How does God bring about change and sanctification in the lives of Christians attracted to their own sex?
For much of recent evangelical history, Christians’ perception of God’s transforming and sanctifying work in those attracted to their own sex has focused on orientation change, that is, how God is or is not turning them from experiencing sexual attraction toward the same sex to experiencing sexual desire for the opposite sex. This was often the church’s public perception of the work of ex-gay ministries like Exodus International, for example. We believe God can do anything that he pleases, yet we also believe that it is important to recognize how God typically works. While it seems clear that some people experience a degree of spontaneous fluidity in their orientation, none of the methods of pursuing a change in orientation which we know of, whether psychological or spiritual, have proven effective. Thus, while there is nothing wrong with desiring or praying for such a transformation, we instead want to highlight the sorts of change and sanctification which do seem to be part of how God regularly works in the lives of gay/same-sex-attracted believers who surrender their sexuality to Him. We believe it is better and wiser for gay/same-sex attracted Christians—and for the churches that support them—to focus on these kinds of change, rather than fixing hope on possible, but relatively unlikely changes in a way that tends to produce discouragement and despair.
True sancitfication and change require repentance from actual sin, where that has been engaged in, whether in sexual acts, inappropriate relationships, or willfully entertained lust or fantasy. We believe that God calls His children to turn from all such sin and that He will give them the power to do so. We exhort gay/same-sex attracted Christians to take all sin seriously and get the support and accountability they need to resist and overcome. We hope to help in this endeavor, whether through teaching and workshops at our events, through recommended resources, or through helping connect individuals with churches or ministries in their local area that can provide needed care and discipleship. Scripture is clear about the spiritual dangers of being complacent towards sin, or presumptively resting upon the grace of God to cover it, “sinning that grace may abound”.
When it comes to sinfulness in our hearts, we trust that God is sanctifying us and cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness by the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. We look forward to being completely freed from all sinful desire when we are fully redeemed, and we work towards this freedom in this life we now live in the flesh, putting to death whatever in us draws us away from God’s will and design, yet recognizing that it is common for God’s people to be frustrated and dismayed by the persistence of sin in their hearts. We recognize the need for each of us to faithfully turn away from those desires which are contrary to God’s design and to welcome the continual renewing of our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, while most of us have not perceived a change in our orientation (i.e. a change in the direction of our sexual desires), many of us have experienced various kinds of change in how we experience those desires and the role they play in our life and thought processes, and we rejoice in these both as signs of how God has been working in our hearts, and as signs of God’s promise of the complete transformation and sanctification that is our inheritance.
For example, we have seen God change us by breaking the power that our same-sex sexual desires have over us, so that they no longer dictate our actions, thought patterns, or beliefs. We have seen God change us by empowering us to “resist and turn away from every thought, action, desire, or behavior that does not align with God’s revealed intentions for human sexuality”, as our Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience puts it. We have seen God change us by strengthening our ability to focus on pure and true sisterly or brotherly love, letting that guide us in our relationships with others and our thoughts and affections toward them. And we have seen God change us by diminishing the place of our same-sex attractions in our heart relative to Himself, making them seem increasingly dim in the light of His own beauty and glory, and nurturing in our heart a growing love for Him and desire to please Him.