Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church - Part 3
The following blog post is an adaptation of a sermon preached on May 17, 2015 and adapted on June 25, 2017. Much of the ideas of this post arise from the following, and other, works – Albert Mohler Jr, “Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ; Denny Burk, “Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful,” JETS, Volume 58, 1 (March 2015); Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?; Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.
We will delve more deeply into the results and implications of the Fall when we get to Romans 1:18ff in our next blog post. But for now we must understand the implications of the Fall for all fo sin, and for human sexuality in particular.
When we reach the end of Genesis 3, we realize one simple, painful and enduring reality – EVERYTHING has been negatively and deeply affected by sin. The implications for our sexuality are clear – it too suffers from sinful depravity. This is why the argument from orientation is removed pretty quickly - “If God made me this way, it must be OK”. Our orientation cannot define good. Anything within us cannot be the definition of good in a fallen world, because we all, including everything within us, everything that we are “fall[s] short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To put it bluntly, we don’t live in Eden anymore. This means that just because you and I have an ‘orientation’, or urge, or desire for something doesn’t make it right. Because we are created to glorify God, we must look outside ourselves for what are proper moral judgments. Because we are fallen, we are even more in need of God condescending to tell us what is right and good and true in his universe. Hence the need to understand Genesis 1-2 and the rest of Scripture’s teaching on any and all issues of sexual morality.
Immediately a contrary argument moves to the fore. It goes like this, “This isn’t fair! Why should I have to deny who I am?” or positively, “If God made me this way, it must be OK’ – Let me address the issue of nature verses nurture. The American Psychiatric Association has stated the following – “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” (http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.aspx; date accessed - June 20, 2017)
So if you would ask, ‘What does science say about the origins of homosexual orientation?’ The response would be twofold - (1) ‘We don’t know’; (2) ‘A whole lot of factors’. (For a fantastic treatment of this topic, see Sam Williams, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/21/the-best-introduction-to-homose xuality-causes-change-and-the-gospel/)
Here's the thing. We must not assume that everyone who has homosexual orientation or attraction just woke up one day and decided to be that way. That is absolutely NOT the case, which is what makes this issue so difficult. Some people, for whatever reason, deal with homosexual orientation and attraction and it is a part of who they are. So what do we say to these people? Let me speak generally – we are all responsible for our actions and for the lusts of our flesh. Whether homosexual or heterosexual. Quite simply, sometimes we want the wrong things. We all struggle with desires that should not be fulfilled and with longings for things that are contrary to God’s glory. We are fallen people with a propensity for sin and self-deception. As a result, no matter how we think we might have been born one way, Christ insists that we must be born again a different way. God never wants us to stay who we are, for who we are is marred by sin. God wants us to experience his rebirth, for only reborn and in union with Christ can we find victory over our sin, wherever it originates. (Cf. DeYoung, 110-112)
Let me bring this blog and the previous one to a conclusion before we delve into Romans 1:18-32 in more detail. Read Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. There are three things I want to highlight from these verses that are monumental for us to understand:
We are ALL on these lists – there are no ‘scarlet letter’ sins. Sin is sin. Homosexuality is not worse than heterosexual lust, fornication or adultery, or even lying, being disobedient to parents, pride, gossip, slandering, etc.. Sure the consequences are worse, but there is no hierarchy of sins that places one sin above the other in God’s law. Who of us can look at these lists and not find ourselves a number of times? This means that the playing field is level under the cross. We ‘ALL’ have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. All of us have thoughts, inclinations, attitudes and the like that are deeply antithetical to God’s intention for us. We are all sinners by nature AND choice. Each one of us is a sinner; each one of us battles with sinful orientation everyday; each one of us must affirm this reality for there to be hope for change.
For sin to be dealt with it needs to be named and claimed – it’s one thing to say “I’m a sinner”; it’s a better thing, a more helpful thing to name and claim our specific sins, both in action and disposition. For sin to properly be dealt with we cannot just name and claim our, for example, outbursts of anger. We must also name and claim the fact that I am an angry person! This is a monumental step that allows us to have our sins redeemed. The Bible teaches us that we must name and claim and battle both the root (our orientation or disposition) and the fruit (behaviour) of our sin. We must own our sin and our sinfulness, before we can own Christ.
The only solution to sin is the gospel – transformed hearts lead to transformed lives. We ALL must humble ourselves before God everyday, ask for his mercy and hold fast to his promises that he gives us the grace to win in every situation we find ourselves. (Chandler) The victory of Christ over our sin is our only hope as Paul outlines in Romans 6. We can’t look to a 5 step process, or to any effort that we can accomplish. We must live in the victory over sin won by Christ and then engage in both mortification of sin and vivification in our sanctification process. We need to put sin to death, and we need to build ourselves in Christ. We also need to engage in this process together with others. Sin is always best dealt within Christian community where openness, honest, love and grace are present.
Let me conclude with this. If you struggle with the sin of homosexuality, if you battle with it and fight against it and desire to see the gospel applied more and more to your sin know this about Covenant Reformed Church - you are welcome in our church; you have a place with us. We will never turn away any person who is battling with their sin and who desires to become more Christ-like.
Soli Deo Gloria