I had the pleasure of interviewing my new friend Rob Wood. Rob is the co-author of the forthcoming book Satisfaction Guaranteed and has also jointly launched a new website called Satisfied in Christ (http://satisfiedinchrist.com), which is aimed at helping Christians who experience same-sex attraction. Rob and his co-worker Jonathan Berry are both sold out for Jesus and they both experience same-sex attraction. Both Rob and Jonathan are committed to celibacy, because they affirm the church’s historic position that same-sex behavior is sinful. I had the opportunity to ask Rob some questions about his life and current ministry. Here’s what he says:
PS: Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your life and ministry, Rob. Why don’t you start off by telling us what it was like when you realized you were attracted to the same-sex.
RW: Thanks for inviting me to chat Preston. I first realised I was attracted to the same-sex at an early age (around 10 years old). Having those feelings wasn't a choice, I just happened to experience them. I vividly remember feeling ‘different’ to my friends and assumed I was the only one who felt that way.
Whenever I heard the word ‘gay’ growing up, it was always used in negative ways. Because of this, I didn't want anyone to ever find out about my attractions. As a teenager, I even tried dating girls in the hope of manufacturing some desire for the opposite sex. It didn't work… and the dates didn't go too well!
PS: How did your same-sex attractions affect your faith? Were you ever mad at God? Or confused? Or did you feel isolated?
RW: I assumed that God would take away my attractions so I could marry a woman. I felt guilty that it never happened, thinking I wasn't holy enough or didn't have enough faith. That caused a lot of confusion and I already felt isolated due to my struggle with same-sex attraction.
But I can’t say I’ve ever felt mad at God. There have been times when I've been angry and upset at myself. That's because I haven't lived a perfect life of sexual purity in the years that I've been a Christian. At times I’ve fallen, failed and hurt other people. Those times caused sadness, loneliness and confusion. But that was driven by me, not God.
On a positive note, I do think that my same-sex attractions have been used by God for good. They've caused me to become more reliant on the Holy Spirit rather than my own strength when facing temptation. Dealing with this struggle has also helped me to learn that Jesus deserves to be Lord in every area of my life, including my sex life.
PS: Now, there have been a growing number of Christians who argue that the Bible allows for consensual, monogamous, same-sex relations. Did you wrestle with these arguments? And if so, why weren’t you persuaded?
RW: Yes, I really grappled with these arguments. In fact, there were times when I tried to convince myself they were true, but there were many reasons I simply wasn't able to.
So, for example, I couldn't find a single verse that celebrated same-sex sexual relationships. If I was going to contend that God finds same-sex practice pleasing and acceptable to him, I couldn't argue that while holding to the inspiration and sufficiency of scripture.
Also, a lot of the interpretations I studied tried to undermine half a dozen or so ‘proof texts’. But I don't think the historic, orthodox position is merely based on a few proof texts, rather it's based on an overarching theology of sexuality. Anyway, the proof-texts are not incursions into a biblical narrative that otherwise celebrates same-sex practice. Added to that, I just couldn't believe the exegesis employed to debunk the various texts. To me, their meaning seemed perfectly clear.
PS: Following up from that, what are the main biblical/theological reasons why you are committed to upholding the historical Christian view of sexuality?
RW: Well, the first reason is simply because I believe it's true! From Genesis to Revelation the Bible clearly teaches that sex is a good gift, but one to be enjoyed exclusively within heterosexual marriage. If people want to explore the biblical teaching further, I think your book, or Kevin De Young’s are really helpful.
The second reason is because the orthodox view is beautiful. As a church we need to recapture that message. Orthodoxy shows us that sex is sacred and points to something beyond itself - the relationship of Christ and his Church. The orthodox view also pushes back against our culture by highlighting that sex is not the only, or even the primary way, to experience intimacy.
PS: Okay, now tell us about your website “Satisfied in Christ.” First of all, why the name?
RW: There are many different things in this world that promise us satisfaction; romance, sex, money, power, acclaim etc. They all fail to deliver. Only Jesus provides the ultimate satisfaction we all long for. That's why we called the site Satisfied in Christ. A relationship with Jesus is greater than anything else that this world can offer us. And it’s only in a relationship with the Lord Jesus that we can we experience “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)
PS: What do you and Jonathan hope to accomplish with this website?
RW: We’re hoping to encourage and inspire all Christians, whatever their temptations, marital status, or sexuality, to make Jesus Christ number one. We want to spur on all our brothers and sisters to experience the fullness of life that Jesus promises, in the midst of whatever battles they face.
PS: And what’s the gist of your forthcoming book Satisfaction Guaranteed?
The book interweaves the stories of Jonathan and myself, showing what it's like to become a Christian and leave a long-term, committed, same-sex relationship (Jonathan), or grow up struggling to reconcile your faith and sexuality (my own story). The teaching covers a range of topics, especially applicable to those who struggle with same-sex temptations, but also to those who don't. The main premise of the book is that there is real hope and a future for Christians struggling in this area. God guarantees to satisfy the desires of his children with good things, beginning in this life but only fully realised in the age to come.
PS: Last question: what’s your advice for evangelicals who are thinking about how best to love LGBT people? What are some things they—I mean, we—need to learn about how to best love our members who are attracted to the same sex?
I’m not sure I feel totally qualified to give advice, but here goes!
• We need to make sure that no one is looked down upon for having certain temptations. All Christians struggle in one way or another and same-sex temptations are no worse than any other.
• Ask yourself if you can help in the fight against homophobic bullying. Growing up in a church where having same-sex attraction wasn't stigmatised would have been really helpful in my own journey.
• We need to teach that being unmarried is not God’s second best. The gift of being unmarried that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7 is not just a subjective spiritual calling, but an objective fact. Some are married, some are unmarried - whichever state you find yourself in right now, that's your gift of grace. Hearing a positive view of singleness would have stopped me making an idol out of romantic relationships.
• Finally, a good question to ask is, ‘how can I show love, godly intimacy, and friendship, to my friends with same-sex attraction?’ If you’re asking that, you can't go far wrong.
PS: Thanks for taking part in this interview, Rob! I really appreciate your time. Many blessings on your life and ministry, brother.
RW: Thanks for the opportunity to chat Preston. I really value the way you seek to show grace and truth to those struggling in this area.