It is time for some plain discourse on the issue of homosexuality in the church. Gay rights has become the hot topic of the past two decades (at least), and it doesn’t show any sign of going away. Tempers always flare hot on this issue when broached in the context of the church, and the screeching from both sides drowns out any chance for rational discussion. And yet, discussed it must be.
First, there is no place for politics in this discussion, for it is purely about the church’s response to homosexuality and homosexuals. So for now, things like wedding cakes and legislation are outside the scope of this discussion.
So where to start? Where all discussions on church matters should begin–with relevant bible scriptures. There are several references to homosexuality in the bible, but for now we will start with this one:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Something one should immediately notice in this passage is that there is a lot going on besides homosexuality. In fact, the topic is mankind’s failure to acknowledge God (vv.18-21). This leads to foolish arrogance (v. 22), which is followed by idolatry (v. 23). From this point, God “gives them over” to their own lusts, and the original Greek indicates a very personal handing over of people to their lusts. It isn’t just God throwing up his hands and leaving them to it; the image it conjures up is like somebody handing a puppy over to somebody else. It’s a delivery into the hands of someone (or something) who now has control and ownership of the person, other than God. They are now in the hands of their own lusts, and descend into sexual immorality (a very broad term, covering a lot of different things). And so begins the downward spiral: idolatry begets slavery to lusts, which yields apostasy (false doctrine, or lies about God instead of the truth) which then begets idolatry (v. 25). What a mess.
Verse 26, “Because of this,” (v.25, the lies about God and the resultant idolatry) God again gives them up to their own “shameful lusts” (again, a pretty broad term). Here, homosexuality is finally mentioned, only after this long downward spiral of all kinds of sin. But homosexuality isn’t trivialized; it is highlighted as a special product of this sinful descent where even women and men lust after their own gender. Nor is homosexuality the point, for the apostle continues on with a litany of various sins that come as a result of not “retaining the knowledge of God,” and a third reference to God handing them over, this time to their own, depraved minds. The list of sinful behaviors seems strange at first, as it includes such seemingly minor trespasses as gossip and boasting, and major trespasses, such as murder, but all who do them “deserve death.” Wow.
Pardon the sermon, but there is a point to it. The above passage is a favorite one used when preaching against homosexuality. More often than not, I hear only verses 26 and 27 quoted, stripped of the other thirteen verses and their context.
There are two equally erroneous ways to regard homosexuality as a Christian. One is to treat it as if it is not a sin at all, or as just some minor infraction which God will tolerate. That is not the case, as the above passage clearly indicates, as well as other verses, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11. The other erroneous approach to homosexuality is to regard it as if it were some especially heinous sin that is somehow more sinful than regular sin. The first error is the favorite of the world and of apostates. The second is the favorite of the self-righteous and hypocritical church.
Let me assure you: any sin will separate you from God forever. All this ranting and railing about homosexuality alienates people because it makes the Gospel seem harsh and unapproachable. It also produces an unintentional side effect in which certain sins seem less serious because this one is so sinful. There is no biblical justification for treating sin like it is on an HMO formulary, with Tier-1 sins, Tier-2 sins, etc. That is why in the passage above, murder is listed with bragging and disobeying one’s parents–because all sin is worthy of death.
“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23
As far as this issue of homosexuals being priests or pastors of churches, quite frankly, this should not be. No homosexual should be in a position of leadership in the church. Nor should any adulterer, or fornicator, or liar, or thief, or murderer, or braggart, or gossiper, or slanderer. The issue isn’t which sinful behaviors a bishop or pastor should not engage in; it is that he should not be engaged in any sinful behaviors. The ministry of a pastor or bishop is a solemn one, and anyone who presumes to be one had better hold themselves to a higher standard. Everybody falls short from time to time, but no pastor or bishop (or any Christian for that matter) should be living in an active state of willful sin. To do so indicates an insincerity in their Christian walk, making any church leader in such a state a false shepherd–a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Members of the Church, get over the fact that the world hates you; you were warned (John 15:18-19). Get over the fact that the world is filled with sin; it will only get worse. Sin is often brazen, shameless, hostile, and in-your-face. You may politically oppose the gay rights movement and it goals, but it is unbiblical to portray some sins as worse than others, when all of them end in death. There is one unforgivable sin, and homosexuality ain’t it (Matthew 12:31-32).
If you claim to be a Christian and you are a homosexual, then you are living a lifestyle inconsistent with your Christianity, just as a serial adulterer or a thief is inconsistent with Christianity. If that offends you, I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. Like every other Christian, you must make the choice between following your own sinful drives to their ultimate conclusion, or following Christ’s higher calling to righteousness. Get over yourself and the polluted thinking with which the world corrupted your mind. You are not a special class of citizen, or living an alternate lifestyle, anymore than an adulterer is. The world is enabling you in your sin, excusing you rather than warning you, so that in the end you will be destroyed.
For homosexuals who do not profess to be Christians, I say this: disregard the hostility to which some supposed Christians subject you. Your sin (sorry, that’s what it is) is no worse than any other sin, but it will kill you just as spiritually dead. I’m not here to judge you, and nobody else has that privilege, but God himself. He will judge us all someday, and all who have not accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ will perish eternally, whether they be murderers, gossipers, adulterers, or homosexuals.