This is part of a series on different views Christians hold on same sex attraction; the view shared here does not represent the view of all Rogue authors. You can see the introductory article for this series here: Intro. Other views in this series can be seen here: LGBT Affirmation and here: Honoring Gay Celibates
Many call the historical view of Christianity – that homosexuality is innately sinful – the “traditional view.”
Perhaps “traditional” isn’t the right word, though. Most Christians who hold it do so for a lot more than “tradition.” I feel “consensus view” is a more accurate phrase. It is a matter of fact that labeling homosexuality as sin is the consensus view of Scripture as well as the consensus view of historical Christianity.
In this, Christians who affirm homosexuality and believe it is not sinful must admit to breaking ranks with the faith as written in Scripture and the faith as practiced for centuries. They claim the Scriptures and historical precedents were due to an ancient cultural context that they feel is no longer relevant today. Christians holding the consensus view that homosexuality is sin don’t see the evidence of that.
I do not plan here to enumerate the passages that decry homosexual practice or list the Christians and denominations through history who have agreed it is sin – you can Google that and find a million pages on it. (Here’s an example: Scriptures on same sex attraction)
Instead of covering well trod territory, I’d like to focus on why many Christians today continue to hold to the view homosexuality is sin, despite the view being seen as unloving or uncharitable in modern culture.
Holding that homosexuality is sinful is rooted in a commitment to the belief that Scripture is inspired by God. It isn’t just cultural impressions of men living thousands of years ago – the Bible is God-breathed. God guided what he wanted to include, and that includes a consistent condemnation of homosexuality from Old to New Testament. God knew what the landscape today would look like, and he still didn’t include passages to hedge the prohibition or allow it to be discarded later.
The Scriptures are intended for teaching us what is moral and immoral behavior. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Rebuke and correcting are uncomfortable tasks, but ones Christians are called to perform using Scripture as a standard.
Trust in God’s character and wisdom is another root to accepting his commands. We know God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is loving (Psalm 144:2) – but we must remember that “love” is not “license.” God’s love for us is far removed from letting everyone do whatever they please.
We all have moments and issues on which we disagree with God. We may not like his instructions to avoid lust – especially in a day and age where pornography is instantly available. Often we don’t intellectually or emotionally understand God’s commands and want to disagree with God. In the times that our hearts and minds don’t understand why, we can still obey in trust.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Live and Let Live?
One question often asked of the traditionalist is “Why not live and let live?” We have a Scriptural obligation to judge each other’s behavior and point out sin, as well as hold our communities accountable to just and moral behavior.
The Bible is often misquoted as simply saying, “Do not judge” – it actually says to judge rightly (John 7:24) and to be aware that those who judge will likewise be judged (Matthew 7:1-2). We are warned to be careful, wise, and discerning in our judging – but not to forsake judging altogether. Sometimes the loving thing to do is to point out when someone is in conflict with God, living in sin.
While Christians can hold the conviction that homosexuality is sinful, it is too often expressed in extremely unloving ways. There is an important reminder to be made – Christians are called to be loving in all things, particularly correction (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25). Churches must become supportive environments with accountability that help people who desire to obey God’s commands in regards to homosexuality. We do this for those struggling with other sins, such as alcohol dependence or accountability groups for porn addiction. But when it comes to homosexuality, suddenly fellow Christians can’t be found to help.
A renewed attitude of grace must be evident for when people fail and repent. Each of us sins in a myriad of ways, often driven by unhealthy and sinful desires. Those who decide to live in faithfulness against their earthly urges need encouragement, compassion, and particularly grace instead of criticism and stigma.
Holding the consensus view must be done in as loving a manner as possible. Yes – calling behavior sin can create conflict. But for those who are repentant and striving to live in God’s will, nothing could be less Christian than constantly treating struggling brothers and sisters like lepers.
Accepting God’s commands will always require people who struggle with any sinful desire to make serious sacrifices. We all make sacrifices, learning to renew our minds and conform our behaviors to come closer to God’s instructions for righteousness. Living in faith and obedience are worth sacrifice.
The final challenge I would leave all readers is this: continue to love those around you who live in sin. The one thing that never brings straying sheep home is a critical, abusive, deprecating shepherd. There can exist a frankness about calling sin “wrong” – without being demeaning, cruel, or abusive.
Never be the hypocrite who points out sin in a manner that is equally sinful.
Another great post.
I will admit, that I am closer to the affirmation group than the traditional Christian group. I’m not this way because I believe homosexuality is not sinful, but because I believe homosexuality as it is today is very different than in the time of Moses when rules of sexuality were established. Because of this, I’m unable to determine with certainty what to God commands are regarding it.
I’m also aware of the scripture, but homosexuality was previously used to worship other Gods and in rituals associated with that worship.
I don’t believe homosexuality is practiced today as an anti-God or religious act of any kind. Because of this, I have trouble discerning the rightness or wrongness of a homosexual relationship; especially if they want to be obedient to all other commands of God.
I do believe it’s possible that homosexuality as it is today is still sinful. I believe it is certainly better to refrain from it than risk it, but, I don’t believe it is on us to correct things that are not clear.
Here is the way I measure the rightness and wrongness of this. The ten commandments were written for God’s people at a time that any sin would ruin the entire group. Every sin at that time required severe consequences. Leviticus certainly introduced additional rules in addition to the ten commandments, but as I said, it was regarding separating God’s nation from all other religions and worship practice.
So, what does the ten commandments say about homosexuality? Nothing.
When asked what the most important commandments are to make it to the kingdom of God, Jesus says to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Can a homosexual couple follow the ten commandments, including the two which all of the law hinge on? I think they can.
So, I know others have concerns about this as sinful, but I don’t see the clarity others see here. God leads me towards acceptance while also wanting homosexual couples to understand there is a possibility this is sinful. It is their responsibility to make adjustments according to their relationship with God. It is not our responsibility to inflict any kind of punishment or revocation of their rights because we view things differently.
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I agree with you in a lot of this. The water is muddy because “loving, covenant, committed relationships seeking to honor God – but happening to be gay” were not in view when Scripture was written. You are also right to point out many of those commands had to do with sanitation, ritual purity, avoiding idolatry and such. In addition, it was an era when their cultural, national, and religious identity was inextricably tied together and needed firm norms with swift punishment for deviation – unlike the Church, which is a global phenomenon with immense room for diversity in expression and practice.
I think that is where many of us start moving toward the affirmation side of the spectrum. Having a cultural, historical understanding of the text makes us more humble in our interpretation. Do we wish to persecute millions over texts that are unclear? Or is it better to affirm them in love and trust God’s grace will cover it? Love covers over a multitude of sins, after all.
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