The issue of homosexuality is continuously a hot topic in today’s culture. Given the volatile nature of the debates surrounding same sex marriage in the public and in the court system and given the fact that the homosexual agenda has forced itself into the limelight by pressuring pastors to marry same sex couples and by threatening local businesses with law suits if they don’t support them, the church has to be equipped with a proper response to homosexuality. Unfortunately the church has often responded poorly to the issue of homosexuality by taking one of three approaches.
Three Wrong Approaches
The first wrong approach is non-engagement that is, simply burying our heads in the sand and hoping it goes away. If you haven’t noticed this is an issue that is growing in pervasiveness and it isn’t going away. Not now and not ever. We cannot afford to close our eyes and simply not interact with homosexuals or pretend that it doesn’t affect us. The fact is our culture has largely embraced homosexuality as a valid expression of human sexuality and we as Christians need to think carefully and biblically about the matter so that we can winsomely and intelligently make our case for biblical sexuality and why it is what’s best for all people.
The second wrong approach to homosexuality is that of throwing up the white flag and embracing homosexuality as though God approves. Many (far too many) Christians have been indoctrinated by our culture through media and other outlets into thinking that homosexuality is normal and acceptable. Surely God just wants people to be happy and as long two people really love each other wouldn’t God approve? Nope. Let’s not forget that God is our maker who knows what is best for us and he created human sexuality and gets to define its purpose. The church should not give into social pressures to accept homosexuality as normative and welcome in the church.
The third wrong approach to homosexuality is to demonize homosexuals as the worst kind of sinners out there. It seems like a certain portion of the Christian population is obsessed with talking about homosexuality. You can hardly listen to Christian talk radio without it being one of the topics that comes on that day. Understandably, because of the cultural acceptance of homosexuality, we need to talk about it. Even so, many have made the mistake of labeling homosexuals as super-sinners and everything that is wrong with where our nation is heading today. As a result many Christians act like homophobes and will talk about the great evils of homosexuality but never actually talk to a homosexual and this is very unfortunate.
Non-engagement is a non-option. Full acceptance of homosexuality into the life of the church is reprehensible given God’s plan for human sexuality and treating homosexuality like it is in a class of its own when it comes to sin and being more afraid of them than anything is misguided. So then, what is the right response to homosexuality? As is so often the case the truth lies somewhere between the extremes.
Three Things the Church Must Do
First, we have to make up our minds that we will not bury our heads in the sand and that the issue of homosexuality is not going away. We must be intentional in coming to understand the issues related to homosexuality and same sex marriage and what effect this has on our culture. Furthermore we must separate the Christian response to homosexuality from the political response to homosexuality. This is, I believe, a real problem for many Christians. I am not arguing that Christians should stay out of political discussion but that there are two distinct issues in play.
- As a Christian we believe homosexuality is to be understood as an unrepentant and sinful lifestyle that is counter to God’s design and all who engage in it need to repent.
- As an American I believe homosexuality ought to be permissible to practice (legally) but that same sex marriage should not receive special recognition or be incentivized as heterosexual marriages are. Healthy heterosexual marriages produce children and provide the ideal context in which to raise well-adjusted citizens for our nation and is, therefore, in the best interest of the government to support whereas the same cannot be said about same sex marriages any more than polygamous marriages, etc.
Both of these issues are important but they are two separate issues nonetheless and it is my contention that our primary concern ought to be with the first. Our citizenship is first in heaven and second in the USA, therefore our priorities ought to operate in that order as well. Confusing these issues, making Christian concerns and nationalistic concerns as one and the same is a gigantic mistake. So we must engage, we must do so intelligently and winsomely and we must not confuse these two separate issues (i.e. 1. What’s wrong with homosexuality in God’s eyes, and 2. Why the federal government shouldn’t recognize same sex marriages).
Second we must hold our ground and not give in to social pressure to accept homosexuality as normal. The Scripture is abundantly clear that homosexuality is an aberrant behavior that is contra to God’s creative order. The Scripture speak about this with unanimity from Genesis to Revelation. Take Romans 1:26-27 for an example “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.” Clearly the Apostle Paul sees homosexuality as leaving behind God’s intention for human sexuality for our good and trading it for something dishonorable and unnatural.
If we abandon this portion of Scripture (as some “Christians” have) which so clearly condemns homosexuality then why should we uphold any of it? When it comes to the authority of the Bible we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking we can pick and choose what portions of the Bible are inspired and which aren’t because inevitably we will only see what we like as from God and what we dislike as from man. The Bible is either authoritative and the final word for Christian doctrine and practice or it’s just a quaint old book with outmoded moralism. Christians, if you accept homosexuality as something that is okay with God then you have set yourself up as judge over and above the Bible and now you no longer have Jesus as your Lord. We must not subject the Bible to modern concepts of fairness but we must realize that it rests as timeless truth from our eternal creator who alone grounds the reality of moral absolutes and reveals them to us. To compromise is to abandon biblical authority and end up following wandering stars with no true north.
Finally, we must fairly represent homosexuality for what it is, namely, one kind of sin among many that will lead people to hell. Sometimes Christians get asked things like “Do you think homosexuals will go to hell just for being a homosexual?” The best answer to this question is “no.” Christians do not think homosexuals are going to go to hell because they are a homosexual, rather, we believe homosexuals and all people are going to go to hell because they are sinners. Notice the rest of the Romans 1 passage that we mentioned earlier “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. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:28-32)
The reality is that any sin (and all sin) is enough to separate people from God for eternity in Hell. There’s nothing particularly grand about homosexuality as far as sin is concerned. The Bible does acknowledge that sexual sin is a sin against the body which has repercussions that other kinds of sin may not (1 Corinthians 6:18) but even that passage has heterosexual immorality in view. When the New Testament speaks about homosexuals not entering the kingdom of God it does not do so in vacuum. 1 Cor. 6:9-10 “Or 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.” Notice that in this same list that the “sexually immoral” are included which certainly involves heterosexuals that do not honor God’s will for human sexuality either.
The fact of the matter is that homosexuality is one kind of sin among so many that lead people away from God’s good will for their life. So when we are interacting with homosexuals we should treat them no different than our friend who is sleeping with their boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. The fact is, they both need to repent and trust in Christ. The reality is that homosexuals are just like you and me…they’re sinners. The only difference between a homosexual and us is Jesus.
Jesus has called each and every one of us to repentance, to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and to come and follow him. When homosexuals say “But I feel attracted to people of the same sex” our response should be “That may be so, but Jesus has called us to deny ourselves and follow him.” The reality is that most men are physically attracted to more women than just the one they are married to, but God’s will is for us to faithfully love and honor our wives and be sexually and emotionally faithful to her. That involves denying what we might say are perfectly “natural” impulses we as men have. So just because one genuinely has feelings of attraction that doesn’t mean that we should act on them or that they are pleasing to God.
Whether it be sexual sin (homosexual or heterosexual), addiction and alcoholism, a life of thievery, being a liar or a gossip or just trusting in our own goodness, each of us are called on by Jesus to abandon our own passions and desires and to repent of our sin and trust in Jesus for salvation. This involves turning our back on habits, emotions, etc., that come very natural to all of us. It is a realization that there is something fundamentally broken about mankind and it is called sin and that we must submit ourselves to Christ and deny ourselves to know what true freedom is all about. That goes for you and that goes for me.