In a recent seminar at The Village Church, Sam Allberry addressed whether the gay lifestyle conflicts with Christianity. Allberry, who has chosen to come out of the gay lifestyle, gives hope for others with same-sex attraction who have called on the name of the Lord for their salvation.
With gay rights at the forefront of American culture, pastor Matt Chandler at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas invited Sam Allberry to speak on the subject of homosexuality with hope of equipping the church to have gracious dialogue with those immersed in the gay lifestyle.
Allberry, who has authored several books and pastors at an Anglican church in Maidenhead, UK, began having feelings of attraction toward the same sex as a teenager. He comes from a loving family, and says he has a good relationship with both his father and his mother. While attending an all-male high school, Allberry began to notice that he had strong emotional feelings toward his friends. Because homosexuality wasn't on the forefront of cultural debate then like it is now, it took him a long time to realize that he was attracted to other men and that he had never really developed feelings toward members of the opposite sex.
Around the same time that Allberry realized that he had same-sex attraction, he came to know Christ as his Savior. "As a Christian struggling with this issue, it was very hard for me to say anything about it. I assumed that as a Christian, I wasn't supposed to have these kinds of feelings," Allberry says. He began to study God's word, and came to understand that marriage is an important issue in God's eyes.
The Bible begins and ends with a marriage. The first marriage between Adam and Eve is a picture which points us to the final marriage - that of Christ and His bride, the church. "Human marriage is a sign-post God has given us about that relationship Jesus has with His people ... It is a visual aid for the big thing that God is doing - winning people to Jesus Christ," the pastor says.
In Mark 1:15b Jesus declares, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (English Standard Version). In this passage, Jesus testifies that He is the One Whom God had promised would deliver His people - the awaited Messiah. "Jesus assumes all of reality revolves around Him," Allberry says - all of history had waited for His arrival.
As we repent, Allberry explains, we will have a wonderful sense that following Jesus is worth it; in fact, Jesus is very up-front about the cost of following Him. "For anyone at all, following Jesus will involve both a cost and a blessing," the pastor says - "He doesn't hide anything. He tells us what following Him is going to involve, what it's going to cost."
"The Bible is very clear about what it says about homosexuality," Allberry says. Matthew 15:19-20 says, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
Here Jesus is saying that all kinds of evil, including sexual immorality, come from the human heart. "What makes us dirty in God's sight comes from within; comes from our own hearts," Allberry says. The pastor explains that sexual immorality includes any sexual activity outside of marriage - whether pre-marital sex, indulging in pornography, extra-marital affairs, or homosexual relationships.
Allberry explains that it is important to distinguish that marriage is predicated on gender. In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus says that God made us male and female, and that a man and his wife become one flesh when they marry. "Jesus is saying that marriage, by definition, is between male and female ... This and only this kind of union can lead to one flesh - to two people becoming one," he says.
Christians should be aware that gay couples can love each other very much - "I know a number of gay couples who are very committed, who are very loving. I [also] know a number of heterosexual marriages that are really struggling," the pastor says. The issue at hand is not the strength of peoples' feelings, but rather the kind of union which the Lord has ordained. "Jesus teaches us that marriage between a man and a woman is distinct. There is no other kind of union like this one," Allberry says.
Allberry began to understand that he would not be faithful in his relationship to Christ if he pursued a homosexual lifestyle. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves - to take up our cross, and to follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). "You've got to learn to say no to yourself," says Allberry. When you receive Christ as your Lord, you give up all of your rights so that every area of your life belongs to Him. "The cost is not a little bit of this, a little bit of that - the cost is you. Your whole life," the pastor says.
At this point, Allberry says, someone might wonder why anyone would desire to follow Jesus if it means giving Him complete control over every part of your life. In fact, Mark 10:29-30 says:
"Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'"
"Jesus assumes that the most costly things that we leave behind will be relational," explains Allberry - but yet He gives us an exquisite promise: "'You will receive far more from Me than you ever had to leave behind for Me.'"
Those who leave behind relationships for Jesus' sake will gain family in Christ, Allberry explains, with God as their Father and other Christians as their brothers and sisters. "The Christian church should be a place of true community ... anyone who comes to Him should feel a net increase in family," he says.
We also receive a new identity in Christ as His beloved bride. "Our culture says, 'You are your sexuality. Your sexuality is your feelings, and those feelings are who you are. Those feelings define you ... that is the key to understanding and being yourself,'" Allberry explains, and he believes that this is woefully inadequate.
The culture makes it seem as if our sexual feelings are unchanging and eternal, and that they are the basis of our identity - as if fulfilling sexual desires is what makes life worth living. Jesus was the most perfect human being to ever have lived, however, and He was single and celibate. "No earthly relationship can make your life whole and complete," Allberry says.
But there is One Who can fulfill our longing for love, acceptance, and permanence - and though it cost us everything to follow Him, we abound in joy for knowing Him. "There's an even better prize, and that is to know Jesus ... that is the relationship that will never, ever disappoint," Allberry says. True fulfillment is in having a relationship with Him.
Allberry's book "Is God Anti-Gay?" shares more on this topic.