Rueger, Matthew. Sexual Morality in a Christless World. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016.
Chapter 4, “Mom, Dad, I’m Gay” pp. 97-117.
In dealing with moral and ethical issues, Rueger observes that Christians consider the Bible to speak both descriptively and prescriptively, serving as an objective source of knowledge about right and wrong. Counter to this, many critics of biblical teachings make their objections and draw conclusions based entirely on subjective criteria (Rueger 2016, 97). Those who make judgments based on the subjective frequently consider objective standards as “cold and indifferent to the needs of individuals” (Rueger 2016, 98). Rueger asserts that applying to an objective and unchanging standard which points to a God of redemptive grace is, in fact, very compassionate. It is reliable and trustworthy even for those who would doubt.
Rueger discusses a case study of a counselee he calls “Bob.” This man was familiar with the biblical passages evaluated by Rueger in chapter three. He agreed that it was a fair assessment of God’s attitude toward his same-sex attraction. He was conflicted about his desires and said that such a conflict was very common. He wanted to change his attraction but was frustrated and unable to do so. Bob had endured abusive relationships in the past from which he did not think he had fully recovered (Rueger 2016, 99). Rueger observes that some credible members of the psychiatric and counseling community consider that at least many cases of same-sex attraction have at least a strong correlation with either abuse or familial dysfunction. His conclusion? “The human psyche can be a very fragile thing. People can be influenced and even damaged at the core of their being at any stage in life” (Rueger 2016, 100). Not all the coping mechanisms we use are the same in their appearance or their effectiveness.
The objective standards of God’s Word do not say there is no compassion. “Those who understand that their homosexual tendencies are at odds with the will of God and who seek God’s forgiveness need to hear that Jesus understands the profound brokenness of their human flesh. He died as an offering for their sins the same as for all the many heterosexual sins of the world. God loves them. God forgives them, and God’s Holy Spirit will continue to work within them to overcome sin” (Rueger 2016, 101). Though the struggle may last all our life, God’s forgiveness is a message of hope. Rueger again emphasizes that God deals with all types of sin in the same way, with repentance and forgiveness. The Church is meant to be a place where sinners gather in repentance to receive words of God’s restorative grace (Rueger 2016, 102).
Rueger observes that one challenge in dealing with issues of same-sex attraction is a philosophical shift which has taken place in our culture, putting people under more pressure than they faced in prior generations. This shift has taught people to define themselves primarily as sexual beings rather than in other ways (Rueger 2016, 104). Prior generations, which defined themselves fundamentally as religious or metaphysical beings, were confronted with different struggles, which we have largely come to deal with well. Rueger thinks the redefinition of people as primarily sexual beings, as well as being insufficient and inaccurate, is very troublesome to many young people. The pressures of this secularist and homosexuality-affirming culture rise to the level of a religious dogma in a school culture, one to which all “normal” students must conform (Rueger 2016, 106).
in contrast to the expectations of the sexualized culture, Rueger observes that the Bible allows for people to have greater or lesser levels of sexual desire without any condemnation. Passages such as Matthew 10:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 speak to the idea of celibacy as a positive option for those who would find it appropriate (Rueger 2016, 107). The Bible does not require people to define themselves primarily as sexual beings. It does endorse opposite-sex relations within the bonds of marriage.
Rueger further observes that there is a difference in the Bible between being tempted by and yielding to sin. The temptations to sin which we face cannot be entirely avoided. Yet they are also not what we use for our self-identification (Rueger 2016, 109). While temptation itself is not sin, a “desire for what is forbidden” is sin (Rueger 2016, 111). Rueger, citing Matthew 5:28, points out that the existence of the tendency to sin is not sin, but the desire of it is. Again, like all other sins, when we desire things which are called sexual sins in the Bible, we know there is room for repentance and forgiveness. The situation is not hopeless. The Christian’s identity is not to be as homosexual or heterosexual, or any sexual identity, but as a sinful person who receives forgiveness and grace (Rueger 2016, 112). For this reason, Rueger also suggests we avoid language of “sexual orientation” because it treats sexuality as the central and immutable characteristic which defines one’s life (Rueger 2016, 113). In their 2009 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa, where Rueger lives, the Iowa Supreme Court redefined “immutability” to be something which, if changed, alters one’s self-identity. This is not a historic understanding of the term. The fact is, many people show changes in their attitudes and sexual identification over time. It is not the unchanging central issue in identity (Rueger 2016, 114). in fact, studies show that a heterosexual identity is almost uniformly the lasting and stable identity of adults, given time and maturity (Rueger 2016, 115-116). Both behavior and attitudes are mutable and tend to regularize. Rueger asserts that, in Christianity, it should not be seen as a matter of damage or harm, but of gradual healing when regularization occurs (Rueger 2016, 117).