By Israel Steinmetz
Followers of Jesus are still confronted with temptations to sin. And not just palatable sins, but the kinds that make most Christians uncomfortable. For example, some Christians are confronted with the temptation of homosexuality brought on by their same-sex attraction. As with all temptations, these Christians must resist and cling to Christ who has re-created them in the imago dei. Further, He has re-created them to lead those in their every day circles to encounter Him personally. No matter the sin that tempts us, in Christ we have an influence—an opportunity to increase God’s kingdom.
Recent tectonic shifts in our culture regarding homosexuality and marriage have brought the issue of same-sex attraction to the fore in American society. Christians are faced with difficult questions and the challenge of ministering in a rapidly changing environment. While the issues surrounding same-sex attraction are too vast to address in a single article, there are a few things that will help us move forward as we influence our communities and culture for Jesus.
1. THE BIBLE DESCRIBES HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR AS SINFUL.
Despite claims that homosexual behavior is not addressed in Scripture or is only condemned in the Old Testament, the truth is that homosexual behavior is consistently identified as sinful in Scripture. In the old covenant theocracy, homosexual relations were a capital crime. 1 The seriousness of the offense—contrasted with the non-capital crime of premarital sex—likely owes to how far it departs from God’s created design for sexual relations. 2
In the new covenant, homosexual behavior is also considered sinful. Jesus, far from being silent on the issue, states that fornication is defiling 3 and that God created marriage from the beginning as between a man and a woman. 4 The Apostle Paul repeatedly identified homosexual behavior as sexually immoral. 5 However, since the church is not a geo-political entity like the old covenant nation of Israel, the consequence is not physical death, but exclusion from God’s kingdom. 6
The biblical sexual ethic is straightforward: loving sex within marriage is commended as holy: divinely-ordained and sensually delightful. Extra-marital and other sexually immoral practices are condemned as sinful: destructive and death-dealing. 7
2. HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR CAN BE FORGIVEN AND OVERCOME IN CHRIST.
Thankfully, those who experience same-sex attraction and engage in homosexual relations can find forgiveness and restoration in Christ. In the same passage in which Paul states that homosexuals will not inherit God’s kingdom, he also says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 8
The three verbs Paul uses are significant, as is the one engaged in the action. “Washed” refers to forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Homosexuals receive the same forgiveness that God offers to all those who confess and repent of sin. “Sanctified” refers to the process of being made holy. We all come to Christ with sexual brokenness as a result of sin and death in our lives. By the power of Christ, we all—including homosexuals—are made holy, restored into Christ’s image. Real transformation is possible in Christ. “Justified” refers to being made innocent and placed in good standing with God. Those who find new life in Christ need not carry the guilt or condemnation of their old life. If God justifies us, who could condemn us? 9
And that brings us to the most important part of the passage. God is the one who washes, sanctifies and justifies sinners. It is not the individual changing themselves or a counselor engaging in “conversion therapy”. It is a supernatural work, impossible for people, but possible for God.
3. IT IS POSSIBLE HOMOSEXUALS WERE “BORN THIS WAY”.
Many Christians insist that same-sex attraction cannot be an inborn trait. They believe that if this were the case then there is no way that homosexuality could be sinful or that those who experience same-sex attraction could be responsible for their actions. But this position disagrees with both scientific evidence and biblical teaching regarding sin.
While still inconclusive, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that same-sex attraction is an inborn trait with associated genetic factors. The vast majority of people who experience same-sex attraction testify to experiencing it from a young age, oftentimes despite dogged attempts to change. As Christians we should take these discoveries and experiences seriously.
Nonetheless, if in fact people are born with a predisposition to same-sex attraction, they do not represent a tragic exception, but the tragic rule. All of us are born with the devastating effects of sin and death at work in our physical bodies. All of us are afflicted with predispositions toward sexual immorality. The Bible calls this the “bondage of sin” 10 and the evidence of Scripture, experience, and modern science indicate that this bondage is not strictly spiritual, but physical as well.
Because of this, we realize that sexual attraction alone cannot legitimatize sexual expression. Most people are attracted to those they are not married to, or those married to others. That does not legitimatize premarital sex or adultery. Some people are attracted to children or animals. That does not legitimatize pedophilia or bestiality. Some are attracted to those of the same gender or multiple partners. That does not legitimatize homosexuality or “polyamorous” relationships. Being attracted to someone does not legitimatize having sexual relations with them.
All of us come to Christ with sexual brokenness and misdirected attraction. But we also come with the assurance that He can transform us from the sinful shape of the world into His holy image. 11 This assurance should guide us in the way we interact with both non-Christians and Christians who experience same-sex attraction.
4. WE MUST EMBRACE THE NON-CHRISTIAN IN THEIR SIN.
We must follow the example of Jesus and teaching of Paul to reach out to non-Christians with love, affection, mercy, and friendship. It is not our role to condemn or ostracize unbelievers, regardless of their particular sin. 12 Rather, we are called to embrace non-Christians with the love of Christ and be ambassadors for Him, letting them know that God has reconciled Himself to them and begs that they reconcile themselves to Him. 13
Sadly, we sometimes make this more complicated than it needs to be. We act as though non-Christians are accountable to us for their behavior or should conform to our moral standards. We act as though the only point of befriending a non-Christian is to convert them and if our attempts fail then we should move on from the friendship. Moreover,we act as though non-Christians must prove they are deserving of our acceptance and help by conforming to our standards or accepting our message.
But none of these things are true. We are called to love non-Christians as they are, recognizing that only a relationship with Christ can change them. We are called to be friends with non-Christians, regardless of whether they ever accept Christ as their Savior. And we are called to show love to non-Christians because of Christ’s love, not because of anything they do, or don’t do. As we learn to interact with homosexuals in these ways, we’ll move past the insensitivity and insincerity, the hatred and bigotry, the legal wrangling and political pandering.
5. WE MUST EMBRACE THE CHRISTIAN AS THEY OVERCOME THEIR SIN.
For homosexuals who become Christians, we have a responsibility to walk alongside them in a process of restoration. As Christians we’re called to pray for one another, bear each other’s burdens, and keep each other accountable. 14 We’re called to experience transformation together as a united body as we minister to one another.
In this process, we recognize that change is usually gradual and oftentimes painful. We all experience temptation, struggle, and setbacks in our ongoing journey toward holiness. We shouldn’t have separate standards for different types of sin or even different types of sexual sin. This means getting serious about overcoming more “acceptable” forms of sexual sin in the Church while at the same time extending the same mercy to those struggling with same-sex attraction as we do to those struggling with lust and pornography.
We also need to ensure that we don’t reduce a person to their sexual orientation or temptations. While sexuality is a significant part of our lives, it is not the whole person. We ought to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ as full participants in the life of the Church and minister to the whole person, rather than becoming fixated on a single issue. And we must be willing to be ministered to and held accountable by those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified from homosexuality.
AS THE REALITY OF SAME-SEX ATTRACTION AND HOMOSEXUALITY BECOME MORE PREVALENT IN OUR COMMUNITIES AND CULTURE, YOU CAN BECOME BETTER EQUIPPED IN YOUR DAILY INFLUENCE FOR CHRIST BY TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE FOLLOWING RESOURCES:
- Leviticus 18:22; 20:13.
- Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-24.
- Matthew 15:19-20.
- Mark 10:5-9.
- Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
- 1 Corinthians 7:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21.
- Summarized perfectly in Hebrews 13:4.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
- Romans 8:31-34.
- Humans are depicted not only as willing participants in sin, but its enslaved victims as well (Romans 6-7, Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19). People are in need of redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14). They need a transformed nature, not simply modified behavior (Ephesians 2:4-10; 4:20-24, Titus 3:3-7). The promise of redemption and transformation was offered in Christ and his ability to re-create those damaged by sin (Romans 12:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
- Romans 12:1-2.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-13.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
- Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:16.