By Carissa Van Schooten
One of the questions at the annual meeting was “What is Wellspring’s stance on LGBTQ individuals and what plans are in place to help our brothers and sisters here to feel safe?” It’s a good question to ask. As a nearly-30, never-married individual who is part of the Body of Christ, the question of sexuality and how to steward it well and faithfully within biblical parameters has been one of the things I’ve been wrestling with more intentionally over the past few years. I’ve wrestled with what it means to honor God and how he has created me by living in the fullness of who I am as a sexual being now, as a celibate individual, and I think the wrestling is pertinent to the answering of this question.
I‘ve wondered about the wisdom of a God who seems to give us desires and then asks us to not act on them. But isn’t God good? And if He’s good, then what He gives must be good. Aren’t the desires that He gives us good? And if the desires are good, then it must also be for our good to experience that, right? So why does God then put parameters around something that He has said is good? Why does He give us desires and then ask us to say “no”? That just sounds like torture…
In all my wondering, the conclusion I’ve come to is that it must be because He’s calling us to something greater, something even better than those things I desire. Could it be that those sexual desires are an opportunity to press in deeper to relationship with the Only One who can ever bring the depth of relational intimacy that I crave and long for? That those desires are actually the Lord inviting me into deeper intimacy with Him, undistracted by a different covenantal relationship? That the act of self-denial is a way of choosing Him, of learning to love Him in a different way? If that’s the case, then it has to mean that perhaps the gift of getting to learn self-denial may actually be the greater gift than sexual fulfillment. And the lesson in it may well be one that benefits all of us, regardless of relational status or sexual orientation.
The overarching biblical narrative of God and His dealings with His people in Scripture communicates a clear message that marriage is between a man and a woman, and yet the story of God is not one of desolation for those who are not married! It’s one of deprivation of a good thing, yes, but deprivation is not desolation. Rather, the deprivation of one experience opens the opportunity for others – to experience the faithfulness of the Lover of our Souls in a different way and to come alongside the Bride of Christ in community and intimacy in a way that those bound by marriage and family responsibilitiesaren’t as able to. Perhaps even to show those of us who are married and/or with children a different way to be in community and challenge them to stretch and grow their understanding of intimacy. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul goes so far as to tell the Corinthian church that it’s preferable to be single and celibate (1 Cor 7:7). There is something here that we need to attend to if we are to grow up to a mature Body. How might this answer the question of our brothers and sisters at Wellspring feeling safe and loved and included?
Could it be that for too long, the distorted narrative has ultimately been the message that a lack of sexual intimacy is a place of desolation, and that marriage is the best for all (or even that maturity is indicated by marital status)? If that is the distorted message, how do we counter it? Might we do so by maintaining an open invitation for deep knowing and belonging in community while also encouraging one another to continue to press into God’s call to holiness? Both have to be possible, because both are things we’ve been called to: the holiness of God (1 Peter 1: 14-16), and to love one another unconditionally with a 1 Cor 13 love. A love that “does not dishonor others, [and] is not self-seeking…[that] is not easily angered, [and] keeps no record of wrongs”. A love that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV).
As leaders, our commitment is to following the Lord; to that end, we’re actively digging into what it looks like for us to love all our body – including the LGBTQ individuals among us – well with a 1 Cor 13 love, even when we may disagree with each other, and how we might exhibit the love of God and Christ’s purposes for the church.
*For more information, see our Statement on Sexuality HERE.