Is being gay a sin?
The difference between attraction, and action
Same sex attraction is when you have sexual feelings for people of the same sex as you. It's a massive issue in our society at the moment. And in the last few months I've spoken to a heap of young people at my church about same sex attraction.
A few weeks ago Dave* told me he has always been attracted to other boys, and if it comes to choosing between Jesus and expressing himself sexually, he might not choose Jesus.
More recently, Daniel* told me how he used to really struggle with his same sex attraction and felt that nobody accepted or loved him. He's said he prayed for many years and now after much help from his church and friends he began finding girls attractive. He recently got married and seems really in love with his wife.
Hannah*, on the other hand, has prayed and prayed for her same sex feelings to go away. She doesn't understand why, but so far God hasn't changed her. She has decided to remain single ... maybe even forever.
As I thought about what to say to each of these people, I decided to go back to what the bible says about sexuality. Here's what I came up with.
1. The practice of homosexuality, like any sex outside marriage, is a sin.
From Genesis to Leviticus to Jesus to Paul, the bible is clear that sex is a great gift from God to be enjoyed within life-long marriage between a man and a woman.
Glenn Davies is a New Testament scholar (and happens to be my friendly local bishop). He has this to say which I found helpful:
The teaching of the New Testament concerning sexual union between humans is consistent with the teaching of the Old Testament. The male-female union within the bond of marriage is the only sexual union sanctioned by God… While homosexual activity is clearly described by the apostle Paul as sin, it is not the only sin, nor the worst sin.”
But while sex outside of marriage is a sin, it's certainly not an unforgivable sin! Like all sin, Jesus died so when we repent we can be forgiven!!!
2. Same sex attraction, however, is not a sin. It is, however, a daily struggle for many Christians. Many Christians struggle with it their whole lives.
Liberty Ministries (www.libertychristianministries.org.au) counsels Christians who struggle with unwanted same sex attraction. Some of the people they work with end up changing their orientation and getting married (we believe in a God who can do miracles, after all!). But other people struggle with it for their whole lives, and therefore choose to be single. You may not be able to choose who you’re attracted to, but you are responsible for who you have sex with.
3. The whole church needs to repent
“We believe that lying is a sin, yet we reach out to liars.
We believe that adultery is a sin and find compassion for the adulterer.
We believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin and close our doors to both the practising homosexual and the person who is trying hard to obey God”
(Earl Wilson, Counselling and Homosexuality, in What Some of You Were, Matthias Media: 2001, p 27)
Ed Vaughan, in What Some of You Were, says that “we all need to repent, especially of our acts of homophobia. [my church] didn’t create a safe place for people to be honest about their struggles. We allowed a culture of fear, where being honest would have meant almost certain rejection and ridicule...In that church, I think we were guilty of sin. The Bible is not homophobic.” (p 12)
I think Ed is totally right. So at my church I'm pretty keen we don't make jokes about homosexuality or call people "gay". I'm trying, whenever I open my mouth, to assume that at least one person in the room is same sex attracted.
We have a difficult message to deliver, and one we're not always good at delivering: that who you are attracted to does not make you who you are. That's not how the media sees it, and it's not how your friends will probably see it. But we believe that being human is more than having sex. You can be totally human without ever having sex (Jesus was a virgin when he died, and Paul stayed single for the sake of the gospel). Whether you "are gay" or not is not the issue: the important thing is that all of us, whether married or single, same sex or opposite sex attracted, love Jesus. Jesus says that if we love him, we will obey what he says (John 14:23).
So keep praying for my friends Dave, Daniel and Hannah (*not their real names, but God will know who you're talking about!), and for all of us that we can love and encourage each other to obey Jesus ... whoever we're attracted to.
We're all here by grace after all.