I think I struggle with same sex attraction… Can I be a Christian?

blue and yellow abstract painting

To help answer this question, let’s take a look at how Jesus answered a question that a young person came to him with in Matthew 19:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:16-26

You might read that and be tempted to say, “What does this have to do with same-sex attraction.” Well, give me a minute and we will get there.

This scene in the life of Jesus begins with a question, similar to the one we are looking at. “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And then Jesus answers the young man telling him to the commandments. The young man says “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

As we observe this interaction, we see that this young man comes to Jesus with an understanding that to have eternal life he has to do something. It is about his own actions. He knows the commandments. He has tried to keep them and even believes that he has kept all of the commandments. But he also still senses that he lacks something.

Then Jesus hits him right where it hurts. The parallel passage in Mark 10 tells us that this young man was rich. So Jesus tells him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Is Jesus telling this man that he can buy his way into heaven? No. That would go against the wider teachings of Scripture. Jesus is making a point. He knows the young man won’t do it. He knows that this young, rich, ruler is holding onto something that he thinks is more important than Jesus. And because he values his riches so much, he is unwilling to leave them behind and follow Jesus.

Then Jesus gives us this wonderful picture of how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. He likens it to a camel getting through the eye of a needle. This might be a metaphor, Jesus might be talking about an actual gate that camels had a hard time getting through. We don’t really know. But we know Jesus is saying that it is difficult. And his disciples remark then, “what hope do any of us have?” Who then can be saved?

And then we have one of the most important parts of the passage, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Jesus is agreeing that man cannot keep enough commandments or leave those things they think define them and follow Christ. We need God’s help.

So, let’s apply the principles from this scene into the question we began with. Can someone who struggles with same-sex attraction still be a Christian? There are a lot of ways we can go with that question, but rather than get bogged down in the many issues and ideas surrounding same-sex attraction, let’s look at how Jesus answered the young man.

If you are holding onto something with enough strength and desire that you are willing to walk away from Jesus over it, then it would seem that your faith might not be genuine. If, like the rich young ruler, your identity is held up in something other than being a follower of Christ and you are not willing to set it aside, then, like the young man, you are walking away from Jesus.

But, if you are willing to set other things aside and leave them behind and follow Jesus, then you can be saved. This is not of your own doing, because with you, it is impossible. But remember, with God all things are possible.

This does not mean that you will not struggle with things. Had the rich young man left his things behind to follow after Jesus, he may have struggled with the desire for money, the love of money and other things as he followed after Christ. Peter struggled with a legalistic attitude. Thomas struggled with doubt. Following Jesus does not mean we will not struggle. But it does mean that we do not surrender.

When the young man walked away from Jesus, he surrendered. He decided that something else was more important than Jesus, and he was unwilling to walk away from it, even if it meant not having something infinitely greater. Don’t surrender. Struggle and trust.

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