This is the twentieth article I’ve written for the site and I wanted to address something that everyone is likely to come across. In fact, I think these topics are impossible to avoid in today’s society. While this is more of an article giving theological foundations rather than in-depth application of how to address these issues (which I would have liked to have done), I hope it is helpful. In case I neglect to later, I want to say here at the beginning that it’s important to seek to understand all of these things in such a way that we can relate to them biblically and with a Christlike heart, not just understand the biblical teachings on the matter.
I’ll start with a biblical explanation of homosexuality and then we’ll move to culture and the authority of Scripture.
Homosexuality is a Rejection of God’s Design
In every place where homosexuality is mentioned or indicated in the Scriptures, it is always condemned as sinful. To understand why, we go back to the creation account in Genesis. God’s plan for human sexuality is that one man and one woman would enjoy His good gift of sex and reproduce offspring within the context of marriage. This design of sexuality was confirmed and made valid by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) and the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31). Homosexual conduct should be recognized as sinful because it is contrary to God’s original and still standing plan for heterosexual monogamy.
The main New Testament passage on homosexuality is Romans 1:18-27. The context is the condemnation of those who reject God through their knowledge of general revelation and natural law. In the broader view of Romans, Paul is arguing for the universality of sin, setting the need for believers to put their faith in Christ, talked about in Romans 4-5. Those who reject God and choose to worship creation itself or the Roman idols can expect consequences for their lifestyle and morality, one of the consequences being homosexual conduct. Paul points to the natural order of creation to show homosexuality’s sinfulness.
What is natural is objective and based on creation, not dependent on an individual’s sexual orientation or subject to their opinion. Male and female were created by God to have a natural attraction to the opposite-sex, and their bodies were designed in a way that they are able to interact sexually with each other. Therefore, all homosexual desire and conduct are against nature. “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.” (Romans 1:26-27)
God’s design and purpose in creation provides the foundation for understanding that homosexuality is sin. Homosexuality rejects His good design.
Scripture Passages on Homosexuality
The first mention of homosexuality is in Genesis 19, with Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed the city because of their great sin, which primarily seems to have been sexual immorality and homosexuality (Ezekiel 16:50, 2 Peter 2:6-7 and Jude 7 also connect their destruction to sexual sin). Homosexuality is also addressed in the Law of Moses: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination…” (Leviticus 20:13) Beside the passage in Romans there are other places in the New Testament that speak of homosexuality. “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… will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) “…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality…” (1 Timothy 1:9-10) You cannot believe God’s Word to be the ultimate authority and truth and yet think that homosexuality is accepted by the holy Creator. It goes against creation, Old Testament law, and New Testament ethic.
Homosexuality Damages the Basic Structure of Society
One effect (there are many) that we see homosexuality having on culture results from the way it tries to redefine God’s design for marriage as the foundation for the family. Marriage is the foundation that families are built on, and the members of the family are the people that compose society as a whole. A healthy marriage lived out in accordance with God’s design and with God at the center is necessary in order for a family to grow and live as God designed it to. If there is something off in the marriage, there is something off in the entire family. Because homosexuality seeks to redefine what marriage and relationships should be, it is an attack on God’s design for the family. Imagine marriage, family, and society as a tall building. Because marriage is at the base, any damage done to it weakens the entire structure.
Responding to Homosexuality with the Gospel
Christians, those who should be marked by love and a life transformed, are sadly often people who view homosexuals as more deserving of condemnation and look down on them, resulting in great discomfort or even outright refusal to interact with them or love them. How many people would actually be welcoming to a homosexual person entering their church or attending a Bible study (or any event inside or outside the church)?
Homosexuality is different from other sins in some respects, but it is never identified in Scripture as being worthy of more condemnation than any other sexual sin. We should pursue those who practice homosexuality as we do those people who commit sexual immorality and adultery, or any other sin. We are to love people as Christ loves them, with patience, compassion, and truth. This means that we should always be bold and truthful in calling homosexuality what it is, a sin against God that rejects His design and is immoral. But we always should be truthful with a loving heart, and just as we should be kind and gracious to any other sinner, we should be kind and gracious to anyone who practices homosexuality. We are to invite everyone who is lost to experience the forgiveness and transforming power of the gospel.
I regret that this article has largely been about the theological foundation for why homosexuality is sinful and less about how we can love those who identify as homosexuals. Admittedly, I have little-to-no experience in how to effectively reach people this way. I would like to. Like other lost people we meet, there are a thousand different situations that someone might be in that we may have opportunity to minister to, and I hope that I would be able to speak and relate to them in a way that reflects the gospel and gives an example of what a transformed life looks like. Maybe later I will be able to write something more applicable. But for now, I must move to my next main point.
Culture and the Authority of the Bible
The wide practice and acceptance of homosexuality is really just one manifestation of a much larger problem: the gradual moral decline of a society that rejects God. In the above quoted passage from Romans chapter one, there is a clear diagnosis of the condition a culture will be left in when it persistently rejects God and seeks to redefine what God has already defined. A redefinition is exactly what happens. God is removed, man puts himself and idols in the center, and instead of God being the standard of good and the ultimate authority, man’s sinfully distorted ideas are. In our own country we’ve been witnessing this reality for the past several decades, and things that were once recognized as basic moral realities of right and wrong have been called into question. What do we make of this?
Because God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), what He has defined as good and evil does not change. The same applies to the Bible. It can only speak what is true and contains no error because the God Who gave it to us is incapable or error and is truth Himself. Further, it’s important to remember that God’s Word is unchanging (Psalm 119:89), and so whatever is says stands for all time.
The inerrancy of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the eternal nature of God’s Word, and the objectivity of morality are all rooted in the character of God, Who Himself is never changing. Therefore, what is good and what is sinful does not change but remains an objective truth for all time. Man’s beliefs, feelings, culture, and the United States Supreme Court do not have the ability to define right and wrong. God has already defined them. We must always stand by the objective truth and ultimate authority of Scripture while being a light that shines, always proclaiming the gospel and loving with compassion and patience.
Important and Common Questions
How Should We View Homosexuality Today?
We answer this with the biblical teachings given in the section above. I also find it important to understand that creation is the biggest passage that shows the sinfulness of homosexuality. Because the argument is grounded in God’s creation, it is relevant for all times and in every culture. In other words, homosexuality was sin at the beginning, it was sin in the apostle Paul’s time, and it is sin now. And as stated above, God and His Word never change. It doesn’t matter how much culture accepts something or how widely it is practiced. It is still sin.
Are People Born as Homosexuals?
Some think that homosexual inclinations are something you are born with and cannot change. The Bible is clear that homosexuality is the outworking of a heart in rebellion against God (the passage in Romans 1 makes that clear). Homosexuality is the result of willful rejection of God.
Can Someone Be a Christian and Be a Homosexual?
We need to clarify the question being asked. Are we trying to determine if someone can be genuinely saved and yet practice homosexuality, or is the question trying to discern if a genuinely saved person can and would still be attracted to the same sex? This question is actually quite easy to answer.
Can someone practice a lifestyle of homosexuality and be a genuine Christian? No. The passages from 1 Corinthians chapter six and 1 Timothy quoted above make that clear. It is similar to asking if a heterosexual who unrepentantly and openly has sex outside of marriage is genuinely saved. The evidence in such a case would suggest not, for it would be contrary to the transforming power of a relationship with Christ and a truly repentant heart that is characteristic of genuine believers. The important term here is unrepentantly. If someone engages in any sinful pattern for extended periods without godly conviction and repentance, there is a problem.
Now, can someone be a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction? Yes. Just as someone can be a Christian that struggles with temptation to drink too much or have lustful thoughts.
Homosexuality is an identity issue. Does someone identify as a homosexual and live every aspect of their life accordingly, or do they identify as a follower of Christ who struggles with attraction to the same sex? There is a difference.