[July 24]-- Straight Talk On Homosexuality, Part Five

For the last couple of days I’ve addressed my fellow believers who agree with me about the sinfulness of homosexuality. Today I’m going to respond to those who disagree with me about this very fundamental issue: Does God consider homosexual behavior a sin?

First, let me clarify some verbiage. You might have noticed that I keep referring to homosexual behavior, not just to homosexuality. The reason I use that term is because I make a distinction between same-sex attraction and the behavior that comes from that attraction. If someone's attracted to someone of the same sex, that’s not in itself sinful; if I’m attracted to a woman who’s not my wife, that’s not sinful either.  That doesn't mean it's harmless. It just means that I'm not judged by God for being attracted to (or tempted towards) something that he says is wrong. The question for me is, “What do I do with the fact that I’m attracted to her? Do I fantasize about her? Do I look at her improperly?” If I do, that is sinful according to the explicit words of my Savior. But just the fact that I’m attracted to her? No. That's something we need to decisively deal with, but it's not in itself a sin.

Now, if someone is attracted to someone of the same sex, that's not healthy. It's an indication that something's seriously gone wrong with that person's sexual makeup. It’s not God’s pattern for someone to be sexually attracted to someone of the same sex, just like it's not God's pattern for my pancreas to not function. Maybe it’s because of choices they’ve made in the past, or maybe there was something that happened in their childhood, or maybe it’s because of something that’s wrong with their genes, or a combo of two or more of them. But the very fact that someone is attracted to anyone who’s not their spouse (whether that person is of the same sex or not) is not sinful in and of itself, it seems to me. Again, the question is “What do you do with that attraction?”

Society says “Just go ahead and indulge your desires. Go for it! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with living the life and having sexual relations with whomever you please."

God says different. His standard is for sexual activity to be confined to marriage between one man with one woman united for life. Anything else--adultery, sex before marriage, lusting after someone who’s not your spouse, or sexual perversity in all its sordid forms--is against his will and falls short of his standard.

So let’s deal with some of the objections:

“You just hate homosexuals, you homophobe!”

No, I don’t hate anyone. I’m trying (however imperfectly) to follow my Savior, who absolutely hates sin and loves sinners, and actually one of the main reasons he hates sin is because he loves sinners. He knows what sin does to us, and he hates it like an oncologist hates cancer. And by the way, calling someone a name doesn’t usually qualify as an argument.

Now, I know that some well-meaning Christians like to quote Lev. 18:22 and other verses in the Old Testament, some of which call for the death penalty for homosexuals. Unfortunately, pro-gay spokesmen have a quick answer: The O.T. calls for the death penalty for a lot of things, like working on the Sabbath or back-talking your parents. I have answers for that, but in order to avoid chasing a lot of rabbits that distract from the issue at hand, I think it’s best to mostly stick to the N.T. because we’re under that Covenant, not the Old One.

And on a side note, I can’t believe I have to say this, but just to make it clear: Neither I, nor any Bible-believing Christian, want to do physical harm or treat as subhuman any person created in God’s image. If anyone does and claims to be following the Bible, I completely repudiate them. They’re not following the Jesus I know.

“Jesus never talked about homosexuality, so apparently God doesn’t think it’s a big deal.”

One of these days I’d like to deal with people who call themselves “Red Letter Christians,” those who like to focus on the words of Jesus in the Gospels and thus discount what the rest of the Bible says. What they seem to have forgotten is that the same Jesus who spoke the words you find in the Gospels also inspired the writings of Paul. The words of Paul come straight from the Throne in Heaven just as much as the Sermon on the Mount. But let’s directly answer the objection.

Jesus spent about three years in public ministry, which was mostly confined to Jewish Israel. He dealt mostly with Jews in his daily life. Among the people with whom he dealt, virtually no one would have any objection to the supposition that God disapproves of homosexuality. It wasn’t an issue. He also never discussed the issue of idolatry during his public ministry. Why? Again, it wasn’t an issue among the people with whom he was dealing.

Unlike Jesus, Paul did deal with the issue, because Roman/Greek society was rife with it. And he addressed it.

And in a very real sense Jesus did deal with this issue. When the religious leaders came to Jesus and asked him about divorce and cited Moses, he clarified the issue for us. God's pattern for marriage (and sexuality as a corollary) wasn't established in Leviticus or Deuteronomy. It was established in Genesis chapters one and two by the marriage of our first parents. Any discussion of any aspect of human sexuality has to start with the pattern our Creator established at the very beginning of human history: One man with one woman united for life.

Once you get that pattern down, then every other issue regarding human sexuality is pretty much settled: Sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, etc. 

“The homosexuality that’s condemned in the Bible isn’t the same as what we have today. Paul’s condemning man-child sex, or sex with temple prostitutes, not sex between two loving, consensual adults. And Sodom was condemned for oppressing the poor in Ezekiel, not for sexual behavior.”

Um, no. Look up the footnote on 1 Cor. 6:9-11 in the updated NIV. There are two words for homosexuality in the Greek: One for the “passive” partner, and one for the “active” partner, and Paul specifically condemns both.

I know, I know: you’ll see some biblical “scholar” trying to tell you point # 3 above. They’re lying, either to you or to themselves. Here’s the bottom line: Every single time homosexual behavior is mentioned in the Bible, it’s condemned. Not most of the time. All of the time.

And quite frankly, a lot of the other biblical "scholarship" on this issue is really trying to get away from what the Bible clearly says. Talking about exactly why Sodom was destroyed, or about the Levitical prohibition of having sex with your wife during her period, or about Christians' failures re: divorce or other sins is--quite frankly--a distraction from the issue at hand.*

What do you want me to tell you? That something that God condemns is OK? Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear, or the truth?

Let's talk just for a moment about the possibility of getting out of this lifestyle. I'm not going to get into a debate about the science or research or the effectiveness of this program or that program. I'm going to stick to what I know: God's word and the testimony of those whom the Savior has pulled out of this mess. 

It all starts with recognizing that what you're feeling is not in line with God's word. It just so happens that this particular feeling is celebrated in our modern world, while others (like racial hatred) aren't. I believe that it's entirely possible that someone might have an ongoing struggle with this issue, maybe for several years. And the only appropriate response to anyone struggling with this sin is compassion, never a holier-than-thou or self-righteous attitude. 

The world tells someone that if they're attracted to the same sex, they're "born that way," And because they're born that way, not only do they not need to change, they never will, even if they wanted to. That's a lie. Just like in today's passage, up to the present day Christ has rescued people from this lifestyle and restored them to wholeness, or at least as close as we're going to get in a fallen world with sin-wrecked bodies. 

Another lie the world tells you--correlating with the message in the above paragraph--is that because we believe that change is possible, it must mean we think change is easy. Attempts to change sexual attraction are dismissed as trying to "pray away the gay." If someone is attracted to the same sex, then there are apparently deep-seated issues which need to be worked out. Yes, we believe in the power of God to change anyone, to redeem anyone out of any sinful lifestyle. But same-sex attraction seems to me to be a sign of brokenness which probably needs some special attention. There are godly counselors whom the Lord has provided who have training in this area, whom the Lord has used to sensitively bring people back to wholeness. It's usually not overnight, but it can come. 

But the main point of all this is the Good News about Jesus. If you realize and acknowledge that what you’ve been doing is sinful (whatever it is), then he stands ready to forgive, restore, cleanse, and rescue you out of the pit you’ve found yourself in. It all starts with deciding to do things his way instead of your own, asking for his help, and availing yourself of the assistance he provides (his word, the Church, and the Holy Spirit). He might not change you overnight, but that’s the way to get on the right track. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Father, I completely repudiate any pride, any self-righteousness, and any claim that I’m better than anyone else. I need your grace just as much as the worst sinner out there. May my words and actions reflect that clearly. Above all, I want to reflect you, Lord Jesus. Your love, your mercy, your grace, and your power. 

*I've recently come across a really helpful book in this regard: What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? I'm sure there are plenty of other great resources out there, but Kevin here does an awesome job of dealing with this issue. It's short, very inexpensive, and deals with objections in a sensitive yet thoroughly biblical way. I can't recommend it highly enough. 

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