Start with a quote by Alan Chambers: “Most gay men and women [assume], that because we have same-sex attractions, the only way to a satisfactory life is to embrace those attractions, act on them, and essentially build a life around them. But for many of us, the sad truth was that accepting our attractions and acting on them was a dead-end street leading to profound despair.”
One of the responsibilities that we have as God’s people living in a pagan world is to be those who call out. We call out to the lost, telling them God’s plan of salvation. We call out to the saved, encouraging, admonishing and at times rebuking one another. We are those who call out.
One of the tasks of a pastor, one of my favourite tasks, is to be a watchman for the Church. In fact my name, Gregory, means watchful one. I’m still young, but I believe that God has called me to watch out for doctrines and practices that will hurt His people, and to guard against those doctrines and practices. And this task is one that I do humbly, knowing that I can fall into the same or other false doctrine, even as I seek to feed and protect God’s flock.
Tonight I want to talk to you about homosexuality. In fact, this topic is so broad that I’ve struggled chiefly with knowing not what to say but what not to say. So I’ll start by asking the question, is this something we should be talking about?
Is homosexuality worth talking about?
I’m a little bit of a news junkie. I love to read what’s going on in the world, and when I have nothing else I want to do I generally find myself reaching for my phone to read my news apps, or pulling out a Time magazine, or going out to fetch the newspaper.
The world of homosexuality is changing. In the space of my short lifetime I’ve seen the movement. There is a massive shift in support, understanding, and acceptance of homosexuality. There have been waves of change even in the last 5 years. These are waves of changes in law, changes in mindsets, changes in societal acceptance, changes even in definitions.
As I did some research this week, I looked at trends in homosexuality and found that there has been a pivotal shift in the last generation on all fronts. Less than 20 years ago, only 27% of people believed that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognised by the law as valid, with 68% against. Today 58% are for, with 40% against.
A generation ago, just 13% of people believed that being gay or lesbian was something you were born with, where today 51% of people believe that to be true.
14 years ago, just 40% of people saw homosexuality as morally acceptable; that number sits at 63% this year, and it is steadily growing.
These are just some of the statistics we see in the world of homosexuality; I didn’t mention many other topics which all show that the acceptance of homosexuality is rapidly growing, and the rejection of it is rapidly shrinking.
This doesn’t answer whether it is right or wrong yet, all I’ve said so far is that it is changing. Yes it is worth talking about.
And for those of us who have grown up in a culture, especially a Church culture, that is traditionally heatedly against homosexuality, we need to begin to ask ourselves, what is God’s view on the matter? How does it compare to the views of the world around us? And if different, how should we respond?
If we as the Church don’t respond to this, we are ignoring the elephant in the room; we face the danger of becoming apparently irrelevant to the world around it. If we do respond, yet responds badly, we may be seen as irrelevant anyway, and can likewise be rejected.
But in this challenging environment, we as the Church have, as we always have had, an opportunity to share the Gospel message through our handling of this ethical issue.
What is homosexuality? Where does it come from? How do we change it? Should we change it?
Again, what is homosexuality? Is it all forms of same-sex sexual desire? How about romantic desire? Or is it only sexual acts?
These are all many of the questions we wrestle with. Let’s just answer in point form some of the biggest:
What causes homosexuality? No-one knows. Some myths. Some argue that it may be because of sex hormones [an unusually low level of sex hormones can result in homosexuality], parental inversion [a weak father and a domineering mother can result in homosexuality], genetic variations [homosexual people have a ‘gay gene’], many believe, and I did too for a long time, that seduction and abuse plays a large part in what becomes homosexuality. However, there is no evidence for this at all. Some with proof. Some others argue, and these ones argue with proof, that it is caused by games played in childhood, when children engage in ‘gender non-conforming behaviours’. Also it is suggested that it could result from androgen secretions [prenatal exposure, or lack thereof, to the androgen hormone can cause a male to be born with female characteristics, leading to being raised as a girl. And then, as researchers Passer and Smith put it, consequent “socialization could ac-count for their sexual orientation”]. There is even some proof that in family structure, the number of siblings and the gender of the siblings play a significant role in one becoming homosexual. While the studies prove this, the reasons why are unclear. These are all arguments made by people honestly wrestling with the question of what causes homosexuality, and the answer from secular studies is: ‘We don’t know’. In the end, the big question is, “Is it nature, or nurture; meaning – how much a part of us is homosexuality? Is this who I am?”
It’s like – if a person is born without an arm, you can’t condemn that person for not having an arm and instructing the person to change! Is it something a person has a choice in? Or not? Is homosexuality a sin???
Is homosexuality a sin?
Yes it is. The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is outside of God’s will for people. That is quite clear in a number of passages:
Leviticus 18:22; under unlawful sexual relations: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 20:13; under punishments for sin: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Judges 19:22-25; narrative similar to Sodom and Gomorrah Romans 1:24-27; under God’s wrath against mankind: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” 1 Corinthians 6:9; under Lawsuits among believers: “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. 1 Timothy 1:9-10; under warning against false teachers of the law: “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. We don’t have time now to show you the studies of each of those passages, but they cannot be clearer: It is not God’s plan; God did not create people to engage in same-sex sexual relationships. Twist it any way you want.
And that is what some people have tried to do.
As I did research I saw that each of these verses people have tried to explain them away.
For example, it is said that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t homosexuality, but rape – therefore God is not against homosexuality but rape. Or they will say that the passages in the Old Testament are from the Old Testament and do not apply to today. Or they will say that the passages in the New Testament have been translated badly, and could well mean other things. For example; ‘homosexual’ in the Greek is the word arsenokoites – who knows what that really meant back in those days – maybe they were specifically talking about men who had sexual relations with children? I just want to say that in all my studying, I find those excuses to be absolutely wrong. Entirely, completely wrong. They are twisted excuses. If you have absolutely committed to sin, then you will twist the Scriptures to support you but that doesn’t mean you’re right.
In fact in my studying I was genuinely taken aback by peoples’ blindness to God’s Word where it couldn’t be any clearer.
It is as if our parents will say to us, “Stop watching TV, and go and play outside.” And we take that and say, “Well, that was said with some harshness, and so obviously Mom was just speaking out of anger, so I don’t think she means it. She’s actually happy with me staying here and watching TV.” Or your parents say “Eat your veggies” and we take that and say, ‘Well, she actually only wants them eaten…not necessarily for me to eat them. I’ll feed them to the dog.”
Twist it whichever way you want – God couldn’t have said it any clearer. He said it simply: “Do not engage in a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex – don’t do it” We can’t have it any clearer from our God. ‘But what does God mean by ‘engage’? And what constitutes a sexual relationship? And what does same-sex mean anyway, what if I feel more like a woman than a man? And anyway, God said that long time ago and He doesn’t mean it anymore.’
Twist it, but then your fight is with God.
So homosexuality is a sin according to God’s Word. You stand at the crossroads when it comes to homosexuality: Will you go down the path of apparent sexual freedom and delight, or will you go down the path of God’s freedom and delight – they go in different directions and you can’t be on them both at the same time. How does God deal with this sin?
And what is the punishment for homosexuality? Is it worth ignoring God’s punishment? What is the punishment?
What is the punishment for all sin – death. And homosexuality is no different. The punishment shows the severity of the crime. Yes, homosexuals will die, and will not inherit the kingdom of God, as it says in 1 Corinthians.
But before we get high-and-mighty, neither will thieves, nor will greedy people. No, the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. That doesn’t justify homosexuality in God’s eyes. That means all who are outside of Christ will not get to heaven. All who are outside of Christ will spend eternity in hell. All who are in Christ will spend an eternity with Him.
So then, who are those who can be in Christ? The unrighteous! Yes, homosexuals, the greedy, idolaters and adulterers, murderers and liars and thieves – all these must find new life in Christ Jesus – that’s the offer of the gospel. The gospel is for sinners only!
But God’s word makes it clear that those who continue in their sins show that they are not in Christ – regardless of their claims.
Can you be a Christian homosexual? Yes! But if you remain a practicing homosexual, you show by your very life that you are not in Christ, for “Everyone who has this hope in Christ purifies himself, just as Christ is pure” (1 John 3:3). And “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6).
Is homosexuality a sin?
Yes! “But Greg, I’ve got these urges and feelings and I can’t make them go away. I’ve prayed about it, I’ve fasted, I’ve tried; I almost gave up hope and ended my life. God must have seen that desire, and He still didn’t take away these desires. It must be God’s will for me to be gay.”
Since when did desire dictate right and wrong? I have sexual desires, and not all of them are pure. That doesn’t make the desires right and worth pursuing.
I’ll tell you a little of my story. I got hooked on pornography when I was just 13 years old. At the time, I didn’t even know it was wrong. By the time I knew that it was wrong, I’d was so far gone I felt I couldn’t stop. Each year I thought it would go away, and I desperately wanted it to, but I still found myself going back again and again.
By the time I was saved, I was bound to it in a horrible addiction. It had mastered me. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t stop myself. I prayed – I prayed and I prayed but I couldn’t stop.
By the time I was 18 I decided I’d had enough. I told my Dad what was going on and he started to hold me accountable. I put more accountability partners around me to help me along, but I still couldn’t stop.
I prayed and I prayed. I fasted and I cried out to God, but I couldn’t stop. I removed every form of temptation I could think of – books, magazines, TV, music. I regularly cried out to God in despair, “How much more do you want me to give up???”
Finally one day, after another failure, I decided I was done. Until God took this sin from me I wouldn’t eat, but I’d spend every day walking and praying. After a few days I could barely get out of bed, I was exhausted. It took some harsh words from my Dad to get me to eat again. But God didn’t take the sin from me. Where was God in this???
I want you to know, I know what it is to struggle with sinful desires. But struggling with this or that sin doesn’t give me freedom to do what I’m struggling with.
Where was God in this? He wasn’t at the centre of it. You see, I was more interested in being free from addiction than I was in being pure for my God.
God will sometimes allow us to struggle, to wrestle, to fail, because He has a different plan than we do. The Israelites were in the desert for forty years as God purified their minds and hearts and prepared them to fight His battles in Canaan.
I want you to know that if you are struggling with homosexuality, or any form of sexual immorality, that I feel for you. I know it’s hard, but don’t give up. Don’t accept it as ‘normal’ and ‘okay’ – no matter what the world says. Fight for God, fight for holiness before Him, fight for purity in Him.
So, as a recap, what is the view of the Church:
Practicing homosexuality is a sin – as the Bible tells us. It is not a greater nor lesser sin than others sins – all sin ends in death. However, this is certainly one of those sins that have more and heavier painful consequences than some other sins. Those who practice homosexuality who come to Christ find new life and forgiveness, but will not remain in their ways, or that will be evidence that they never came to Christ. Therefore, how should the Church respond?
We are to be those who call out. We call out the gospel message. We can’t call unbelievers to follow God’s law except in that they are walking into destruction or causing others destruction. For example, I see a man walking backwards to the edge of a cliff, I yell out to him: “Stop! Don’t go that way, you’ll die!” But notice: NOT to make him more like me, but to save him from death.
Let’s keep in mind that Jesus didn’t die that the world would become heterosexual – Jesus died that we would become like Him: Pure and holy. If a colleague is homosexual, Jesus’ plan for you there is not to show him how God wants him to be heterosexual, but to show him how God wants him to be pure and holy, which is impossible unless he comes to Jesus.
Some encouragement tonight. Don’t fall into the traps:
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is okay – Don’t let the world tell you that God is okay with this. Don’t let the world tell you that you can go on in this lifestyle without any negative consequences. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is unforgivable – Don’t believe the devil’s lies that if this is where you struggle that you can’t talk about it, or that it can’t be forgiven, or that this is more shameful than all other sins. This is forgivable, just as all other sins are. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re stuck – if this is where you’ve struggled, and have for so long, and you don’t think you’ll ever be able to live a life of freedom and joy, don’t fall into that trap. You can live a satisfying, free life without giving in, and without dying.