The following post in the ongoing series on identity in relation to faith and sexuality is from Will.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly”
As a young man, I knew I loved other men. This knowing wasn’t sexual, or even physical, but rather something profoundly onotological. Deeply rooted in myself was a desire to spend my life, my self, pursuing an intimate (emotionally, physically, spiritually) relationship with another man. This same desire for relationship existed in my pursuit of faith. I’d long known a love for and the love of God, a commitment to Christian community, and the hope of justice and grace I found present in my experience of Christianity.
In John 10, Jesus speaks of himself as shepherd, reconfiguring his role as Messiah to one of inclusion, acceptance, and abundant living. At the heart of this passage, I believe, is Jesus’ commitment to ensuring all people’s ability to fully live into themselves; to have their humanity loved and recognized in a diverse and grace-filled community.
This deep recognition of one’s being granted the hope of not only being fully human (and therefore fully one’s self) but at the same time allowed the possibility of participation in the Kingdom of God. The invitation to abundant life, more profoundly, speaks to the hope of community that affirms mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual well-being.
When we speak of sexuality, we are not simply speaking about someone’s eroto-physical attraction, but something far deeper; an indivisible part of our being. For translesgaybi individauls, sexuality is an ontological reality, a part of being inexorably intertwined with every other part of ourselves. As a personal example, my vocation as pastor, and love for the work of Christ, is as much a part of my being as my attraction to men.
When Christian communities suggest that “homosexuality is not God’s best for us,” this is not a rejection of some foreign object, a sin to be exorcised, but of a part of someone’s soul. Not only, then, do we create for our translesgaybi brothers and sisters a self-perpetuating identity crisis, but we in effect deny them the very opportunity Jesus offers in John 10:10. Rather than offering abundant life, the hope of community, or the promise of grace, we ask them to build boundaries within themselves, effectively relegating them to a half-life of loving God without knowing intimacy with another.
In the abundance of life offered to us through Christ, I cannot escape the thought that there is room in this abundance for me to be both that young man that loves Jesus and men. And what I have found throughout the course of my ministry is that as I live more fully into who I am as a gay man, I find myself growing ever deeper in my relationship with God. As these two parts of my whole self find recognition, and acceptance, in the love of Christ my life is being transformed and renewed.
Ultimately, it is this experiential revelation that has led me to reject the notion that my desire for relationship is “not God’s best for me.” The reality of God’s on-going presence and participation in my life, as well as the ever-deepening nature of my relationship with God confirms that in living into my sexual self I am indeed living into who God is calling me to be.
As Christian communities continue their struggle to understand the interplay between faith and sexuality, I recognize not only Christ’s abundant life calling me to be both a gay man and pastor, but inviting those communities to live into that abundance for themselves and share that abundance with the world around them. This is my prayer. This is my hope. That all might know life and have it abundantly.