By Peter H. Holtvlüwer
As we launch into a new year it may feel like we are launching into a new era. The speed of change over the last year alone has caught many of us off guard – who was counting on a Trump presidency just months ago? Who predicted that a university professor would be sanctioned for simply maintaining the pronouns “he” and “she” when referring to males and females? Gender dysphoria and gender fluidity are terms we hardly knew a year ago and yet now they are everywhere. There’s a strange wind blowing, it seems.
That wind is blowing within the church community as well. Speaking with office bearers across the federation, I have noticed a rise in cases of same-sex attraction and even of trans-gender struggles. Though not exclusively, it is mainly our teenagers and young adults that are being drawn to these life-styles. What is especially noticeable among that peer group is that there is often little conviction that these are wrong, unbiblical. Some ask: How can it be wrong if you’re born with it? Or if it feels good? There is much questioning and a lot of uncertainty. This has created a growing sexual confusion that we need to talk about.
Does this surprise you, this confusion among our younger folk? It surprised me. I think there is a generation gap on this issue that directly relates to the change in our western culture. My guess is that if you were born before 1980 you are likely very clear that gay and lesbian feelings and activities are sin. If you were born afterward, you likely have your questions. If you were born after 2000, you may well be leaning toward acceptance. Why? Because somewhere in the 1990s our western North American culture brought homosexuality out of the closet into the main stream and made it seem legitimate.
In 1990, if there were any gay references in the main-stream media then they were virtually all negative. Gay marriage wasn’t even thinkable. But the revolution was moving – seen literally in crowds of people marching in annual Pride Parades in many cities. By 1999, several movies and TV shows for the first time featured leading gay characters cast in a very positive light – and they were immensely popular! Remember Will and Grace (1998)? Ground-breaking stuff. Ellen DeGeneres “came out” as a lesbian and began a highly-rated talk show (2003 to present). Brokeback Mountain in 2005 was another envelope-pusher, an award-winning film about two same-sex attracted cowboys. 2005 was also the year that Canada’s Parliament voted to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. By 2017 – only twelve short years – anyone daring to publicly criticize homosexuality is denounced as a “homophobe” and slandered in the media. It all happened in a blur.
Those born before 1980 – many parents and grandparents today – need to realize that their teens and young adults are maturing as this cultural revolution is unfolding. TV shows and movies now regularly show a happy, content, gay life. Actors, politicians, and even sports figures feel free to come out as gay – to much applause. What we have to understand is that the gay revolution has succeeded in making the homosexual life appear normal to our society, even “cool.” It’s just another choice, not right or wrong, just different. And that has our younger generation confused.
While the over-thirty-five crowd grew up believing that God created sex as a gift to be shared in a marriage between one husband and one wife, those under-thirty-five may not be so sure. It’s the norm in today’s society to be completely open-minded about sexual “preferences” and even about gender “preferences,” and that has our younger adults thinking differently. The morality and ethics of sex are not so clear cut to them. The huge increase in on-line porn use among our younger generation has further eroded their sense of good and bad, right and wrong in this area. It’s becoming trendy to question both your own sexual orientation and your gender. Young people are encouraged to experiment. Why not try it out? Doing it once won’t hurt anyone. It might just be for you – you’ll never know till you try!
Acknowledge the feelings
I think it’s important that we recognize the honest confusion among the up-and-coming generation and be prepared to guide them through a tumultuous time. As parents (and grand-parents), our natural reaction might be one of frustration and disbelief: of course it’s wrong – how can you even think anything about homosexuality is okay? We shouldn’t even be having this discussion!! If we let ourselves respond this way, will that help the confused teenager or questioning young adult in our families? It will only shut down the discussion, provide no meaningful answers for them, and drive them to seek answers from other sources – not necessarily Christian ones.
A better way to go is to acknowledge their feelings, doubts, and questions and engage them in discussion. Those thoughts, feelings, and struggles are very real for them and we need to give them an outlet to work them through. Hear them. Understand them. Love them. Let’s realize the huge impact of our surrounding culture and let’s help guide the struggling through the haze of uncertainty. The Bible’s teaching itself is quite clear but let’s understand it may not be clear to them.
Learn to deal with feelings
The gay revolution has capitalized on using “feelings” as a guide-post, a thought that is everywhere in our western world. If it feels right, it must be right. Truth is whatever feels good to you. Growing up with this message ringing in their ears, it can be very hard for our young people to get past their feelings and submit themselves to God’s will as expressed in Scripture.
We need to redirect their thinking to God’s Word and show them that feelings cannot be our guiding light. Why not? Because our feelings are corrupted by sin and because we were not created to serve our feelings but to serve our God. Show them how Satan has been using this trick since the Garden of Eden – distracting us from what the Lord really says and urging us to chase after our feelings and desires.
With gentleness and care but with clarity and firmness, walk them through Scripture to show them God’s creation of male and female (only two sexes) and his design for sex within marriage. Point out how the union of one male and one female in holy marriage is meant to portray the marriage of Christ and his bride, the church. Expect a series of conversations, over time, with back and forth discussion – go the distance with them, taking their questions seriously and lovingly coaching them in the truth.
Let them come to see the particular commands against homosexuality in the context of the whole flow of Scripture, from the creation set-up of male/female marriage to the future marriage-feast of the Lamb. Hopefully they will learn that same-sex attraction/relations go directly against God’s will and work against God’s rescue mission in Christ, who came to save us also from these sins. As Christians, part of taking up our cross and following Christ is to deny whatever feelings or desires which are sinful, which work in the service of the kingdom of darkness.
Sorting out your confusion
If you belong to the younger set and have been struggling with your own questions and confusion, this is quite understandable. It means you’re normal! You’ve probably run into “Christian” online articles which try to explain that the Bible actually allows homosexuality, that it’s a good thing – more confusion! As a Christian growing up in the midst of the gay revolution, it would be a surprise if you had no uncertainty and weren’t tempted to think sexuality is all a matter of whatever your feelings prefer. The thing is: do not let your feelings define you!
Maybe you have an attraction to the same sex, or think you do. Perhaps you are unsure and searching and it makes you wonder: maybe I am gay? Maybe I was made this way and I should just give in to it? Perhaps you’ve secretly questioned whether you really are a male or a female. Our society will tell you: if you feel that way, go for it! It must be right! But that, my friends, is the devil’s big lie. The truth is that just because you question or feel that you might be something, that feeling does not make you that thing!
You are what God has created you to be (male or female) and what the Lord Jesus is recreating you to be (child of your Father in heaven). Your identity and mine does not rest on our sexual orientation or on anything we do or feel but on what God in his Word tells us we are. God claims us for his children in Christ and so by faith we belong to him body and soul, in life and in death. There is a reality beyond our feelings and we have to cling to it, trusting God’s Word over our feelings.
Every Christian’s sinful feelings
Many Christians – also many from the older generation – have had to face faulty feelings and attractions. It may not be related to homosexuality or gender but the feelings are just as powerful – the desire for sex outside of marriage, the relentless draw to drinking and drugs, the greedy pull to get rich, the driving feeling to have others think well of you and even look up to you. There’s also the feeling of jealousy and anger when something doesn’t go your way while your neighbour succeeds. Each one is a feeling, each one can become an addiction, but each one is sin.
It doesn’t matter if we are born with these feelings or develop these desires as we grow up. Our sinful nature is with us since conception and every part of us is corrupted with sin, so it should not surprise us that all manner of ungodly desires arise in our hearts. Same-sex attraction, gender confusion is at bottom no different than attraction or feeling toward anything else against God’s commands. Our job is to analyze every feeling and submit it to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Giving in to these feelings is making an idol out of that activity. It is saying to Christ: you are not Lord of my life and I will not serve you but me. Instead, Christians come to grips with and confess their sins, seek forgiveness, and press on in the strength of the Holy Spirit to not give in to sinful feelings. This is a painful, even life-long process. Resisting sin takes hard work each day and we need each other’s help in encouragement, guidance, and accountability.
Back to the Bible
So, please, if you wrestle with same-sex feelings or gender questions, go back to the Bible and open up a discussion with your parents, elders, or someone you respect and trust to give you true, biblical guidance. As they recall their own sinful nature and sinful desires, they will understand and be compassionate and helpful. We need each other across the generations. Don’t stay conflicted and don’t let your feelings rule you but let the Lord rule you. Let us help one another see the truth clearly and walk in it uprightly.
 Professor Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto. See his website for more: http://jordanbpeterson.com/
 Though, to be sure, many older members are accessing on-line porn as well. The main difference though is that the older ones generally know right and wrong in sexual matters, more so than the up-and-coming generation.