Often in debating those who advocate homosexual behavior in the Church one will find themselves being asked, “Did you choose to be a heterosexual?” The real question being asked of course is, “Do you remember consciously making the choice that you would be attracted to the opposite sex?”
This question and the resulting answers are what dominate the current debate spectrum on homosexuality. However the question distracts from the larger issue. For whether one is born with homosexual orientation or not is ultimately irrelevant in terms of God’s grand scheme of holiness and sanctification. If I were to concede that a person is born with same-sex attraction that would not justify it or allow it to escape the moral prohibitions against homosexual behavior because God’s Word makes clear that we are all born in sin. In short the natural inclination of our hearts is to be self-centered sinners, but that doesn’t therefore justify our fulfilling of those natural desires. Let’s delve into this further.
If an individual with same-sex attraction says they were “born that way” and that their feelings are “natural”—fine, but that matters not in terms of whether or not that grants you God’s permission to fulfill those natural, born-with desires. God’s Word says we are all born with a natural inclination to fall in step with this fallen world. We all have a natural bent to miss the mark of God’s ideal—which is the truest definition of sin. In fact the Greek word “harmartia” translated as “sin” in the N.T. literally means, “to miss the mark.”
So we are all born with a natural propensity to be self-centered creatures as opposed to God-centered persons and “miss the mark” of God’s ideal. Therefore any attempt on my part to fulfill self-centered desires that are contrary to God’s ideal is by definition sin–thus making me a sinner in need of repentance and transformation. There is a reason why Jesus stated, “You must be born again”in order to be realigned with God’s Kingdom ideal (Jn. 3:7). So biblically speaking, attempting to gain traction with God by saying, “But I was born this way” doesn’t get me anywhere. If anything it only confirms the premise that we truly are born in need of God’s renewing, reconciliatory, life-transforming work from day one.
As a man with heterosexual attraction I can say I was born with a natural, self-centered desire to be sexually attracted to all women and take them all to bed. It’s completely natural! However the Bible bluntly prohibits me fulfilling this natural, sexual desire outside the boundaries he set forth. According to the N.T. I can’t have sex with any women outside God’s established covenant of marriage. I could say, “But being sexually attracted to my secretary or my friend’s wife is instinctual for me. I was born this way.” Once again my “being born this way” doesn’t gain me any traction with God because I too was born in sin.
It is for this reason that Christ came—not so we could stay in our sin but that we could be liberated from its power which forever seeks to suck us into a self-centered worship of our passions and desires. Christ came to empower us to walk before God in holiness. None of us are yet perfect in the sense that none of us are 100% holy and without sin. But we are to desire to be perfect. We are to desire to be holy. The Bible commands us to be holy as He is holy. The Word tells us the lynchpin that connects our sinful selves with the transformative work of God’s holiness is repentance.
I often hear honest, soul-searching gay men and women ask, “How can I deny the natural affections and desires I was born with? Didn’t God create me this way from day one, and in virtue of that fact isn’t it justifiable for me to fulfill these instinctive desires?”
The answer is no.
What God did is create your image-of-God-bearing-soul in the context of a misaligned, fallen world that wars against your soul constantly from day one. The Apostle Paul reminds us that our true loyalty and citizenship is not to the kingdom of this world but another Kingdom. He writes, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God…I urge you, as foreigners and exiles of this world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:10-11).
Paul no doubt had his own personal struggles with born-with, sinful desires. He elsewhere states with brutal, gut-wrenching honesty,
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25).
Paul speaks of the natural inclinations of his body and mind as a “body subject to death.” Sin will always bring death to Kingdom life unless we make a preemptive strike against our body of death and “put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed… and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10).
Understanding that the transformative, renewal life of the Kingdom of God cannot co-exist with the life of the “old, natural man” is no doubt why Jesus emphatically stated that all allegiance to the old life must die in order for the new to come. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).
Someone says, “But I love my girlfriend. I would die for her. It’s only natural that we want to sleep with each other now. Therefore there’s nothing sinful about us living together unmarried.”
Someone says, “But I love my secretary. Having an affair is the only way we can share our genuine love together. How can it be sinful to deny each other our sincere love?”
Someone says, “But I truly love my gay partner. We’ve been together 10 years. How can something that feels so right and natural be sinful?”
All these responses only confirm the point of the above scriptures—natural, in-born desires and passions–even love’s presence are not God’s custodians of truth concerning Kingdom life. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, the satisfaction of our desires and the object of our love and affection can be wrongly misplaced.
“Do you love Me more than your girlfriend?”
“Do you love Me more than your secret love affair?”
“Do you love Me more than your gay partner of 10 years?”
“If so, deny yourself loving these people more than Me and come follow Me.”
Is this not essentially what Jesus said when he declared, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37).
And again, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate [by comparison] his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
I’m not just spouting off at the mouth. I know something about “hating” your own life and putting to death the natural passions, desires and affections of human existence—for the sake of loving God more. I am 35 and still a virgin. Yet I have an intense sexual attraction to women! The natural inclination of my body and desires would love nothing more than to fulfill that desire at every turn of my head!
I long to be loved and to love in a sexual context. I’ve had girlfriends and even been engaged—but never married. My unmarried state is the reason I cannot disobey God’s Word and start thinking I deserve sex simply in virtue of the fact that I desire sex. It’s not a one-to-one correlation.
People often ask me why I hold out so long? What keeps me from fulfilling every urge of every fiber of my human constitution? I have often thought of this myself. “Why are you doing this, Matt? Why don’t you just give in to what is natural and what you long for so much?” During those intense, soul-searching battles I have only had one answer to give myself to keep me going:
“It is because you love Jesus more than you love satisfying your sexual desires. Your relationship with God is just as real as any earthly relationship that demands loyalty and commitment, and he is lovingly asking you to remain faithful and true to him and his Word. Period.”
Lastly, can an individual with same-sex attraction still be a cherished son and daughter of the King of Kings and a true brother or sister in the Lord? Yes indeed. I have no intention to get involved in the emotionally charged debate about being “born this way” because as I spell out above it is irrelevant to the greater scope of holiness and sanctification.
Therefore it is not same-sex attraction in and of itself that is sinful, but rather it is actively acting on and indulging one’s homosexual attraction that is sinful. For sake of argument it may well be that one is born with same-sex attraction—but homosexual behavior is the choice.
As a heterosexual male I was born with a self-centered desire to think sexual thoughts, look at porn and indulge in sex with any woman I found attractive. It may not be sinful for me to be attracted to a multitude of woman I am not married to, but for me to act on that attraction would be a choice—a choice to sin. Even if I were to only choose to let my mind wander and act on that attraction in my mind it would still be sin—otherwise known as lust.
Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman with lust—sins.” In fact Jesus said he has committed adultery in his heart! (Mt. 5:28). And yet the fact remains, it is natural for me to lust after women.
Bottom line: Looking to our natural, born-with proclivities and desires to give us the moral justification we need to fulfill our passions and desires is a dead-end. It is bankrupt. The Bible says any choice to act on the desires of our flesh outside the commands of God is sin and must be repented of—not justified.
You see, this is largely left outside the current debate and discussion. We are not categorized before God as ” better sinners” or “worse sinners.” Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant.
Paul said that in his prior, unrepentant old-life he was “dead in sin” but after turning to Christ he became “dead to sin.” It didn’t mean he didn’t have sinful desires that forever were seeking to be fulfilled. Rather it means he found a source of holiness that empowered him to abstain from fulfilling those desires and passions that sought to rule his soul.
It could be said that my example of heterosexual attraction falls short of the mark because a heterosexual man or woman can at least get into a Christian marriage and fulfill those natural desires and passions in a holy context. But in regards to homosexual attraction there is no holy outlet—there is no option for a biblically sanctioned marriage. In other words the sexual ethics of the Church ask far more of a brother or sister with same-sex attraction than other members of the body of Christ.
However now the discussion is no longer about what is morally justifiable but what is fair. It is not fair that heterosexuals can alleviate their sexual passions by getting married whereas homosexuals cannot. And that is correct. It does not seem fair. However God does not seek to make the world “fair” in terms of what we think is fair, nor does he seek to justify the reasons why many things in the world are not fair. There is much evil in this world that causes great injustice and much unfairness and people every day are born into conditions and disabilities that put them at a disadvantage. Again life is fallen, not fair.
Though God never seeks to justify the evil in this world, he does seek to overcome it with good. As such seeking to make life as “fair as possible” for ourselves is not what we are called to do as Christians. We are called to die to our old lives, to put away the sinful passions of the flesh that war against our soul, pick up our cross and physically demonstrate the glory of Jesus’ kingdom through a daily choice to not live under the flag of our own allegiance.
Through lives lived out in holiness we represent and radiate to the world the character of our God. The church today is so ugly and only radiating a very low-level communion with God because she is not holy! She is a greedy, gossiping, divorcing, sexually promiscuous, and sexually immoral church. We are in desperate need of Christians who are willing to truly pick up their cross and die to their natural, in-born indulgences and lives of surrender, submission and beauty before God and the world.
If indeed an individual feels they were born with same-sex attraction let them not think that by consequence they cannot be part of God’s grand intention to radiate his character and kingdom through us. If such an individual were to choose to NOT to fulfill their sexual passions, but instead were to choose to lay down such an attraction before the Lord, to die to those desires, to live a celibate life as long as those desires remain–who knows what great and glorious ways God can express his love and beauty through them!
They may never develop an attraction towards the opposite sex but their life can be a testimony of the Lord’s grace, power and majesty nonetheless. Some may say again, “But it’s just not fair!” But God says, “You were bought with a price. You are not your own. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
A life surrendered to God has no limits because a life surrendered to Him is a life that says, “Live your life through me.” The Bible says that a life that was once dead in sin but is now dead to sin is a life that is alive to God. Such a surrendered life is like an open channel for Him to touch our world in the places where it hurts the most.