Should We Be Named by Our Sin?
Brothers and Sisters,
In this past Sunday’s sermon, we looked at the seventh commandment: you shall not commit adultery. Naturally, this meant we spent a fair amount of time on sex and sexuality.
One of the topics I wish we could’ve touched on is the idea of identity.
In our culture, sex (something we do) is often conflated with identity (who we are). To be sure, there is an organic connection between identity and activity: the good man out of his good treasure brings forth good (Matt 12:35). Identity brings forth activity, even as activity forms identity. I am a father, yet I become “more” of a father as I parent my kids.
But this is not what our culture typically means when it mashes up sex with identity. Rather, it means that our sexual proclivities are immutable characteristics of who and what we are. Indeed, they make us who we are. That is what Pride celebrates and defends.
This conflation of sex with identity is a recent invention. For the vast majority of human history, the statement “I’m gay,” would’ve made about as much sense as, “I’m an astronaut.”
For the philosophical and sociological currents that led us to this place, I strongly recommend Carl Trueman’s Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.
How should Christians think about their identity in Christ as it relates to sex and sexuality? Should we think of ourselves as “straight” Christians? Or, if we struggle with same-sex attraction, should we consider ourselves “gay” Christians?
There’s a lot we could say on this point, but the best I can do in short form is to point you to this helpful paragraph from the PCA’s Report on Human Sexuality:
We affirm that the believer’s most important identity is found in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 1:4, 7). Christians ought to understand themselves, define themselves, and describe themselves in light of their union with Christ and their identity as regenerate, justified, holy children of God (Rom. 6:5-11; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; Eph. 2:1-10). To juxtapose identities rooted in sinful desires alongside the term “Christian” is inconsistent with Biblical language and undermines the spiritual reality that we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
As the report goes on to say, we can and should be honest about our struggles with sin. Still, “there is a difference between speaking about a phenomenological facet of a person’s sin-stained reality and employing the language of sinful desires as a personal identity marker. That is, we name our sins, but are not named by them.”
In a culture that insists on naming people by their sin, we ought to hold firm to our identity in Christ. Your sinful desires do not name an essential characteristic of your humanity. When God looks at you, He does not see “gay,” “straight,” or otherwise. He sees a beloved son or daughter, afflicted by remaining corruption yet mercifully destined for glory.
There is great hope in this, because it means that we are not defined by our struggles—sexual or otherwise. We do not wear our failure as a label. Nor are we stuck with it as if we worshiped a feckless god who’d like us to live in conformity with his word and world yet does not possess the will and/or the way to help us do so. Real change is possible, even if it only comes in fits and starts.
Take heart, brothers and sisters. Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world, and greater is the triune name you wear than the weak and worthless labels foist upon you by a world that is passing away. Though you may continue to struggle right up until the day you enter into glory, you are not an adulterer. You are not a murderer. You are not a thief.
You are a Christian. Now, by all the means of Christ’s appointment and with the full assurance of His undying grace and mercy, go out and live like it.
Your brother in Christ,