The world is talking about homosexuality. The conversation is impossible to ignore if you are paying any attention to cultural currents. News outlets, Twitter, blogs, television shows and even federal courts are conversing. What they are saying is fascinating. It is also frustrating.
Perhaps what is most frustrating is the facade of factuality that accompanies many of these conversations. Amid the flurry of chatter, truth becomes chaff as false claims made by the masses settle in unprepared hearts and minds. He who speaks loudest and most must be right, right?
“Sexual orientation can be neither chosen nor changed.”
“Jesus never condemned homosexual behavior.”
“Homosexuality doesn’t hurt anyone.”
What are we to make of such assertions? How might we assess the truthfulness of what is everywhere assumed? How can Christians respond to such claims in a way that reflects faithfulness to Scripture and the transformative love of God in Christ?
Claim 1: Sexual orientation can be neither chosen nor changed.
It is confusing that culture simultaneously holds to this claim as well as to the claim that people have the right to self-declare as man, woman or neither and to choose and change genders. How can culture insist that you can choose to change your sexuality while denying that you can choose or change your homosexuality?
Regardless, we as Christians need to bear in mind that the gospel is in its very essence a call to change. Like all sin, homosexual desire and practice is a reflection of a deeper, heart-level idolatry. The fact that something feels natural, instinctual or innate is not a license to act upon it. After all, sin is natural, instinctual and innate. The gospel calls us to repent of much of what is natural, instinctual and innate. The degree of a desire doesn’t determine its goodness. God’s Word is ultimately authoritative, not the voices that cry out to us from within. You cannot choose and change in and of yourself, but God grants grace to persevere, overcome and change in the power and provision of the gospel.
Claim 2: Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, so Christians shouldn’t either.
This is simply not true.
Jesus clearly forbade any and all forms of sexual immorality, of which homosexuality is a subcategory. By prohibiting the more general concept of porneia, Jesus clearly prohibited its particular forms. The fact that He didn’t use the exact words "homosexual" or "homosexuality" doesn't mean much. After all, Jesus spoke Aramaic and/or Hebrew and not English, and thus none of our English words were spoken by Him. Furthermore, the Scriptures never record Him saying idol, idolatry, bestiality, rape or fraud, but surely those concepts were forbidden even if the words were not uttered. Likewise, Jesus clearly condemned homosexual behavior even if we don't see that word specifically.
Even if Jesus didn’t explicitly prohibit homosexuality in His teachings, it really wouldn’t matter. If all Scripture is inspired by God, then black letters carry as much weight as red letters.
For a more thorough overview of why this claim is misleading and unpersuasive, see the article, Jesus and Homosexuality.
Claim 3: Homosexuality is not hurting anyone.
This claim relies upon an inadequate understanding of sin. Sin is not first and foremost about hurting others, but about offending God. Even if homosexuality did not hurt others, it would still be wrong if it offended a holy and good God. Though most sin has horizontal ramifications, at its core, it is a vertical rebellion against our Creator (Ps. 51:4). Rebellion against God is the essence of sin and must, therefore, be the undergirding foundation upon which we build our understanding of what is right and good.
With that said, the claim itself is false as homosexuality does inherently hurt others. If the Scripture is true, then to act upon homosexual urges is to invite God’s judgment (1 Cor. 6:9-10). By engaging in any immoral sexual behavior (fornication, homosexuality, etc.) you invite God’s judgment not only upon yourself, but on any who is likewise engaged in such consenting activity with you. In other words, by engaging in sexual activity with your partner, you are contributing to their sin and thereby to the consequences and effects of that sin. Thus, you are definitely and egregiously hurting another.
Claim 4: Christians are inconsistent for condemning homosexuality while disregarding other Levitical laws.
This claim relies upon a deficient understanding of the relationship between the covenants of Scripture. The biblical prohibition of homosexuality (and other sexual sin) is unlike that of eating shellfish for a number of reasons. First, sexual sin is a moral rather than ritual matter. Second, the consequences for breaking sexual laws are far more drastic than for breaking cleanliness laws. Third, sexual laws are further cemented in the New Testament, whereas ritual aspects of the Old Testament are seen as transitory and fulfilled in Christ.
It is absolutely true that some commands of the Old Testament are applied in the New while others are not, but this is not owing to selectivity or inconsistency. There is a good and reasonable theological rationale for such a distinction.
For a more thorough overview of the distinction between the covenants and why this claim is misleading, see the article, Christian Responsibility and Mosaic Law.
Claim 5: Christians are inconsistent for condemning homosexuality while allowing divorce and remarriage.
This claim is not entirely false. Unfortunately, some churches have grown lenient on the subject of divorce. But laxity on one sin does not give license for other sin. Furthermore, many churches, such as The Village, take divorce and remarriage very seriously and are actively involved in preserving marriage and challenging those who would seek to treat the covenant lightly.
In many ways, comparing divorce and remarriage to homosexuality is like comparing apples to oranges. In cases of adultery and/or actual abandonment, divorce may be permissible (Matt. 19:1-9; 1 Cor. 7:12-16). We have no such exception with regard to homosexuality. In other words, everyone who engages in homosexual behavior is engaged in sin, but not everyone who has been divorced and/or remarried is guilty of sin.
For more on the weakness of this comparison, see Kevin DeYoung’s recent post, And What About Divorce?.
The Hope of the Gospel
There is hope for those who struggle with homosexuality, but help comes only through the transformative power of the gospel not through well-meaning but misleading cultural claims. The church bears a responsibility to both God and our fellow man to expose the gilded fictions of our time as hollow and vain and to proclaim a better word, one that brings healing and genuine freedom from sin in Christ. We hold both opportunity and obligation to weigh the words that the world has written and respond with grace and truth. When we do, we find them wanting.
The world is talking about homosexuality, but what is being said is wrong. What is being said is untrue and, therefore, unloving and unkind. May we, as those submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ for the good of this world, be loving enough to tell the world when it is wrong. May we speak of hope and help through the glorious good news of the Savior who came to rescue and redeem, giving us a far greater joy than we can yet imagine.
Editor’s note: To facilitate further informed thinking on the topic of homosexuality, we will be posting a number of helpful resources later this week.