Tuesday, October 18, 2005

34. The Line - Updated

Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging… it’s very frustrating.  My mom and I had a bit of a blowout this weekend and so I’ve been somewhat preoccupied.  We will be going to a counselor on Friday, and so I’m hoping that things will improve.

In light of my distraction, I thought I would do something different.  Instead of telling you what I think, I want to ask a question… something I’ve been thinking about ever since the discussion I mentioned before where my friend talked about ‘building fences around potential areas of sin’.  I have been wondering what, specifically, the sin would be.  I know that if I were to date a woman, most of my friends would be really worried… but would they be worried because I was sinning? Or because I was heading towards sin?  Maybe it’s not important, because I shouldn’t head towards sin if I know that it’s sin, but I just want to know… what is the sin?

Now, I don’t want any graphic descriptions of lesbian sex… I was going to say that this is a ‘family blog’, but considering the topic, and the fact that I occasionally curse, it’s probably not.  Nonetheless, let’s keep it clean and assume that sex is sex, and we don’t need to describe it.  

So, here is the question, and it is for everyone – Side A and Side B people alike.  (Side A is pro-gay relationships, and Side B is celibacy for gay people).  If we assume that homosexual behavior is sin, then what does that mean?  Does it only mean sex?  Does it mean that it would be a sin for me to date a woman?  To kiss a woman?  Second base? Holding hands?  And again, I’m not talking about building a fence around the ‘sin’, I’m wondering exactly where the sin would begin.  I have come nowhere near to it, so I haven’t really had to think about this.  And please, don’t worry, this is not me trying to figure out how ‘far I can go’ or anything… it’s just curiosity.  People tend to be really vague about this, even when I ask directly.  If it’s a sin, then what is it?  What are your thoughts?    

UPDATE:
Something I meant to mention, but I forgot (and has come up in my comments – not that I was upset by them, it just made me realize that I had forgotten to mention this) were my thoughts on ‘sin’.  To my understanding, for something to be a sin there has to be a choice involved.  And while there is sometimes a choice involved in feelings, for the most part there is not, so I cannot conceive of my ‘feelings’ being a sin (for the most part).  This is why I make such a big deal about the difference between homosexual behavior and homosexuality.  One is a behavior, one is who I am (or rather, part of who I am).  And actually, most of my friends (who are mostly conservative thinkers) would agree with that.  And I also meant to mention that I wasn’t thinking about lust, or ‘thought sins’… I was thinking about actions.  For example, an unmarried, straight, Christian couple can have every intention of having sex before they are married, will get together, and get very close, but at the last minute they might feel convicted and stop.  (I’ve actually known people who have had this happen.)  Most people would say that they didn’t sin… they came close, were tempted, they may even have planned it, but they didn’t actually sin… well, maybe lust.  But then again, maybe not.  So, if we can make a distinction between temptation and sin for heterosexuals, there should be a similar distinction made for homosexuals.  What I am wondering is where that distinction is.     

And if there is no intent for sex, would anything else be a sin?  There are Christian gay couples who commit to be celibate, but they do date and hold hands and probably even kiss… but sex is not even on the table.  Are they sinning (by the Side B definition)?         

17 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose that IF one were to start with the assumption that homosexual behavior is a sin (which coming from what you call the "Side A" view I do not share) then the answer is simply that sin begins in the heart. If the intent is the pursuit of sexual gratification, then, on the aforementioned assumption, ANY purposeful behavior resulting from that intention is sin.

I know I've said this before, but I think it bears pointing out that the only times on this blog where you actually seem to wrestle with the question of whether pursuing a relationship would be ok is in the context of what your friends would think. You don't seem to believe the Bible condemns loving faithful homosexual relationships, and now this question... so... honestly, what is it you're really struggling with? It could well be God, I just don't see any real evidence of that on the blog from you.

Boo

natalie said...

You know where I stand by now, but I think the important thing to remember about sin is that it actually has nothing to do with the body at all. What we do with our body an action based on what's in the heart. So the issue of sin has to do with the heart.

Jesus said that for a man to look at a woman with lust was committing adultery in his heart. So, Jesus' answer to your question... if you're looking at a woman with lust, or even romantic feelings reserved for men, then it doesn't really matter whether you kiss her, hold her hand, or have sex with her. Just feeling in your heart the way you do is a sin.

I know that's hard to take and probably wasn't taken at all, but in case someone comes across this blog who might be struck by this I felt called to say it.

Praying,
Nat

JJ said...

Boo and Natalie,

I actually meant to put this in the post, but I forgot to. To my way of thinking, for something to be a 'sin', there has to be a choice, so I can't imagine that the feelings could be a sin. Sometimes there is choice in feelings, but often there is not. I also think that there is a major difference between attraction and lust. If you read this post I talk about lust a bit. For the most part, my attraction to women is no more lust than most straight women's attraction towards men. It's just attraction.

I also would respond that while sin does begin in the heart, intent to sin does not necessarily equal sin. Temptation and sin are two different things. If a thief decides to steal something, but then the Holy Spirit convicts him and he doesn't steal, then he hasn't sinned. He was tempted. There is a difference.

JJ said...

Oh, and Boo,

The reason I mentioned my friends here is because for the most part they are sure homosexual behavior is a sin, whereas I am not.

Anonymous said...

Well, since I'm not what you call "Side B" I'd be hesitant to define that position, but I think one of the distinctions made is that for heterosexuals, the only behavior which is sinful is actual sex, say, anything involving direct genital stimulation, whereas it's fine for unmarried couples to make out and such. While the belief for homosexuals is that any kind of sexual behavior, whether actual sex or kissing or even holding hands if done from romantic attraction or lust or whatever you want to call it, is sin. But I guess you'd have to ask a Side-Ber to be sure.

Boo

blog preach said...

(sorry, as i know that you say not to post alot of scripture but if we don't weigh everything against the mind of the Lord we shall all go astray. So i'm breaking the rules i guess, but you asked)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
JJ said: "To my way of thinking......"

The Lord said: (Isaiah 55:7-9)
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man 'his thoughts': and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For 'my thoughts are not your thoughts', neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and 'my thoughts than your thoughts'."

...'my way' of thinking is the carnal mind........"and the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is 'not subject' to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7)

----------------------------
JJ said:

"....intent to sin does not necessarily equal sin."

Jesus said:
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Notice that "evil thoughts" is first on the list. James wrote that those thoughts become lust, which conceive, and then become sin which brings forth death. (James 1: 13-16)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
JJ, you're like a pharisee, knowing the truth but constantly trying to find a loophole to "make the word of God of none effect." (More Mark...ch. 7 vs. 13) That's the hegelian dialectic at work here.

The answer is to, "by the mercies of God, ye present your body a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service......and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (more scripture...Romans 12:1-2)

It's reasonable. Give it up and let Him be Lord.

May we have the mind of Christ.

a friend....

JJ said...

Boo,

So far no actual Side B people have commented... only you and some Side Xers (people who think I should go to ex-gay therapy, and probably think just being gay is a sin). Kind of frustrating. While everyone is welcome on my blog, I actually kind of wouldn't have asked Side Xers because... well... in this issue their opinion is kind of invalid. They tend to assume that being gay is a sin, so they aren't really able to answer the actual question I asked. Or at least not the question I intended to ask.

I realize you are not Side B, so this is not your opinion, but...

for heterosexuals, the only behavior which is sinful is actual sex, say, anything involving direct genital stimulation, whereas it's fine for unmarried couples to make out and such. While the belief for homosexuals is that any kind of sexual behavior, whether actual sex or kissing or even holding hands if done from romantic attraction or lust or whatever you want to call it, is sin.

If this is the case, then the unfairness in it totally bothers me. Many straight people (including straight Christians) date people they have no intention of marrying (and that means, for the evangelical Christians anyway that they have no intention of having sex with), and yet they are allowed to engage in 'sexual behavior' with no condemnation... whereas, for reasons that are unclear to me (unclear to the point of seeming to be non-existant) I am to avoid these 'sexual-behaviors' even if there is no intent for sex? I realize that fairness is a ridiculous and juvenile thing to ask for, but... well... there it is. And I know you are again going to say that I am mainly concerned with what my friends think, but there is an internal thing going on here. I cannot engage in behavior that I am not sure would be alright... which is why I'm thinking like this.

Blog Preach,

First of all, my request not to have long passages of Scripture in my comments was merely an attempt to cut down on the length... I have no issue or problem with the Bible, it's just that I already own it, and so you can seriously just put the reference. I can totally look it up.

As far as the phrase "to my way of thinking", I guess it was a poor way of expressing it... but I think my thoughts on what a sin is are theologically correct. Sin has to be a choice. Otherwise God is unjust, and we know that is not true. I can choose my behavior, I cannot choose my feelings.

As far as the 'intent to sin not necessarily equaling sin' part, I stand by my thought. I did not say that this was always the case, but there have been many instances in my life, and in the lives of my Christian friends when we have come close to committing a sin and at the last minute have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and have chosen not to sin. There are some sins that happen in the mind (like lust), but many sins require an action. Like lying... I can think about lying to someone for ages, but if I end up telling them the truth, then I haven't lied.

I have to say that saying that I am like a pharisee was very harsh... I am not trying to find a loophole, I am trying to find the truth. How do I live my life as God intended?

natalie said...

How do I live my life as God intended?

Don't freak out, but my first thought... find an Adam.

but I think my thoughts on what a sin is are theologically correct. Sin has to be a choice. Otherwise God is unjust, and we know that is not true. I can choose my behavior, I cannot choose my feelings.

I totally respect your feelings on this. I used to feel that way too, for so long. I really thought there was no choice in feelings. If you know God intimately (as I hope you do and am not insinuating you don't), then you can see that you ARE able to choose not to feel angry toward the guy who cuts you off on the road. You can choose to turn on the radio and try to think about something else. It's so much easier, though, to just give in to the anger and live a life of bitterness.

I'm sorry to go on and on. I'll just leave you with this. It is incredibly difficult to force yourself not to think about women and to immerse yourself in all things heterosexual, but it IS possible if it's something you want. It would take a miracle at the hands of God, but it CAN be done. Don't think you can't control your feelings - you're stronger than that. At least I pray so.

JJ said...

I think the statement I made was too general, you can choose your feelings sometimes, but just not always. That initial anger you feel when someone cuts you off, you do feel it. The choice is in what you choose to do with it. Do you dwell on it and let yourself get really ticked off and in a bad mood all day? Or do you choose to move on and think about something else?

As far as attraction is concerned, I don't know how much control I have in this area, and not because I'm weak, but because I'm human. Married people have the same problem. They are married, and committed, and yet most of my married friends have admitted to me that they feel attractions to people who are not their husbands... and more than one of them have talked about having those feelings (unwanted feelings for someone not their spouse that they have fought against) for a while. It's the same for me. Whether I want it or not, it happens.

I am stronger than my feelings, and I can control my behavior, but I can't always control my feelings.

blog preach said...

How do I live my life as God intended?

Well, you will have to lose 'your' life first....and then you shall find it, Jesus said....for my sake and the gospel. He who holds on to his life shall lose it.

You're holding on to your life and to 'self'. I am what I am. He said deny your self and take your cross. A cross has only one purpose, ending the life. Paul said "I am crucified with Christ...I no longer live....but Christ who lives within me.

That means the person has to stop saying "I am" this or "I am" that if Christ is living through me. "I am" out of the picture now. I can never change anything about myself or any feelings by trying harder. He changes us (work of the Holy Spirit), not by getting rid of the sin, but by getting rid of the sinner.

This life, in this world, is over, for real christians. From here on we are to seek those things which are above, the bible says. This is to be heavenly minded, not earthly and fleshly minded. The scripture actually begins with "If ye..." (Col.3:1-3). If ye are risen with him......the rest will become moot.

And if you let other people talk you out of it then you might as well.... well, lets just say that is to be expected. The devil is the father of lies and there is no truth in him.

re: harsh.....sometimes being 'gentle' doesn't make the point, but the bible instructs us to speak the truth in love, and that is the intent.

JJ, why don't you give Him the green light to do anything with you at all that He wants to do? That's what it means to call him Lord.

...the water's good..it's living

a friend

JJ said...

I guess when I say that I'm trying to live my life what I mean is, understanding the reality of my situation (I am a Christian, I am also gay), how do I live my life.

And of course, I give God a green light. I have given Him a green light (there are probably many things I still need to sacrifice, but I suspect that that is true for most of us), but as yet I am still gay... so what does He want from me now? If He never makes me straight, what does He want from me? This is my question. And I think it is a valid one.

Obedience is the obvious answer, and it is true... but I don't know anymore what exactly that means. I have many questions, and I don't think it is wrong to ask them.

Eric said...

Hi JJ,

Gosh, there's alot of activity in this post isn't there? I'll apologize in advance for this long comment of my own.

I hope it's okay to say this JJ, but i first wanted to say to the other commenters that over these past several months of interacting with her, I can say that i know JJ to be someone who absolutely values the Word of God and genuinely loves Christ. She is genuinely wrestling with these questions in her life.

To blog preach - she is not the Pharisee. She's the one at Jesus' feet. Of anything, you are the one most like the Pharisee - you wield the Scripture like a billy club against every single word that you read from JJ. You say that you do it in love and you end your comment with "a friend" but fail to apply the grace that she really needs. You have no idea what it's really like to struggle with such a thing for your entire life. i don't know much about you, i'm assuming you are not gay. The problem is that straight people talk to us with such conviction about what we ought to do with no real empathy. The result is that you come across patronizing. Take the plank out of your own eye before trying to do surgery on ours.

As for your question JJ, well, i'll chime in my twenty-five cents...you know that I, too, am on this journey of trying to figure out what this whole thing looks like - to be Christian but to live with the reality of "being" gay or rather having "same sex attractions".

At what point are we "in" sin or when is it that we are "sinning"? In thought? In action? Holding hands? Sexual activity? Being attracted? Lusting?

I could very well be in the running for king of "i don't know." (wanna be queen?)

But i'll offer my thoughts that i've had for my own life and journey which anyone can be free to accept or reject for his or her own life...

Before Jesus, Jews were pretty much stuck on the whole "letter of the law" bit. When Jesus came, He shattered their paradigm. He said to them that they were missing the point. He said that it's not just about commiting adultery, but it's the lust in my heart that needs redemption. It's not just murder, but it's the hate that I harbor in my heart that needs redemption. Holy living isn't about following the rules or even simply not touching what's dirty.

Jesus has touched us and made us clean. How do we live holy lives? What does this look like for someone who still has same sex attractions after being made clean?

I think we need to be honest with ourselves regarding love and lust. It's obvious to us what we do in lust and we both can admit that any of that in that context is sin. So if we can distinguish what isn't lust then we can explore what it would look like to conduct everything else (that's not in lust) in love.

I think it's possible to have loving plutonic relationships. I think it's possible to have a loving romantic relationship. You've heard me say many times before that I think that God is more concerned about how we love, than who we love.

Here's the thing... I believe that God created us as sexual beings and that He provided an outlet for expressing our sexuality in a way that he both blesses and approves of - a context of covenant, commitment, and faithfulness. Part of the debate is whether or not God would bless something that is in a same-sex context.

Now, if one would conclude that He doesn't bless same-sex relationships, then it would only seem consistent that same-sex attraction would fit in that same category - the reason being that its a way of relating with the same gender that He wouldn't want carried out. In this case, we are called to complete celibacy - not just the restriction of sexual contact, but also anything relating to same-sex physical intimacy. In other words, if it's wrong...it's wrong.

BUT, if one concludes that He does bless same-sex relationships (that are in a loving context), then it would seem consistent that same-sex attractions are not a sin unless it is done lustfully.

I know, i'm not answering a question but rather posing more questions. But it's the questions that lead us along this journey.

So what am i saying? The question, for me, isn't at what point does the sin occur (holding hands, kissing, being in a celibate relationship, or even being in a sexual relationship)? For me, the guiding question for the journey is what will God bless? That's the question that needs to be answered first because that will answer the question of what to do with our attractions. Does He bless only heterosexual contexts or also same-gender contexts? If both, He will be consistent and fair for both straight and gay - that we are to do everything in love and not in lust. We know that God wouldn't bless a lustful straight relationship.

I'm inclined to believe that He blesses both gay and straight loving relationships. However, I also believe that it's best to abstain from same-gender romantic interaction until one has resolved the question in one's own heart. I refer you to Romans 14 (whole chapter with emphasis on verses 22 and 23).

Note: i think there's a difference between abstaining and being celibate. I think celibacy is something individuals are called to but not necessarily something whole populations are called to. But if we are called to it, then we are empowered by Him to do it.

Anonymous said...

"And I know you are again going to say that I am mainly concerned with what my friends think, but there is an internal thing going on here. I cannot engage in behavior that I am not sure would be alright... which is why I'm thinking like this."

I didn't mean it to come through quite that way. I'm sure there is an internal thing going on. It just seems every time you mention your struggles in your posts, it goes immediately to what your friends will think, combined with the fact that you seem not to believe that the Bible actually condemns loving faithful same-sex relationships, well, I guess I'm just not seeing exactly what your struggle is. (and it's probably more a problem of my receiver than your broadcaster).

I'm sure part of it is also the part inside me that's saying, well, I resolved this, why can't she already?

Boo

JJ said...

Eric,

"I could very well be in the running for king of "i don't know." (wanna be queen?)"

LOL! Definetely! We shall rule over our kingdom with great benevolence, and our subjects will hail us and serve us and come to us for advice. And with great pomp and circumstance we shall grandly render this verdict: "We don't know!"

I saw a bumper sticker once that cracked me up. It said "Militant Agnostic: I don't know and you don't either!" Maybe I'll get one of those. :-)

Seriously though, I think I'll write a whole other post on this, because well, I have some thoughts, but they just seem too long for a response.

and Boo, don't worry. I welcome the dialogue, I just wanted to be clear on the fact that this is not just about appearances for me.

CK said...

JJ,
You say "So, if we can make a distinction between temptation and sin for heterosexuals, there should be a similar distinction made for homosexuals."

Nice point. There is an interalized (and externally grounded) impulse that if you *feel* something connected to what you've identified as sin, then you *are* sinning. Yet, for people with orientations towards the opposite sex, they do not generally have the extreme shame-based response to these feelings.

As well, the Bible doesn't categorize people in terms of their attractions. It categorizes them in terms of their response to God--whether Israel, the nations, Jesus' disciples. So the hetero/homosexual distinction is foreign to the text, and the times in which it was written (as you already know).

The passages in question, as you know, dealing with homosexuality, typically focus upon action. Even the Romans passage, which talks about burning in lust for the wrong target goes on to say that the people in question "exchanged the natural use"--activity.

I'd say that on biblical grounds, you're pretty accurate when you emphasize activity.

Bringing up the "Boston marriage" situation as you do--two women who essentially are married/dating, supporting one another emotionally, etc... well, that is completely outside of the social worldview of the Bible, which assumes that men will be responsible for their wives/female children. The threat there, I believe, is less what goes on in the bedroom (if anything does), but the upsetting of the social order implicit in conventional understandings of "biblical" family. Similarly, with men, the response would be that one of the two partners is "passive" or "weak" and not being masculine.

I really believe, JJ, that this discussion is not just about whether you're "idolizing" some woman, but whether you are fitting into the mold of a "good, Christian society."

CK said...

Oh, Blogpreach, you said

"That's the hegelian dialectic at work here"

with regard to Mk 7:13...

Can you explain how Hegel fits into that passage??

blog preach said...

Hi CK,

re: hegelian dialetic

The first thing that happens in a hegelian dialetic dialogue is that the dogmatic position, (or in the case of scripture, the particular doctrinal point) must be abandoned and then incrementally re-defined according to the "feelings" of the participants in the discussion. Well, "I think" or "I feel"...

Whatever "we" decide "it" means is what it means. To do this with the clear revelation of the word of God is an attempt "to make the word of God of none effect". (Mk. 7:13) It is the repeated use of the technique that will take you far from the 'mark'.

A good preacher will never dialouge because the word of God is an ultimatum ultimately. It is to be proclaimed. Paul said in Galatians that he did not receive it from man but by revelation of Jesus Christ. Direct from heaven. (Gal. 1:12) Dare any person tamper with it?

Here's another topic to "consider"...covetousness. Colossians 3:5 states the profound understanding of the heart of the matter..."covetousness is idolatry".

And do I understand the feelings....and offer this as a friend, but one who is more concerned with your salvation then your temporary desires. The proverbial forbidden fruit.

Everybody has desires, even sinful desires, that we will never realize. The flesh will not go away but is to be "put away" in the strength of the Spirit.

I hope that you can sense a measure of grace in these comments. These words are true and God's word has not now, nor will it ever, change.

Last point...God's purpose is not to see to it that we are "fulfilled" in this life, but for the christian it is to see to it that you are "conformed into the image of Jesus". (Rom. 8:28-29)

Conformed means...'you change' into the shape of the 'mold'. Not the mold conforming into what I want.

Nobody said it was easy...if it was everybody would be doing it.

a friend with a dogmatic position