I'm afraid I have a confession to make: I've been watching EastEnders a bit lately. One of the story lines that has been ongoing for a while is that of a young, British, Muslim man of Pakistani heritage who is engaged to be married. He is also gay and has been having a relationship with a man. Over New Year the wedding day arrived and with it a couple of episodes that were, I felt, done very well and gave a lot of food for thought.
On the day of the wedding the groom's lover makes one final attempt to stop him from marrying his fiancee. In his attempt to do this he says something along the lines of, "You're denying who you are..." to which the response came (and I paraphrase): "I am also a son, a brother, a friend and a Muslim..." I found this incredibly moving: yes, this man is gay, but that isn't all that he is. I get the impression sometimes that sexuality is often seen as the defining feature. Which it isn't.
Yet my musings on this story line don't end there: because the wedding went ahead, and I couldn't help but feel a little sad. First, let me say that the fact that he was cheating on his fiancee is a terrible thing. But this affair wasn't some sordid, one night stand. It truly was a 'love affair'. These men loved one another but because of the family pressures and faith of one couldn't be together. I found myself thinking that in place of "I'm also a Muslim" could, easily, have been 'Christian'. And I found myself wondering again if it can really be right: that two people, in love, prepared to commit to one another for life should not be able to do so before God.
Ultimately, I still come down on what I believe is the biblical side of this debate. But I think that in the most unlikely of places I have received further insight into the pain which this may cause to some. Of course pain doesn't mean that it's wrong. As I read in an article recently (on an entirely different matter) being a follower of Jesus means taking up our cross and suffering pain for the sake of the Gospel. But what I'm reminded of is the need for the church to sit with, and walk with, and listen to, and care for those in pain. And to continue asking questions of ourselves and why we believe what we do.
And, finally, to remember that, in the end, our identity is found not in who we do or don't sleep with; not in what we do for a living; not in where we live; not in anything else but in Jesus Christ who carried His cross to Calvary and died that we might live.