By Mike Goeke
Recently, I was talking with my young son about his behavior with a babysitter. He had done some things clearly against “babysitter protocol,” and rather than own his error, he said: “Dad, I’m not perfect.”
He was using his innate imperfection as some form of justification for his poor behavior. The next day, I met with a young man dealing with difficult issues in his life and making questionable decisions. His primary defense to his behavior was his belief that he was only acting in concert with how he had been born. He, too, was using his innate imperfection as a form of justification for his poor behavior. Another friend claimed that his “personality” somehow invalidated God’s commands to us to love each other, forgive each other and live in community with each other. His response to challenge was: “That is just not how God made me.” Somehow, we seem to think that God’s Word only applies to us when it is easy, or when it feels natural. In our self-absorbed culture, we rationalize our behavior by blaming our biology.
As a Christian, I believe that through original sin, we all enter the world with a sin nature and a propensity to do things that God calls sin. Sinning comes naturally. Few are taught to lie or to manipulate or to be selfish. Most people, and not just Christians, see “natural” parts of themselves that have the potential to be destructive in society or in relationships and they act to curb those tendencies. We see few people claiming the identity of “liar” even though many people are tempted on a daily basis to lie about something. We see few people claiming the identity of “adulterer” even though many people deal with lust, at some level, on a daily basis. We see few people claiming the identity of “gossiper” even though many people are tempted to gossip on a daily basis. Certainly no one would seek to justify stealing or murder based on some innate desire to steal or to murder.
Those of us who are Christians see biblical guidelines as being about more than just the betterment of society or personal relationships. As Christ followers, we see God’s Word as written for us and for a purpose that goes beyond the surface of our lives. But many times God’s Word calls us to something that seems unnatural. I know that I have struggled with many things for most of my life. I don’t know which of those things were part of me at my birth, and which were acquired by me as a result of the sinful world in which I grew up. But, in reality, I’m not sure it matters.
Years ago I left my wife to pursue homosexuality. I made this decision for several reasons, but one major reason was that I had come to believe that I had always been gay and I would always be gay. The feelings seemed to go way back, and nothing in my childhood seemed identifiable as the “cause” of the intense feelings with which I had struggled for so long. Without an intervening cause, I decided that I must have been born gay and, thus, I had a loophole in God’s instruction for behavior and sexuality (sexual identity and sexual expression).
Even though I eventually returned home to my wife repentant and committed to allowing God to work in my life and sexuality, I continued to struggle with fears that some day there might actually be proof of a gay gene (a fear which has, as of today, not been realized). As I sought God’s Word, though, I realized that even if my same-sex attraction was somehow genetic, God’s Word still applied to me. And God’s Word did not give an “out” for genetic predispositions. I wasn’t told not to steal unless I just couldn’t help myself, or not to lie unless it felt really natural, or not to lust unless I had always felt the urge to lust. I was told simply to follow Christ no matter how I felt and no matter the depth of my struggles.
I also discovered that the call to follow Christ carried with it amazing promises. As a Christian, I was told that I was a new creation. I was promised abundant life. I was promised peace and joy and fulfillment. I was told that I would gain much more than I gave up. I saw in Paul that his lifelong struggles were allowed by God so that Paul would experience the sufficiency of God’s grace and the strength that comes in weakness.
I saw in the man born blind (John 9) that the man’s blindness was allowed so that God’s power might be displayed in him. I realized that to legitimize sinful feelings and behavior was to deny the reason Christ came in the first place. He came not to give me comfort in how I was, but to transform me and make me new. I may have been born one way, but he came to give me new life and new purpose and a new identity. Today, I am reborn completely new. My struggles may remain, but I am no longer a slave to them and am no longer controlled by them. More than anything, I am no longer defined by them.
I was born with lots of things, good and bad. And I was raised in a world full of other sinners and broken people. While sin came naturally to me, so did creativity and humor and friendship and many other things. Christ redeemed all of me, the good and the bad. He did not take away my positive traits or my negative traits, but he made them new. Today, I can see that my whole life is for one purpose—to bring him glory. No matter how I was born, I was reborn for so much more. To settle with what we were is to miss out on the magnitude of what God empowers us to become. Claim your new identity, and prepare to receive much more than you give up.
Mike Goeke is an associate pastor at Stonegate Fellowship Church in Midland. He leads Cross Power Ministries, a work of Stonegate that ministers to people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Learn more at stonegatefellowship.com/www2011/cpm.html. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.