After leading a 6-hour intensive for 125 pastors at Revoice 2019, followed by co-teaching a workshop for 80 leaders a few days later, Pieter shared the following reflection on a private Facebook group for Side B gay Christians (a space for Christians who experience same-sex attraction and are committed to a traditional sexual ethic to encourage each other). While originally intended only for an audience of Side B gay Christians, this reflection explores how any Christian committed to a traditional sexual ethic keeps going, even when the challenges ahead seem too daunting and the kingdom seems to be coming too slowly:
Many of you have shared your beautifully honest reflections in this group, and I’ve had many of the same conversations in person. Through those conversations, a comparison between our experiences and those of Moses has come up multiple times. The comparison is encouraging for me. I hope it’s encouraging for you.
Maybe our circumstances as Side B gay Christians are like that of Moses, and we can learn something from his journey to help us along ours. We’ve been promised something beautiful, and we must painfully and diligently lead ourselves and others to the promised land. We must bring about the reality we have been promised. Some of us, like Moses, will not make it to that promised land, but we’re blessed with something Moses wasn't—a real taste of the promised land while on the journey. That’s left some of us asking, “Is that tease of a better place more helpful or harmful?” and “Is the pain of the journey worth it, particularly if we never make it to the promised land?"
The Taste is Good, Despite the Longing that Follows
First, this taste of the promised land is good, despite the longing that follows. It is good to taste! But tasting something truly good awakens our senses to just how unpalatable our current circumstances are. Some would argue that it's better never to taste and live ignorantly and moderately satisfied with our current circumstances than to taste. Moses didn't have to reckon with this tease, so to speak. Maybe he would have given up if he had truly felt the contrast between Canaan and his current circumstances. Or maybe that taste would have given him even greater motivation to keep going.
I’ve heard from most of you that it is better to know what is truly good and live with yearning than to never taste what is good and live in ignorance. We might be tempted to misremember Revoice as a mirage so that we can dismiss the pain. We might be tempted to focus on what our current circumstances aren’t. Instead, I’ve been encouraged to focus on how beautiful that foretaste was, and let it motivate me. But what if the journey is painful, and what if we never arrive?
The Pain is Worth it, Even if We Don’t Reach the Promised Land
Second, the journey of pain is worth it, even if we never reach the promised land. Ultimately, Moses painfully labored for the sake of others, but he did not reach the promised land. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re afraid of the same results. While we are confident God wants to bring Side B gay Christians to a tangible promised land in this era, it is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon. We could respond to that disappointment by throwing up our arms and chasing lesser pleasures.
Or we could follow Jesus.
Many traditions teach that becoming like Christ and following our Savior means imitating his marquee act: death for the sake of others. Following Christ looks like volitionally accepting suffering for the sake of others. So in response to the dissatisfaction of our current circumstances and the likelihood that (no matter what we do) we will not see the promised land—in response to that, what if Jesus is inviting us to suffer? What if Jesus is inviting us to fight like hell, not because we’re promised anything, but because of the other women and men in this community who need their churches to love them better? What if Jesus is inviting us to suffer for the 3-year-olds in our churches who will realize they are gay in 10 years and will benefit from our painful labors?
By suffering, I don't just mean refraining from romance and sex. I mean positive action toward what is good that might require painful obedience—actively laboring to bring forth the kingdom we need. Be the person to start a Side B fellowship in your area and text each person each time, because we’re all afraid to be the only person who shows up and we all doubt we are wanted. Be the person to start a ministry in your area that teaches pastors and churches how to better love people like us. Be the person who shares your testimony confidently and winsomely in your church. Be the person who is first to give up freedom in exchange for stability. Be the person who is first to lean into a friendship to make it safer for others to do the same. Be the person who stares Satan’s lies and schemes right in the face, says “SCREW YOU!”, and keeps fighting for the people next to you—no matter the cost.
Why suffer with no promise of the promised land?
Because we can make a difference, even if only for others. Because the Holy Spirit stands patiently next to us, ready to empower us to do what others before us did not accomplish. Because Jesus promises that we will find ourselves when we lose ourselves. Because Jesus promises that the last shall be first. Because by some mysterious calculus understood only by Jesus, nothing will satisfy us more deeply than following our Savior on a path of suffering so that others around us might settle into a land that we only ever tasted.