Facing the homosexual question in a Christian congregational setting is going to be a difficult task due to the strong feelings this topic brings out in so many people today. It won’t be difficult because of the rightness or wrongness of the act; it is going to be difficult due to the acceptance it has in our society. Let’s face it, we live in a world where the act, the lifestyle, and the consequences are accepted and endorsed by many people in influential positions. Consider the changing face of homosexuality in our world when you read the following point.
Homosexuality, in one sense, can refer exclusively to sexual attraction. Homosexuality literally means that someone is sexually attracted to the same gender. That’s how the word was intended to be used. In another sense, (the sense in which our society uses the word) it is a statement of sexual practice. In our culture, homosexuality also means someone who actually acts out sexually with a member of the same gender. Here is where the real problem lies. It’s not about sexuality; it’s really a problem with someone limiting another person’s freedom or telling them what they’re doing is wrong. It’s inconceivable for us to think (in our age of freedom) that restrictions should be placed on our sexuality. If I have an attraction, I should be free to act on that attraction. If I’m not free to do this without scrutiny (or if it’s not celebrated), then I feel like I’m wronged. However, with a term that is as loaded as sexuality, it’s hard for us to ever see the definition as our real problem. I should be free to do what I feel, and anyone that tells me that I can’t (or shouldn’t) do what I feel is wrong.”
John Onwuchekwa | “Homosexuality and Other Loaded Words” ¹
To the world, homosexuality is no longer a right and wrong debate it is a rights debate. It has left morality and entered the realm of laws, ordinances, and judgments. The fight is on against Christianity and our so-called bigoted ways. Something scary was pointed out a few years ago in Unchristian by David Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons.
In our research, the perception is that Christians are against gays and lesbians – not only objecting to their lifestyles but also harboring irrational fear and unmerited scorn toward them – has reached critical mass (92).
With that being the case, we must still sit down and discuss it Biblically and practically. Let’s start with what the Bible says about homosexuality throughout the Old and New Testaments:
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.
First Corinthians 6:9-10 | ESV
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that 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, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
First Timothy 1:8-11 | ESV
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 18:22 | ESV
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Leviticus 20:13 | ESV
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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. 28 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. 32 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.
Romans 1:18, 24-28, 32 | ESV
The Bible is clear. Homosexuality (the physical act with a member of the same-sex) is wrong. It is wrong if you’re in love. It is wrong if your “just experimenting.” It is wrong.
So what about those who say, “I’m gay and I’m a Christian.” For years, the response has been those two ideas are contrary and cannot coexist, similar to oil and water. Christians who possessed same-sex attraction were marginalized and (for the lack of a better word) evicted from church houses and fellowships. The message was clear and decisive – there isn’t any room for someone who openly defies God’s commands. However, at the same time, some congregations didn’t marginalize and evict drug addicts, alcoholics, those addicted to pornography, or even many who skirted issues of morality. Those same congregations reached out to those people and offered help, support groups, free counseling, and a path to “recovery.”
Why did that happen? Because homosexuality was worse. It was unforgivable. It was a sin that stood above and beyond all other sins. Is there a way to effectively minister to people with same-sex attraction and a faith in God without alienating them or driving a wedge between them and congregations? Why even worry about them? Statistics range, but many of them say that somewhere between 4 to 10 percent of our population is homosexual across all age groups 40 and under. That number decreases with age (especially among men). The statistics that should worry you are those that show a dramatic increase in bullying, suicide, and family struggles among the homosexual population.
Might I point you in the direction of Washed and Waiting a book by Wesley Hill. He is a Christian with same-sex attraction who lives a celibate life due to the authority of Scripture and its stance on homosexual behavior. He begins the book by saying,
By the time I started high school, two things had become clear to me. One was that I was a Christian . . . the second thing was that I was gay.
He goes on to describe the three battles those like him struggle with: God commands homosexual believers to refrain from engaging in homosexual expression; the loneliness that can result for the celibate Christian; and the perpetual struggle with shame that those with homoerotic desires can find to be almost overwhelming. He concludes that the gay person can be not only acceptable but pleasing to God “as he or she struggles well and follows Christ in the midst of temptation and feelings of isolation.” ²
A recent study by the Barna Group show some interesting facts about the “faith” of homosexuals: 60% of homosexuals describe faith as very important (72% heterosexual); 70% of homosexuals describe themselves as Christians (85% heterosexual); 40% of homosexuals say they are absolutely committed to Christianity (60% heterosexual); 15% of homosexuals attend a service, read the Bible, pray each week (31% heterosexual); 42% of adult homosexuals are completely unchurched (28% heterosexual).
George Barna, whose company conducted the research, pointed out that some popular stereotypes about the spiritual life of homosexuals are wrong when he said:
People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts.
He goes on to say that “a substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ in their life today. The data we collected indicates that millions of gay people are interested in faith, but not in the local church. They do not appear to be focused on the traditional tools and traditions that represent the comfort zone of most churched Christians. Gay adults clearly have a different way of interpreting the Bible on a number of central theological matters, such as perspectives about God. Homosexuals appreciate their faith but they do not prioritize it, and they tend to consider faith to be individual and private rather than communal. It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox Biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.” ³
Far too often the church’s response has been the wrong response. Consider this statement from Unchristian: “A few weeks ago I was chatting with Katie, who is a young journalist and a Christian. I mentioned how young people in churches are not sure what to do with homosexuality because they feel incredibly loyal to friends who are gay, and many churches have not given them any concept of how to deal with the topic, other than to feel awkward, embarrassed, or grossed out; to avoid the topic; and to fear for their gay friends’ soul” (102).
The culture of our society has described homosexuality as a lifestyle. That stands in direct opposition to the reality of the choice to act upon temptation that our two examples presented earlier. May I suggest that our easiest way to address it with those in our congregations struggling with same-sex attraction is to follow the addiction recovery pattern set up within many twelve-step programs:
(1) Admit the problem and the struggle with temptation and seek out people who will be accountability partners. These people need to be friends, mentors, people you trust who value you and share your faith.
(2) Realize that God can help overcome your temptation and that turning to Him during this problem will always help (i.e. 1 Corinthians 10:13). Set a time every day to study and pray for God’s forgiveness and examine Jesus’ victory over temptation daily.
(3) Complete a Moral Inventory of your actions and continually update that inventory based on relapses and/or victories. Be detailed and specific and share your inventory with your accountability partners weekly.
(4) Discuss the ramifications your homosexual actions have on those you love and value. Seek out those you’ve hurt and disappointed. Hold yourselves accountable for your actions and what those said about your faith.
While this doesn’t handle all of the concerns we may face with those inside of our congregations struggling with same-sex attraction, it is a better place to start than many of those before us who chose condemnation and alienation first and compassion second. We must remember that to many of them, this will be a shameful, private burden they bear knowing their attraction is wrong. Might I remind each of us about
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. We must resolve to stop sending them out to the barren wasteland of neglect, insignificance, and eventually hopelessness. We must look at our brothers and sisters with the same care and concern we would any sinner struggling with temptation, vulnerability, and weakness.
Galatians 6:1-2 | ESV
¹ Follow this link to read the rest of the article.
² Follow this link to read a review about the book.
³ To read more about this study follow this link.
Quotes from David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons came from Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007).
All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright (c) 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.