Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality and the bible’

This is a controversial topic for sure. (Just to give one example, many would be offended that I use the word “struggle” since, they would say, these desires should be embraced and celebrated.) You know that I teach that same-sex activity is wrong. And I teach this because the Scriptures are quite clear on the topic and I seek to live my life by what Jesus and the apostles teach. I take this very seriously.

A number of years ago I looked into this topic in more depth because of some controversy over this in the broader church. Many were saying, and still do, “Well, Scripture isn’t really clear on this.” But as I read various ones that said this and talked to them, what I found was that the Scriptures were even clearer than I had thought. This material is online if you are interested (follow this link). I also recently shared some of it with our Mennonite conference here.

But I’m not here this morning to talk about this, I am here to talk with you as a church, as fellow believers about how we are to relate to those who struggle with same-sex desires. I’m not focusing on how those who practice same-sex acts need to change, I’m focusing on how we need to change.

Let me begin by saying a bit about the framework I’m working with. And I want to do this by addressing what I think are –

Four misconceptions on this topic

I am not sure where same-sex attraction comes from, and it may come from different factors, but what I want to say is that 1. There is nothing inherently unchristian about saying that a person can be born with same-sex desires, or a homosexual orientation. I mention this because even Christians struggling against such desires often testify that their desires were with them from their earliest memories.

But this is my point, even if this is the case, this doesn’t mean that such desires are acceptable. I have been surprised by how many Christians buy into faulty logic here – that if you are born with something then it is God’s will for your life and it should be embraced and celebrated as such. You know, Lady Gaga’s song “Born this way.”

Let me be clear, this is not at all a Christian point of view. No, according to the Christian faith we are all born broken, with wrong desires for all sorts of things. We are all born fundamentally disordered and especially when it comes to God and morality. Creation as we know it, is broken. After all, what would we say to the stillborn child, or the person born with severe mental and physical disability, or the person with a genetic propensity toward alcoholism? You were born this way, so this is God’s best for you?

No. One’s individual birth is not the same thing as God’s original creation. So how we are born is not a sure indicator of God’s will for our lives. The sure indicator of God’s will is found in God’s original creation of humanity in the beginning. This is where we see the pattern of how God made us. Which is why Jesus refers to this when talking about sex and marriage (Mark 10:6-9).

2. To have a wrong desire, is not in itself a sin. It is a sign of our brokenness, yes, but it is not an act of sin.

Let’s say you are a young man and you struggle with inappropriate heterosexual thoughts. Your desires are there, yes. But it’s what you do with the desires that counts. We understand this, right? It’s whether you act on these desires mentally or in your outward actions. This is where acts of sin take place.

So it is with those who have same-sex desires. The desires are there, yes. But it’s what you do with the desires that counts. Do you act on them?

So if a believer has same-sex desires and they are struggling against these, they are just like any other Christian who struggles against their wrong desires, whatever they may be. And faithfulness for all of us means not giving in to the desires of the flesh.

3. Struggling against same-sex  desires is more than a simple choice.

Paul indicates that some in the congregation in Corinth had acted on same-sex desires. But he also says about these and others who struggled in other ways, “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11. Change is possible.

But every indicator is that it is really difficult. A recent study of participants in Christian groups focused on helping people live heterosexual lives found that:

  • 15% experienced substantial conversion to heterosexual desires
  • 23% experienced some relief, their same-sex desires were present only incidentally
  • 29% experienced some help, but were not satisfied yet and were continuing on
  • 15% had no change in desires
  • 8% gave up and identified as gay or lesbian

(Ex-Gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation by Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse)

These were people highly motivated to change. And even in this group it was not easy. So, when Paul says, “such were some of you” we ought not think that this means you just make a choice and the desires go away. After all, this isn’t how overcoming the desires of the flesh works in any other area, so why should it be true here? Struggling against sin is difficult.

There might be healing so that the desires go away or are diminished. But victory may mean having the strength not to act on the desires. Victory might mean being able to live a celibate life. Although alcohol abuse is not the same as having same-sex desires, perhaps this analogy is still helpful. Some are immediately delivered from drugs or alcohol when they come to Christ, while some struggle the rest of their lives with these desires.

4. Homosexual activity is not a “super sin.” It is not worse than, for instance – greed, adultery, theft, slander, gossip or drunkenness. Right? Romans 1 talks a lot about homosexual acts, but then it also talks about these other items, and the point is made that all of these bring death to us (v. 32).

So those who struggle with same-sex desires are not to be treated as lepers; as a special class of people; as different than us and our struggles. This is exactly what we all have in common – we struggle with wrong desires and sin. We are all in the same boat. And we must learn to support one another.

Which leads me to the topic of –

How we need to change

This can be hard to talk about. It’s always easier to focus on and point out how someone else needs to change, but us?

In broad terms, we need to separate ourselves from a long history of hatred and persecution of gays and lesbians, and that in the name of Christianity. By far, throughout the course of church history, those who have called themselves Christians have been guided by the Old Testament teaching from Leviticus 20:13 – “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.” Especially the last part of this verse. We should be ashamed of what has taken place and we should be clear that those who have done these things don’t represent us or our faith.

We don’t live in the Old Testament anymore. Christians by definition are to follow Jesus. And Jesus has taught us to love all people without exception, not to persecute or kill them. As he said in Matthew 5:48 – our love is to be perfect or complete just as the Father’s love is complete because it encompasses all people.

Our culture today offers us two false choices. Either hold that same-sex behavior is right, and then love those who have same-sex desires or hold that same-sex behavior is wrong, and then ridicule and hate those who have same-sex desires.

Jesus took a different path. He held that sexual immorality is wrong (Mark 7:21. The word here, “Porneia” included in its meaning same-sex behavior), and that we must love and care for those involved sexual immorality or who are struggling with it. He took a redemptive approach, neither condoning, nor pushing away.

His was an approach that is clear about God’s will, but opens doors for people to know God’s love and make changes, if that’s what they want.

  • This is how Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman who lived with a man who was not her husband (John 4).
  • This is how he dealt with the sinful woman of Luke 7.
  • This is how he dealt with the situation of the adulterous woman in John 8.

None of these would have known God’ love and salvation without this. And this is true for all of us. None of us would have come to know God’s love and salvation without Jesus showing us his love even while we were in our sins and struggles.

So, we need to stop being swayed by our culture and its two false choices, and begin to represent Jesus; we need to set aside worldliness and walk according to the kingdom.

The kind of community we need to be. I believe God wants us to be a place where an openly gay or lesbian person can come to learn about Jesus; his love for them and his ways.

So this means that we can’t be whispering or gossiping about them. We can’t be condescending or push them away because of our fear or sense of discomfort. We have to learn to welcome them in love. And we need to learn to share what we believe in a way that can be received because it is offered in love, humility and gentleness.

I believe God wants us to be a place where someone among us who struggles with same-sex desires can find help. This might mean talking to the pastor or friends in the church, or perhaps asking for some to come around them to encourage, support and pray for them.

Now the statistics on how many people have some measure of same-sex desires vary and it depends on how the questions are asked, but 3.5% of the population is a standard number today. (This includes bisexuals as well). So you can do the math with regard to the size of our congregation. It would be unusual if we don’t have some among us who know what this struggle is about. And certainly we have had some come and worship among us who have struggled in this way.

So this means we can’t be ridiculing those who have same-sex desires. You know how we can casually say, “That’s so gay”; or when someone talks about a person who is gay or lesbian there is a reaction of disgust or mockery. Would you seek help from a community that does these things? Would you make yourself vulnerable in an environment where your struggle is made fun of or demonized? I think not.

As a church we need to be able to talk about these things. Because when we create a hostile environment it can push those among us who struggle to find support from those who will encourage them to act on their desires.

We need to be a place where people who struggle with same-sex desires don’t feel like they have to hide or be ashamed. We need to be a place where someone can find understanding and help; where they can be encouraged in their struggle to find wholeness from God.

This is the kind of community God is calling us to be.

William Higgins

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If any one is interested in this topic  here is a link – Presentations on same-sex practice and the Scriptures. I am giving a presentation today on this topic.

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