What About Homosexuality?
This week we’re talking about the question, “What about Homosexuality?” We are in a series at the moment called What About…? As God’s allies we often have questions about our faith. And we get asked questions by other people that we struggle to answer.
Last week we talked about the question, “What About God in the Old and New Testaments?” I hope that was helpful and got you reading, praying and thinking more about God and his nature. There were some great questions that Laura & I responded to in the midweek podcast.
Next week we’ll talk about the question, “What About Gender Roles?” How has God created us as male and female? How should we see and treat each other? Does God intend for there to be particular different roles for men and for women?
This week we’re talking about the question, “What about Homosexuality?”
Let me say right from the outset – I am uncomfortable talking publicly about this topic. I am more than happy to have one on one conversations about homosexuality, but I’m not comfortable speaking publicly about it. Sexuality is a very important and sensitive topic, and it affects everyone differently. The potential for misunderstanding is very high. But the opportunity for discipleship – each of us becoming more like Jesus – is also very high. So let’s talk about it.
Regardless of what you hear me say today, if you are offended don’t STAY offended. Ask more questions, make time for a conversation, read more, pray more, talk more. It may be that I say something different than what you think or believe and we disagree, but let’s make sure we can listen and understand and accept each other even in that difference.
As we begin we need to recognise that the church around the world hasn’t always responded well to the topic of homosexuality or to people who are same sex attracted. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of hurt. There have been accusations in all directions. People have taken what they read in the Bible, and combined it with their negative experiences, and come to conclusions and actions. Other people have taken what they read in the Bible, and combined it with their positive experiences and come to different conclusions and actions.
There’s no way we can resolve all of that in the next few minutes, but hopefully today opens up the conversation much more for us. That our compassion increases, our conviction increases, our love increases and our understanding of God’s word and God’s heart increases.
To kick off the conversation, let’s watch this short video of three guys who are Christians, two of them are pastors, and they talk about what it was like for them to realise they were same sex attracted and how they came to terms with that. And they have some advice to offer as well.
Same sex attraction is a real thing
Same Sex Attraction is a real thing. Regardless of how any person ends up that way – nature, nurture, or a combination, some people find themselves attracted to the same sex. I am not same sex attracted. But I understand that just as I grew up finding myself naturally attracted to the opposite sex, there are people, more than you might realise, who grow up finding themselves naturally attracted to the same sex.
You may be attracted to the same sex yourself. You probably know someone who is same sex attracted. You might, and they might, reason, pray and counsel to try and figure out why. We’re not going to go too much into the theories today of why some people are and some people aren’t, except to say that regardless of the causes – nature, nurture or something else – some people are same sex attracted.
God loves same sex attracted people
If you take nothing else away today, take this: God loves every person who is same sex attracted. God loves every homosexual person.
He doesn’t only love heterosexual people. He doesn’t hate homosexual people. God loves people who are same sex attracted, the whole spectrum; lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning or asexual.
You might have heard those words about God’s love, but let them sink into reality for a minute.
God loves the same sex attracted person you’re thinking of right now. He loves them. He loves you.
He doesn’t love me because I’m opposite sex attracted, or heterosexual in orientation. He loves me because he made me.
He doesn’t hate you because you’re same sex attracted, or homosexual in orientation. He loves you because he made you.
He doesn’t hate your friend, or neighbour, or daughter because they’re homosexual in orientation. He loves them because he made them.
We are broken
In Genesis 1 & 2 we read that God created two people initially, one male and one female. We’ll talk more about that next week. These two, Adam and Eve, were perfect. They were the only two humans and they had no knowledge or experience of sin, or brokenness or evil. They were only attracted to each other. Not only was there no other person to be attracted to, it wouldn’t have even entered their mind to be attracted to anyone else of either gender. It wasn’t that they were just well behaved, there was no concept of anything else. Everything was perfect all the time. Then in Genesis 3 Adam and Eve sinned, the fall of creation happened, and sin, evil, brokenness entered into God’s creation. Ever since then men, women, animals, all of creation has been affected and changed. Same sex attraction didn’t exist before the fall of creation. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that because of the fall and sin, humanity gave up natural relations with the opposite sex. Fallen creation and fallen sexuality is why some people find themselves with mixed feelings and different core beliefs about their gender and their sexuality. It’s not the way God initially created us to be, but it’s the way we are as humanity now.
If you find yourself with same sex attraction it is not because God hates you. It’s not because he’s judging you. It’s not because you’ve done something wrong. It’s because God’s original creation of sexuality has been distorted by the fall, it’s been broken by sin. Every single one of us is affected by this, every single person, all of creation is affected by sin. We are all broken in different ways. And for some people it’s their sexual desires that are broken.
Simply having an attraction to the same sex isn’t sin. But same sex attraction does represent our brokenness as humanity.
If you or your sister or your uncle has an automatic attraction to the same sex, that attraction, in and of itself, isn’t sinful. It’s broken sexuality. You are completely free to accept and love people with same sex attraction without worrying if you’re “condoning” their sin, or checking to see if you “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” The simple, automatic attraction to the same sex is something that some people have because of humanity’s broken sexuality. As God’s people we should show love to and acceptance of everyone created in God’s image, no matter how they are impacted by brokenness and sin entering the world.
What does the Bible say about homosexual practice?
So if same sex attraction is part of our brokenness, and some of us find ourselves with same sex attraction whether we like it or not, what do we do with that? Did God ever speak about this specifically in the Bible? Hang on through the next few minutes as we look at two main sections. Leviticus in the Old Testament, and 1 Corinthians in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament we read that God gave his people Israel a whole bunch of laws. These laws covered all sorts of things and were given with a couple of broad purposes:
- So that they would live in the best way possible for their community, culture, time and faith.
- So that they would be reminded every single moment of every single day that they belonged to God.
There are practical things that we would consider normal, there are cultural things that we would find strange, and there are things that were particular to their time before Jesus had come, ways that God asked them to worship him.
Our western culture at large would question many of the Old Testament laws, and even we as Christians now in the New Covenant, New Testament era, don’t condone the response of death or stoning. But in that cultural context we find the beginnings of how God asked the Israelites to conduct themselves sexually.
Leviticus 18:21-22 NLT
21 “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord.
22 “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.
23 “A man must not defile himself by having sex with an animal. And a woman must not offer herself to a male animal to have intercourse with it. This is a perverse act.
Our culture at large doesn’t question verse 21 or 23 today, but they do question verse 22. A more direct translation might say, “Do not lie with another man as with a woman.”
Leviticus 20:13-15 NLT
13 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offence.
14 “If a man marries both a woman and her mother, he has committed a wicked act. The man and both women must be burned to death to wipe out such wickedness from among you.
15 “If a man has sex with an animal, he must be put to death, and the animal must be killed.
Our culture generally in Australia doesn’t accept a man marrying multiple women, especially a mother and daughter. Australians generally don’t accept having sex with an animal. But they do accept homosexuality.
Again, putting the response in the time and place in history and God’s revealing of himself slowly, as Laura talked about last week. We see God framing the intention of godly sexuality as between a man and a woman.
That was the law for the Israelites in the time that they lived. That is not the law in Australia. And the list of laws in Leviticus is not necessarily for God’s people now to follow completely like it was for the ancient Israelites to follow. We need to look closer and look at the big picture to understand what this means for God’s people today.
Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish or get rid of the law, but he came to fulfil the law. He came to live it out perfectly.
Matthew 5:17 NLT
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
So Jesus coming changed the way we worship and relate to God, and our culture changes some of the incidentals of how we live, but Jesus and others in the New Testament reaffirmed many things in the law – including our sexuality. Jesus took the law even further when it came to sexuality. He said for a man to even look at a woman lustfully is to commit adultery in his heart. So to extend the law about homosexuality would mean that a person who is same sex attracted looking lustfully at someone of the same sex is to commit adultery in their heart. Jesus and other writers of the New Testament affirm the sexual ethics of the Old Testament, without affirming the response – that they should be killed or stoned or put to death.
Take notice of this though – If we accept Jesus we are saved from sin and God’s judgement because of him and our trust in him. We aren’t saved by living as heterosexuals – whether it comes naturally to us or not. God’s judgement was carried out immediately by his people in the Old Testament, but now his judgement is suspended until Jesus returns. His judgement then will be based first on our acceptance of Jesus. But if the Old Testament law is affirmed somehow by Jesus or others in the New Testament we understand that it is still God’s plan for godly living. Not to earn our salvation, but to live out our salvation.
A little later in the New Testament we read things like this in 1 Corinthians 6.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT
Don’t you realise that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul is describing different kinds of people who make moral decisions that will exclude them from the kingdom of God, unless they repent. There are 10 different kinds of people in the list, and four of them are related to some kind of sexual behaviour. Sexual sin in general, adultery, and then two things that relate to homosexuality.
The first one we have in the NLT as male prostitutes (Gk: malakoi, which translates to soft ones or effeminate ones, which probably meant one partner in a homosexual relationship and does relate to male prostitutes.
The second one we have in the NLT as those who practice homosexuality (Gk: arsenokoitai, a compound of arsen (male) and koites (bed, or intercourse).
Both of those words are the Greek translations for the Hebrew words in Leviticus earlier. The Old Testament originally was written in Hebrew, and then later translated to Greek before Jesus’ time. So Paul, by using those Greek words when he wrote 1 Corinthians is making a link between what God said to the Israelites in Leviticus and what God is saying to the Christians in Corinth. For Paul, the sexual sins that Leviticus refers to are still relevant today. Sexual sins, including practicing homosexuality, acting on same sex attraction, are not how God wants us to live.
Paul lists this homosexuality along with those who cheat, those who worship idols, those who get drunk. If you expand those definitions, especially the worshipping idols one, you’ll find that there is not a single person in the room today, or in the world, that if they gave in to their natural tendencies would be living in the way God wants. We ALL have a natural desire to live without God. To worship other things or other people. To cheat for our own gain. The desires may be there, but Paul is saying that if we live in those ways without repenting and turning to Jesus then we are excluded from the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God means true life now, and eternal life in heaven.
What does God ask of same sex attracted people?
Notice now if you haven’t already the distinction between having same sex attraction and acting on same sex attraction. We believe that God throughout the Bible is saying that to act on same sex attraction is not what God wants for us. To act on our broken desires is sinful.
If this is true for all of us when it comes to worshipping idols, putting other things in God’s place… And if it’s true for all of us sexually, when we act on our attractions, or even dwell on in our mind or in our heart things like lust or adultery… And if it’s true for same sex attracted people to dwell on, or to act on, their attraction… Then what is God asking of people who are same sex attracted?
Paul continues in the very next verse: 1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT
Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The answer is not to live heterosexually. The answer is to accept Jesus.
It doesn’t matter how heterosexually someone lives, they STILL won’t inherit the Kingdom of God unless they have accepted Jesus. Our expectation of other people is not that they would deny their same sex attraction, and just keep denying it so that they can live the way God wants. What God wants for them is to first accept Jesus. Call on him, because only through Jesus can we inherit the Kingdom of God.
As Tim Keller the pastor and author says: “Homosexuality isn’t going to send you to hell any more than heterosexuality is going to send you to heaven.” Only Jesus can set us on a path towards heaven, and he does that when we choose him. He doesn’t wait until we’ve sorted out our sexuality, when we’ve changed our behaviour. He does it when we accept him. If you haven’t accepted Jesus, no amount of heterosexual living will send you to heaven, and no amount of homosexual living will send you to hell.
How should we treat same sex attracted people who don’t yet know Jesus?
And further, if we are to love everyone created in God’s image, despite their brokenness… Then what if they are choosing to live out of their brokenness? What if they are pursuing a homosexual lifestyle? Should we withhold our love until they repent and change their lifestyle?
When it comes to your homosexual friends and family members who don’t yet know Jesus, you are completely free to love and accept them as they are. You don’t need to expect them to change their lifestyle. You don’t need to hold them accountable to heterosexuality. You don’t need to withhold your affirmation of them as human beings. Because it’s not their sexual behaviour that is sinful. It’s their attitude to Jesus. They could change all their behaviour and still not accept Jesus and absolutely nothing will have changed between them and God.
Let’s be honest, for a lot of people in the church, it’s not a theological problem they have with same sex attraction or homosexuality. It’s a cultural problem in that we don’t understand it and it makes us uncomfortable. I understand that. But let’s stop blaming God for how we feel about homosexuals. God loves them, because he made them. He wants them to accept what Jesus has done for them.
We are free to do the same! Work hard to love, accept and in other ways convince your friends and family on your convictions about Jesus BEFORE your convictions about sexuality. How they live is a secondary issue. Whether they know and accept Jesus is the most important issue in anyone’s life.
What does God ask of same sex attracted Christians?
Heterosexuality is just as broken as homosexuality. If a person changes from lustful desire towards the same sex, to lustful desire towards the opposite sex, that is no improvement. The goal is not heterosexuality. The goal is to accept Jesus and then with his help to live with sexual purity. This could be in fulfilled heterosexual marriage or in fulfilled singleness. The Bible doesn’t prefer one or the other, but recognises that in some ways fulfilled singleness is a better way to live, and in some ways fulfilled marriage is a better way to live. But it’s that fulfilment in sexual purity (in singleness on our own or in marriage to the opposite sex) that Jesus wants to lead every single one of us towards.
For same sex attracted Christians, to ask them to choose between singleness or marriage to someone of the opposite sex might sound like an impossible ask – an incredibly difficult thing to do either way. Many people feel like singleness is a curse.
But one author writes on this topic: “Lying in bed at night next to someone you once promised to love and knowing there is no way to bridge the gulf between you. …That is the most crushing loneliness of all.’ I might not be so bad off living life without sex after all.”
What that quote indicates is that heterosexual marriage doesn’t automatically come with fulfilment. Jesus is not calling anyone to unfulfilled heterosexuality. For all Christians, same sex attracted or opposite sex attracted, Jesus calls us towards two options: fulfilled singleness, or fulfilled marriage to someone of the opposite sex. We may not all have both of those options to choose from, but they are our only two options as Christians. It’s not a curse Jesus puts on us, it’s a discipleship journey he calls us towards.
Ravi Zacharias makes the following points:
- Every able bodied man has temptation stalking him every day, even when he loves his wife 100%. A disposition or a proclivity (for example, being same sex attracted) does not justify fulfilling that disposition or proclivity – this is across the board with all sexuality.
- Famously, Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen had a disposition towards homosexuality but never acted on it. (He was same sex attracted for his whole life, but never acted on it).
- It is tough, but sometimes we renounce our proclivities (natural tendencies) in the name of Christ and hope and pray that he may change them. But we do that, no matter what.
- Becoming a Christian means accepting Jesus and following him. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. (it doesn’t mean changing your behaviour first).
- You can be a Christian and have a disposition and state of mind of a homosexual (be same sex attracted). But to have that state of mind and live in that way, raises a whole lot of questions that don’t have easy answers.
How should we treat same sex attracted people who do already know Jesus?
Once you have accepted Jesus, the Bible teaches that he will give you the conviction and strength to live with sexual purity and in a fulfilled way. He will do this throughout your whole life.
This is lifelong discipleship. As Christians, as we grow together to become like Jesus, we need to accept each other AND help each other. To love like Jesus loves, to encourage and hold each other accountable in areas that we’re struggling in. To have open conversation and acceptance about ALL of our brokenness. That we could talk together and pray for each other about areas of pride or anger or greed or same sex attraction. That people coming to faith don’t have to sort anything out about their lifestyle, they just need to accept Jesus. And then Jesus will, through his power, conviction and timing, transform them to become like Jesus. Just like he is doing with every single one of us who has already accepted him.
Jesus wants to transform your life! He may not change your sexual orientation or attraction, but he will transform your life!
Without Jesus, I have broken tendencies that exclude me from the Kingdom of God. And I need help in being loved and accepted, in being held accountable, in being encouraged to keep following Jesus and being transformed by him.
So do you.
So does any person who is same sex attracted. When they accept Jesus they need a Christian community around them to help them.
Let’s watch one more video. This is a young lady named Tracey who is same sex attracted, talking about what her life with Jesus and his people is like.
What About Homosexuality?
If you are same sex attracted, God loves you. We love you. We would love to listen to your story and journey with you, no matter what has happened in your life.
If you don’t know Jesus, if you haven’t accepted him into your life, that’s what we want for you.
If you have accepted Jesus, he will lead you and grow you to become more like him every day. That includes Jesus speaking into and transforming your sexuality. Ultimately, he is calling you to fulfilled singleness or fulfilled marriage to someone of the opposite sex. If Jesus is working on that area of your life right now, we’d love to help you in that journey.
Your non Christian friends & family
If you know someone who is same sex attracted and they don’t know Jesus. Love them! Accept them for who they are, and introduce them to Jesus. He’s saved you and he wants to save them. They don’t need to be heterosexual, they need to meet Jesus. You don’t need to judge their lifestyle, you need to let them see Jesus in your life.
Your Christian friends & family
If you know someone who is same sex attracted and they have accepted Jesus. Love them! Be patient as Jesus leads and teaches them. Help them, pray for them and hold them accountable when they ask for it and when they need it.
If you have same sex attraction, tell someone else you trust. Get them to listen to this message and then have a conversation with them.
If you have realised that you need to treat people with same sex attraction differently, it’s not too late to change and let God use you to show people his love.
If you have any questions from this, please ask us!
Resources & References
Tim Keller’s interview on Veritas Forum was excellent.
To explore further the variety of Christian responses to gay marriage, this Bible Society article is a good resource.
This Bible Society article helped me understand the concept of brokenness and sin.
What About…? series
To listen in or read along with the rest of the series follow the links below: