**This is a personal opinion piece and does not represent the views of all Rogues. You can see the introductory article for this series here: The Gay Debate and the first article here: LGBT Affirmation**
Honoring Gay Celibacy
In 2007, J.K. Rowling rocked the literary world with the comment that Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore is… gay.
Fans of the series were surprised and some even had a bit of a fit. They didn’t see a whole lot of hints in the books. One fan commented, “I wonder why? … I can’t see him in that way.” Rowling’s honest reply is one most Millennials would relate to: “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?”
Gay people just look like people because they are people. Their sin is no more serious than others’, including yours, including mine. They are made in God’s image, just like us. They can love Jesus, just like us. Often, just like us, they are learning to conform to His ways. And they have parts of their lives not yet surrendered to God – just like us.
They are no different from the rest of fallen humanity, including all sinful Christians. Yet people of faith often treat them different, and that unnerves many of us. Christians can conclude homosexual activity is sinful without abandoning love and grace for sinners. We sin as well and shouldn’t be casting the last stone, let alone the first.
Loving gays is easy for Christians who disregard the homosexual prohibitions in Scripture, the “affirmation view.” But maybe they should take these passages more seriously? On the other hand, condemning gays is easy for Christians who disregard all the love, mercy, grace, forgiveness passages in Scripture, fixating on the “traditional view.” Maybe they should take the loving character of God more seriously?
So what does a middle of the road approach look like?The “affirm it” crowd needs to have the faith to take God at his Word, in humble obedience; yet the “ban it” crowd needs to learn how to do all things in love. Is there a middle?
Many people, including gay Christians (Washington Post – Gay Christians Choosing Celibacy), see the “celibacy view” as that middle ground. This view argues the sinful behavior is the problem; not the sinful desire, which is no different from any other temptation to sin.
The road of celibacy is seen by some as an unfair compromise – too far on the side of the “ban it” crowd. It might be true, as life is unfair. But I feel it only seems like a concession because Christians have largely failed to honor celibacy as the gift the Apostle Paul honors it as.
This is odd, since Jesus himself was a celibate. As was Paul. And Paul openly advocated it for all Christians who are able (1 Cor 7:6-8).
And Christian traditions have a good handle on this – Catholics prize celibacy. They honor celibates, they recognize the sacrifice being made by those who give up hopes of family and desires for earthly intimacy and pleasure in order to focus on the Lord’s work. Not only do they honor such people, they’ve created position for them – from priests to monks to nuns, celibates are honored and empowered to do great things for the Lord.
Protestant churches, not so much. Most of us singles can testify to how we’ve been looked down on, criticized, and treated as second class Christians, viewed as somehow incomplete until we get married. Celibacy is seen as brokenness instead of admired as sacrifice.
There is nothing wrong with single people. And in my not so humble opinion, no position in the Body of Christ excepting martyrs should be treasured and honored as that of celibates who make the lifelong sacrifice to pursue the Lord’s work. Preachers get paid for their sacrifices. Elders get honored for their service. It’s time to treat celibate singles, gay or otherwise, with a measure of respect and gratitude for what they give up to advance the Kingdom.
I often wonder if we truly cared for single people, treasured the contributions of the celibate, and made a place for them in all ministries: would gays be able and empowered to find a place to both follow God’s Word while experiencing the love of God’s people? Would less walk away from the church hurting if we fostered a place for them?
What fascinates me most about Dumbledore is this – it took us by surprise because he is celibate. We thought he wanted to teach ungrateful teen witches and wizards – then suddenly the light is turned on. We discover his deep down desires are for something he gave up instead, to focus on and pursue the higher calling of teaching the next generation.
He isn’t married. He doesn’t date. He doesn’t flirt with other male characters. (Here’s looking at you, Snape.) He isn’t in a relationship with a close male confidant, doesn’t flout his flair, and doesn’t parade it around. He’s made a enormous sacrifice in sidelining his personal love life in order to pursue a better world for others.
In the words of Andrew Slack,
“After she outed Dumbledore, Rowling said that she viewed the whole series as a prolonged treatise on tolerance. Dumbledore is the personification of this… Dumbledore was a champion for the rights of werewolves, giants, house elves, muggle-borns, centaurs, merpeople – even alternative marriage. When it came time to decide whether the marriage between Lupin the werewolf and Tonks the full-blooded witch could be considered natural, Professor Minerva McGonagall said, ‘Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world.'”
Just as Dumbledore lived in celibacy to focus on advancing goodness and love in the world, many gay Christians find celibacy is a way to reconcile their fervent desire to obey God’s Word while not denying who they are at their core. They can keep their identity while finding useful purpose in the Kingdom.
They don’t have to pray away the gay or pretend to be straight – yet they also don’t have to live out the urges nature has given them. They can be part of a higher calling, a fuller purpose, a meaningful service – and one that churches could prize if they would open their eyes and look for ways to love the millions of gays in their communities instead of constantly attacking the flesh and blood Paul warned is not our enemy.
As a final note, sometimes people ask how to tell whether they fall into the “traditional view” or the “celibate view.”
The major difference is that the traditional view tends to believe it is wrong to even identify as gay, whereas the celibate view argues it is only wrong to engage in homosexual activity – to act out the gay feelings, attractions, and identity a person has. For a good litmus test, what is your knee-jerk reaction to this scenario:
A 23-year-old guy comes up to you at church and says, “I’m gay, I’m attracted to guys – but I’m non-practicing, I don’t act out those impulses. Would it be okay to volunteer with your youth group?”
If your instinct is, “Not my kids!” then you’re a traditionalist – you feel deep down that the desire is as sinful as the action and you hold it against people, withholding trust and respect and limiting their service to the Lord till they somehow fix themselves. Consider if your perspective needs to change.
If you don’t have a problem with it, you’re on the celibacy side. You understand everyone is tempted to sinful desires – but you believe that people can serve God with self-control and righteousness no matter what their sin struggles are. It’s time for churches to begin celebrating the celibate servants among them – and in so doing, we’ll create an honorable place for the millions of gays who love Jesus but hate the churches that hated them first.
I agree that anyone practicing celibacy is deserving of respect. I don’t believe what Paul said was specifically about marriage being bad, but that he saw the benefits to celibacy from it.
“I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
1 Corinthians 7:6-7 NIV
He saw his celibacy as a gift he had and I fully support all gifts from God.
A fully committed and healthy marriage focused on God and being one flesh is also a gift. Being in a relationship like that is full of sacrificing what you want as an individual for what your spouse wants or what is best for you both.
There are many advantages to being celibate (some of which a non-celibate can’t fully understand), but a celibate person may also not fully understand the disadvantages.
For example, raising your own kids reveals incredible parallels to God’s relationship to the Israelite people as they were freed from Egypt and lead through the desert.
I believe that celibacy, as in avoiding marriage or sexual relationships, is not and should not be our goal. Abstaining from sin should be our goal.
Marriage is never mentioned as a sin or something which leads to unrighteousness. Sexual desire/sexual relations is only sinful if not with your spouse. However, if marriage would lead us to sin, then we should be celibate. If sexual relations or desire will lead us to sin, again we should abstain from it.
One who is celibate could practice a life of greed, condemnation, or violence. Certainly we wouldn’t celebrate their celibacy example with these other examples also present.
This is not to minimize your gift of celibacy, but to mention that marriage is also a gift. Sin, not marriage, is the thing we all must abstain from.
I certainly commend all who do abstain from sin, including men and women who are sexually attracted to those of the same sex or identify as a sex differently than their anatomy would suggest. More important is that these individuals should know that if they fall, we as a community and body of Christ will help them recover and get back up.
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Thanks, Colin! Lots of good thoughts, as always! Hopefully nothing in the article is particularly disparaging of marriage – it’s just that the topic is celibacy as a way to engage homosexuals. I think it goes without saying that marriage is a gift, one that was the default order of things from Genesis 1 to Genesis 3. Paul and many other Believers have felt convicted since the Fall that with so much on the line, with so many unsaved, celibacy is a powerful sacrifice Christians can make to focus fully on others. It isn’t “wrong” to marry – that’s what most everyone does. It’s normative behavior. But it’s especially “holy” (set apart) to serve in singleness. It’s like the person who says, “There are so many kids without parents, I should adopt instead of bringing more into the world” – they aren’t disparaging having your own kids, but they are definitely pursuing a calling outside of the default, normative behavior. Not advocating a caste system here either, ha – marrying and working toward the salvation of your family and being a witness to other families is a calling of it’s own. There are ways one can go “above and beyond” with sacrifices as married folk as well. That’s just outside the scope of our series!
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Great post. I’ve definitely come around to the celibacy side, and agree anyone who chooses the harder road of singleness, hetero or otherwise, should be honoured and supported.
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Thank you for dropping by! You’re exactly right, whether hetero or otherwise in desire, all singles should be supported and honoured!
It likely wasn’t the appropriate post to comment regarding the topic of marriage. I’ll save further comment for if you ever post something comparing the choice of celibacy vs marriage.
Anyway, it was something that struck me in your post. It is a great post, and I agree with almost all of it.
It is very important to reach out to the LGBT community and this is great what you guys are doing.
Here’s the only other thing I can say on the post.
Maybe affirmation and welcoming of the LGBT community regardless of celibacy is disobedient. Perhaps it is contrary to the law and truly repulsive to God, but I think the intent behind the actions matter.
If two men or two women love each other, and devote themselves to each other and Christ; I think it is our greater responsibility to accept them as brothers & sisters in Christ. If all the laws hinge on loving God and each other as ourselves, then how can any other result be right?
Maybe after we accept them as our brothers & sisters, our Lord will reveal to them what if anything he requires of them. We have to also be open to the possibility that we are the ones who are wrong.
There are things in this world which are truly wicked, things we all do to each other every day. Of these things, homosexuality is probably the least concerning to me. Homosexuality isn’t done now primarily to worship other God’s nor as a rejection of God.
I’ve had this discussion with my mother in law, sort of my mentor and spiritual mother as well. She sees this as you do, as they should just decide to be alone. However, you had a choice to be celibate. If we tell them they can’t be with those they love and be believers/followers of Christ, we take their choice from them. I don’t think that was the intention behind the words in the scriptures. If heterosexuals can marry and have sexual relations with their spouse, yet still be believers and part of the body of Christ; so should anyone in a committed relationship before God.
There are a lot of things our brothers and sisters do that I don’t believe are good according to scripture and the command to love, but that doesn’t make them less my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord & Savior; you are my brother and sister without condition.
Sorry if this ended up disjointed or didn’t make sense. It’s hard to write these comments on the phone and proofread properly.
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I love this. We covered affirming first and celibacy, so our next post is a discussion on just that – the traditional view, that we as a community of Believers have an obligation to keep God’s commands.
But you are right that sometimes you have to love people into the family regardless and let God worry about some details. We can teach and encourage – but our highest calling is to love. God is judge, the Holy Spirit convicts, and we love. Just like we are encourage to let God avenge us when wronged instead of seeking revenge, it’s likely God wants us to just love on sinners and he’ll take care of the conviction and judgment side!
As a side note, most Millennials are waiting into their 30s for marriage – so most of us are too young to write well on marriage! But it’s a great thought for the future, or even to invite older generations to write words of advice to Millennials on marriage!
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