Can The Church Affirm Homosexuality?

No matter where we turn in the culture today, the issues of homosexuality and “gender identity” are being hotly debated. The “homosexual rights” ideology continues to seek legitimization and approval – not just tolerance – of homosexual behaviour, resulting in rapidly changing societal mores and values. This deeply impacts us in our day-to-day relationships with family and with fellow church members, neighbours and co-workers.

Even from within the church itself there is a theology that has been emerging for decades to legitimize homosexuality through a revisionist gay theology as a biblically based, better way forward.

To someone who holds to a high view of scripture, the answer seems obvious. Homosexuality is a sin – end of debate. That may have worked a generation ago, but today there is a concerted effort to fundamentally change your mind. What we are seeing, and have seen for quite some time now, is an attempt to usher in an uncritical acceptance and promotion of homosexuality into the wider culture, and much is being centered on churches and synagogues.

That’s because, homosexual activists and their allies know that the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic found in the Bible is the last bastion of defense holding back the widespread embrace of homosexuality throughout the western culture.

They know that if you and I can be convinced that homosexual behaviour is no longer sinful in God’s eyes, that it is in fact is a better way to live, then the battle to fully implement their political and social goals will be won and a new standard can be accepted as the culturally good standard.

But questions need to be asked. What if the historical Biblical standard along with the historical cultural standard are still the best ways? What if any other way of approaching sexuality, whether it be homosexuality, or intimate heterosexual relationships outside of a committed marriage relationship, is not the better way? What if the standard of sex within a committed marriage relationship between a husband and wife is not even a better way, but the best way?

Before I get into what I believe is the best way, allow me to address two other ways and what I see as obvious dilemmas they hold.

Addressing the Cultural Way

The modern understanding of finding self is a recent approach to identity. We are to look within at our desires – especially our sexual ones – and then determine (Freud) or create (Foucault) who we are, not allowing anyone else to validate or define us or make us feel guilty. We are then to demand that the world affirm our expression of ourselves. The result is that anyone who questions our self-view is by definition attacking us, doing violence, questioning our very existence, and ultimately denying us support. But should we believe and accept this understanding of identity?

In most of the non-western world, identity is communal. You don’t get to define yourself -identity is understood from within the community, and self-esteem comes more from duty to God, family, and others rather than from satisfying desires and self-interest.

But when the psychiatrist says: “You decide who you are – no one else can!” he or she is at that moment imposing a very individualistic, western way of understanding identity on the individual as if that is the only approach possible. It is “western” because it was grounded in the Enlightenment & Freud, & framed to be a new form of social liberation vs oppression, and based on Foucault’s account of language and power. And as noted, non-westernized cultures are far less individualistic and do not think this way.

The Obvious Dilemma of the Cultural Way

The obvious dilemma however is that you cannot discover a ‘real you’ by looking at your changing and contradictory inner feelings. You will always need a standard of values by which you can sift your inner drives & determine which ones characterize your ‘true’ & ‘false’ selves. Christians believe the Bible gives us that standard to determine our de-humanizing desires and our right, humanizing ones.

The other dilemma that needs to be addressed is that the modern identity is highly performative. In other words, you must realize your inner dreams and desires or constantly perform your suffering. This leads to fragility and a need for constant re-affirmation. No wonder any criticism at all is crushing or feels “controlling”. No wonder dialogue is hard, if not impossible to come by when differing views are presented. We live in a culture of rage. Don’t believe me? Post something on social media that speaks up against the cultural norms and prepare for the modern version of hate mail.

The reason that the Christian receives so much criticism when proposing the biblical sex ethic is that most people in the culture today assume the modern approach to self-identity as a given – it is assumed as self-evident to all when clearly it is not.

That’s why it’s important to keep reminding yourself that even though your identity may have been hijacked by a very individualistic, western way of understanding identity. It is not the only approach possible. The Christians’ deepest identity, is in Christ, who loves and accepts us counter-conditionally, despite all our flaws. That means then that Christian identity is received, not achieved. And that takes enormous pressure off of us to perform and earn our affirmations.

Addressing the ‘Revisionist’ Way

As a Christian who holds to a high view of scripture, I believe that sexuality is God’s idea, not culture’s idea. That means that we should learn from God what it is, a man and a woman created in beautifully complementary ways so that they form one flesh. And to try to do it another way is a distortion and a dysfunction of the way God made it.

However, there are some who would say that scripture doesn’t say what I believe it to say, and that I need to catch up to a better understanding of scripture. Are they right?

Gay strategists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, in their landmark homosexual public relations manual published in 1989, boldly encouraged gays “to muddy the moral waters, that is, to undercut the rationalizations that ‘justify’ religious bigotry and to jam some of its psychic rewards.” They go on to specify that this entails “raising serious theological objections to conservative biblical teachings.”

Further, gays are called to “undermine the moral authourity of homo-hating churches…by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology.” (Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90’s, Penguin Books USA, New York, 1989, p. 179).

This campaign of misinformation is often referred to as “revisionist gay theology,” and it’s presently playing out in denomination after denomination with increasing conflict. This didn’t just start in the twenty-first century. It actually began to take place within the church, in the mid-twentieth century, with a systematic questioning of clear scriptural teaching on homosexual behaviour – recalling the serpent’s question to Eve in Genesis 3, “Did God really say…?”

Specifically, the intended effect of revisionist gay theology is to disengage the church from the wider cultural debate about homosexuality by redefining it as God-ordained and morally permissible. And just like the serpent’s temptation to Eve in the Garden, leaders in the “gay-Christian” movement are tempting us with the question: “Did God really say that homosexuality is a sin?”

But wasn’t the word ‘homosexual’ only addd to the bible in 1946? 

A claim that I hear of more and more being presented, is that the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, for homosexuality, “Arsenokoitai”, was not originally translated to mean “homosexual” until 1946 when it was added in the RSV translation of the time.

The claim is that the word ‘Arsenokoitai’ is not actually referring to monogamous, loving, committed homosexual relationships. Paul’s intent, they claim, wasn’t to deny the beauty of “loving, faithful” same-sex relationships but only denying those relationships involving abuse, coercion, temple prostitution or unfaithfulness.

The sentiment is that it’s the conservative individual’s prejudice against homosexuals that leads them to misread biblical texts about homosexuality. So, then scriptures used that supposedly condemn homosexual behaviour are simply mistranslated, or taken out of context to bolster a conservative, outdated claim that doesn’t apply to our present world and in fact is hurtful to current society as it fosters hatred, bigotry, and is essentially anti-freedom.

An argument being used is that the passage in Leviticus 18:22 that says in English, “Man shall not lie with man, for it is an abomination,” is not translated as homosexual, but rather translated in the pre-1986 German version to say, “Man shall not lie with ‘young boys’ as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 says the same thing in the pre-1986 German version, “Young boys.” And then in 1 Corinthians, instead of homosexuals, the pre-1986 German translation says, “Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Even Martin Luther’s original German translation from 1534 of the same passage uses the word knabenschander. Knaben is boy, schander is molester. This word “boy molesters” for the most part carried through the next several centuries of German Bible translations. Interestingly, Knabenschander is also found in 1 Timothy 1:10.

So then why is the same word (in Greek Arsenokoitai) translated as ‘boy molester’ in both the older English and German translations, changed to ‘homosexual’ in the English in 1946 and the German in 1986? Is it simply to reflect the church’s fear of the sexual revolution and to somehow regain control of the bedroom?

The Obvious Dilemma of The ‘Revisionist’ Way

Revisionist gay theology has an obvious dilemma in that it visibly violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality by saying that women don’t need men and men don’t need women. That comes out of a humanistic ideology that places human feelings and desires above biblical truth, leading people to believe lies.

So, instead of the conservative individuals prejudice against homosexuals that leads to misreading biblical texts about homosexuality, it’s more often those having a personal interest in the promotion of gay revisionist theology, that twist the plain teaching of Scripture to support and justify their behaviour.

That’s why we can’t base our arguments as heavily as some might wish on English or German translations, because that is exactly what they are – translations. So, to either bolster an argument or to refute one, it’s always best to go back to the language these versions were translated from if at all possible, and it is possible in this case. For the New Testament passages we of course must go to the Greek.

The Greek word Arsenokoitai is a compound word: arseno is the word for “a male,” and koitai is the word for “mat” or “bed.” Put the two halves together, and the word means “a male bed” – that is, a person who makes use of a “male-only bed” or a “bed for males.”

The word meaning “bed” carries a sexual connotation in this context – the Greek koitai is the source of our English word coitus (“sexual intercourse”). The conclusion is that the word arsenokoitai is referring to homosexuals – men who are in bed with other men, engaging in same-gender sexual activity. The fact that the English word ‘homosexual’ wasn’t specifically used until 1946 only indicates the English translations were keeping up with the changing language, not battling the changing morality.

This argument is further bolstered in that the notion that some homosexual relationships are accepted, is not even hinted at in the passages that are translated from Arsenokoitai. The men’s commitment level or the presence of “love” is not even addressed. Further, the idea that the condemned same-sex activity is linked to economic exploitation or abuse is also a forced reading with no textual basis.

When we read that homosexuality in Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy is mentioned in the wider context of sexual, immoral, and prohibited behaviours, all of which elaborate on the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” we can’t help but understand it as a clear prohibition of sex outside of a male-female marriage.

In an attempt to make homosexual behaviour compatible with Christianity, you can’t just redefine the ‘Greek’ word. The lie of the enemy, “did God really say” … can’t work here.

A Better Way

 In Genesis 1 we see God’s plan in everything. We continually see pairs of different but complementary things made to work together. For example, heaven and earth, sea and land, God and humanity, light and dark. It is part of the brilliance, wonder and the glorious dance of God’s creation that diverse, unlike things are made to unite and create dynamic wholes which generate more and more life and beauty through their relationships. As N.T. Wright points out, the creation and uniting of male and female at the end of Genesis 2 is the climax of all this.

That means that male and female have unique, non-interchangeable glories – they each see and do things that the other cannot. Sex was created by God to be a way to mingle these strengths and glories within a life-long covenant of marriage. Marriage is the most intense (though not the only) place where this reunion of male and female takes place in human life. Male and female reshape, learn from, and work together.

That’s why, in one of the great ironies of our western modern culture, when we celebrate diversity in so many other cultural sectors, we have truncated the better way, actual the best way in the ultimate unity-in-diversity – inter-gendered sexual union within the covenant of marriage.

But without understanding this vision, the sexual prohibitions in scripture just don’t make sense. But it’s because of this vision that helps one understand that homosexuality does not come close to meeting the need for this rich diversity of perspective and gendered humanity in sexual relationships. Same-sex relationships not only cannot provide this for each spouse, they can’t provide children with a deep connection to each half of humanity through a parent of each gender.

How Do We Respond To The Changing Culture?

It’s one thing to know what I believe, but it’s an entirely different thing to live out what I believe. When it comes to a response to the changing culture, specifically homosexuality, our response must be biblical and it must be saturated in love.

Someone might object, “But we are loving. We hate the sin but love the sinner.” I have news for you: the world isn’t feeling the love. According to recent research, when the vast majority of Christians and non-Christians want to describe the church, they call it “anti-homosexual.” We might understand what we mean by the “hate the sin but love the sinner” comment, but the phrase is highly despised in the LBGTQ community.

The problem isn’t our stance on homosexuality. We oppose this lifestyle because the Bible opposes it. We are right to be concerned when society drives at breakneck speed into a dense fog, with no apparent regard for what the future may hold. Our message may be right, but we are not as loving as we think we are. Why? Because we don’t express an essential element of love, we don’t “serve one another humbly in love” – Galatians 5:13 We need to do better at being known for humble love.

For one, we must humble ourselves for wrongly assuming that those who support a gay lifestyle do so out of disdain for morality. There are other reasons (maybe even good reasons) why people support gay rights, such as concern for the mental health of those struggling with same sex attraction, some of those struggles ending in suicide.

Many people support gay rights because they value authenticity. They reason that those who see themselves as gay should have the right to act consistent with their self-understanding. Some support gay rights as an act of resistance against what they see as untoward government intrusion. If we’re humble, we’ll be aware that those on the other side of this issue may have motives we can affirm.

We must humble ourselves, second, for how we’ve reacted. Some of us have lived by a double standard, condemning others’ sins but neglecting our own. We’ve not been good listeners, considering ourselves righteous for refusing to engage with those who differ from us. We’ve called our response “righteous indignation,” when it may have been only “fear of the other.” And when some of our own have honestly shared their same sex attraction, we have tended to treat them like enemies, not family. If we’re humble, we’ll admit we’ve responded poorly.

True love is not only humble, it serves others. If we were going overseas to work as a missionary, we would be very conscious that we were there to serve, not to be served. We would bend over backward to avoid offense. Among those already offended, we would bend even further.

The church must become a community that provides a loving environment for these who struggle with their sexuality and gender. After all, if “God’s kindness is intended to lead [us] to repentance.” – Romans 2:4, perhaps he wants to accomplish the same result from our kindness with others.

Please don’t mis-hear me. Telling the whole truth is needed now more than ever. But by only sharing part of the Bible’s message, we’ve made matters worse. We must not shy away from speaking of God’s disapproval of gay sex, even if this makes some unhappy. While at the same time, and with equal conviction, speak of the freedom to live above our natural state, to discover a better way. And back up our words with our example, lives of humble service that express the love of Jesus, because that is the world’s best hope and that is the best way.

Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen a phrase being used which simply says ‘Love is Love’. The meaning behind the statement is that falling in love is not about the gender of the person, nor important if it’s monogamous or polyamorous. The sentiment is that you can be gay, bi or straight and pursue a monogamous or polyamorous relationship as long as you’re getting the love, affection and companionship that you need to be happy and fulfilled emotionally as well as satisfied sexually.

The understanding is that when someone makes the statement using the three words, ‘love is Love’, that should settle the matter. After all, how can you argue with someone else’s choice to love? For that matter, it might not even be a choice anyways if I have ‘fallen in love’ because that’s an uncontrolled physical and emotional response to chemistry between two people that just happens. Is it though?

There are a few issues that need to be addressed that come along with the blanket statement ‘Love is Love. For instance; where do we draw the line? Does it only include ‘love’ between two consenting adults or could it include love between an adult and a child or a human and an animal?

To most of us, including those who promote the current idea of the phrase ‘love is love’, those suggestions would be unthinkable. However, only a few short years ago the majority would have been aghast at the idea of the love is love ideology as it is promoted today. Yet there are movements afoot to normalize both pedophilia and bestiality as we speak, who’s to say that one day they wouldn’t be ‘normalized’? It’s happened before in past cultures – Rome & Greece are just two examples of many.

Who set’s the boundaries of this love is love ideology anyways? After all, ‘Love is love’ isn’t it? It comes down to the simple pursuit of happiness and that sense of being needed, wanted and cared for – isn’t that what we all want? If the answer to those questions are in the affirmative then I’d say ‘go for it!’.

But what if it is not an enlightened way to live but is instead a foolish lie? What if it leads to unhealthy places for one or both involved; emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically?[1] If that’s the case then we need to be extremely careful in making a case for what we might think should be normal and accepted in our culture.

Before we go on, let’s look at this falling in love idea…

IS FALLING IN LOVE A REAL THING?

I’ve heard the statement used, “Well you can’t help who you ‘fall in love’ with”. Falling in love is an expression describing someone’s emotional state when those puppy dog, googly eyed, happy feelings of what’s assumed to be love, start to grip the soul and make you feel like you just can’t breathe another moment without that person being in the same room with you. But I think we need to ask whether or not ‘falling in love’ is even a real thing.

The idea of “falling in love” relies on warm emotions and (more than likely) surging hormones. However, the idea that love is all about feelings is more of a western cultural, 20th century invention than anything else. The biblical view of love is that love can exist apart from feelings. Think about it, no hormones are needed to obey the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” – James 2:8. In other words, we choose to love; that is, we commit ourselves to act in the best interests of another person.

Of course, nice emotions often accompany love, and we naturally have warm feelings toward someone we’re attracted to. And of course, it’s good and proper to have positive feelings and surging hormones when in the company of your spouse. But if that’s all there is to “falling in love,” then we’re in trouble. What happens when the feelings fall away? What about when the hormones stop surging? Have we fallen “out” of love?

Love should never be seen as dependent on feelings or expediency or romantic attraction. The “falling in love” concept places undue emphasis on the emotional condition of those involved. The wording of the phrase almost makes it sound as if love were an accident: “I can’t help falling in love with you” makes a nice song lyric, but, in real life, we are responsible to control our emotions. Many marriages have been ended (and many foolishly begun) because someone “fell in love” with the wrong person.

Love isn’t a state that we stumble into; it’s a commitment that we grow into. It’s probably more accurate to say that those who “fall in love” actually “fall in lust” or “fall into infatuation” or “fall into co-dependency.”

So my answer to that question, ‘is falling in love a real thing?’ can only be no, but rather an invention of the western world’s infatuation with a ‘fun’ emotional sensation.

LOVE IS LOVE STILL…ISN’T IT?

Even still, someone may not have experienced the emotional sensation of falling in love but have instead grown into a love commitment with someone other than their spouse, with more than one partner at a time or with someone of the same gender. If that’s the case then can we not say that for them at least, love is love? If loving is a choice that means I can still love someone of the same gender, or more than one person… after all love is love – right?

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church.”

The union of one man and one woman in marriage is a mystery because it presents a parable, a true story, a picture of Christ and the church. And hidden in this allegory of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between his Son Jesus and the church. In other words, marriage Is not simply an ancient cultural definition that we haven’t ‘evolved’ away from yet, nor is it an accident that marriage between a man and woman provides the church with a language to explain Christ’s relation to the church.

God had purposefully designed human marriage to be an earthly reflection of his celestial plan. Do you see that picture? God willed it that Christ and the church become one body, and then willed it for marriage to reflect that pattern. That is why we see the blessing and encouragement of a husband and wife becoming one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24.

Paul paints the picture for us even further about this being the image for the church when he says, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2

Now, understanding that – when people say that “love is Love” – we can’t help but see how it cheapens what true love is. It doesn’t allow for the full expression to be experienced as God intended, and we see it for what it is (or is not). It’s not an enlightened understanding of love at all, but is in truth a bad copy at best.

Of all the ways we might think about love being expressed, biblical love gives us the best definition. In fact, it’s described as “the most excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind” – 1 Corinthians 13:4. I don’t think that it should be lost on us that we don’t find too many people, if any at all, “falling into” patience or kindness, do we?

“Falling in love” or saying that “love is Love” are nice phrases and make for great soundbites to use in the moment or in songs on a soundtrack. They appeal to the emotions and give us nice fuzzies, the goosebumps, the enjoyable feelings of having entered the ideal romance. Please understand that I think that those feelings are fine, in and of themselves, and it’s possible that those who are “falling in love” have actually found a perfect match.

But we need always remember that love is more than emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s more than finding a person or persons to ‘enjoy’ experiences with. Truth is that those who are falling in love are sometimes blinded to the reality of their situation and can easily mistake the intensity of their emotions for genuine love.

But there’s some good news…

REDEMPTION BRINGS RECOVERY

God created marriage to be THE image of Jesus’ relationship to the church. But the problem has been that sin has so confused the image as to make it unrecognizable. If contemporary culture succeeds in redefining and reimaging the purpose of love relationships, the meaning of the image we are to reflect to the world of Christ & his bride, seen as love between a husband and wife will be obscured for many years to come.

That is why we, who are committed to God’s definition of marriage, must live out the true meaning of authentic, committed love relationships, with our spouses if we’re married, within the church in authentic ways, with our neighbours representing Jesus to them, and even more importantly with Jesus Christ himself, growing to know him intimately.

As we grow in these love relationships, we need to commit to living out our true love publicly and joyfully, so that the world sees it and begins to recognize the depth of love they are missing out on. We need to live it out in such a way that our love displays Christ in all his beauty. That’s the Gospel being put on display! And pray that those who see our love in action will be so attracted to Jesus that they soon become counted among the redeemed and recover the life they were created for – a love relationship with our Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus, accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

True story – It’s only as our lives are redeemed that true recovery back to reflecting the image of Jesus can be realized just as those ‘some’ were redeemed and recovered who Paul wrote to in the Corinthian church so long ago.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[1]A telling statistic is that HPV infection is found in about 90% of people with anal cancer: https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-anal-sex-lead-anal-cancer-3-facts-and-myths-400561

Is It Unloving to Not ‘Integrate’ Same-sex Couples into The Church?

Increasingly the church is being confronted with the idea that the time has come for Christianity to accept monogamous same-sex couples as normal and & beautiful expressions of love within the church. Mainstream culture (and much of the mainstream, old-line church) seems to have come to this conclusion already and thus we ‘other’ Christian’s need to catch up. The logical step, it is assumed, is to integrate same-sex couples into the life stream of the church and if we don’t, but instead keep on saying that homosexuality is a sin, we are unloving and thus not living up to Jesus’ command to love one another.

In many ways I understand where culture is coming from. Modern culture’s ideology is rooted in Postmodernist thought, which questions (even denies) morality, absolutes, reason and of course God. This is where things get interesting. The prevailing thought currently out there is that we must not question nor judge the tastes, desires, practices, or beliefs of others. Sounds ultraistic and peaceful so far. Here’s the problem (and I’d even suggest the hypocrisy). That argument is always used in their favour but dare speak out against it or state an opposing viewpoint and watch the fireworks.

Do you see why our biblical world view creates such waves in the Postmodernist’s world? These ideas absolutely clash with each other. Publicly present a Christ centred world view and they can’t stand it. I believe the problem stems from a denial of God. If there is no God (or at least a God who is involved in human affairs), then the question begs to asked; Where do we get our moral directive for anything we do? The short answer is that culture gets direction from the collective – each other (where they get it from initially will be another blog).

In my humble opinion that hasn’t always worked out so well. Just look to history with culturally influenced ideological movements such as Isis, Nazism, Communism, KKK, Fascism, Trudeaumania. Ok maybe not so much that last one but you get my point.

For the Christian who believes in the authority of scripture however, we do have a clear foundational starting point on this morality question – God. And we discover what he says about homosexuality from scripture. Which is what confuses and saddens me so much about my ‘evangelical’ friends who claim to believe in the inspired word of God as well yet deny what scripture clearly says about homosexuality. (I smell another blog down the road).

At any rate, to answer the challenge presented about us needing to catch up to culture and prove that we the church are obeying Jesus’ commands to love our neighbour at least as good as culture is, let’s go to the word of God and see what God says about all this.

But first, I think that we need to answer the question “Is being gay itself a sin?” To do that I think that we need to challenge some assumptions upon which the question is based. Within the past fifty years, the term gay, as applied to homosexuality, has exploded into mainstream culture, and we are told that “being gay” is as much outside one’s control as “being short” or “being white.”

So, the question is worded in such a way that it makes it almost impossible to adequately answer in that form. So, let’s break this question up and deal with each piece separately. Rather than ask, “Is being gay a sin?” let’s ask two questions first, the first one building a foundation for the second, “Is it sinful to be same-sex attracted?” And then, “Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?” Then we can finally address the initial question, “Is it unloving to not integrate monogamous homosexual couples into the Church?”

Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?

Concerning first question, “Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?” Let me just say from the outset that the answer is complicated. First, we should probably distinguish between (actively) sinning and (passively) being tempted:

Being tempted isn’t a sin otherwise Jesus would have sinned before even starting on his ministry, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Then there was Eve who was tempted in the garden. She found that the forbidden fruit was definitely appealing to her, but it seems that she didn’t actually sin until she took the fruit and ate it. “So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” – Genesis 3:6-7

You and I might (and probably do) struggle with temptation, and that temptation might lead us to sin, but we need to remember that the temptation itself is not a sin.

So here’s the problem with same-sex attraction, or the feeling of “being gay,” as I understand it. It’s an attraction to something God has forbidden, and any desire for something sinful ultimately has its roots in sin. Our natures have been so infected with sin that what is evil often looks good to us. Sin causes us to see the world and our own actions through a warped perspective. Our thoughts, desires, and dispositions are all affected. That helps us understand the bent of our culture’s move away from any Godly moral foundation.

Scripture says we are sinners by nature So, same-sex attraction, per se, is not always an active, willful sin, but it springs from that sinful nature. So, in the end, same-sex attraction is on some level, an expression of the flesh, or our fallen nature. No wonder the culture has the worldview it does. Sinful humans living in a sinful world are pelted with curiosities, interests, and opportunities that lead us further from God. Our world is filled with forbidden fruits, including the enticement to “be gay.”

A happily married man can be suddenly smitten with attraction for his new female associate and wrestle with those feelings every day. A sober alcoholic can struggle with the ongoing desire to drink, even years after she becomes clean. Those desires don’t represent an active choice to sin, but they do have roots in the sinful nature.

We might not always be able to control how or what we feel, but we can control what we do with those feelings along with the responsibility to resist temptation. “Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:13

And along with that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 while being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?

The second part of this question, “is it sinful to engage in homosexual activities?” has a more straightforward answer. Being drawn toward a morally forbidden relationship is not an active sin; it is a temptation. However, sin occurs when we yield to the temptation.

Our culture says that homosexuals were born gay and thus must be accepted, and that gender dysphoria is to be celebrated, not overcome. But I need to challenge that thought. Even if someone was ‘born that way’? Why does that make it ok? We’re all ‘born that way’… that way being a drive to sin in any number of ways. We all have this pull in our hearts to lie, gossip, cheat, live selfishly – looking out for number one.

There are even those who are born with a desire to murder, or commit acts of pedophilia. That’s a current reality of this sinful, God hating world we live in. Yet somehow, we all (or at least most) would agree that these other things I mentioned are not acceptable even if we are born that way. So, what makes homosexuality different in our cultures mind set then?

I believe that Paul tells us why… “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” – Romans 1:24-31

Because of this, we now have an entire generation of children and teens who never knew a time when homosexuality was considered unusual. In fact, in elementary and high schools, it is now fashionable to call oneself “gay” or “bi” or use any number of other faddish sexual labels without any real understanding of their meaning – or more importantly of the moral and eternal implications. And the growing sentiment is that if homosexuality is called for what it is – sin, that the individual(s) making that claim are unloving, homophobic, bigots who are merely shadows of a long ago, soon to be forgotten past who can be ignored at the very least or hate (speech) promoters deserving of jail at the worst.

Is it unloving to not ‘integrate’ monogamous same-sex couples into the Church?

One thing I’ll say on the outset. When speaking about not integrating same sex couples, I’m talking about not allowing for membership and leadership roles. Outside of that I welcome (and have welcomed) homosexuals to join us at any of our weekly services. At LifeBridge we recognize that people come from all different places of journey’s into faith. God has, and I know in the future will, bring people who need an accepting place that is committed to loving and sharing Christ with them. The hard facts are is that we are all sinners in need of grace, no more no less than anyother person in this world.

However, I do argue that it is unloving not to speak the truth about what God’s word says regarding homosexuality or any sin for that matter, thinking that by not speaking the truth or by accepting non truths we’re being loving. That is why I believe that it is unloving to integrate monogamous same-sex couples into the life of the church… because to do so would be to lie about something that leads to extreme harm for the couples in question as well as the church as a whole.

Think about this. If I tell my son that it’s ok for him to shoot hoops on the busy highway because he loves basketball so much, and the reason I encourage him to do so is because It’d appear to be unloving in discouraging him from what he loves so much, you’d call me foolish (or worse).

It’s foolish to not identify sin in our lives or pretend it doesn’t exist because we’re afraid it might come across as unloving, especially given the eternal implications, let alone the very specific and tragic phycological, medical and social problems that homosexuality has introduced to the world. Love without truth is hypocrisy and a lie and is damaging (temporally as well as eternally) to those who receive it.

Saying all that however, we must also remember that truth without love is brutal and harsh. If we speak truth without love for others then all we are doing is making a lot of noise which obviously doesn’t make any sense for the person on the receiving end (I Corinthians 13).

Tim Keller said it this way… “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Please remember that homosexual behaviour won’t damn a person any more quickly than pride, gossip, greed or adultery. Without Christ, we’re lost, whether we be gay, straight, or asexual. But, when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, he gives us a new nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And a wonderful part of the continuing gospel narrative is that Jesus doesn’t stop there, he also destroys the power that sin once held over us (Romans 6:1-7). That old nature that once dictated our actions has been conquered in a born-again child of God. And though temptation still rages, and weaknesses still torment, the incredible loving truth is that the power of the Holy Spirit helps us to resist Satan and overcome the sins that once held us captive. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7