There is a misunderstanding going around about what the church teaches about heterosexual love that I feel the need to correct. It seems that everyone discussing the difference between homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage presumes and expects that homosexual marriage has to be given up to follow Jesus but heterosexual marriage does not have to be given up. That you can walk through the doors of the church in a heterosexual marriage and Jesus and will just leave it alone.
"Oh, your marriage is one man and one woman? You don't have to give that up to follow Jesus."
But that is just not the case.
If you're going to follow Jesus then you have to be ready and willing to give up anything and everything.
Jesus puts it this way, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Anything you insist on holding back, anything you put a death grip on, anything you refuse to give up will go rotten. Anybody that you claim for yourself, about whom you tell Jesus he has no claim because they are yours, you will destroy.
Following Jesus is not a turn away from a lover or spouse just for the homosexual. Every person that turns to Christ must turn away from their spouse. Jesus is no traditional values conservative. He says quite plainly that he came to bring a sword specifically for the family.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matt. 10:34-39).
Heterosexuals do not get off the hook. A heterosexual infatuation with your spouse that you will not set aside in order to follow Jesus will disqualify you just as much as any homosexual infatuation that you will not set aside. It is not just gay spouses that must be given up to follow Jesus. Every spouse must be handed in. No spouse can be held back. Every spousal loyalty must be surrendered to follow Christ. Every love must be set down. Every desire must be abandoned to follow Jesus.
To follow Jesus is to lay down everything. To be willing to exchange all that you have and all that you are for Jesus. To give up your life. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for Jesus sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39).
To be willing to be marginalized, misunderstood, disreputable, threatened, to be willing to take the road the Jesus walked, no matter the cost. To sell everything if that is what it takes. That is the call of discipleship.
So there is not a special call to homosexuals to give up their chosen lifestyle. There is one call to all people to give up everything. It does not matter if what you have in your hands is good or bad. You cannot carry your cross when your hands are full.
And so if this call seems too much, then go somewhere else. Follow anyone but Jesus.
I would if I could.
Jesus messes up everything. He continually appeals to his people to lay down their lives and follow him. He calls persistently to let go of your all your own desires and follow him.
But for those that are following him, once you have seen and tasted the words of life, everything else is sawdust in your mouth. Once you have glimpsed the risen Jesus, everything else is ruined for you. He is truth, goodness, beauty. He is love and in him is real hope.
So I could go somewhere else, but where could I go?
Giving up everything, letting go of it all, or even resisting to the point of death becomes a small price to pay for the treasure of knowing Christ Jesus.
So yes, following Jesus involves giving up everything. And yes, laying down our sexual desires is part of what everyone has to lay down. But if you keep it all and don't have Jesus, you still end up with nothing. And to give up everything and find Jesus, the treasure hidden in a field (Matt. 13:44) you find that you have given up nothing of value compared to what you have gained.
To follow Jesus is to let go of everything, even giving our bodies to be burned or killed if it is called for. To resist to the point of death, setting aside our very life as nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus is what it means to be a follower, a disciple, a student, a convert to Jesus Christ. To give up lordship over ourselves and to submit to Jesus is the call of discipleship.
Thus the Martyrs of the church have always been set up as an example even when there is no persecution. To follow Jesus is to consider our life expendable in His cause, trusting that in the resurrection of all things that all will be well and that all manner of things will be well. To see even the shedding of our blood as of little consequence compared to the joy of hearing, “Well done,” from the mouth of Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
So when a homosexual says that giving up homosexuality is like giving up themselves, I don't try and convince them that it isn't. I say, "Yep. And that is the call of Christ. To let go of self so you can cling to Jesus."
It is a hard calling. It is a hard word. But it is the call that Jesus extends to everyone.
Jesus is a fountain of the water of life and everything else is just a cup with a hole in it. It might give you a drink for a moment, but it will end up empty, and you will just end up thirstier. So we are all called to follow Jesus to the point of shedding our blood in his service. And in the end, when Jesus raises the dead and puts all things right, it will all be worth it.
Everyone is called by Jesus to let go of everything that they believe defines them and have their life completely reoriented around Jesus. That is what it is to be a disciple. That is what it is to follow Jesus. No matter who you are or where you come from.
But to give up the whole world to gain Jesus is to give up nothing of value compared to what you have gained.