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MIDLAND, Texas (BP) -- My childhood was decidedly not gay. To the naked eye, it probably looked great and happy and carefree and normal. But it was none of those things. It was confusing and scary. The word that most clearly defines my childhood emotions is "fear."
I never thought much about my "orientation" at all. As a young boy, I thought more about how different and isolated I felt from the other boys. As I grew older and my feelings of being different became sexual, I thought more about how lonely and how dirty I felt -- wondering if I was abominable to God. I worried about my feelings but I never claimed any specific sexual orientation and I ran from any identity based on my gay feelings. But, admittedly, my feelings grew and grew, and the more I read and observed, the more I craved an "identity" that would validate and support my feelings. Eventually I took the step of saying "I am gay" and I began to live a life centered on my sexual and romantic feelings for other men.
But while I claimed that identity with my head, something deep inside of me fought it. I read books that blamed what I was feeling on my oppressive Christian upbringing. But I know now that the Holy Spirit inside of me was fighting FOR me and for the truth of who I am in Christ. The amazing love of Christ wooed me home, and I returned to my wife. The feelings I had fought most of my life remained, but I was beginning to see the truth of who I really was. I was learning more than religion. I was learning to rest in my new identity. It was the beginning of a journey to freedom, new life and reorientation.
Much attention and power are given to our "sexual orientations." It is curious to me. We don't allow other parts of our human nature to define us. We are not "gossiping Christians" or "envious Christians" or "carbohydrate Christians" (although I am definitely oriented towards bread and pasta). But somehow sexuality has assumed an all-consuming and all-defining role in the lives of many. Sexuality has become an adjective designed to clarify one's Christianity. Christianity should never need clarification based on our humanity. To place undue emphasis on our sexual orientation is to follow Christ in the context of our sexuality instead of looking at our sexuality in the context of our Christianity. We are not called to figure out how to follow Christ as someone having a homosexual OR a heterosexual orientation. When we do that, we create loophole after loophole to make our Christianity fit us -- instead of surrendering ourselves into the transformative process that IS Christianity.
So many people get completely hung up on their sexual orientation. But the reality is that there are only two true orientations for all mankind: Pre-redemption (or you might say "pre-salvation") we are all oriented towards our flesh. Post-redemption we are oriented towards Christ. That's it. This does not mean that we don't still struggle with sin. It means we no longer define ourselves by the daily struggles we may have.
When we choose to follow Christ it is not just to "get out of hell." Our salvation is a full and total surrender to Christ of all we are -- all of our feelings and desires and struggles and dreams and ambitions. We don't choose to follow Jesus within the boundaries of what attracts us naturally or what motivates us naturally. The calling on the lives of people who say they follow Christ is a high one.
Sometimes Jesus is portrayed as this sort of soft-spoken, passive giver of gifts. While no one would actually say this, many people live as if Jesus is a divine enabler of destructive behavior -- as if He died on the cross to simply give us license to do whatever feels natural to us at any given moment.
Scripturally, to say we follow Christ is to say that we are willing to leave all that we cling to, to die to all that we are in the flesh, to endure all that the world throws at us, and to serve all who God places in our paths. While that can sound drastic, Jesus promises that when we leave all, die to all, endure all and serve all that we will receive all. We will receive benefits and blessings that far exceed anything we give up. Blessings like eternal life, abundant life, joy, peace, fulfillment, rest, relationship and purpose. Instead of a life focused on exalting ourselves, He blesses us, in His time and in His way. To claim an orientation based on our flesh is to see Jesus simply as a get out of hell free card and is a rejection of the newness He wants to impart on us. To reorient ourselves toward Christ is to walk in the new creation He has made us to be.
I am not gay. I am a Christ follower. As a Christ follower, my identity is not so much wrapped up in my salvation as it is in the man whose righteousness was substituted for my sin. My identity is not rooted in how I feel on any given day or in areas in which I may struggle on any given day. I am not defined by my orientation, sexual or otherwise. I do not claim a homosexual orientation, or a heterosexual orientation, and certainly not a "mixed" orientation. I am not a gay Christian, a straight Christian or a fundamentalist Christian or a liberal Christian. I am a Christ follower.
Jesus did not die for certain parts of me. He died for all of me, and He died to make me new, no matter what my human nature craves or desires. He did that for you, too. So I propose we reorient the word "orientation." How we WERE oriented no longer matters. As Christ followers we are to be oriented towards one thing only -- Christ Himself. Putting aside all that we were oriented towards, and claiming nothing but an orientation towards Christ, will free you. And it will change your life. Walk in that freedom, and receive all that God has for you in Christ -- the Man who not only saved you, but also made you new.
Mike Goeke is an associate pastor of at Stonegate Fellowship Church in Midland, Texas. He leads Cross Power Ministries, a ministry of Stonegate that ministers to people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Learn more at http://www.stonegatefellowship.com/www2011/cpm.html. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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