“Stop feeling that way” doesn’t work

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Last night, Emily and I had an interesting discussion about a little booklet we’d been reading, Help! My Teen Struggles with Same Sex Attractions. Although the booklet had some good points throughout, and presents a solid (albeit extremely brief) rebuttal of common redefinitions of the so-called “hammer” verses on homosexuality, there was something just not quite right about it.¬†In fact, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be this: na√Įvely simplistic.

Unless I’m completely misreading it (which I hope I’m not), the¬†approach seems to be, more or less, “repent or you’ll keep being gay.” Keep contemplation and confession¬†logs. Have Bible verses around the house to remind you of what God’s Word has to say on the issue. If your teen does these things, then they¬†won’t succumb to temptation.[1. This also appears to be a reflection of the author’s embracing of the nouthetic counselling approach.]

Now, obviously, repentance is right when sin is committed either in the heart or in the body. If a Christian who deals with same-sex attraction entertains immoral thoughts, he or she should repent of that (just as a heterosexual Christian should). If he or she commits an act of sexual immorality with a member of the same sex, then repentance is required, just as it would be for Christian doing so with a member of the opposite sex. The response on the part of the one committing sexual sin, whether in the heart or in the body, is the same whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, absolutely. And likewise, those temptations can only be resisted with a new heart, one inclined toward Christ, and a new identity, that of being a child of God in Christ.

But the booklet does not seem to make a distinction between temptation and action itself. Based on some of its language, it seems to view the issue of inclination (which may or may not be welcomed by the one dealing with it) as an act of rebellion itself. But the reality may be more complicated than this.

We should not forget that sin wreaks havoc on every aspect of creation. This is why some of us are predisposed to be overweight, even when we have healthy eating habits, or why healthy people’s¬†bodies suddenly turn on themselves as cancerous cells develop, or why hard working people live in poverty. It’s not that these people have necessarily done anything to cause these things: they simply are as a result of living in a fallen world.

Sin represents a disruption in God’s good creation that affects everything.

So, too, it is with our affections. We are naturally designed a certain way; and¬†I believe God’s design is for¬†men and women to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. But the fall disrupts even this aspect of God’s good design, in effect inverting our orientation for some of us. While this does not excuse acting upon these inclinations, it should serve as an important reminder: we should not treat a teenage or adult Christian as though they¬†rebelling against God simply because of these inclinations. If we fail to recognize this, we may do far more damage to Christians‚ÄĒincluding our own children‚ÄĒthan we realize.

This is not to say we should be soft on sin. Far from it. It is simply a recognition that we can’t expect “stop¬†feeling that way” to work, no matter how many memory verses we post around the house.