The Birds and the Birds: Let’s Talk About Homosexuality
“Let’s consider for a moment that homosexuality is actually a sin. Why do Christians make it the one sin that they want to pick on? Why don’t they give equal weight to all sins?”
Deflection is one of the easiest ways out of a condemnation. When I was in fifth grade, I said a curse word in front of the gym teacher. He told my primary teacher who then began to scold me. Instead of apologizing in remorse, I pointed to someone I saw as the teacher’s pet and gave examples of how they consistently got away with breaking certain rules. I was shifting the focus, deflecting my need for correction. There was even a sense in which I was using deflection as my own justification.
In spite of the deflection, I want to address the common approach above, namely saying that Christians overemphasize homosexuality and under-emphasize other sins. I don’t agree. Most of the talk about homosexuality that I’ve seen from Christians is purely reactionary. Overemphasis isn’t a valid critique when you’re responsively addressing threats. Consider war. What if representatives in the Middle East began to critique American journalists for overemphasizing violence in their part of the world and under-emphasizing violence in Northern Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia? That wouldn’t be a fair critique; those are some of the most peaceful places in the world. So Christians have to stand for truth most heavily where they believe truth to be most threatened. The area of homosexuality is one of those areas.
One of the things, however, that the above approach does help us see is that homosexuality is not the area of sexual immorality that most deeply threatens the church. A little over 18 years ago, a small poll was taken among anonymous ministers regarding sexual immorality. 39% of the ministers polled across several denominations admitted to having sexual contact with a member of their congregation other than their spouse, and 12.7% admitted to having intercourse. While the sample size was small, our culture hasn’t exactly experienced a moral revolution, so we would be naive to think that it wouldn’t still be true, or worse, today. I’ve seen other statistics showing that the divorce rate and adultery among Christians is similar to the non-Christians in America. This threatens the church far more than homosexuality.
However, generally with heterosexual immorality, a person’s sin is blatant disobedience rather than a justified act. As I mentioned above, the reason that homosexuality is such a hot topic in the church is because there is an agenda from liberal Christians to justify it.
None of those things excuse the Christians that do indeed wrongly address homosexuality. It’s never right to hate people for their sexual preference or to think less of them for it. We are to consider others with a lens of grace and love because of the grace and love that has been extended to us in Christ. But to be gracious doesn’t mean to excuse or justify. And to be loving doesn’t mean to accept or tolerate. Jesus Christ is the most loving man who ever lived, yet he consistently upped standards of morality and called people to repentance. In the context of homosexuality, it’s not a compromise of love and grace to articulate God’s purposes for sexuality and to call people to pursue those purposes.
The movement of modern liberalism in Christianity aims to separate gender and sexuality, suggesting that gender identity [distinct from gender biologically] and sexual preference [distinct from sexuality] are gifts from God. But, even after having read many of the most popular defenses of homosexuality, I find it incredibly difficult to support that position with Scripture.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s impossible to justify homosexuality without justifying every other thing in that list. The same is true of 1 Timothy 1:8–11, But we know that the Law is good, and if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. Some have tried to argue that the word translated “homosexual” actually means something different, perhaps simply a promiscuous version of homosexuality, but arguments like that ultimately reject the historical understanding of homosexuality in Scripture. I’ve heard people talk their way around Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, but, once again, it takes a really open mind to be convinced that “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” isn’t talking about homosexuality. The same is true of Romans 1:27, “the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
As well-intentioned as liberal theologians may be, it’s important for us to approach Scripture honestly and openly, not with an openness for Scripture to mean various things, but with an openness to the possibility that Scripture could make an indictment against us that we don’t want to hear.
Sin impacts every area of our life. What this means is that everyone struggles with some sort of sexual immorality, and we are all called to repent from it. If you’re straight and you’re reading this, realize that you’re not called to a lower standard of repentance in your sexual immorality than a gay person who may be reading this. Repentance is always going to feel like oppression to our flesh. But when we see the beauty of Christ’s design for what it is, we realize that the oppression of our flesh is a wonderful thing. It’s hard to repent from sexual immorality. But it’s worth it.
The danger of getting this wrong has implications that go in a couple of different directions.
First is the area of parenting. I don’t think there is enough data to argue either way whether there are practical impacts for children raised by homosexual parents. The data that I’ve seen holds those children up against children raised in homes with single parents, abusive parents, secular parents, etc., and therefore doesn’t offer something conclusive about the difference between children raised by homosexual parents and children raised by heterosexual parents in a Christian environment. But the reality is that, even if it were to be shown that homosexuals can raise successful and moral children, Scripture tells us that there is something specifically unique that mothers and fathers each have to offer to the raising of children. There will always inevitably be something missing from the intended family dynamic when children are raised by homosexual parents. The hardware of men and women, and the natural reproductive process, suggest that men and women were designed for one another sexually. And Scripture presents a natural assumption that a mother and father would be involved in raising children. In addition, Ephesians 6:2 emphasizes that the command, “honor your father and your mother,” is the first command with a promise, namely, “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” In this command and promise, there are implications about the well-being of a culture tied to heterosexual parenting. And perhaps it’s redundant and unnecessary for me to mention this, but the reason this is an issue of sexuality is because homosexuals can’t have children. Divorce and adultery and abuse and bad marriages defile this command as well, but it would be far better for us to practice better church discipline and better teaching in the area of marital relations and to condemn those things than to say heterosexual failures justify homosexual parenting. A child needs a good father and a good mother, and we ought to do everything we can to pursue that for the sake of our future generations.
Second, an incredible implication of understanding sexuality biblically has to do with the salvation of the LGBTQ community. Salvation always involves repentance, and if a homosexual does not consider homosexuality a sin, then they won’t even consider the potential of repenting from it. There are so many homosexuals that are openly rebelling against God by parading their own desires instead of pursuing God’s purposes. To justify homosexuality can seem, on the surface, like love toward the homosexual community. However, it is far more loving to help the homosexual community see that biblical Christianity considers homosexuality a sin because, in seeing it that way, they will see their need for Christ. I don’t think this necessarily means that a homosexual person cannot be saved; we ought to all be thankful that salvation isn't dependent upon our ability to achieve sexual purity. But what I mean in terms of homosexuality is that there are likely many homosexuals who have been deceived by liberal leaders, or simply by the depravity of their own minds, who truly trust in Christ’s sacrifice for salvation but have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth of God in the area of sexuality. I think there is grace for our blind spots. But I don’t think it’s possible to follow Christ and reject what you know he says to be true. Who would we be to say we know and love Christ yet reject his design and purpose for our sexuality?
Genesis 1 and 2 reveal that God made man, male and female, on purpose and with purpose. We can see it naturally. We can see it biblically. I am sure that there are areas in my life that I am still blind to seeing truth. I am certainly more than capable of being deceived about what is right and wrong with my own heart. My prayer is that we would be confronted with God’s design and purpose for gender and sexuality and that we would pursue God’s design over our own desires in every area of life.