Sacrifice: A Love Letter for Queer Believers
This week’s post is a guest feature by my friend, Timon Lee. I have recently had the pleasure of getting to know Timon through a queer Christian Facebook group as well as via Twitter. We connected quickly over our mutual passion for social justice as well as various other shared interests. Timon is active in university campus ministry where he seeks to create hospitable spaces for all who are searching.
One of my most vivid memories of my time in the closet are the times I rehearsed specific behaviors over and over again until I could perform them “the right way” and pass for a straight man.
From my intonation, to my posture, to the way I walked, to the tension of my wrists; every piece of my behavior was carefully cultivated. Anything that felt natural to me was suspect-interrogated, scrubbed down, and replaced with something else.
In so many ways, I felt like these moments were demanded of me not just by the homophobic environments I existed in, but also by God.
“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:30-31
I had no concept of a God who delighted in me in a way that engaged my sexuality. Instead, I believed I had to claw out all the pieces of me that didn’t match whatever perfect, heterosexual self was supposed to march through heaven’s gates.
This was obviously a horrifically lacking understanding of the Gospel, but I think it’s significant that I felt this so strongly in relation to being queer. Queer folks are often told to gouge ourselves out in the name of purity.
In a way that my cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) peers never were, I was told that every desire was fundamentally depraved; whether it was my desire to have sex with other men, my desire to cross my legs at the knee, or my desire to not die lonely and alone.
In a way that my cishet peers never were, every moment of my experience was under a microscope. If I said I was worried about living alone for the rest of my life, my theology was at risk. If I said I wondered about celibate partnerships as a mechanism to mitigate loneliness and isolation, I was “begging for temptation.”
In a way my cishet peers never were, I was expected to come to terms with fully submitting my sexuality to Christ before I spoke to anyone else about it; without any guidance from adults in my life, and without naming this as difficult or painful, I was told, “cut it off and throw it away.”
What I wish those around me understood when I was closeted, as I began to come out, and even today, is the degree to which I and other queer folk are indeed willing to cut off our hands. Jesus is really, really incredible, and while I don’t think performing heterosexuality is the sacrifice he asks me to make, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to know him more fully in my life.
Watching the way my queer siblings sacrifice themselves for both Christ and his Church, I wonder why the push to sacrifice stops with queer people.
While I start figuring out what a future without a romantic partner looks like, my cishet friends with absolutely no relational prospects cling to their idolization of marriage and the nuclear family and say, “When I get married…”
While I spend Sunday mornings ensuring that what I’m wearing is an authentic presentation of myself while also not being distracting, confusing, or upsetting to those I’ll worship with, my cishet friends toss on whatever appears clean and head straight to church.
While I wonder every time I enter a space of worship whether or not I’ll be asked to worship with music that actively seeks the end of my existence, my cishet friends wander in and bop to whatever plays over the speakers without a second thought.
While I wonder if I have it in me to live a life devoid of genuine commitment, my cishet friends cancel plans for “family time.”
Why is it always queer folks cutting things off ourselves so everyone else can stay comfortable? If all of us are the body of Christ, when will cishet people gouge out their comforts, desires, and longings so that queer people can rest, safe from loneliness and despair?
I’ve come to see that our God is a God of resurrection. When we’re asked to cut things off, it’s so they can die and rise again, made more beautiful and more whole. Thus, it was never God who asked me to change the way I moved and sounded- though God would ask me to kill my desire to manage everyone’s perception of me and let rise a delight and security in knowing God’s perception of me.
It was never God who asked me to sound “straight”- though God would ask me to kill my use of language as a means to gain power and let rise a use of language as a means of caring for other people.
It was never God who asked me to accept a future where I’m alone and unloved- though God would ask me to let die an intense idolization of the heterosexual nuclear family and let rise God’s radical redefinition of family:
“…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”Matthew 12:50
Yet, when queer people start living into the resurrection that Christ has for us in this life, we’ll disrupt the status quo, so for too long we’ve simply waited in spaces of death, gouging out more and more out of ourselves.
My beloved queer siblings, it’s time to stop. Let Jesus guide the scalpel. Know that you’re allowed to stop fighting. You’re allowed to have done enough for this present moment. You’re allowed to be something beautiful and good and whole, because this is what God has wanted for you all along. Stop cutting things off yourself and let new life arise.
And my beloved cisgender, heterosexual siblings, it may be time to begin. Let Jesus guide the scalpel. Know that every time we let die an idol of this present age, we get to see more clearly the world God made this universe to be. We follow the same God, you and I, and our God calls us to pick up the instrument of our public humiliation and torture, and follow.
Following Jesus is a road of self-denial and death to self. It’s costly, but following Jesus should cost you and I the same amount. Whatever he’s asking you to pay, I promise, it’s worth it. Maybe it’s time y’all cut off some hands and got uncomfortable. Maybe it’s time y’all got to experience the beauty of a resurrection that actually cost you something.