Some women I love talked about abandoning a you-pick strawberry patch now owned by a gay couple. They felt themselves in a moral quandary, though they would not have considered boycotting the patch of a divorced and remarried or a live-in couple — though those couples would also be living in sin according to the Plain Mennonite understanding of Scripture.
Growing up in a conservative Mennonite setting, I seldom heard homosexuality mentioned — and if it was, it might have been in a half whisper as a sin unfit for discussion. Though homosexuality is now more openly discussed in my setting, many people still instinctively consider it a notch worse than lying, stealing or heterosexual lust.
My perspective changed when I met Charlene, a feisty, wise, Creator-worshiping Ojibwe elder who became my best friend. She told me she had been bisexual and then lesbian for 17 years, and she wondered why it would be wrong, when she couldn’t help the way she felt.
I wondered also, and my eyes opened to a new set of questions about homosexuality in general and my own sexuality in particular. Confused about my feelings toward men and my fascination with Charlene, I wondered if I was homosexual. Was it something you just were and couldn’t help? My background had not prepared me to answer this question.
Charlene and I both concluded that Scripture teaches sex with the same gender is wrong.
Though my view of homosexuality as sin did not change, my view of people who are homosexual changed immensely. They are not more sinful than I am. Their experiences and natural tendencies have formed them differently, but I, like them, am a sexual being. I, like them, carry the desire for intimacy that is at the core of sexuality.
Jesus said, “at the beginning [God] ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ” (Matthew 19:4-5).
I understand Scripture to teach that a man and woman complete a picture of God that two people of the same gender cannot. In a literal, physical sense, our bodies are not designed to be one flesh with a person of the same gender. God created both together in his image. Not a man alone. Not a woman alone. A man’s body is stronger, symbolizing God as protector. A woman’s body bears children, symbolizing God as nurturer.
Yes, a woman can protect, and a man can nurture. But, in my experience, women are more nurturing and men more protective, and I believe God made us this way.
“It seems to me that after the Fall of humankind, every experience of human sexuality is in some way fallen,” Gregory Coles, author of Single, Gay, Christian, told me in an interview. Coles speaks openly of his same-sex orientation as well as his decision to live a celibate life.
Like Coles, conservative Christians like me should be careful to distinguish between same-sex attraction and same-sex sexual behavior. As a young person, I worried that just thinking in a way that was not heterosexual would make me a bad person.
The line where sin begins falls between feeling and lusting, not between lusting and acting, says Ken Brubacher, a conservative Mennonite who battled same-sex lust before he met Jesus: “Remember that every lustful thought would if it could.”
A clear delineation between same-sex attraction and same-sex lust gives young people questioning their sexuality the freedom to discuss and work through their feelings.
Conservative Christians should also realize negative comments and attitudes toward the LGBTQ community smack more of prejudice than of a genuine godly belief that sex with the same gender is wrong. Though we disagree with the sin, we are called to love and respect.
Both Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong and those who believe it is acceptable tend to put sexuality in a box. Sexuality is not as simple as the labels we give it and would be better described as on a spectrum. Rather than “I am straight” or “I am gay,” how about just “I am sexual”?
To those who wonder what to do with a gay-owned strawberry patch, I would cite the Apostle Paul’s statement that if believers want to avoid associating with anyone who is sexually immoral (among other sinful behaviors), they “would then need to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10). Though Paul suggests a different response toward believers in fellowship with us, we can in good conscience do business with others whose lifestyles we believe to be wrong. As we mingle, we may have opportunity to share Scripture but should never do so in a spirit of condemnation. Rather, we can point all people toward Jesus, the solution for sin.