If you believe what the Bible says about morality and sexuality, you will inevitably find yourself at odds with the culture in which we live. And the flash point for this collision between truth and life over the last decade has been homosexuality and same-sex attraction.
I’ve been astonished at how quickly public opinion has changed on this issue. In 2003, for example, a Pew Research Center poll asked, “Is it a sin to engage in homosexual behavior?” Fifty-five percent of adults answered yes, and 33 percent said no. This year Pew asked the same question; 45 percent answered yes and 45 said no. That’s a huge change in just 10 years.
As the culture moves further away from how followers of Jesus have understood the Scriptures for the past two millennia, the rapidly-changing landscape presents some difficult questions for committed followers of Christ: How do we stand firm for what we believe the Bible clearly teaches when our view is being dismissed, marginalized, and even vilified? And how do we stand firm in a way that also demonstrates the kindness, mercy, and grace of God?
In the first article of this series, I focused on God’s purposes for sexuality, and His plan for sex to be experienced within the boundaries of marriage. In the second article I wrote about the uncomfortable truth that all of us are sexually broken in some way as a result of our rebellion against God and His plan. Understanding God’s design for human sexuality, and understanding how our rebellion against God affects our own sexuality, are foundational as we respond to the growing acceptance of homosexuality in our culture.
Here are seven propositions that I believe should shape how Christians think about and respond to homosexuality:
1. Acting on homosexual desire is clearly seen, in Scripture, as rebellion against God and His creative design. The New Testament passages of Romans 1:18-32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 make this crystal clear. Some today suggest that these passages were intended to address non-monogamous homosexuality. But this new spin on these New Testament texts is obviously influenced by culture more than by biblical scholarship.
These two New Testament passages are important because there are many today who attempt to discredit the Bible on the subject of homosexuality. They love to cite Leviticus and ask questions like, “Do you think you should stone homosexuals? What about disobedient children? What about eating shellfish?”
These are people who aren’t attempting to understand the Bible. They don’t understand the purpose of the law under the old covenant, and how that law is fulfilled in Christ. And they have no desire to dialogue on theological nuances.
2. In addition to what God has declared about homosexuality, the way He designed human bodies to fit together in the act of sex is evidence that His design is for heterosexuality, not homosexuality. This is referred to as the argument from Natural Law. A man and woman were designed by God to fit together, and as a result, to be fruitful and multiply. (You can read more on this point in the first article of this series.)
3. The fact that Jesus does not specifically condemn homosexuality anywhere does not mean that it’s pleasing to God. Some people claim Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, but look at Matthew 19:3-9.
In this passage, Jesus is asked about whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he chooses, or if divorce is only allowed when a wife is guilty of adultery. The word translated “adultery” in this passage is the word “porneia” which can refer to all kinds of sexual sin.
In response, Jesus points the Pharisees back to Genesis, “Have you not read, ‘He created them male and female, and the man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife’?”
So, Jesus takes the Pharisees back to God’s design for marriage and sexuality. He doesn’t address homosexuality, specifically; but in the context of a question about sexual sin in marriage, He points them to what sexual righteousness looks like—one man and one woman enjoying sexual love in a life-long, covenant relationship. Anything that is outside of sexual righteousness is sexual sin.
By affirming God’s design for marriage from Genesis 2, Jesus is upholding this as the transcendent definition of marriage.
4. God’s grace toward us, in spite of our own sexual brokenness, should make us humble, compassionate, and gracious toward others who are dealing with their own sexual brokenness. Here’s the trap we fall into. We know someone who is experiencing same-sex attraction, and we conclude that person is fundamentally different than us. The truth is that their sexual brokenness is just a different expression than yours. This is why it is so important for all of us to recognize and acknowledge our own sexual brokenness.
5. Though we are all sexually broken, there are levels of sinfulness in terms of how it is lived out. Think of it this way: If you lust after someone, you are guilty of a sin that you need to confess, turn from and find your hope and redemption in the gospel. But if you commit adultery with that person, you’ve moved to a different degree of rebellion against God.
In the same way, there is a difference between homosexual desire and homosexual behavior. They are both examples of sexual brokenness. But homosexual desire is not an act of willful rebellion against God. Acting on that desire is a kind of active rebellion against God that demonstrates a deeper degree of sinfulness.
6. We should commend, support, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who experience same-sex attraction but do not give in to the temptation to act on their desires. We would do the same with those who resist the desire to look at pornography or the desire to have premarital sex. Sexual temptation is part of life for all of us, and we should have respect and compassion for those who demonstrate self-control.
7. The church should be the ally of all who battle against sexual temptation—and that includes everyone. This is a radical thought—that we all battle sexual brokenness, and we all need help. But it’s true. This is a battle we should not try to fight alone, especially in our sexually obsessed culture.
When I spoke on this subject at the church I am a part of recently, I said, “If you are here as a person who is experiencing same-sex attraction, you need to know that you’re experiencing a desire to do something that God forbids, but you also need to know that you are welcome here. You are among friends. We all do battle, daily, with our own sexual brokenness. Welcome to the fellowship of the sexually-broken. You’re here with other sexually-broken people. We want to be your ally as you continue to do battle against sexual temptation—however it manifests in you—and we need you to be our ally as we do battle against our own sexual temptation.”
My hope is that everyone can find the level ground at the foot of the cross, where we can receive the grace and mercy of God as we fight against the sexual temptation that is ever present in our culture today.