallen. We cannot assume that because something is the case now, and appears natural that it ought to be the case.  We have to look at what God’s Word says.

  1. Some people are called to celibacy

This is based on 1 Corinthians 7 which talks in terms of people having a gift. This over time has led to the assumption that some people have a gift/calling/vocation of celibacy and others have a gift/calling/vocation of marriage. At its height, this approach leads to specific vocations within the church including monastic life and a celibate priesthood. Within popular evangelical culture, it leads to the assumption that if someone has the gift of celibacy then somehow, miraculously, all sexual desire, all longings for romantic intimacy all regrets and frustrations are removed. Of course, this links to a church culture where some people testify to how God instantly rescued them from drug and alcohol addiction and then we assume that all drug and alcohol addicts will be magically cured.

The other problem with this is that it leads to a serious misunderstanding of marriage because if the one person has the gift of celibacy then the other has the gift of marriage and presumably that means they will find married life solves all their problems, takes away all temptations and is plain sailing. Of course, when someone encounters a rocky period in their marriage, then our logic must lead us to conclude that they were not called to monogamous, long term faithful marriage after all.

I want to suggest that it is better to understand the gift here as being the specific context in which God has placed you to serve and glorify him. Up until I was 30, the context which God game me was singleness and therefore celibacy. We have members of our church  who have been married but are now widowed and once again God has given them singleness and celibacy as the context in which to serve him. I have talked with church members who have been single and celibate all their lives. It was not magically easy for them. One lady in her late 80s/early 90s shared that it ad been painful, had been a frustration, she wished she had been able to meet someone and share her life with them. However, at the same time she was able to sing “Great is thy faithfulness” and mean it.

3. “Why would God … not allow them to love?”

Did you spot the error there? Love and sex have been conflated. Try re-reading the statement again and replace the word love with “sexual intercourse” because that is what this is really about. When we realise that we can also see that:

–          God does not forbid Love  – there is no law against love.

–          Love and sex are not the same thing. Indeed, to have sex with someone may be the absolute opposite of loving them in certain contexts

–          If God is Love and God calls us to love, then it is for Him to tell us how to love.

–          We show our love to different people in different contexts in different ways. God’s Word tells us how to express that love. How I express my love for my wife, my parents, the church members in my care differs.

This is important because countercultural Christians should be concerned at the over-sexualisation of our culture. There is a hasty need to sexualise relationships and friendships both in terms of seeking physical consummation and in terms of how we label and describe people and their relationships.

Allowed to Love

Now, the challenge is this.  If we are really concerned about love and not merely about sex, then there is a genuine question about how we enable all church members to show and receive love.  This means that there should be a genuine concern about how people can build lasting, deep relationships with genuine godly intimacy.  That’s maybe the conversation we should be having.

[1] https://twitter.com/tweet_too_woo/status/987566491653562368

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