Ask Steve: Homosexuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I recently started to attend a church where it claims to believe that homosexuality is a sin, yet the pastor was not willing to publicly call homosexuals to repentance. What is your view of homosexuality, and is it necessary that homosexuals repent/change their lifestyle in order for them to be saved, as well as included in church membership and serving in the body of Christ? 

Answer: The issue of homosexuality is a controversial subject in both the secular and evangelical culture. Yet it is a topic that should not be evaded or unjustly compromised for the sake of tolerance or peace, which tends to be the trend nowadays in even some conservative Christian circles. Truth, righteousness, and salvation are on the line in this sin issue. But most importantly, God’s honor is at stake.

The Bible consistently upholds homosexuality as a transgression of God’s law, since it goes against God’s unique design of human relationship that is between one man and one woman in a covenant relationship (marriage). We first see the sinful nature of homosexuality in Genesis 19:1-13 in the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which the author portrays this practice as divinely condemned and, shortly after, judged by God in the annihilation of the cities by fire and brimstone. When Moses gave the Law of God to the Israelites at Mt.Sinai, God once again confirmed that homosexuality was sin in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Homosexuality was one of many sexual sins that some people practiced at the time, others being incest, bestiality, adultery, polygamy, and fornication. These are sexual sins that people still practice and struggle with today.

Some neo-orthodox and liberal theologians argue that these commands were culturally or historically conditioned for the Old Testament era/dispensation and that they no longer apply to those who are in Christ, as if Jesus’ death somehow nullified the Old Testament prohibition against homosexuality. However, this is total speculation and without warrant. A hermeneutical technique that validates an OT principle is its repeated references and/or warnings in the New Testament by the Lord or His disciples. In this case, the sin of homosexuality is one of them!

Homosexuality is mentioned in Romans 1:26-27, which describes God’s disfavor upon those who indulge in the lusts of their flesh and give themselves over into immorality. The verse reads: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Not only is homosexuality depicted as sinful, but is destructive as well, because God gives these people over to the penalty of their error, of which AIDS is one frightening evidence. Other places in the New Testament that mention the sin and consequence of homosexuality include 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8.

Because homosexuality is a sin propensity like other sins depicted in Scripture (lust, pride, envy, covetousness, greed, etc), the sinner will be held responsible for his actions. He cannot make the excuse that “since he was born that way, he therefore had no choice but to live that way.” If that was the case, even heterosexuals who struggle with fornication from his teenage years can offer before the Lord the explanation that “since I was born this way, I had no choice but to be myself and act on what made me happy. I was just being who I am.” The same story can be repeated with the one struggling with anger issues since birth. And the one struggling with lying, theft, adultery, jealousy, covetousness, pride, cursing, and the list goes on.

However, the message of the gospel guarantees that all sins (including homosexuality) can be forgiven if the sinner repents and puts his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the essence of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The passage says that violators such as idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, or drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God, but verse 11 declares, “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 God.” Both heterosexuals and homosexuals who repent and come to God in faith will be washed of their sins (Tit 3:5), be transformed and given a new heart (2 Cor 5:17), and be granted the gift of eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Like any other sinner, people struggling with homosexuality must come to repentance in order to be saved. There is a strong tendency within some, if not many, churches to call upon homosexuals to exercise an intellectual, and maybe even an emotional, commitment to Jesus, but not go all the way with a volitional surrender of the life and will to Christ. In other words, they never truly repent and surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Lk 9:23), allowing Jesus to be the master over all of their desires, priorities, and commitments. Thus, they exercise a shallow commitment and pay lip service to the gospel, but continue to live out their homosexual sin in their everyday life, and possibly other sins that characterize their unregenerate condition. These homosexuals, much like unrepentant heterosexuals, are essentially part of the shallow or thorny soil hearers of Matthew 13, on their way to eternal destruction unless they come to true saving faith before it is too late.

Whether they do this out of theological ignorance or out of fear of man, pastors who do not call homosexuals to repentance both dishonor God and endanger the eternal welfare of homosexuals. These pastors dishonor God because, quite frankly, they do not speak the truth of what the Bible teaches. They misrepresent His standards and choose to cater to men’s feelings rather than to obey God. They endanger the eternal welfare of homosexuals because they preach an incomplete gospel that does not save. Pastors speak about sin, and may even preach that homosexuality is a sin, but preachers must be dutiful to inform homosexuals that they must turn away from the love of their homosexual lifestyle. That is the essence of repentance.

Whenever the Greek word for repentance, metanoia, is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose and turning from sin. It moves beyond the intellectual, and emotional stages and into the volitional stage, which is the observable fruit of repentance (Matt 3:8). A faith without repentance is an incomplete faith and a water-downed version of the gospel. Since faith involves a wholehearted commitment to Christ, repentance must logically be the step that leads a sinner there, because one cannot be committed to Christ unless he has first turned away from his former idols. Therefore, if a pastor refuses to preach repentance to an exclusive group of sinners such as homosexuals, then he is, in reality, granting them preferential treatment while discriminating against everyone else who supposedly needs repentance (the liars, thieves, gossipers, cheaters, greedy, prideful, haters, adulterers, slanderers, murderers, etc).

There is another practical problem concerning this issue of leaving homosexuals unchallenged in their lifestyle while they hold onto a form of easy-believism. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuals (and any people who practice flagrant sin) who refuse to pursue Christlikeness, but continue to live in their sin while adamantly professing to be Christian (and misrepresenting the pure Christian testimony to the public eye) are subject to church discipline (according to the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20), especially if they are members of the church and/or heavily involved in the ministry. This dilemma could easily have been avoided if the homosexuals were given the full gospel to begin with so that they know the cost of discipleship (Lk 9:23), which is to give up the love of lust in pursuit of the greater treasure of Christ.

Although they seem to be an intimidating and difficult mission field, people struggling with homosexuality should be approached with the utmost patience, care, and love. We must proclaim the gospel truth to them with both gentleness and uncompromising truth. And a significant part of that gospel truth is calling sinners to turn away from their sinful lifestyle to God (Mk 1:4; Acts 3:19). God is the one who sovereignly regenerates the dead sinner, gives them the Holy Spirit, and grants them a new heart with new desires (2 Cor 5:17). The Lord can do the same as well with the homosexual as he hears the preaching of the unadulterated gospel and repents. Once he is regenerated, then he is no longer enslaved to his former passions, and he becomes a holy man. However, this can never happen if he does not hear the true gospel or is not called to repent and/or put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is why pastors, preachers, evangelist and Christians must resist the temptation to be politically correct and instead be faithful to lovingly proclaim the truth to homosexuals, recognizing sin as it really is, describing the cure that is in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and calling them to repentance and faith.