I recently wrote an article bemoaning the persistent and pervasive forcing of our nation to live in a fantasy world. One where marriage does not mean marriage, but basically means “an expression of love.” And this is the heart of the gay marriage debate. The argument has been framed in such a way that it makes opponents opposed to love rather than homosexual marriage, which is not the case. It is not an understatement that the gay marriage (and homosexual acceptance in general) is a watershed issue for the church in this generation. No, it is not that homosexuality ought to be equated with the Gospel, rather that where one stands on this issue will determine what direction they will go regarding other serious matters of faith.
Why do I say that where one stands on this issue will determine their direction in other matters of faith? Because the issue of homosexuality is not ultimately about love, marriage, compassion, community, unity, acceptance, equality or other buzzwords; the issue is about Biblical authority and obedience. The simple question that first needs to be answered is this, “Is homosexuality a sin?”
Sadly, I have listened to several professing Christians who cannot identify Scripture passages that clearly describe homosexuality as sin, but loudly proclaim the evils of gay marriage. To be honest, as Bible believing evangelicals (and especially those who call themselves Bible fundamentalists) we have no license to say anything is a sin without expressing the Biblical support for such behaviors. Just because you don’t like something does not make it sin, but if God says that it is sin, then we have no right to excuse or in any way alter what God has said. So then, what does the Bible say about homosexuality, is it a sin?
General considerations. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, the Apostle says, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.” In the same letter one chapter later he writes, “Flee sexual immorality.” (1 Cor. 9:18). In Ephesians 5:5 the Bible reads, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.” In Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” In Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murders, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake of fire that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” It is clear from this sampling of Bible passages, that if one believes the words of the Bible and believes that the words are God’s thoughts, then all sexual immorality is sin and facing God’s judgment. Some may respond that homosexuality is not sexually immoral, so long as it is in a committed marriage relationship. That is a good point that deserves attention. This is in fact, the position that the Christian relief organization World Vision has taken recently by hiring homosexuals who are married, but denying employment to adulterous or unmarried sexually active people.
Sexual immorality has been defined by Christian history as well as the general culture until recently as any sexual activity outside the lawful bounds of marriage. Indeed, that is a good simple definition. In a previous article I sought to make the case that homosexual marriage is not really a possibility since it redefines what marriage is. [warning: explicit illustration] If a lewd person decides to be sexually active with animals and deciding that he loves his animal and wants to marry his animal, does his determination to call it marriage actually make it marriage? No, even our world understands that marriage has limits in its definition. Changing those limits does not make it lawful. Just because someone wants something to mean something does not make it mean it. So by logical construction, if marriage is going to have the traditional and Biblical definition, it must exclude homosexuality or else it has lost its meaning and should be called something else. By this logic, homosexuality even though practiced within the confines of so called “marriage” is sexual immorality, which of course is clearly sin against God according the the Bible.
Specific considerations. Yet the Scripture does speak of homosexuality in particular as a sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9 lists “men who practice homosexuality” as those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The same phrase is used in 1 Timothy 1:10 and homosexual practice along with other sins such as lying, enslaving, and general immorality is contrary to sound teaching. Romans 1 describes the depravity of man without God and with graphic detail describes men lying with men and women lying with women as detestable sin in the eyes of God. Some have suggested that the Greek words used in Corinthians and Timothy are referring only to the process of male rape of slave boy. Two words are found in the text. The first is sometimes translated “effeminate” and the word is “malakos” meaning soft or delicate. Friberg says that it refers to a “man or boy who submits his body to homosexual lewdness.” Other lexicons agree that it is emphasizing a male willingly living femininely especially sexually. The second word is “arsenokoitas,” a compound of two words, “arseno” meaning masculine, strong; and “koitas” meaning sexual intercourse. All lexicons define this as men engaging in sexual intercourse with men.
Homosexual advocates usually rush to the Old Testament passages and declare restrictions against homosexuality as old fashioned and like eating lobsters or pigs. The problem with this argument is that the moral restrictions God put on mankind and especially the family are timeless and unchanging, though God is merciful. Even so, the New Testament is not silent about the practice of homosexuality and clearly describes it as sin.
No, I am not homophobic, in fact, I have no fear whatsoever of homosexual persons or gay people. What have I to fear? No I do not have repressed homosexual desires. No, I do not think that homosexual people are “disgusting” any more than my own sin disgusts me. But clearly, the Bible (and thus God) does have something to say about homosexual activity and God is not neutral on this issue. The real question is not how we view homosexuality or gay marriage, but how does God view it? God views it as a sin that is an abomination in his eyes and if we love God, we must hate the sin that offends his holy character. So then we cannot forget that Christ died for sinners. The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 continue to ring true, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Christian Response. How then should Christians respond to this issue of homosexuality and gay marriage?
First, we must decide if we are going to believe God in the Bible even though that means being considered fools by the world. What is our final appeal to authority for morality? Is it prevailing cultural and modern opinions? If it is, just remember the history of the world. Much destruction comes when people consider themselves or majority opinion as determination of truth. Christian, be equipped to speak intelligently with grace about what the Bible has to say about the issue.
Second, we must understand that where sin abounds God’s grace abounds more. God has redeemed us, we are not our own. Sin has no more authority over us, but neither do we have authority over our bodies. God redeems adulterers, idolaters, liars, homosexuals, arrogant people, slavers, murderers. It is not good news for God to accept someone in their sin and then to allow them to continue in their sin. It is only good news if we are actually being saved from something. We must teach the Gospel which demands repentance and faith to everyone with love and compassion, holding before others hope that there is indeed a God who delivered us and can deliver them. We do no eternal favors by pretending that a sin is not a sin, even for the sake of so-called “unity.”
Third, we must differentiate between temptation and action. For the Christian who struggles with homosexual desires, we must help them rest upon God and his Word, growing by grace in a redeemed relationship with Christ who is able to save them to the uttermost; while realizing that sinful habits and desires take a lifetime of mortification. A person who has homosexual desires who has been saved by God’s grace, may indeed spend the rest of their life fighting those temptations to immorality. We need to support them, encourage them, and bear with them, (Gal. 6:1) as we would for an adulterous person struggling with desires, an arrogant person struggling with pride, or a former liar struggling with lies, or a former alcoholic struggling with addiction. The church is God’s pure body and those of any such sin who are unrepentant and unteachable are to be disfellowshipped, but the church is also a place of spiritual healing from the abusive effects of sin upon each of our souls.
(A short word about homosexual desire–No, God did not create men with the normal desire to sleep with men or women with women or anything other than one man one woman marriage relationship. In that sense it is not natural to have homosexual desires. But in another sense, ever since sin entered the world, what is “natural” has tended to go in the opposite direction of what God intended in the first place. Sin is indeed “natural” for mankind in this world).
Fourth, we must encourage a culture within the church of mutual accountability and subordination to God’s revealed Word bathed in love and compassion for one another as sinners walking in the grace of God. Jesus ate with sinners, but he called them to repentance. How we encourage this culture is by mutual accountability, friendship, prayer and a recognition that the gospel is the equalizer of men’s sins. All sins are egregious but all sinners can be redeemed by the Gospel.
No, we should not perpetuate the ignorance of some that suggest that homosexual persons should be eradicated (I know that is pretty extreme) or that they are not afforded the same human dignity all of us born with. We ought not utter crass or crude displays of vehemence, yet we must be bold with God’s truth, warning all sinners and calling them to flee the wrath to come, to enter into the sheepfold of God, knowing indeed that we are sinners who have been justified, are being sanctified, and will be glorified.