Ellen Dykas, a Covenant Seminary grad and the women’s ministry coordinator at Harvest USA — an organization that equips the church to bring the Gospel’s power to those affected by sexual sin — will offer a seminar at this year’s General Assembly dealing with sexual identity. ByFaith spoke with her about it.
Identity is important in our culture. How do we turn that conversation from one based on sexual orientation to one based on being found in Christ?
Many people might not know that using “gay” as an identifier is relatively new and that it’s only in the last 40 to 50 years that it’s become a preferred label by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.
[The change illustrates that] we need to reframe the conversation by differentiating between desire and identity. For instance, someone might say, “I’m a gay Christian.” To reframe it, we must realize that someone’s identity is based on things like “being in Christ” or “not in Christ,” or being a male image bearer, or a female image bearer. That’s how the Bible describes us on the level of personhood and identity. The Bible never points to our desires as an identity or a fixed, inborn, and unchangeable orientation.
What the Bible does say is that our attractions are often aspects of our humanity that need to be redeemed by Christ. His goal is that we each have a Jesus-centered sexuality that applies to every situation. For a single person, identity is not found in sexual attractions toward another person. For married people, a redeemed sexual identity is one in which their social, sexual, and emotional desires are focused on the one with whom they share a marriage covenant.
How can we respond when someone says “I’m gay”? How can we disciple them?
When a person says “I’m gay,” we approach them with a listening, humble heart and a simple question like, “How did you come to this conclusion?” One way we love people is by knowing them and the specifics of their story.
If this person is a confessing Christian, ask what their pastor has said about sexuality. Ask if it has been positive or negative for them. Ask them to share their faith story with you.
Because temptation is common to man, discipleship in this case is going to be similar to any other kind of discipleship. Our goal is to bring the Gospel’s truth, which offers hope, especially to people who have disordered desires. Generally, we haven’t done a good job in teaching a robust biblical theology about the goodness of sexuality and how it relates to our marriages, singleness, or broken-heartedness.
All of us experience brokenness in our sexuality. But the Gospel speaks to us in the midst of it. Christ promises to meet us where we are and give us strength. He also gives His community of faith to shepherd us. As we walk through our trials, clinging to Christ and His body, we find ourselves growing in the truth of our identity in Christ and find our sexuality being redeemed.
[In this life] we will suffer. For the married person, it might be a difficult marriage. For the single person, it might be a long road of singleness. For the person who contends with same-sex attraction, it might be a struggle to resist temptation while walking faithfully according to God’s Word. But one day all broken things of this world will be restored.
If our hope is for all these things to change on this side of eternity, we will be discouraged. But if our hope is in Christ, with daily dependence upon Him and an eye on the future, then we have everything to live for, now and forever.