The Church’s Position on Homosexuality
How the Church should respond to homosexuality is a question that can only be answered once the Church has taken a position on homosexuality. However painful, clarity is a necessary prerequisite for compassion.
The Bible’s message about sexuality is wonderfully positive. The Bible teaches that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman combining companionship, mutual support, and faithful affection, all crowned with the closest physical intimacy of which the human body is capable.
“a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 NIV)
It is only after enshrining that positive ideal that the Bible goes on to make clear that, consequently, all sexual behaviour outside such a marriage is morally wrong. That means that homosexual practice, along with all other kinds of extra-marital sexual conduct, is prohibited de facto. But, as if to avoid ambiguity, homosexual practice is also explicitly condemned, particularly in Romans 1 where it is described as an abandonment of this natural ideal.
The Church’s Response to Homosexuality
But it’s not enough to take a position on this issue, because homosexuality is not just an ‘issue’ – it’s people, it involves people’s lives, their hopes, their desires. So when we ask how should the Church respond to homosexuality, we are actually asking how should the Church respond to people who are attracted to others of the same sex.
So let’s be very practical. You have a friend who is attracted to people of the same sex: what do you do?
Response to a Christian with same sex attraction
If you are a Christian, and are attracted to people of the opposite sex, I want you to ask yourself: what kind of sexual sins have you committed? Fantasising? Going ‘too far’? Actual sex outside marriage? If we’re honest, we’re all on that scale somewhere, so let’s be clear – they’re all sinful. We cannot permit ourselves any excuse – it was wrong.
I’m saying this because we’ve got to be clear about our own sexual morality, before we can be of any help whatsoever to our friend. Because, when they stumble, what kind of sins do you expect them to commit? The same kind you do, except with different kinds of people. The object of their sexual sins may be different, and in that respect it is a different kind of sin, but it is as natural for them, and as enticing, and as difficult to resist, as your own opposite sex sins are for you.
That’s the attitude we need when they talk to us: whether they’re blissfully unaware they’ve done anything wrong, or whether they’re wracked with guilt. If they ask us, we need to be able to tell them that it was wrong … as wrong as our own sins. That’s the first and critical element in the Church’s response – remembering that we, too, are sinners and that we are all required to come before God humbly and repentantly.
The second element is an awareness of just how hard it is for a Christian to talk about this. We need to make it easy for them to do it – so don’t be in the habit of making cheap jokes about homosexuality and, no matter how provocative the more militant wing of their community is, don’t allow yourself to go off on a hateful tirade. You don’t know whose faith you are burying with those words. And, if someone does tell you about their struggles, thank them for the trust that they have placed in you, be aware of the courage that it took, and then live up to that trust.
Because, for a Christian with same sex attraction, even a kiss is wrong, any romantic relationship is tainted. That means that a Christian who is attracted to people of the same sex may be facing terrible loneliness, a sense of isolation and sexual temptation. Our friendship and support are critical. They need us to help them obey Christ.
Response to a non-Christian with same sex attraction
But what if your friend is not a Christian but is considering, or actively pursuing, a gay or lesbian lifestyle?
If they aren’t Christians they need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ – not because they’re attracted to people of the same sex, but because they’re human beings. All human beings need to hear the gospel because all human beings are sinners. Gay and lesbian people live in a culture that often tempts them to define themselves by their sexuality, the last thing they need is the Church reinforcing that message. That last thing they need is you and I acting as if the first conversation they need to have is about their sex life, as if that is all that separates them from God.
The subject is going to come up, it has to, but it’s not the first conversation we need to have, because what Paul describes as being of first importance is this,
“… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV)
The starting point of the gospel is Christ’s cross and we shouldn’t act as if it’s their bedroom.
The bottom line is that there is no special gospel for homosexuals, there is no special way to share the gospel with homosexuals. Jesus didn’t die to save them from their same sex attraction, he died to save all of his people from all of their sins, whatever they are.
The position the Bible takes on sexuality is unpalatable to our society, that much is obvious. What we often forget, however, is that the Bible’s teaching about sexuality is difficult in our society. In a culture as sexualised as our own, the stark choice between heterosexual monogamy and celibacy seems not only arduous but laughable. The Church has a huge part to play in restoring the place of sex as a good thing, but not an essential thing. It’s not enough for us to just say that, we have to live as if it were true.
We need to restore the mangled image of friendship, restore the value of celibacy, cherish the value of sacrifice, and, above all, undermine the lie that without sex, life is not worth living. We need to refute that by the lives we lead, and the relationships we build. That means that we need to be a community where Christ and his glory are paramount, where the wounded are welcome, where the fallen are restored, where the purposeless are given hope, where sins are overcome in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual support, and where we tell one another the truth whether it’s easy or not.
In other words, the Church’s response to homosexuality … is to be the Church. That’s where we have failed most conspicuously in the past and where we must focus our repentance and our passion in the future.
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