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Friday, February 19, 2021

Some words of hope and encouragement for LGBTQ friends who have regrets or questions about their choices

We had grown up together as young men in a Christian school and then attended the same Christian college together for a year. Now, many years later, my friend was a transgendered atheist with a body that had been extensively and expensively transformed by chemicals and surgery. At a breakfast together one morning my friend said (I don't remember the context), "If I would repent, I would then be in the category of a eunuch."

So I thought of that friend (and others in the LGBTQ community) when I read the following passage in Isaiah this morning for my time with the Lord: "Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, 'The Lord will surely separate me from His people.' Nor let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says the Lord, 'To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:3-5).

Not only is such a person as my friend in the biblical category of a eunuch (someone who is not able to live out their natural gender sexually), but in a way so are many gay men and women, because if they would choose not to live out their same-sex desires, they would have to live celibately, at least for a certain period of time. I do believe it's possible for sexual "orientation" to change (there are many real-life examples, easily accessed online) but it doesn't usually happen quickly and sometimes not at all, of course. So for a time, at least, or for the rest of their lives in some cases, people with same-sex attraction who choose to live according to biblical morality will be those who "make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," as Jesus said in Matthew 19:12. And people like my friend who have surgically altered their sexual organs are those "who were made eunuchs by men" (same verse)--the "men" being themselves and the doctors who assisted them.

So the hope and encouragement offered to eunuchs in Isaiah 56 is directly applicable to any LGBTQ friends who have regrets or questions about their lifestyle choices. (And I know there are many who do, even when they have loudly proclaimed the opposite, because I've talked to some and read the stories of many others online.) God promises, if you choose to follow his ways, you will not be a "dry tree." That's one of your fears, right? That if you repent of your desire to have a same-sex partner (or multiple ones) and don't act on it, you will be unhappy and unfulfilled the rest of your life. You can't imagine living without something that is so important to you right now. But realize, like every true Christian has, that our desires and priorities can change over time (and sometimes even quickly) when we turn away from being our own god and master and turn to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. I myself have strong propensities toward certain sins, as a result of both heredity and environment, but now looking back on my life I am so glad for when I have said no to them and so regretful for when I indulged them. My perspective has changed significantly and so have my desires. That's not to say those wrong desires don't ever rear their ugly heads and even win the day sometimes, but I am truly happy that I concluded that they were wrong and decided to fight them rather than let them define my identity and lifestyle. And I have seen God replace them with much better fruit, so I have emphatically not become a "dry tree" because I chose not to live according to my sinful orientation. No, I have seen the truth of some other words of Jesus, when he says, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it" (Luke 9:24).

God also promises, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off." The idea of a "name" in Scripture is tied to the issue of identity, which I know is another significant reason why many LGBTQ friends hesitate to even consider a commitment to biblical morality. Giving up the practice of your preferred sexuality or gender would seem to be giving up who you are, and everyone always tells us that being who we are is the most important thing in life and the best path toward happiness and success. But the Bible tells us that we were made in the image of God and the best thing for us is to recover that image (marred because of sin) by finding our identity in Jesus Christ, taking his name upon us, and allowing him making us more like him (because he is the only perfect person who has ever lived in this broken world).

That's what the "covenant" Isaiah mentions is all about, by the way. "I will be your God," he says, "and you will be my people." God promises to forgive all our sins and adopt us into his family so we can have an identity as his sons and daughters (and heirs) that will last forever--one that we will never regret or question. As a part of his covenant people, we also receive the blessing of many brothers and sisters that we didn't have before--a new community of mutual love and acceptance that transcends different backgrounds because we are all one in Christ. I know you may not be able to imagine that happening, because Satan and his system (called "the world" in the Bible) work overtime to make you think Christians are all bigots and backstabbers, but if you can't see it in your mind, you'll just have to believe it because God said it's true. And his Word is far more trustworthy than the opinions and theories of very limited and finite humans.

That issue of faith is alluded to in Isaiah's reference to "keeping the Sabbaths," because that practice was a way for people in the Old Testament to show that they trusted God's promises even though they couldn't see all the evidence ahead of time. They had to be willing to stop work for one day each week and believe that God would provide what they needed when the time came. In the same way, we must "rest from our works" spiritually by not trying to make ourselves good enough to earn God's favor and not trying to figure out everything by ourselves. Instead we should say to God, "I will rely on Jesus' death to take away my sins and his resurrection to give me a new life, and I will trust in what you say to know what's really best for me."

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