Jesus Is Enough
About the Guest
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Rachel GilsonRachel serves on the leadership team of Theological Development and Culture with Cru, and is the author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next (The Good Book Company, 2020). Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today and for Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition, and she speaks nationally and internationally at churches and on college campuses. Rachel holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a history degree from Yale Col...more
Rachel Gilson talks about the importance of responding with God’s loving design for a sexuality that is not arbitrary or cruel, on FamilyLife Today.
Jesus Is Enough
Bob: Should Christians today embrace a new vision of marriage, a vision that includes same-sex couples? Rachel Gilson doesn’t think so.
Rachel: I think the arguments for an evangelical case for same-sex marriage have become extremely sophisticated. It means that we need to do a good job in our churches explaining God’s positive vision for sexuality—not just the verses which say, “No,” to same-sex sex—and they are there; and they say, “No,”—but also what God says, “Yes,” to. When we understand His design for sexuality, it helps us see that what He says, “No,” to is not arbitrary or cruel.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Rachel Gilson has thought a lot about gender and sexuality and about marriage because of her own experience of being same-sex attracted. We’ll talk with her today about how she’s come to make biblical sense of all of this. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have, sometimes, thought that it is a good thing—at least, for me it was a good thing—that I didn’t understand exactly all I was signing up for when I became a Christian. [Laughter] Because if somebody had sat down and said, “This is what it’s going to mean…”
Ann: If someone would have told me that you’re going to marry a pastor and live in Detroit, Michigan, I would have run as far away from God as I could.
Dave: Not everybody that becomes a Christian is going marry a pastor and live in Detroit.
Bob: You were okay with being a missionary in Africa;—
Ann: Yes; “Send me there!”
Bob: —but a pastor’s wife in Detroit: “Forget it.” [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; exactly!
Dave: —not going to happen.
Yes, I think there is some truth to the fact that we often hear and think: “What am I going to give up?” “This is what I have to give up,” “This is what is going to go away.” Why does no one talk about, “Here is what you get”?
Dave: “On the other side, there’s an amazing thing”; but anyway.
Ann: But the disciples that followed Jesus—they’re thinking, “We’re going to follow this guy.”
Bob: Well, one of them said, “Where else—
Bob: —“do we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
Dave: Yes; that one of them was Peter there, Bob—
Bob: That’s who it was.
Dave: —just in case you are wondering. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we have got a friend joining us this week on FamilyLife Today, Rachel Gilson, who kind of came to a point in her life, where she recognized, “Whatever I have to do, I’ve got to acknowledge that Jesus is who He claims to be.”
Rachel, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Rachel: It’s my pleasure. You know, even as you’re talking, I’m thinking, “My favorite parable is that short one, where Jesus says, ‘A man found a treasure in a field; and in his joy, he went and sold everything so he could buy that field.’”
Bob: You understand a little about selling everything. You’ve written a book called Born Again This Way, which is your story of growing up. You’ve already shared with us about same-sex attraction that you started to experience while you were in high school. You started acting on that. You went to college at Yale; this was still—maybe, not the defining part of your life—but a significant part of your life until you were reading Mere Christianity and had to close the book and say, “Okay—
Dave: Yes; what exactly did she say? “Fine! Okay.” [Laughter]
Bob: “I’ll be a Christian.”
Dave: “I’ll surrender”; yes.
Bob: Yes. “Fine; I’ll be a Christian,”—that was your prayer of salvation. In that moment, were you thinking, “This is going to have implications for my sexuality”?
Rachel: I already knew. I knew because I had encountered those other interpretations of Scripture, which claimed that God supports monogamous same-sex relationships. I had considered them carefully, and I had found them wanting. By the time I got confronted with the fact that I was knee-deep in my sin/over my head in my sin, there was no way out except the blood of Christ, I already knew that meant everything belongs to Him. I didn’t know what that was going to mean experientially.
Bob: And I hear people today, who are finding the arguments—that you found unconvincing—they are finding them convincing. We’ve seen a wave of people, who have kind of moved from an orthodox view of sexuality to a modern view of sexuality, and saying, “This is still in bounds.” I remember reading an article, where a woman said, “When I was experiencing same-sex attraction, I would have loved to have heard an argument that would have convinced me that this was okay; because it would have validated my desires.”
What are you saying as you engage with the people, who are drifting in the other direction, and saying, “No; there is a biblical case for this; in fact, it is stronger today than it’s ever been”?
Rachel: We have to realize most people are attracted to what’s been called the affirming view, which that would say, “God affirms same-sex relationships.” Most people are attracted to the affirming view, because they genuinely care about the gay and lesbian people in their lives.
They have been taught by culture that the only way you can have a happy life is if you have a romantic partner—right?—and if you have a romantic and sexual partner who fulfills you. They say, “Well, that’s what would fulfill my gay and lesbian friend. God has promised that He wants us to be happy,”—which, hello, is that what He promised? But you know, we kind of take these different ingredients and blend them all in our Ninja® and then come out the other side and say, “Well, God wants me to be happy, and this would make you happy; therefore, that’s probably what God wants.”
When I am approaching someone, who holds the affirming view, I want to be asking a lot of questions; because usually, they’ve seen some kind of pain in someone’s life that they care about—it’s some type of promise that was unbiblical, or mistreatment by a church, or—there are a dozen different things that can lead people to think, “Well, maybe, this is what God really wants because it’s what my friend or my family member really wants.”
I think that’s why it is important to really gently bring each other back to the Scriptures; right? It says in Hebrews 3, “We need to exhort one another every day as long as it is called today so that none of us might be hardened by the”—what’s the word?—
Rachel: —“deceitfulness of sin”; right? We are suckers for sin; we are easily duped. So where are we going to go?—we have to go to God’s Word.
Ann: You were saying you would go to your friend and ask questions—those questions being into their past?
Ann: I’m asking that, for so many of us with friends, of just hearing their story.
Rachel: I want to hear their story, and I also want to hear what they think of God’s Word. Do they think of God’s Word as something that actually carries life and authority, or do they think of it as something where they can cherry pick?—right?
We actually have an incredibly biblically-illiterate society right now. If we take something that is this tender and this disputed, and we throw it to people who actually haven’t been trained very well in how to read the Scriptures, outside of little verses that have been pulled out and stuck on coffee cups, well, no wonder we’ve got people confused and easily taken advantage of by these very sophisticated arguments.
I think the arguments for an evangelical case for same-sex marriage have become extremely sophisticated. It means that we need to do a good job in our churches, explaining God’s positive vision for sexuality—not just the verses which say, “No,” to same-sex sex—and they are there, and they say, “No,”—but also what God says, “Yes,” to. When we understand His design for sexuality, it helps us see that what He says, “No,” to isn’t arbitrary or cruel; because I think that is the way a lot of people feel. They feel like what God says, “No,” to is arbitrary and it’s cruel; but His character is not arbitrary and cruel.
Dave: As you gave your life to Christ in college—obviously, we are talking, now, way down the road—go back: “Did you immediately understand God’s heart regarding your sexuality? Was it an easy process?—“Okay; now, I’m a believer. I’m going to step away from this.” Was it a journey?—was it up and down?
Obviously, from the very beginning, you had a hermeneutic bent, even before you were a Christian to understand: “Boy, here is what they are saying these Scriptures mean. Here is what they mean.” You already had that hard-wired into you; so you had this bent, “I’m going to understand Scripture.” But you’ve got a life that you’re deciding: “Am I going to lead it? Am I going to continue it?” Walk us through that journey, because it isn’t one day; is it?
Rachel: It’s certainly not one day. This is part of why I wrote my book with such openness and honesty; because I think, if we can’t see it happening in a real person’s life, we kind of don’t know what it looks like; we don’t know what to expect. The danger, of course, is that, when you see just one story, you think it’s the only story.
Rachel: My story can be weaponized, and people can try to laminate it onto other people; and that’s not God’s purpose.
But why did He write so much of the Scriptures in narrative? Sometimes, the universals are best illustrated in the highly specific. Part of what was really formative for me is I immediately got involved with the Christians at Yale and with the local church. I had to be in a community of God’s people; but it became pretty clear to me, early on, “Hey, hey, I’m still attracted to women.” It’s been 16 years, and I’m still attracted to women.
Ann: Were you surprised that that wasn’t gone?
Rachel: I was not surprised; but at the same time, I was a little bit concerned about what I was supposed to do. I knew that God’s Word said, “No,” to acting on those attractions; but I still didn’t understand why. I remember kind of bargaining with God, saying, “Hey; if You’ll tell me why You say, ‘No,’ to this, then I will obey with perfect joy and obedience,”—which is ridiculous; right?
The first thing that God did in my life was He really pressed me—He said, “Hey, what if the most important question isn’t: ‘Why did I say something?’ What if the most important question is: ‘Can you trust the One who is asking?’” Because if I’m only willing to obey when I understand and agree, how am I not making myself God?
I was pressed again and again back to the Garden of Eden, because there is a really interesting situation there. I turns out, even before sin entered the world, that God wanted us to live by faith and not by sight; right? He sets this whole beautiful arena, puts Adam and Eve there; and they are given one prohibition: “Don’t eat this fruit that’s related to growing in knowledge. The day that you eat it, you will die.”
The only way you can obey that is if you trust the One who told you. That’s exactly where the serpent pressed Eve; right? He’s like, “Hey, is that what God really said?” He gets her to look at the fruit and to use her own data to evaluate it. She sees that it looks good, that it would taste good, that it is desirous to make her wise. On the one hand, she has all this data, saying, “The fruit is going to be good for her,” and the only thing she has on the other side is God’s word, saying, “If you eat it, you are going to die.” I feel like that’s where so many of us are when it comes to sexuality. When we use our own data, we’re like, “Whoa; but I should treat sexuality this way”; but God’s Word says something else—it’s like, “If you treat sexuality that way, you are going to die.”
Eve and Adam both ate that fruit; because they said, “God must be holding out on me. He’s not telling me the truth. He’s keeping something from me; I need to get it myself.” We all live downstream of that decision; that impulse is in all of us. Over and over again, early in my Christian life, through an open dumpster fire of failure, by the way, I had to get pressed again and again into: “Is Jesus trustworthy?”; because if I’m going to trust Him with this aspect of my life, then what am I possibly resting on? He has shown again, and again, and again that He is perfectly for me.
Dave: You discovered in your college/early journey that He was trustworthy. Did you also discover the community you were now bounding with/the Christian community was trustworthy? Were you able to tell them who you were and what you were—
Dave: Yes; how did that go?
Rachel: It was so great. Again, I had not grown up in the church, so I hadn’t grown up with a history of experiencing me being honest with people, and them telling me things that were unhelpful or shutting me down. I assumed, “Well, I should tell people my real story.” They responded to me with such grace and truth—that’s what I needed.
You know, if they had only extended me grace but not truth—like there is no power there to say, “No,” to temptation—they would have helped me destroy myself. But if they had been all truth and no grace, I mean, I would have been crushed; because I did fail several times. They were so wonderful in demonstrating the grace and truth of Christ to me.
Bob: Rachel, there are some people who, on coming to Christ, recognize the claims of Christ on their life; but the power of the temptation is so strong that they just can’t turn off the spigot, and they drift back. I am just wondering if that was a battle for you or whether God enabled you to resist temptation that still continued for you.
Rachel: Well, there were times of victory. There were times of me being able to say, “Yes,” to God and “No,” to my sin; but then there were also times, where I said, “Yes,” to my sin and “No,” to God. It was extremely bumpy, up and down, as I learned/really, as I trained my muscles of obedience.
Part of what I had to commit to was to figure out: “Hey, is what my flesh is promising me—is that actually better than what God is promising me?” I had to come, face to face, with that question many times. Once I had actually tasted the goodness of Christ, even imperfectly, I just was never as happy with sin again; I kind of lost my taste for it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t choose it sometimes; it doesn’t mean I didn’t have to fight it.
I think what really helped me was an actual relationship with the living God that was better than even the good things I experienced when I was giving into my desires.
Dave: Have you found that the same-sex attraction temptation—is it harder to resist than other desire/sin temptations?
Rachel: People who experience same-sex attraction—I mean, we experience it all in different ways, just like people who experience opposite-sex attraction experience it at different levels—both in their own season of life and differently from other people. There are some men, who are attracted to women; and sexual temptation is a battle they have to fight their whole lives. There are other men, who are attracted to women, for whom they learn the obedience of faith; and actually, sexual temptation isn’t that big of a deal for them. They/their battle might be elsewhere—like with anger or with passivity—things like this; right?
Some of us, same-sex attraction is the place where we are fighting for obedience. Certainly, early in my Christian life, it was the main arena of battle; but now, for example, 16 years into my faith, I still experience same-sex attraction; but honestly, the grace of God has so worked in my life that, even when it comes up, I know exactly what to do. It really helps me squash that down and say, “Yes,” to the Lord—not repressing my feeling—but just saying, “Hey, I don’t even want this, actually,”—not really temptation.
Bob: We’ve got to say, 16 years into your journey, you have a kindergartner, and you have a husband. Explain to us; because not everybody goes on that path, who has experienced same-sex attraction.
Rachel: No; that’s right. Several disciples, who experience same-sex attraction, will never be called into an opposite-sex marriage. They will actually testify to the goodness of God in their singleness by saying, “Hey, marriage is good; but it points to the real marriage that’s coming in the new heavens and the new earth, and there is nothing I’m going to miss out on.”
Actually, by choosing singleness for the sake of Christ, a person is saying, “I believe in the resurrection with my whole life”; but God does and will call several of us, who experience same-sex attraction, into opposite-sex marriages. It’s like, “I don’t need to be attracted to every man in order to be faithfully married to one man. I just need to receive from God what I need for this marriage.”
Sometimes, it’s helpful to not be attracted to every man; right? It’s helpful to just be attracted to the one man God has called me to. There is actually something really helpful in the fact that everyone who wants to follow Jesus has two options for their sexuality. They can be faithfully single, or they can be faithfully married as God defines marriage. God has called me to live faithfully in one of these two stations, and He is going to equip me to live there.
To the person who would say, “These desires are too strong; I cannot say, ‘No,’ to them,” I want to say, “Who owns you?! Do your desires own you, or does Jesus Christ own you?” He has promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There is no temptation that has overtaken you that is not common to man; but God will give you the way of escape.” Does He say it’s easy? Certainly not; but He does say it’s possible.
Ann: I think that’s a great question of: “Who owns you?”; because all of us have to come to that point of answering that question. I know for me, as a young woman/as a 16-year-old, I gave my life to Jesus, not really knowing what that would mean—and that means your sexuality as well—but I didn’t know that at the time.
Ann: I had a boyfriend. I remember, being an 18-year-old, feeling like God was asking me: “Will you give Me everything? Can I own all of you?”—which, to me, meant probably breaking up with this boyfriend—really wasn’t walking with Jesus.
Dave: Yes; amen. [Laughter]
Rachel: The husband says, “Amen.”
Ann: Yes—of committing to not having sex anymore because Jesus was asking me to live a life of purity as a single woman. Even now, I can feel my heart beating/of remembering I knew the cost of that. I knew that Jesus was enough; and I was going to walk into that, surrendering everything, no matter what it meant—kind of where we started: “Did we ever think we would be in the places we are now?” But I’m so glad that Jesus takes us on a path that He knows what will bring us more joy and purpose in our lives than even we know.
Dave: It’s easy in the church/in the Christian community to use these words, “Jesus is enough.” I think many of us don’t know Him well enough for Him to be enough;—
Rachel: That’s a good point.
Dave: —so we go back to our sin, or we go back to that pleasure that we think will fill; and we end up always in the same place—empty—“Why did I do this?”
I think, Rachel, you’ve helped us understand—you’ve said it so beautifully: “Jesus is enough. When you really surrender all, and experience the very presence and power of God in your life, He is enough.”
Ann: And nothing quite compares either.
Dave: It’s something you have to taste.
Bob: Think about the title of the book, Born Again This Way. I mean, the cultural mantra is: “If you’re born this way, you can’t overcome that.” Rachel, what you’re saying is: “When you are born again, there is now something that is bigger than how you were born.”
Rachel: In fact, I am saying, “I cannot overcome this”; but what I am saying, “There is Someone who can.”
Bob: That’s right.
Ann: That’s good.
Bob: And you tell it so beautifully in the book. I hope our listeners will get a copy of your book; it’s called Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next. Rachel Gilson is the author, our guest today. You can order her book from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the website to order a copy of Rachel’s book is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I had a conversation yesterday with a mother of four, who said, “I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, neither did my husband.” She said, “I just want to say, “Thank you to you guys. You have discipled both of us over the last 20 years as we have started our marriage and our family. We’ve been to Weekend to Remember® getaways. We listened regularly to FamilyLife Today. You’ve helped us understand what it means to live for Christ in our marriage and in our family.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk with Rachel Gilson about meeting a guy, who ultimately proposed to her and wanted her to marry him, knowing about her history of same-sex attraction—how she processed all of that/the conclusions she came to. We’ll have that conversation tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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