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God Called a Hip-Hop Lesbian to Faith

Writer, poet, and hip-hop artist Jackie Hill Perry was a lesbian in a loving relationship when she felt God calling her to a different life:

God knew he wouldn’t get my attention in a church. Churches didn’t care too well for people like me. Me, being a gay girl. So God came to my house. As suddenly and randomly as Paul was struck blind on the Damascus Road, I had the unsettling thought that my sin would be “the death of me.”

Prior to that moment, the sin I wore on my sleeve was that of a lesbian: a label I had the courage to give myself at age 17. I liked girls, and I knew it, “But I don’t want to be straight,” I said to God, meaning every single word.

I had grown up in the traditional black church, where sermons were presented in a Mount Sinai kind of way, both loud and heavy. I’d heard the preacher speak for God when he read to us from Romans 1 about God giving his creatures over to the sinful desires of their hearts, which included men and women “exchang[ing] natural sexual relations” for “shameful lusts” toward members of the same sex (v. 26).

So when my thoughts spoke of my sin, which I knew to be a prompting from God and not my subconscious behaving unnaturally. What offended me most was that idea that my sin was to be the death of me. Because if that were true, then surely I would be asked to lay it aside for the sake of life.

I loved my girlfriend too much not to be appalled at the prospect of laying aside not only the way I loved but also who I loved. I loved her, and she loved me—but God loved me more. So much so that he wouldn’t have me going about the rest of my life convinced that a creature’s love was better than a King’s.

Homosexuality might have been my loudest sin, but it was not my only sin. By calling me to himself, he was after my whole heart. When God saves, he saves holistically. That night, I knew that it wasn’t just my lesbianism that had me at odds with God—it was my entire heart

I sat up in my bed and thought deeply about all that was happening in me. Now it seemed as if God was inviting me to know him. To love him. To be in relationship with him. That moment—that epiphany that my sin, left untreated, would be “the death of me”—wasn’t a matter of trying to be straight or even trying to escape hell. No, it was about God positioning himself before my eyes, so that I could finally see that he is everything he says he is—and worthy to be trusted.

In the same Bible where I found condemnation (Rom. 1:18-32), I also found the good news that God loved and died for people like me so that I could live forever (John 3:16). I didn’t need to know much more than that. Without a sermon - I saw Jesus. He was better than everything I’d ever known and more worthy of having everything that I thought was mine to own, including my affections.

Shortly after that pivotal night, I was doing the painful work of breaking up with my girlfriend. Her tears were too loud to listen to without regret. To leave her, our love, made no sense apart from the divine doing of God. Though it was painful, it was better for me to lose her than to lose my soul. “I just gotta live for God now,” I said with a tear-broken voice. A new identity was to come after I hung up.

I had no idea what would come next or how I’d have the power to resist everything I’d once lived for, but I knew that if Jesus was God and if God was mighty to save, then surely, God would be mighty to keep. And 10 years later, he is still keeping this girl godly.

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