Should we define ourselves in terms of our sexual desires, be those desires gay or straight? Or should we define ourselves using some other register or point of reference? For Christians, of course, our identity is not to be rooted primarily in our feelings or desires, be they sexual or otherwise. Our identity is to be rooted by the fact that we are created in the image of God and united to Christ.
Behavior and Identity
A mistake that Christians make about things related to the LGBTQ+ movement is we tend to think of sex in terms of behavior—what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. For an LGBTQ+ person or someone involved in that movement, there are clear sexual behaviors that serve to define that movement to some extent. But underlying it is the idea that what’s actually going on is a matter of identity.
The LGBTQ+ movement really rests on the idea that fundamentally definitive of who you are is not so much how you behave sexually, but the sexual desires you experience. Those are the things that define you as being who you are. So, even if you never engage in any kind of gay sexual activity, you are still considered to be a gay person if your desires are for somebody of the same sex.
That’s an interesting development. It’s virtually unprecedented in human history that we now define ourselves in terms of our sexual desire. There’s an element of historical novelty about this. It’s an important point for Christians to grasp if we’re going to understand the political temperature that surrounds these discussions.
It’s often asked, Why is it such a big deal that a cake baker won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding? Well, it’s a big deal for the LGBTQ+ community because in refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, you’re not simply depriving that person of an item of food; you’re actually denying their identity. I think that’s where the challenge lies for Christians when they’re thinking about these issues is that we need to realize we are not simply debating the bounds of where legitimate and illegitimate Christian behavior begin and end. We’re actually debating what it is that constitutes us as human beings.
Should we define ourselves in terms of our sexual desires, be those desires gay or straight? Or should we define ourselves using some other register or point of reference?
For Christians, of course, our identity is not to be rooted primarily in our feelings or desires, be they sexual or otherwise. Our identity is to be rooted by the fact that we are created in the image of God and united to Christ.
The Bible makes it very clear that the status and identity we have comes with certain imperatives relative to our behavior—some of which involve the nature of our sexual behavior. So, it’s not to say that we’re to play the game of sexual identity and we just need to come up with a different sexual identity to that of the LGBTQ+ movement. We need to realize that our identities are not fundamentally or primarily sexual in any way. We’re rooted in the image of God, rooted in our union with Christ. That brings with it a framework of sexual behavior, celibacy outside of marriage, chastity within it as an important part of who we are and how we are to behave.
Carl S. Trueman is the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. This article is used with permission from Crossway.