What does freedom look like for homosexuals?
I think we have lied to those who identify as homosexual, or same-sex attracted individuals.
Brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, I think due to our ignorance – or arrogance – we have misled the masses of those who have come asking questions about freedom from the struggles of same-sex attraction. Whether in a sermon, over coffee, on a phone call, or texting our perspectives about what God desires for those who identify as homosexuals or same-sex attracted individuals, there has been an erroneous double standard. If you believe in the redeeming sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, yet find yourself same-sex attracted, I pray this fills you with relief, clarity, and hope.
The problem among the church is that we have demonized same-sex attracted strugglers among us as less sanctified as heterosexual strugglers. We have even gone so far as to suggest that an ‘acceptable temptation’ is heterosexual in nature, while a homosexual thought is ‘unquestionably evil.’ In so doing, we have only exposed our ignorance of the Lord’s perspective on temptation, lust, and sin. The reality is that those who are giving themselves over to indulge in sexual immorality and sin on a consistent basis (physically or fantasy) – whether heterosexually or homosexually enticed – are both deceived, enslaved, and not walking in the freedom that Christ paid for.
A common question
So, let me at least answer a question I am often asked: Is there freedom for those confused with their identity, struggling with same-sex attraction and lust? YES! My life is a personal testimony of that fact. God’s Word also affirms it when it says “therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17) There is
The problem among the church is that we have demonized same-sex attracted strugglers among us as less sanctified as heterosexual strugglers.
At Broken Free, we deal with ‘homosexual struggles’ and issues the same as ‘heterosexual struggles’. In any given gathering, there are at least a few men struggling with same sex attraction. Over the years, some who came looking for justification for their struggle, but have left because we point to God’s standards and not man’s wisdom.
Temptation vs. Struggle
To start off, I’d like to point out a very important perspective: temptation and struggle are not synonymous. They don’t mean or imply the same thing. But from what I have read and encountered, most of the church has not understood nor been taught that.
‘Temptation’ is the presence of things that entice or resonate with our flesh. It is things that have the potential to awaken the old man that was ‘crucified with Christ and no longer lives’, (Gal 2:20) and that are part of the world’s system and mindset. Temptations are those things that are of the spirit of this age that is contrary to God.
‘Struggle’ is the wrestling and battling through the process of being obedient unto the Lord, and choosing to submit to the Spirit rather than the flesh.
What’s the point? You can be ‘tempted’ but not ‘struggle.’ However, in our common conversations, if we tell someone we were ‘tempted’, what we actually are saying is ‘I really struggled not to _____.” But that is not accurate nor Biblical! They are much different. Think of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Did He struggle to say no? Did He struggle to stand on ‘it is written?’ Did he nearly give in and at the last second feebly declare truth?
He did not struggle. Why? Because Jesus was fully submitted to the Holy Spirit, so while He was indeed tempted – it was not a struggle to say no to the tempter!
Struggle is the wrestling and battling through the process of being obedience unto the Lord, and choosing to submit to the Spirit rather than the flesh.
The time that scripture records Jesus struggling is when He was in the garden, sweating drops of blood and asking if there was any other way for the sins of the world to be atoned. His conclusion was ‘not my will, but yours be done.’ The struggle was part of the process… and freedom for us was the result!
Temptations are ‘those things that have the potential to awaken or entice the flesh.’ They are the things that our old self used to live off – but now we live ‘by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’ and He, and He alone, is our bread of life for our spirit man. So struggle comes in when we have not ‘put to death the misdeeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit’ and therefore we wrestle. Struggle is part of the process, but it is not the destiny of those who are in Christ! It was for FREEDOM Christ set us free.
The temptation is not removed, but the struggle can be!
I never anticipated or even understood this reality early on in my personal journey. In fact, when I was first walking in freedom, I used to describe it to my wife as “I am not tempted anymore!” because of the lack of wrestling against my flesh. I was used to warring every day, trying not to think about this and that, and at some point, the wrestling stopped! However, when I searched the scriptures, I could not find affirmation that temptation is removed from us in this world… conclusion? Temptation and struggle are different.
Surprised by freedom – for the same-sex attracted
Freedom for the heterosexual means that he (or she) no longer struggles to say no to temptation.
Just as the heterosexual who has been set free can walk in freedom (no longer struggling to say no to those things that were attractive to his flesh: ie – scantily clad women, affairs with someone’s wife etc) even though there are heterosexual temptations around him, so too can the homosexual walk in freedom even though there are homosexual temptations around him. Freedom is not the absence of temptation – it’s the absence of struggle.
I think the same-sex attracted individuals have been misled by the church (and therefore are leaving in droves) to believe that freedom means you will never be tempted by a good looking man again. Brothers and sisters, no! It doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted by the same sex, it means it is possible to stop struggling to say NO to a good looking man again! That is the hope of the Gospel. That is the fruit of a new heart and mind.
Brothers and sisters, we have to get this right, and repent of all the times we have gotten it so wrong! We have allowed our heterosexual brothers (I will use men for this example, since it is who I am most closely acquainted with) to wine and dine at the Lord’s table with us, rationalizing their fantasies about their friend’s wife, the stranger jogging down the street, or the woman in front of them at the grocery – calling it ‘every man’s battle’. When suddenly, we chastise the brother who loves Jesus but is struggling with temptations in the men’s locker room, at a networking event of local businessmen, or while lying in bed with his wife.
Freedom is not the absence of temptation – it’s the absence of struggle.
The reality is that there is a season of struggling through temptations (2 Cor 10:5) where we must take thoughts captive, and wrestle against our flesh and put it to death. Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” But the presence of the struggle only reveals the progress of the process – if indeed we submit ourselves to the law of the Spirit that brings life!
So many men who identify as homosexuals, or at least same-sex attracted, and call themselves Christians, have been devastated by the presence of tempting thoughts, images, and are waiting for those temptations to go away. Guess what? They won’t! If you are tempted by the same sex, that is how your flesh is enticed… but that’s no different or ‘more wrong’ that a heterosexually tempted man who is tempted to take a second glance at a woman who walks by!
Church, we must understand the reality that temptation and struggle are different. We must not settle for living as ‘free‘ without ever experiencing the promise of freedom!
Freedom is not the absence of temptation – it’s the absence of struggle.
In the church, we have understood (to some extent) that heterosexual men may be ‘tempted by a woman, but they don’t need to give in to lust…’ However, we have sent the message to homosexuals that they are not allowed to be tempted by the same sex in order to really be free — and if they are, then something is wrong with them.
Coffee or Doughnuts?
Do you drink coffee? Know anybody drinks coffee religiously? Who can’t get up out of bed without a cup? Who can’t function on a Monday without a fresh mug? Maybe it’s you. If that used to be you, then you would acknowledge that coffee is tempting. You wouldn’t expect to never be tempted by coffee again given the right (or wrong) circumstances. But if we believe the correct distinction between struggle and temptation, we would understand your ‘battle’ is with coffee (and not doughnuts, for example) and therefore coffee may be tempting but there is freedom from the struggle to say NO when tempted!
The message to homosexuals that they are not allowed to be tempted by the same sex in order to really be free — and if they are, then something is wrong with them.
Stealing and Cussing
The easiest way I communicate this to people in a gathering is to ask a simple question: “How many of you struggled with stealing when you a child?”
And then I ask “How many of you men struggle not t0 steal now?”
Most chuckle and say “Haha… no, I don’t struggle to take stuff out of the store anymore.”
So if you so willingly accept the reality that things you used to struggle with now hold no struggle-power against you… then why have you decided that the same is impossible for pornography… or sexual sin?
If it is an older crowd, I usually ask about cursing: “How many of you had a Sailor-Mouth as teen or college student?”
And then I ask “How many of you struggle not to drop an F-bomb every other word now?”
Again, they usually laugh and say “No, I guess I just grew out of that and don’t struggle with it anymore.”
Right! So, why can’t the death of the struggle also be a reality now for those enslaved in sexual sin – heterosexual or homosexual? You may find yourself tempted to curse based on a variety of factors, but your Spirit man reminds you of how frivolous and purposeless it is and you say ‘foooeeey’.
So where are you at?
My understanding and opinion is that ‘the degree to which we struggle is proportional to the amount of life there is left in our flesh-expression (sex, lies, pride, lying tongue etc).’ If you are reading this and struggle with same-sex attraction, know that the full expression of freedom in Christ is for you! You are not destined to be known as ‘a struggler’, though some popular video and training series in our churches will suggest it’s what God has for you. God did not send His Son so you would struggle less. He came to set you free so that you’d experience freedom!
You were not made to be attracted to the same sex, but were made in the image of God, to desire oneness with the opposite sex.
If you are wondering why you are still struggling when tempted, my encouragement is to keep drawing near to the Lord – not running from Him or His people. Though we are flawed, He is faithful. Though we will fail, He will never fail. He is the fullness of love itself, and therefore He cannot fail. 1 Corinthians 13:8 is speaking of Christ when it says ‘Love never fails.’ His promise to us is to give us a new heart and a new mind (Ezek 36:26), and to transform us into His image as we gaze on Him (2 Cor 3:18). If you fix your eyes on Jesus (not the imperfect little-Christ’s – aka Christians – around you), He will perfect the faith that He alone authored in your heart. (Hebrews 12:2)
God did not send His Son so you would struggle less. He came to set you free so that you’d experience freedom!
If you are a church leader, small group leader, or mentor to others – I pray this also helps clarify things so you can love, encourage, pray, and believe for those in your care.
(In another article, we share about the difference between victory and freedom – another critical issue.)