Hope for the Homosexual
May 29, 2013 5 Comments
This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Key Text: Romans 1:16-32, 12:1-2
Homosexuality and same-sex unions are a hot-button topic in America today. Many in the church have had a hard time responding to these issues in a biblical way that balances compassion with truth. Unfortunately, some Christians have approached the LGBT community with hate that turns people away from the gospel while others have compromised the biblical truth in regards to homosexuality in the name of tolerance. Neither of these represents Christ well or offers help for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. The goal of this post is to summarize the biblical view of homosexuality and outline the only hope for those in the LGBT community: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Exchange of Glory
As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, all of creation has been subjected to the futility of sin (Genesis 3; Romans 8:20-23). Sin results in an exchange of God’s glory for the glory of ourselves. In other words, all sin is ultimately rooted in a worship disorder. All individual sins are a consequence of the failure to prize and praise God as the giver of every good thing. Despite God clearly revealing his character to every human being throughout time, those who love their sin choose to not give God the glory he deserves as the holy and righteous Creator. Instead, they chose to pursue their own selfish desires, setting up false idols that they think will bring the satisfaction they desire.
True Christians believe in the truth revealed in Genesis 1:1: that there is a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so he is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore dependent on God for everything. Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in his Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning. To anyone who has not repented of their sin, this is the most offensive truth in the world: that God is God and we are not. [Paragraph adapted from a post on the Pyromaniacs blog]
As a result of humanity’s decision to “suppress the truth” and “exchange the truth about God for a lie”, God gives them what they want: a life of selfishness and distorted pleasure that leads to futile thinking, darkened hearts, and ultimately the just wrath of God against their unrighteousness. In short, worship disorders rob our souls of joy now and joy eternally.
One of the common expressions of this exchange of God’s glory for personal glory is dysfunctional forms of sexual pleasure including, but not limited to, homosexuality. Paul is implying that a same-sex lifestyle is a form of idolatry. Same-sex temptations are a part of the broken and disordered sexuality that is a result of humanity’s fallenness.
It is important here to distinguish between “temptations” and “sin.” It is essential to make this careful distinction to avoid hurting others (and thereby further harm their perception of Christians, the church, and the Gospel)—or yourself– unnecessarily. Each and every one of us is broken to an extent in our emotions, minds, or bodies because of the ravaging effects of sin. We all have temptations that we will struggle with our whole life, temptations that seek to draw us away from God and his righteousness.
Homosexuality is one of those temptations, as are the sins listed in Romans 1:29-31. To have same-sex temptation isn’t sin in and of itself, but it is still a form of brokenness. To be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a temptation equal to sinning. The difference between the Christian and the unrighteous person is that a Christian wars against his sinful desires while the unrepentant sinner acts on them and embraces them willingly (Romans 6, 8, 13:11-14; Galatians 5:16-25). Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through acting on sinful disorders in word, thought, or deed. Instinctively even unsaved people know their sin is wrong and deserves punishment, but they still embrace their sin, even celebrating it and encouraging others to approve of it (Romans 1:32).
This is the case in our society today. The LGBT movement seeks to not only celebrate homosexual sinful, but to get culture as a whole to accept it as “normal” and harmless. However it is the exact opposite. On a personal level, homosexual intercourse, like all sins, is an obstacle to the fullness of joy available in Christ. It is an empty, faux-replacement for the original design for sexuality that God intended. Seeking happiness by acting upon homosexual temptation is idolatry because it rejects what God has plainly revealed. This is what Paul is focusing on in Romans (as well as in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). An unrepentant life of homosexual sin leads to the wrath of God and separation from him for eternity.
On a larger scale, homosexuality distorts God’s will for marriage. Marriage was established from the beginning of creation as one man and one woman becoming one flesh by covenant and sexual union (Matthew 19:4-6; Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25). It is a beautiful relationship that does not produce any shame and should be held in honor (Hebrews 13:4). Homosexual behavior, on the other hand, is called “dishonorable” and “shameful” and “contrary to nature” (Romans 1:26-27).
Marriage also displays Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought Church. The meaning of marriage is not known in its essence or fullness until we see it as a parable of Christ’s relationship to the church. Creation as complementary male and female persons points to marriage and marriage points to Christ and the church. Paul notes this several times in Ephesians 5:22-33. Christ and the Church don’t illustrate marriage, marriage illustrates Christ and the Church. The belief that God created us in His image as male and female is not complete without Christianity – without Christ and His saving work for the church.
Reversing the Exchange
How are we as Christians to respond to those who struggle with homosexual desires and sin? The same way we respond that Paul did in Romans 1:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: with the hope of the gospel. The good news of Jesus is that God saves repentant heterosexual sinners and repentant homosexual sinners who trust Jesus, by counting them righteous because of Christ, and by helping them through his Spirit to live lives pleasing to him in their disordered brokenness (1 Peter 2:24). The gospel is the very power God uses to break through our hardened hearts in order to bring about that salvation. The gospel transforms us from unrighteous sinners into “the righteous [that] shall live by faith.”
On a practical level, this leads to a combination of biblical conviction and personal compassion: conviction that homosexual behavior is sinful, perverse, and destructive to individuals and culture combined with a willingness to lay down our lives in love for those struggling with homosexuality. To truly love them, we must believe it is harmful and sinful (1 Corinthians 13:6) and not seek to approve of, tolerate, or rejoice in their sin. This isn’t to imply that they have less dignity or are not made in God’s image by any means. The most loving thing you can tell any sinner is that their sin is wrong, separates them from God, and deserves his just wrath (Romans 1:18; Romans 6:23). Follow that up with sharing the hope of the gospel: despite our sinfulness and willing rejection of his revealed truth (Romans 1:18-23), God sent his only Son to die in our place in order to make atonement for our sin (Romans 5:6-11; Hebrews 2:14-15). Salvation is offered to those that would repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Mark 1:15; Romans 6:1-11, 10:8-10; 2 Peter 1:3-11). True salvation is evidenced by a changed lifestyle: living for the glory of God instead of the glory of man (1 John). However, just because a person becomes a Christian doesn’t mean that their sinful desires will automatically disappear. It means that we now war against the sin in our life (Romans 8:12-14; Colossians 3:1-17).
Just as sin leads to “futile thinking” (Romans 1:21) and a “debased mind” (Romans 1:28), salvation leads to the “renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The renewed mind resists conforming to the world and embraces God as its supreme treasure, authority, and joy. This reverses the exchange of the glory of God for the glory of man. As a result, a Christian is able to discern the will of God for his or her life—including the proper design of human sexuality as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church.
If you are someone who struggles with homosexual desires, let me encourage you with this: your desires are not the source of your identity. One of the greatest lies our culture has told those struggling with same-sex attraction is that that is who they are: “You struggle with this, therefore you are a homosexual.” If you have repented of your desires and put your faith in Christ, you are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)! Christians who struggle with homosexual desires aren’t homosexuals. In Christ, they are new, redeemed creatures who struggle with temptations of homosexuality. If you have these desires, let’s struggle together in holiness against our sin!
If you are a Christian and know someone who struggles with homosexual desires, you have a responsibility to represent Christ to them (and every other sinner) by patiently listening (James 1:19), personally repenting (Luke 13:1-5), gently instructing (2 Timothy 2:22-25), and mercifully pursing them to engage their heart (Jude 22-23). Remember that you were once blinded by sin, but God in his mercy chose to save and redeem you through the death and resurrection of his Son.
[For more on ways that Christians can respond to the gay community, check out this Ligonier post]
John Piper once said, “God’s judgment on sin is not because he is a killjoy, but because he is opposed to what kills joy.” We all have a choice when it comes to our brokenness: I can choose to let my brokenness govern me and turn it into sin OR I can choose to say, “I’m going to deal with the brokenness I have and try to steer my way through my brokenness to do as much good for others, avoid as much sin, and bring as much glory to God as I can.”
My prayer is that you would “submit yourselves therefore to God.” (James 4:7) Pursue his glory and not your own.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For further reading:
- “Discerning the Will of God Concerning Homosexuality and Marriage” –sermon by John Piper
- “No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth: The Church’s Great Challenge” –blog post by Albert Mohler
- “An Open Letter to the Church from a Lesbian” –blog post on The Gospel Coalition
- “Love Letter to a Lesbian” –blog post on Desiring God
- “Why is Homosexuality Wrong?” –Q&A with John Piper
- “The New Purpose of Marriage” –blog post by Collin Hansen
- “A Picture Perfect Marriage” –blog post on Challies.com
- “God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines” –free ebook from Southern Seminary
- “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” –book by Rosaria Butterfield