I was in a bible study recently when someone asked why Christians make such a big deal about homosexuality. After all, if all someone wants is to be accepted and affirmed in their sexual orientation, isn’t it loving to provide that affirmation? The short answer is that the church, inasmuch as it is faithful, is bound to the moral statements made in the scriptures, and therefore cannot affirm anything that the scriptures condemn. As such, do the scriptures condemn homosexual actions?
There are many passages in scripture that address homosexuality, but for the purpose of this post, I will focus on 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 9.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 states that “.. do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (NASB)
This passage lists types of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, or, in plainer terms, heaven and the resurrection unto life. Notably, it includes some of sins that most people would not put on a list of “big sins” such as greed and harsh speech, as well as sexual immorality (“free love”) and homosexual acts. The words translated in the New American Standard Bible as “Effeminate” and “Homosexuals” are “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai”, which words refer to both partners in a homosexual sexual act.
Unless this passage can be made to mean something completely different than its clear meaning, in both English and Greek, to be someone who practices homosexual acts is to be outside of God’s kingdom as much as someone whose life is defined by adultery, idolatry, or verbal abuse of others. As such, no Christian can affirm someone in a behavior or identity that God condemns. For a Christian to do so would indicate that either 1. They do not, in fact, believe the scriptures, or 2. They do not love the person they affirm, and do not care at all if that person incurs God’s wrath and is barred from God’s kingdom.
There is another option. 1 Corinthians 6:11 states “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The message of the church, to all people, is to “repent and be baptized”. That message is open to anyone, regardless of who they are. As Paul states, the church is full of people who were formerly adulterers, philanderers, drunkards, idolaters, thieves, and yes, homosexuals.
Overall, the balance of scripture overwhelmingly condemns homosexual acts, in both the old and new testament. As such, the church cannot accept the claims of LGBTQ+ groups that there is nothing wrong with the actions or ideologies that they espouse. That being said, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ is offered to all people, of all races, ages, genders, and orientations.
What should Christians do in response to the demands of acceptance from LGBTQ+ groups?
The Christian church cannot accept any form of homosexual act as anything but a sin. That being said, within the boundaries of speaking the truth, we should treat people as Jesus did and as Peter commands us to, with gentleness and respect. Remember, the primary objective of any Christian effort is to introduce people to our savior, not to change their behavior. The exact details of how to work this out are going to be a matter of prayer, study of the scriptures, and seeking the wisdom of other Christians.
What should I do if someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ comes to my church?
Assuming that this person is unchurched or does not currently identify as a Christian, welcome them and show them hospitality and love, without compromising in preaching the truth.
If a person who identifies with a LGBTQ+ lifestyle want to join your church or is already a member, you are bound to lovingly correct them in the pattern of Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5. The key word here is loving. The goal of any church discipline is to lovingly encourage someone to repent, NOT to cast them out of the church. If such a person will not repent, the church has no option but to cast them out, in the hopes that their excommunication will bring them to repentance. Should said person return and be repentant, they are to be welcomed with open arms.
What about someone who was “born this way?”
We are all born sinners, and God calls us all to deny our sinful desires. Whether or not a homosexual desire is the fruit of nature or nurture, God’s word condemns acting that desire out. For our Christian brothers and sisters, these desires may be very difficult to deny, and may stay with them for their entire lives. The church, and individual Christians should never be engaged in approving of sin, but they are failing in their duty to their Christian brothers and sisters if they do not help them by “bearing each other’s burdens” with those who struggle with same-sex attraction just as much as those who struggle with heterosexual lust.
What about “Gay Christians”?
God’s word is clear, homosexual acts are a sin. As such, any person who claims that they can engage in a homosexual lifestyle and be a Christian at the same time is either not a Christian at all, or is in sin. There are preachers who say that homosexual acts are not sin. These are false teachers. Do not trust these people to teach the truth, and do not tolerate them in your churches. That being said, it is not a sin to be tempted. For anyone who comes to be a Christian, and still struggles with a desire for a homosexual lifestyle or act, welcome to the club! Every Christian has sinful desires that they must resist by means of prayer and confession. Even in the case of a Christian who falls to temptation, and engages in a homosexual act; the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) applies just as much to that individual as to one who engages in heterosexual sin. If this is you, obey God’s word by confessing “your sins, one to another” (James 5:16), and press on. Your sins are not unforgivable just because they are different than mine.