“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
-Romans 13: 8-10
FOR THE DAY YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE GAY… BUT YOU’RE NOT SURE…
Dear Brother, Dear Sister, Dear Friend,
How are you feeling, right this moment, as you begin to read this letter? Perhaps you are a bit frightened, or absolutely terrified, or blissfully excited, or mildly curious. You might feel as if you are somehow crossing the threshold of a grand new adventure or preparing to confess some shameful secret. Were you recently surprised by an unexpected crush on a friend, classmate, or celebrity who shares your gender? Are you terrified, or exhilarated, by the thought that you might like boys, or girls, or people of diverse gender expressions, or all of the above? Have you found yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to hold hands with the guy on the math team, or the girl at the library who proofreads your essays, or the cute person who works the Saturday shift with you at the local diner? Have you gone to the movies and the park with a certain someone? Do you talk to them on the phone all night long, and do you share a kiss or two with them when no one is looking? Do you wonder what this is and what it means and what will happen next?
For a lot of us, it can be a challenge to understand and accept certain aspects of our sexualities. This deeply saddens me, because God made us as sexual beings and deems sexuality to be good. So why do some of us carry so much doubt and shame when it comes to embracing this element of who we are?
With tragic effectiveness and sometimes lethal consequences, some powers within our religious institutions teach us that love, and especially sexual love, is only good, holy, and pure when it is shared between a man and a woman. These messages are carried through thousands of mediums and voices, whether they be interpretations of Holy Scripture, religious textbooks, teachings from the pulpit, or direct and indirect comments made by pastors, mentors, family members, and friends. When feelings of longing, affection, or love grow in us for a person who shares our gender, or for someone who courageously defies gender norms, we are sometimes tempted to ignore, fight, hide, or deny them. We might try to convince ourselves that we can and should crush all desire that does not conform to our church’s rules. In time, we might doubt that love, or at least earthly romantic love, could ever be ours.
And oftentimes, whether or not we attach shame to the thought of it, our sexual identities may simply be unclear. The path to self-discovery can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Am I gay? How do I know? Am I going through a phase? Am I having a crush that will come to nothing, fade, and mean little in the overarching story of my life? Am I having a one-time crush on the person I am meant to spend the rest of my life with? What does this all mean? Who am I?
There is so much good news I want to share with you. To begin, let me assure you that you do not need to figure it all out today. Life is a journey. Try to enjoy each step of it and learn as much as you can along the way. Enjoy a crush or a new friendship without trying to piece together overnight what it all means. You do not need to label yourself with any kind of identity unless you want to. It is enough to be in the moment, feel what you feel, and love who you love.
If you struggle with accepting that God will bless love between people of the same gender, believe me, I understand. For years, I believed that I had to be celibate forever unless I fell in love with a woman. My denomination taught me that experiencing same-sex attractions was an unfortunate and disordered condition. Growing up, I received many confusing and mixed messages. I was told that God loved me even if I was gay, but I was also told that I must stifle any romantic desire that would lead to intimacy with another man. I came to believe that love between people of the same sex was a sin. It felt like I had to continually kill certain parts of myself in order to be good enough for God’s love, but those parts refused to die. I tried to give up my dreams of falling in love with a kind, beautiful man, but those forbidden hopes kept surfacing to torture me.
Years of prayer and Scripture study opened my heart to trust that wherever there is love, there is God. One scripture passage that transformed my heart was Romans 13: 8, which states, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Before discovering this passage, I had spent years believing that God’s law was a decree I needed to follow perfectly in order to earn my own salvation. In time, I learned this was merely foolishness and pride. I cannot save myself, and I need not try to do so, for I am saved by Christ. Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross. He is the fulfillment of the law, and our calling as Christians is to follow him. Any interpretations of moral commandments that compel us to reject love do not comply with the decree of Romans 13:8, which states simply and boldly that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
I am not writing this letter to preach to you or convince you of any point of view. Rather, I am inviting you to open your heart to God, to cast all your fears and worries upon His loving care, and to seek the answers you yearn for in Him. I am a flawed and simple man, but He is the all-knowing, almighty, and all-loving Creator. Go to Him. Follow Him. Trust Him. Have faith that if you seek the way in and through Him, He will guide you. You never need to be afraid.
God knows us completely. Sometimes we feel as if we are drowning in the mysteries of our lives. Who am I? What am I doing here? What is my purpose, today? What is the purpose of my entire existence? Who will love me and who will I love? How do I love well?
When the search for answers becomes overwhelming, turn to the comforting wisdom of Psalm 139: 13-14: “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew.” God created us and loves us unconditionally. People in committed relationships, including same-sex couples, bring love and life to each other and the world through the families they create together. Sexuality is a gift from God and therefore something to be thankful for and cherish. It is a glorious fire that touches many elements of our identities, but at the same time, we are more than our sexualities. Do not get so lost in romance and sex that you forget everything else.
The search for identity involves both discovering our true nature and making choices to determine who we shall become. Take time to explore your ancestors and imagine what their dreams were for you. Search for interests or causes that ignite your passions. Listen for an internal call to fight for some particular justice in your community and the world. Explore whatever brings forth your creativity, your kindness, your humor, your compassion. As you learn more deeply who you are, and as you choose more definitely the person you want to be, give thanks and praise to the God who made you, who sees you, and who loves you. Search for where you belong in this world, all the while knowing that you ultimately belong with the one true God, the one who holds you now and will hold you forever if you let Him.
And so, in the middle of all the questions, doubts, and fears about your sexual identity, remember that getting to know yourself completely is a lifelong journey that must be embarked upon anew every day. In this moment, let it be enough to know that you are a child of God. You are loved, cherished, and redeemed by the one who created and sustains all things. You are called to be a witness to God’s unconditional love. You are born with gifts and talents that can help build up God’s Kingdom, day by day. Over time, you will make courageous choices and cowardly ones, and good and bad events will happen that are outside your control. No matter what, God will meet you in your triumphs, your mistakes, and the quiet moments of everyday life. Through it all, at your core, you will remain a unique being fully known and loved by God.