When praying about my struggles with same-sex attractions, people have said many prayers for me throughout my life. Most prayers have been helpful and I truly appreciate any prayers that I receive from my brothers and sisters in Christ. However, some prayers can be more helpful than others. Very recently, one person prayed for God to return me to my “original design.” This got me thinking because it didn’t sit quite right with me, and I wasn’t sure why.
In my mind, it evoked an image of the Garden of Eden. God created all things good (Genesis 1:31). He made the plants, the animals, the earth, humanity, and all of creation good. This also includes gender and human sexuality. God created male and female in the image of God, and he created them to be in sexual union with one another in the context of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is God’s original design for human sexuality, and it is very good.
So why didn’t this prayer sit right with me? It wasn’t because anything that person said was wrong, per se. I would like for my own sexuality to be conformed to that which God has declared good. However, at the same time, the image of the Garden also seemed a bit removed from my own situation. Many things have happened since the Garden. The Fall has corrupted human nature, making humanity sinful and separated from God in their natural state. Yet, at the same time, Christ has also come to earth and brought redemption through his death and resurrection.
In light of these realities, the question I asked myself was: Am I called to return to the Garden, or am I called to something else? Do I strive to bring my sexuality in conformance with God’s design in the Garden, or is there a higher goal to strive towards?
The Garden established some essential principles that have carried on through all of human existence. It reveals God’s character and intentions behind the created order, including human sexuality. The New Testament, however, does not paint a picture of the Garden of Eden as the ultimate ideal. We are instead called to pursue the city of God, the new Jerusalem. In Hebrews 12, we are told that in light of the Old Testament, the work of Christ, and the character of God, we should look forward to that great city. Hebrews 12:22-24 reads,
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Just a chapter later, in Hebrews 13:14 it says,
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
This city is described in great detail in the last two chapters of Scripture—Revelation 21-22. Revelation 21:1-4 reads,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
What a beautiful vision this gives us for Christians today! As citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we should live our lives in such a way that pushes toward this city, and in doing so, we will reflect its glory and the glory of our Savior.
Learning From the Garden, Pressing Towards the City
How should sexuality be viewed in light of all these things? God’s design for human sexuality in Christ will still be in conformance to God’s original design in the Garden, as Jesus himself affirms (Matthew 19:4-5). It was all created very good. However, God’s design for human sexuality in Christ will not merely reflect God’s design for human sexuality in the Garden. There exists greater realities in and through Jesus that Adam and Eve did not have. Paul, in Ephesians 5:31-32, quotes Genesis 2:24 and says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Marriage and human sexuality are reflective of greater spiritual realities in addition to their created ones. Exactly what those greater spiritual realities are isn’t fully known. We can only catch a glimpse from the portrait we are given in Revelation, where the bride of Christ, the Church, will be given to Jesus, her husband.
One thing that we must remember is that one day, when the old things have passed away, the created functions for marriage and human sexuality will also pass away. In fact, Jesus tells us that in the resurrection, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage but will be like the angels (Matthew 22:30). Since marriage is the only appropriate context for sex, this would seem to imply that sex will cease as well. It will have fulfilled its intended purpose. Instead of having the imperfect (although very good) communion between a husband and a wife here on earth, we (the Church, the Bride) will instead have perfect communion with Christ (the husband) and with one another.
This gives great hope and reassurance for someone in my position. While in this earthly life, my attractions and desires aren’t in conformance with the design that God intended in the Garden, I can look to the resurrection of the saints and dwelling in the new Jerusalem, where all things will be made right, and the pain, tears, and mourning that I experience will be no more, for the former things have passed away.
Recalling the prayer I had mentioned in the beginning, instead of praying that God returns me to my “original design,” I would rather that this person would have prayed for God to conform me to the “image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). This helps me to put my focus on striving for holiness and godliness rather than heterosexuality. After all, holiness and godliness will remain in the eternal kingdom of the city of the new Jerusalem. Homosexuality and Heterosexuality will not.