Back in my teens, I desperately wanted to be straight. I went to a church that taught if I just prayed enough and believed hard enough, God would heal me from anything.

Not could — would.

And if healing didn’t happen, it was due to my lack of faith. I felt like I could never measure up, like I was constantly saying “no” to myself but never feeling like God could accept me until my attractions changed.

I also felt like I couldn’t belong in the church or have real joy and fellowship in the body of Christ, because I wasn’t meeting the standard of surrender and sexual straightness that my church taught.

I felt weighed down by expectations I could never live up to.

Years later, I’m less concerned about God’s changing my sexuality and more concerned about walking in thriving relationship with Christ — which also includes holiness with my sexuality.

I believe what Scripture says regarding a traditional sexual ethic. But more than that, I believe in the God behind that ethic and that his Word is still good for me, even if it’s not always easy to follow.

But if it’s not easy, why follow a “Side B” (non-affirming) view of sexuality?

Concerning the call to follow Christ, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

“When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows: that is grace and commandment in one. ‘I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments’ (Ps. 119:45).”

I think many people follow the Side B ethic as merely an ethic, a form of legalism, rather than because it flows from an understanding of Scripture that is rooted in relationship with Christ. And if indeed people follow it as a mere ethic, it makes sense why a “Side A” (affirming) position is so appealing, because it usually involves saying “yes” to a person rather than a hard set of principles.

It’s a “yes” to a person rather than a “no” to self.

So, is this Side B life a mere ethic for us? In 2 Corinthians 3:3-6 (ESV), Paul writes:

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

When we reduce our faith to a set of morals, we will inevitably feel resentment; we can’t live by a law written on tablets of stone. When we reduce being Side B to a mere moral construct, it becomes too easy to make it an “ethic of no.”

As Eve Tushnet said, “You can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.”

Is our choice to be Side B merely about following principles? Or is it about loving a person, namely our risen Lord and Savior above all others?

We can’t boil it down to do’s and don’t’s. That’s the system Paul speaks of.

And that is what kills . . . a system of letter, not Spirit.

We need a life of Spirit, not a system of letter. We must make relationship with Jesus the reason why we live as we do.

It’s not just about doing the right thing or living the right way; it’s also about our reason for doing so.

When we follow a Side B ethic merely as an ethic, we potentially live lives that feel stunted, lonely, and joyless. We were never meant to live by a mere system of ethics.

However, if we see the Side B ethic not as an ethic but as something flowing from our relationship with Jesus, as brothers and sisters in Christ walking in communion with each other, the Bride of Christ, his beloved, that gives us a framework to say “yes” to him and to love and communion within the family of Christ, rather than a mere “no” to our sexual desire.

When we live out this ethic because it is birthed out of the Word of God and empowered by the Spirit of God, we find a different life purpose, one borne of saying “yes.”

We can say yes to God as loving Father, yes to Jesus as redeeming Savior and Friend, and yes to the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Counselor in all our tears and trials. We say yes to the person of Jesus, yes to relationship with him and each other in Christian brotherhood by the Holy Spirit.

We can belong and find joy and hope in Christ and the Church! But what does that look like practically?
An SSA (same-sex attracted) guy friend currently dating a woman recently said to me, “Singleness is hard, but I think dating and marriage are harder. Is marriage worth it — or is singleness better?”

I think both are hard, but different kinds of hard. So, we look to Christ and the Scriptures, and we ask, “What does the love of Christ look like in this situation?”

In Ephesians 5:25-28 (ESV), Paul writes:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

When I was considering marriage, I realized that by the Spirit of God, I could do that for Marie — fight against my inclination for other guys. Give myself up. Seek her betterment and both of our holiness before my own desires (though that will always be a daily battle, and mixed-orientation marriage is not for everyone).

In some sense, straight guys have it harder in terms of that kind of love. They can be selfish and follow their sexual inclinations.

Whether we remain single or choose a mixed-orientation marriage, we have to be willing to surrender our primary sexual predispositions, and if we accomplish that, our love is (possibly) more beautiful, because it is borne out of death to self, a reflection of Christ’s love — either to Christ in singleness or to our wives and Christ in marriage.

This beauty is borne not out of an “ethic of no,” but from saying yes to God’s goodness for me. And because of that, I do not find marriage to be a constant state of mournful death as if I were getting the raw deal by not being able to be married to a man.

My love for Marie is beautiful, rich, and special, and it’s rooted in Christ — not a mere ethic.

Following Jesus costs us something, but it also gives us new life. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:19-20 (ESV):

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Bonhoeffer said that God gives the command and the grace in Christ to live it out. And this doesn’t just apply to SSA people.

If people view their lives as living by a religious system, they will often find themselves living an ethic of “no” rather than “yes” to Jesus.

But in saying “yes” to Jesus, we find the sustenance we need. Even when it’s not easy.

When has your sexuality been a catalyst for a deeper realization of your relationship to Jesus? What have been your greatest struggles — and joys — in costly obedience to Christ?

About the Author

  • Among all the great things I learned from Eve Tushnet’s and Wesley Hill’s books, I gained a greater understanding that being married to Christ, following a Side B ethic, does not mean being alone or devoid of other human relationships. Yet so many who are critical of these paths paint it out to be that way.
    I’m currently hoping and praying for a companion with whom to keep covenants and serve the Lord in a special partnership of sorts. And I think honoring marriage between a man and a woman and leaving sexual relations to them can open us up to love in many unique ways.

    • There are times I’ve walked this life as an ethic. And there are times I’ve walked it as an outflow of relationship with Christ. Having others in the journey helps so very much, and I’m learning to trust the community God has given me, and to entrust myself to them.
      I am glad your are seeking covenant relationship. It’s beautiful and hard. Marie and I acknowledge that what we have is special and rare. In addition to each other, we know that we need other people to walk beside us. We’ve got family that isn’t blood, and the bonds in Christ go deep. I pray that God would bring you what you need to thrive.

  • Thanks Ben. I appreciate your insight so very much. I also am married and a pastor in the Midwest, and convinced the reality of my relationship with Jesus Christ, when it is healthy, is the source of “everything I need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), not striving on my own to be better and do better.

    • Craig,
      Yes! I appreciate the qualifier “healthy” regarding relationship to Jesus. Perhaps people would say they know Jesus, but how well do they know him, and how much are they following?
      I have a friend who recently pointed out to me that he misses being asked “How is your soul /walk with God doing?” I think I remember hearing it much more in the past. It seems to have fallen out of use, perhaps because people found it to be a Christian cliche. However, it is something that we do need to consider everyday, with ourselves and with others. Navigating our relationship with God in community helps reinforce our commitment to Christ and one another.

  • I love your point that your marriage is not (merely?) a system of ethics, a moral burden. It’s a relationship that you say yes to. Likewise with following Jesus, if it’s just a moral burden to carry, we’re never going to be able to carry it far enough. It reminds me of the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him to go sell all he has, and he goes away sad because it was too hard. It’s tempting to think, “he should have gone and done what Jesus told him to do!” But at the end of the day that was just another moral hoop to jump through. There was always going to be another one after it. The correct response is to say, “it’s too hard, Jesus. I can’t do it. Please help me.”
    When we turn Side B into a moral or ethical hoop to jump through, we don’t do anyone any favors, least of all ourselves. There’s always going to be another hoop. We need a savior’s arms to collapse into.

  • What a clear and life-giving perspective Ben! Thanks for sharing it. We can transform a life of bitter confusion by saying yes to our comforter and the lover of our souls.

  • I’m sensing a pattern in this week’s blogs…. God being a God of “yes” and now saying “yes” to Jesus and can’t have a vocation of “no”. What can one say but YES! I think you brought up some terrific points. Some reasons why people can be disillusioned by Christianity is that they think its all about abiding by a set of imposing and oppressive rules. When we are living for Christ I think we live in a lot more freedom than just going through the motions of pure rules or ethics.

    • And it wasn’t even coordinated (At least I didn’t tell anybody this is what I was working on). I usually type out my blog posts on my computer and paste them into the web interface when I am mostly satisfied.
      I think since Revoice, God has been convicting my heart concerning a number of things, including the religiosity with which I was approaching this life. It was duty, not devotion, and it had so little joy. I came to myself and realized how little my actions were considered in relation to Jesus. And I repented. I am re-learning “yes” in Jesus.

  • Good post Ben, focusing on Jesus. Does anyone come to know Jesus for real by following a system of ethics? It’s crazy that you can do the right things and never know Jesus. Doing this Side B life is small comfort if all it is is doing the right thing. Somewhere love needs to become the main thing in why we do what we do. Love for Jesus like in your post, or as he said, if you love me, you’ll keep my commands. It’s like faith that’s only creeds and doctrines, there’s not much living about having truth you don’t love.

    • Thank you. You are correct, we come to know God and love him because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19.) The Law shows us our need of a Savior, but without that Savior, we follow only a system of ethics. And you are right, we can do the right things, but not have relationship with Jesus. Then there really is no life behind it.
      Your comments made me think of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (ESV).
      If we only live the Side B life as a creed or doctrine, but have not love , “there’s not much living.”

  • The more I ponder this particular Christian walk, the more “yes” I’m seeing all around. Yes to rich, beautiful friendships for today, indeed, and yes for the future with Christ. These last couple years I’m seeing the necessity of His presence, the cornerstone, not just in relationships, but in life at large. Who are we without Him? Where are we without Him? Where are we going without Him?
    Grateful to have and choose and follow a vibrant vocation of yes.

    • Thanks Tom!
      I am glad you are also seeing more “yes.”
      I think one of the reasons I am seeing the need for more “yes” is because of some of the struggle I have seen with some side-b friends who often appear to follow this ethic out of obligation. They think this life is biblically correct, but there is little to no heart behind it, no relationship to Jesus.
      I am also rediscovering this “yes” first-hand as I experienced my own wake-up calls regarding living a religious life of going through the motions, and being able to look back and see how far I had strayed. I am thankful for other godly men and women who were there to catch me when I took stock of myself. Ryan mentioned collapsing into the arms of Jesus. I feel like I was able to do that, as well as collapse into the arms of people who love Jesus, and they were ready to help me stand and learn to run after him again. My wife is my biggest ally in this.
      I said it on twitter, but it bears repeating here: This post is dedicated to my wife. This is the life I will strive each day to live with you before the face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Great post…and thank you. I’ve never been in any kind of relationship as I felt God had other plans for me…to be a servant to others. For sure, it has been a lonely and misunderstood road fraught with landmines along the way.
    The toughest thing for me has been the attitudes of others…they have told me I was defective…that I was worthless etc. I remember once in my home church a woman came to the church and eventually joined. She desperately wanted to marry…and had been spurned by every guy she had known…she was extremely talented – a great cook, baker, home decorator etc. etc. But, she was so pushy and instead of beating each other down to get to her door first, all of the guys had run fast away. It was sad.
    The easiest thing would have been to say yes to it all, but I knew without a doubt it wasn’t God’s will. But, it didn’t go well – she went around the church and talked…and pretty soon i was shunned there. It was a painful task to show up at church each week…but I felt I was not to say a thing and let God handle it. And he did – in His own time and way.
    Life is short and the only thing I will carry to heaven is what I’ve done for Christ by serving and giving to others, I believe. He’s the one who will be there for us no matter what and will never fail us…even when we think we have reached the end.

  • And yet another great post. There has definitely been a theme of YES to God and a no to self this week and I love it. It’s been challenging in a few ways for sure. What you said is so true though. Following God and being Side B shouldn’t be something we do because it’s ethically right, we should do it because that’s what we are called to do. Doing it merely out of obligation would be like checking something off a must-do list at the end of the day. For me, I want to get married and have that life, and I know that will have it’s certain struggles just like anything else. Will she trust me knowing my inclinations? And you’re right, trying to please a wife can be better being SSA because you’re not giving in to your sexual needs all the time and wanting to please her. But above all else, glorifying God and living the life He has called us to should be what we aim for. So thankful for a God who knows it all and holds us when we need it.

  • After reading some of the comments, I suddenly recalled these songs to mind. The first one was a spontaneous set, which I guess predated and led to the second official song. I don’t know if everyone likes this style of worship, but the lyrics FLOOR me into the arms of our Father.
    If you don’t wanna listen to the songs here are the words that really wreck me:
    “I will love you with my yes
    and with my obedience
    I will love you with my yes

    It’s my joy to lose my life
    and find it in Jesus Christ”
    and also:
    “it’s more than words. It’s more than a song.
    It’s my life, laid down. There’s action involved.”
    These always pump me up so much when I’m being a punk and don’t want to do what I know God’s asking of me.

  • I know this is an older post but it really resonated with me. I’ve been saved for almost a year now and it’s been a roller coaster. What delayed me from converting was the fact that I’d only heard of side X theology (which nearly killed me) and side A theology that just didn’t convince me. Upon my conversion, I’d felt there were exactly 2 side B in the world; me and Sam Allberry who I learnt about it from😂. I heard him talk about M.O.Ms and it led me down a Google rabbit hole that led me to finding out the sides terminology and that side B was a “thing.” That’s it’s not just an individual lifestyle choice but It’s an actual community of people; a small one but containing some of the best people I’ve interacted with and just as valid as the side A community. Personally I choose to be side B because what made me convert was experiencing God’s presence & love in almost a tangeable way and it completely flipped how I thought of God and christianity. Along side choosing to follow God meant following His commandments, including abstaining from same sex relationships. I didn’t choose this path out of fear as I’d once thought I’d have to but out of genuine love & trust that my heavenly Father knows best. He knows how much it hurt me to lay this down but still asked it of me, not because He doesn’t want me to have fun but because He genuinely doesn’t see this as the best for me. Even if I don’t always understand, I trust He wouldn’t say no if it genuinely way life giving and fruit bearing. I don’t choose to be side B because I fear going to hell but because I know I’m saved from it. It’s not fear, it’s trust that He will guide me & He really does love me and is guarding my heart how He omnisciently knows best. This is how I feel the yoke of Christ truly is light, He hasn’t saved us by our works but to do good works in whichever vocation He gives us to do so.
    The other thing I wasn’t ready for was finding the side B community, it’s truly a hidden gem that I’m glad the Lord has led me to. It feels great to know it’s not just me and God but there are other brothers and sisters actively living this out and communing with you all. I really appreciate you guys, keep up the great blogs! You inspire me to one day maybe blog about my own experiences ☺️🙏.

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