written by a mother who attends King’s . . .
Christians talk about standing up for Biblical marriage. We launch initiatives to help fight for it. We get into a mile long drive-thru line on Chick-Fil-A Day. And we try to teach our kids about this truth. Yet at the same time, everywhere we turn, it seems as if we are losing ground when it comes to the culture war and the political and legislative realm regarding this issue.
I believe that a big part of our problem is that we Christians do not have a proper and thorough understanding of the Bible’s presuppositions about the topic. Therefore, even in the process of attempting to stand for biblical truth, we unknowingly concede the argument. Why? Because we are not differentiating between the Biblical presuppositions and flawed ones. We unknowingly slip into basing our own argument on the flawed logic by which the world is arguing for the supposed goodness of the dragon. By failing to recognize the non-Biblical presuppositions which they are accidentally accepting, all the time I hear Christians shooting themselves in the foot, right out of the gate (whether at a dinner party, or on a talk show), when they attempt to remain true to biblical truth on this topic.
To flesh out the problem in our thinking and get to the true heart of the matter, we must begin by considering another topic altogether. Thus, I begin by asking the fundamental question about life and the reality of human existence, a question which we all must ask, regardless of what we believe:
What are we? On the most fundamental level, what determines the nature of who we are?
Have you ever been to a “viewing” before a funeral? Or a funeral with an open casket? When my mother was dying, I was able to sit by her bed and hold her hand. As her breathing became slower and more laborious, we hung on every breath in the silent room, wondering if this one would be the last, or whether there would be another one…until, finally, she exhaled one last time, and then inhaled no more. We were frozen in our places, with my hand still in her hand, still listening, still waiting to see if another breath would come, but it did not. Then the nurse came over and determined that she was indeed “gone,” noting the time of death. Still I sat there without moving, my hand in hers, in the familiar, soft, loving mother’s hand, the lovely hand that I had known since a little child. I continued to sit there for several minutes more as the shock of her departure sunk in. But finally, an awareness came over me…the awareness that “she was gone.” What was left behind here with me in this acrid smelling nursing home room was just a shell, an empty shell of who she had been…but SHE was elsewhere now. She was gone. So I left the room, very much at peace about walking away, and went home.
A few days later at the funeral there was a little room where they had her body, laid in a casket, dressed in her favorite blue dress, her hair done nicely, and face with lots of makeup. They did a real nice job on her empty body, but I had already said my good-byes, and felt no need to go in there.
At these open casket occasions I always notice that heavy makeup. I truly mean no disrespect, and I understand what an important thing a “viewing” can be for loved ones who need to find closure. But usually when there’s an open casket I tend to think I am looking at something that resembles a wax museum model. Somehow there is a very different quality to that empty shell of a body. To me it always seems so clear that “that person is gone.” That person, to whom we have the attachment, is elsewhere, and what we are looking at in this viewing is just an empty shell left behind.
Last summer my friend buried her dear father. At the viewing they had him laying there in his favorite motorcycle vest, his hands folded on his chest…and a heavy layer of makeup on hands and face. As I sat with his dear grandchildren, again I couldn’t help but think of how he was not here in the room with us. There before us was an empty shell of who he was.
Not many people realize that the Judeo-Christian teaching that “man is made in the image of God” is a concept that is not at all universally held. In fact, of all world religions, this idea is only found in the Bible.
My pastor once said that “people think that we consist of a body that has a spirit…but that this way of looking at it is wrong.” I was quite puzzled by his statement, because I had always understood, “made in the image of God” to mean that man has a spirit as well as a body. But my confusion was cleared up as soon as he finished his point: “No, the opposite is true. It is much more accurate to say that man is a spirit, that (for now) has a body.” In other words, the essence of what we are is much more so our eternal spirit than our mortal flesh.
It is not our flesh that defines who we are. So my first assertion is this: Our flesh is not what defines us.
Jesus often spoke of the resurrection. You can infer it from Martha’s response when he arrives after Lazarus’s death. He refers to it when the Sadducees ask him about the woman who was widowed 7 times. Paul often speaks of it. When Jesus arose from the dead, he was the first to have this “resurrection body.” And the Epistles make it clear that we who are in Christ are to hope in the day when our spirit will also be clothed in our new resurrection bodies.
As I stared at my friend’s father’s body laid out in the casket before us, my mind turned to Paul’s analogy in 1 Cor 15, which we had recently read at church. I opened it up and meditated upon it again. I thought about how I might help the grandson to understand this passage. I though how I could ask him to think of a sunflower seed. Paul here is trying to make an analogy in which our lives in this world, in our present bodies, are like a seed. When our time comes to an end in this body, then this “seed” is buried. Any school child has seen the time lapse photography of a seed that is buried in the soil, and how the shell of the seed, the husk, breaks apart. Now if you were to find some young person who had never in his life seen (or heard of) a sunflower, and you showed him a nice big plump sunflower seed, you might rave about the beauty of this seed. You might admire the stripes, and feel the texture, and marvel about its strong and wonderful properties. But if you ended there, just talking about celebrating this wonderful seed, without ever divulging anything more about the nature of the seed – well then you would be withholding very important information, and your listener would really be missing the point about sunflowers. Anyone who knows about sunflowers would realize how ridiculous it would be to admire and appreciate only the seed, as if it were an end unto itself. Instead we would envision those images of that hull breaking open, of the little germ that was inside, revealed only after it had been buried and the shell of the seed had split open and was ruined (had “died”). No one would mourn the loss of those little husks because we know how much more there is to the true essence of the sunflower. We can imagine the green shoot pushing up through the soil and then the first two little leaves taking form. Next we would picture the whole time-lapse video of this amazing process of transformation, as this fragile little seeding grows into an 8 foot high, thick stalked flower head towering over our heads. Finally we’d picture the opening of the first glorious flower with its hundreds of rich, nutritious seeds arranged in a beautiful, mathematically predictable spiral pattern ( the Fibinacci numbers), a pattern that matches exactly the same spiral dimensions found in the shape of the Milky Way galaxy in which we live.
Paul tells us to have a proper perspective about our lives in these bodies in this world. They are like the seed. It is only when these bodies in which we are now clothed are dead and buried that our true natures will become manifest. This is referred to as the “first death,” and is much less to be worried about that the “second death,” described in Revelation. We are eternal spirits – all of us are – this is the true essence of who we all are (whether or not we believe it is true) – and the day will come when we all will have to stand before God. Those who are in Christ – who have received the free gift of his death on the cross, by which he has reconciled us to God – will be covered by a robe “washed white in the blood if the Lamb.”
So we must be very clear about the true nature of who/what we are – we are eternal spirits, who for now, are clothed in a mortal body, but for an infinitely longer period of time we will be clothed in our immortal nature. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor 15 vv 36-57)
So you see, our flesh does not define us.
I would like to say to every person in this world – Good news! Your flesh is not what defines you. You are spirit. You are so much more that just flesh, so much more than just a “highly evolved primate” like they may have told you in science class. You are certainly not just another animal, like your teachers may have told you. You were made in the image of God. And you are spirit. The ‘flesh and blood’ side of you is as minor a part of your true essence as is the tiny husk of the sunflower seed compared to the glorious towering sunflower.
Good news! Your flesh is not what defines you.
So now with that in mind, let us leave these lofty heights and delve down into the mire in which many of us find ourselves living day to day. The old King James language often refers to “lusts of the flesh,” and it is referring to a very broad range of things. It can refer to chocolate, or gourmet meals at fancy restaurants. People who love to eat too much are dealing with a problem with an excessive “lust of the flesh.” Other people may not struggle with that weakness, but they may have a hard time when it comes to shopping. They may have an over-spending habit, this is also a type of lust of the flesh (or possibly lust of the eyes). Some people are always chasing after thrilling experiences. They may be mountain climbers, or just world travelers. They may be just chasing after fulfilling that “bucket list,” forsaking their loved ones because they are chasing after the wrong thing – amazing experiences – in a misplaced effort to find meaning in life. All of this qualifies as idolatry – looking for happiness and fulfillment in something other than God. It’s very simple. I bet all of us Christians in this room are doing it all the time. Whatever escapism we are tempted to chase after to make ourselves feel better, instead of turning directly to God – this qualifies as idolatry. Many times it’s relationships. Even an otherwise healthy, godly marriage can turn into idolatry if we try to fulfill our needs – the needs that only God can fill – by looking to our spouse instead of to God.
Oftentimes daily life in a marriage can seem humdrum – a natural effect of normal life in a long-term relationship, and this is when people can become tempted by the idea of some potential new relationship. One has a chance feeling of “connection” with some new acquaintance, and the temptation to sin can spring to life.
In Romans 6, Paul raises a very interesting idea regarding temptation. An elder in my church once fleshed this out for us with this interesting way of looking at Rom 6:7. Return again with me to our funeral. Picture once more the deceased laying in the casket. Now ask yourself – is this person fighting any temptations? Is this person engaged in a struggle at this moment, fighting against the lust of the flesh in an effort to do the right thing, the good thing that the inmost self (Rom 7) desires to do? Does temptation have any hold on this person now? Paul writes:
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Paul urges us, even before our life in this mortal flesh is ended, to live as if we were already dead (when it comes to sin). And when it comes to dealing with temptation, I find it so interesting to visualize that dead body – in this case perhaps (though I knkow it sounds strange), perhaps my own dead body lying in that casket – in terms of the day when I will finally be freed from this pernicious daily struggle against temptation and sin. And when I am facing temptation and it seems to have such a power over me – it is, in a strange way, a liberating thought to remember Romans 6:7, and that that this flesh is not really who I am. It does not have to rule me – and t certainly does not define me, not by any means. I give thanks for each day that God gives me here with my loved ones, each day He gives me to serve Him and try to share his light, as Jesus told us to do “while it is day.” The day is coming, however, when I shall no longer have to ask for God’s help in this daily struggle against the flesh, “the old man,” a day when this brief time here in this broken and groaning creation will end, and the rest of my life – like the sprouting of the sunflower – will begin.
A healthy Christian will have this dichotomy clear in his mind – an understanding that we all have inside us a separation between the new man and the old man, the inmost self that desires to do good (Rom 7), and the flesh, or the sin nature. But modern people in general have no such distinction in their minds. Not only that, but they tend to consider “feelings” to be their main compass, the standard by which they determine what is most real, and what they should do when it comes to the biggest decisions of their lives.
With this said, we return to the topic a hand. What is the nature our true identity? And can that identity be defined by a lust of the flesh?
The path that modern society took to arrive at its current state (and thus to the predominant line of reasoning concerning sexuality) is threefold. First, in a broad sense Western Society has rejected God. Since before the time of Darwin, influential thinkers and educators have been waging warfare against God himself, spreading the idea of materialism – the notion that there is no God, and there is no spirit, but only matter – which leads us the the second problem – the teaching that all our existence consists of is this life in this flesh. Children in schools today are taught that they are merely highly evolved animals. They are told that their cousins are chimpanzees. So they begin to think that their animal natures are “who they are.” Believing that there is no God who exists outside of creation, and that they are no more than intelligent animals themselves, leads to the third problem: the sum total of these points of view leaves no place for any moral standard. In our children’s movies and stories as well as in classrooms and universities, young people are told that there is no right and wrong, that their feelings and whims should be the guiding forces behind their major life decisions (such as relationships), rather than wisdom being seen as a better gauge, and there is little to no emphasis on the option of exercising self control, no warnings about sin and how it leads to death, no explanation about how lusts of the flesh war against the spirit or the inmost man.
A child growing up immersed in these philosophies is then introduced to a deceptive and simple line of reasoning: if you feel an attraction toward someone of the same sex, then it must mean that you are “gay.” On what premise is this reasoning based? It is based on the presupposition that every person has a fundamental “sexual identity,” and that this identity defines that person on a deep, fundamental level. They say it is analogous to being black or white – which is not the case (and truly since we all descend from Noah, there is only one race, the human race – but that is another topic). But they make out so-called “sexual identity” to be a profound definition of the essence of who a person is.
They say that a lust of the flesh is what defines your very identity.
After all, what is the difference between a deep profound, lifelong friendship, and a romantic relationship? Only one thing, the added ingredient of lust of the flesh. How does a person supposedly know if he or she is “gay?” By only one thing, by whether or not that person might one day experience a very particular lust of the flesh.
Now if you have a tendency to abuse alcohol, or if you become addicted to cocaine or meth, then society hopes that you will get treatment so you can be liberated from the bondage to this terrible and destructive addiction. And if you have a gambling problem, at risk of losing your home, your job, and your family, there is a rehab center you can go to for that. Same is true for overeating. And when a certain famous golf player admitted to have a problem with extra-marital affairs, you saw articles in the news about sexual addictions, and there is even rehab for that problem. Thank God that, at least for now, pedophilia is still considered wrong, and a crime, a tendency for which someone must get help. But there is one type of lust to which society applies a completely different logic and standard.
In the TV show, Friends, one of the main characters, Ross, is eagerly expecting the birth of his first son. But before his son is born, his wife tells him some bad news. Rather than remaining faithful to the marital vows she had made to him, she had begun a relationship with someone else. Now normally we would consider this to be an extra marital affair, and we would be expected to feel bad for poor Ross. But because it turns out that it was a woman with whom his wife had been unfaithful, society had an entirely different set of rules and expectations for Ross. It was Ross who was expected to be understanding. And it was not considered to be the same type of betrayal as an affair. Why? Because, “this is different,” so they say.
Society treats other lusts of the flesh with a practical attitude, in hopes that a person can get help and break free from the influence of the temptations with which they struggle. But when it comes to this one category of lust, they tell people that, if you ever experience this particular lust of the flesh, then it is different. If you experience this feeling, then it has a deep and defining meaning in your life. In fact, it defines your very identity. And because it defines your identity, then how dare anyone tell you not to “be yourself?”
And, the reasoning continues, “if I was born with this tendency, and I can’t help having such feelings, then how can anyone say it is wrong?”
In the movie, Frozen, Elsa seems to have been born with a “gift” of having (literally) magical power to freeze things around her. All her life she is told to keep this tendency hidden and controlled, because society would fear it and misunderstand it. So when the girls reach adult age, while little sister Anna is happy about the upcoming coronation day, Elsa is in anguish because of the fear of her secret possibly being revealed. In between Anna’s happy lines, Elsa sings, with dread (the gates) (Don’t let them in, don’t let them see) (Be the good girl you always have to be) (Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know)
But finally, after Elsa’s unintentional “coming out,” when she flees the village and heads up the mountain, viewers rejoice to see how she is finally “liberated,” and she sings the exhilarating song, “Let it Go.”
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.
Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know.
…Well, now they know!
Let it go, let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore.
Let it go, let it go! Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.
It’s funny how some distance, makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
And now Elsa is finally free to “be herself.” In the end, viewers rejoice as the one man that persists in treating sorcery as evil – an old-fashioned hateful buffoon – is finally banished from the kingdom.
Do you see the agenda, the double meaning in these lines? In this story?
So, right under our noses, how many Christian parents are having their children indoctrinated to the very same, identical line of reasoning as is used in the dragon of the pro-Homosexual argument?
The other major recent kids’ movie about a protagonist who was “born different” is “How to Train Your Dragon.” It is about a young man who is raised by an old-fashioned Viking society (representing the Christians) who believed that dragons were to be feared and fought with. However, the protagonist is a young man who was “born different.” Despite the fact that everyone else in his (closed) world believes one way (except, we find out in movie #2, for his mother, who was also “born different” and had chosen exile instead), Hiccup is “enlightened” enough to discover that the things that everybody thought were bad, were actually not to be feared at all. Instead they should be embraced…and the one who is enlightened enough to go against the entire society, ends up being right, and becomes the big hero, saving everybody in the process because they dared to challenge the old fashioned notions and user in the “truth.” (See also “Happy Feet,” the live action X-Men series, etc).
The reality is that the argument put forth by modern society about why we shouldn’t condemn a person for “being gay” is, in truth, really rather compelling…on the surface. Christians who hear it may secretly ask themselves, “How can being gay be wrong, if God made them that way?”
The flaw in their logic is the thing that must be brought to light. And that flaw is this – there really is no such thing as “being gay.” In other words, our identity is not defined by our flesh. We are primarily spirit with a body, and not the other way around.
Our flesh does not define us.
Just because a person experiences a lust of the flesh, that does not mean that this experience defines their identity. Imagine what good news that could be for a person to hear?
That said, consider this: When a Christian says that “the Bible says that being gay is wrong,” this statement actually may have two profound flaws. First, I propose that all Christians should eliminate the phrase”being gay” or “being homosexual” from their vocabulary. Why? Because, from a Biblical point of view, there really is no such thing as “being gay,” at least in terms of the way it is meant in modern times. As stated before, this idea assumes a characterization of a person’s fundamental identity, and we have established that a person’s identity is not defined by the flesh. For a Christian to say, “I have an friend, John Doe, and he is gay,” this statement is fundamentally in error, because there is no such thing as being gay. Instead, one should say, …“John Doe, who thinks he is gay,” or so-and-so, who has chosen a homosexual lifestyle.” Such re-phrasing returns us to biblical truth, brings us back within Biblical standards for identity, and assumes that we all have an inner-man who is able to exercise self control, and make choices about his actions in life.
Let us consider what the Bible actually does and does not say. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the Bible condones homosexual relationships. Not by any means, not for moment. But I would like to put forth an unusual question:
Is the word “straight” anywhere in the Bible? Or is there any old fashioned term analogous to “straight?”
As I read it, the Bible does not seem to address one set of rules to the “straight people” and other rules made specifically for the “gay people.” Why? Could it be perhaps because, in the mind of God, there is no such thing as either “gay” or “straight” in the Bible? Instead, could we just all be men and women created in God’s image, with a spirit, but also with a sin nature that wars against our spirit? I observe that both the rules about marriage and those about the misuse of sexuality are directed at EVERYBODY.
Thus, I assert that it may be, in a subtle way, incorrect to say that “the Bible says that being gay is wrong” – my point being that using the term “being gay” would concede a presupposition which actually is a fallacy. Such language (and the concept behind it) are not included in the Biblical worldview at all. Not only does the Bible prohibit homosexual behavior, but also, nowhere does the Bible concede that there is any such thing as “being gay” in the modern sense. In the Biblical worldview, “sexual identity” as the term is used today is an entirely unheard of idea. Instead, the Bible speaks in terms of people who are tempted to do homosexual actions, or speaks of those who have succumbed to such temptations, saying, “Don’t do that.” It doesn’t say, “Don’t be that.” It doesn’t speak of people “who are that way.” It speaks in terms of people “who do those things.” This is a different sort of noun, and it is a very important distinction. It is the difference between something that deeply defines you, versus something that is merely just another lust of the flesh to which one might be prone.
Now, while it is most likely the case that the modern idea of “being gay” was not part of people’s thinking in ancient times, at the same time it must be noted that instances of homosexual behavior were widespread and well documented. People did not go around seeking to put “gay” or “bisexual” as their gender status on their passport applications, they did the actions without necessarily changing their ideas about their identity. People have been engaging in homosexual activity (among other things) no doubt since before the time of Abraham. It was certainly a part of the public religious rituals of the Greeks and Romans. So the civilization in which the early church lived was probably a lot worse than ours today! In ancient times (both Old Testament and New), sex was misused in so many ways by such a large proportion of society that there are quite a lot of references in the Bible addressing the issue, and in a wide variety of categories. One of these many categories, to which the Bible often refers, is same sex relations, but it is by no means set aside as a special category. It is usually found as one item among a long list of things not to do.
Throughout history people have misused sex. But it may be only in modern times that people inclined to indulge these particular lusts considered such an inclination to be a defining part of their identity. Modern people with a certain agenda are looking back on the historical record, and then overlaying a uniquely modern idea…and rewriting, reinterpreting history, attempting to justify their new idea.
How to Slay Your Dragon.
So the dragon of our modern time is the rationale put forth by that old dragon, the father of lies, this seeming logic that nearly all modern American youth believe, the logic that we should not consider “being gay” to be a matter of right or wrong (as put in the Frozen lyrics)…because if it is a “state of being” which a person can’t help, then it would be unreasonable to qualify it as right or wrong.
The modern Christian’s task is to expose the flaw in this seemingly compelling logic. What is the chink in that dragon’s armor – the flaw in that logic – the missing scale, beneath which lies the heart of the argument (and thus the key to its defeat)? The presupposition that there is such a thing as “being gay.” The assumption that a lust of the flesh can define us.
How to defeat the dragon of this pernicious argument?
- Never make the mistake of referring to same-sex attraction as a state of being. Remove “being gay” from your vocabulary. For instance, never say, “I have a neighbor who ‘is gay’.” Instead, refer to that person as one who “thinks they are gay,” or one who has “chosen a gay lifestyle.” Change how you speak. Re-word your statements, describing them instead as someone who is operating under confusion, who has made conclusions about themselves (and decisions) because they accepted a set of false premises. Remember to see them as God sees them, as who they truly are – a neighbor, whom you are commanded to love – who is under the deception of the Enemy. And always refuse to speak of this mere lust of the flesh as something that signifies a “state of being.”
- Whenever someone asks you why you think it’s wrong to be gay, you can answer with a question that will lead to whether or not the flesh is what dictates our true identity. “Actually, I don’t believe there is any such thing as being gay.” “Have you ever been to a funeral?”
- Continue to have courage to say, “Because the Bible says.” But do so correctly. Don’t make the mistake of portraying the Bible as acknowledging “gay” as a “state of being.” It may use the term homosexual, but it does so more as an adverb – a word that describes an action – rather than as a word that describes a fundamental identity.
- Don’t let your kids be indoctrinated by super-appealing big budget ultra-popular movies that were made to propagate this flawed logic, this subtle and powerful deception of the Enemy.
- Help other Christians to see their mistake, if they stumble into the trap of acknowledging “gay” to be a state of being
- Pray for those who have fallen prey to this deception, who remain in this bondage, & those stumbling into it after growing up with such relentless immersion in this untruth.