Question 1: Is homosexual sin worse than other sins?
It is very tempting to suggest that all sins are equally sinful. In some sense, every single sin sufficiently justifies our eternal damnation and separation from an infinitely holy and righteous God.
Yet not all sins are equal in ambition, context, or effect. They are not all equal in ambition because some sins are so deeply rooted in conscious rebellion that they amount to blatant disobedience or refusal to believe.
With regard to context, the Bible itself distinguishes sin. Some are described as “against nature” and others are not. Paul did this in Romans 1 when he spoke about homosexuality. He used the same argument in 1 Corinthians 6 when he showed that sexual sin has a particularly sinful quality since it is, unlike other sins, directed against the body, which he argued is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Even in the Old Testament, some sins are referred to as abominations, which effectively set them apart from other sins.
Nor is all sin equal in effect. Some sins cause physical death. Others cause far less immediate and apparent consequences. For this reason, even the criminal justice system recognizes different levels of criminality and assigns different penalties for different criminal acts. The Old and New Testaments make the same distinction. Nevertheless, every single sin is opposed to the infinite justice and righteousness of God and is deserving of God’s righteous punishment.
Question 2: Are people born gay? Doesn’t this mean God made them gay?
No adequate scientific evidence exists that suggests an individual can be “born” with a same-sex sexual orientation. Nevertheless, the testimony of those struggling with same-sex attraction reveals that that attraction and sense of sexual interest can come very early. Indeed, it can come so early that many people cannot pinpoint how early such an interest appeared.
Christians should not run from the question. Biblical theology reminds us that the consequences of the fall are so comprehensive that we should expect sin to impact everything from our self-centeredness to molecular structure.
If a biological cause or genetic link explaining same-sex attraction is ever discovered, Christians should be among the least surprised. Such a finding would certainly inform our pastoral understanding and approach to persons with a same-sex orientation because we recognize that sin even affects our biology. Such a discovery would reveal what will likely be a lifelong struggle of sexual interest and personal identity, even for someone who knows Christ as Savior and seeks to live in holiness before Him.
That being said, an analysis of the current data reveals no adequate evidence for a “gay” gene. Furthermore, most geneticists believe that something as complicated as sexual orientation is not likely to be traced to a single gene. That is simply far too simplistic an understanding of human genetics.
Christians must remember that we live in a culture in which people instinctively ascribe authority to reports trumpeting a scientific discovery. This often leads to a change in mortal judgment, even when that report is not replicated by other scientists or is later withdrawn.
Christians should not be surprised if the day comes when the preponderance of evidence suggests some biological pattern of causality. The discovery of a “gay gene” would not force the church to abandon its position on the sinfulness of homosexuality, nor would it nullify the clear teaching of Scripture or validate same-sex attraction. As those informed by Scripture, Christians must constantly remember that the natural world we now experience is a natural world tainted by human sin and under God’s judgment. This is why we depend on Scripture to understand God’s pattern for human flourishing, and trust what it says about the morality of same-sex acts rather than what a scientific journal says.
Question 3: Since the sexual revolution uses the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, should we differentiate between racial identity and sexual identity?
In response to this question, Christians must engage carefully in the task of biblical theology. The diversity of races and ethnicities comprises part of God’s plan (see, for example, the table of nations in Genesis 10). The Bible also indicates that God is pleased that His human creatures are organized by families, clans, languages, and nations. Furthermore, Revelation 5 indicates that this pleasure is an eternal pleasure for God. Those gathered around the Lamb’s throne are men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation who have all been ransomed by Christ.
Thus, Scripture celebrates racial differences. The Bible celebrates these distinctions as part of God’s glorious diversity in creation.
The Bible, however, unquestionably expresses only one legitimate pattern of human sexuality. Only one framework exists in which conjugal acts can be enjoyed and celebrated—the monogamous, faithful marriage of a man and a woman. The Bible consistently declares anything outside of this framework as sin.
Christians, therefore, must think carefully on this issue. Even though we accept that certain individuals have different sexual orientations, we do no accept sexual orientations as synonymous with race or ethnicity. We recognize racism as sin because it denies and subverts our common descent from Adam and Eve and our common origin in the will of the Creator. We do not celebrate diversity of sexual “orientations” because the Bible does not allow it.
As Christians, we must return to the theological foundation provided for us in the doctrine of creation. We must ask ourselves one question: Was this part of God’s original plan and purpose for His human creatures?
Question 4: Is experiencing same-sex attraction itself sinful? Do Christians who experience same-sex attraction need to repent of their orientation, or only homosexual action and lust?
First, this is not a question limited to issues of sexuality in general, or sexual acts and sexual orientation in particular. This question relates to the larger theological question of temptation and behavior.
Every child growing into maturity recognizes the distinction between the temptation and the act. Every criminal law system also understands the difference between the temptation and the act. Every parent understands that same distinction when raising children and when they look in the mirror. Therefore, Christians must distinguish between temptation and the performance of sin.
Still, there is indeed something sinful about being tempted to rob a bank. Obviously, it is less sinful than robbing a bank. And its consequences and the effects are certainly quite different. We would be right to say, “Even if you have the temptation, don’t perform the act,” but we would be wrong to say, “The temptation is not an issue of sinful consequence.”
We tend to assume that an uninvited temptation is something for which we are not accountable. But no one knows himself well enough to fully understand where our temptations come from or to what degree we have given ourselves over to that interest. Christians, therefore, must pray that we not be tempted, just as Jesus instructed His disciples to do in the Lord’s Prayer.
Heterosexual sinners are tempted to lust toward someone of the opposite sex. Married persons are tempted to lust for someone who is not their spouse. A person who has a pattern of same-sex attraction is tempted in a similar manner. Same-sex orientation, however, cannot be channeled into a legitimate sexual outlet, whereas a heterosexual orientation can be channeled into the faithful, monogamous institution of marriage. For this reason, same-sex orientation presents a greater struggle.
Must a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction repent of the mere feeling of attraction, even if he does not act on that feeling or lust in his heart? Because same-sex attraction is a disordered attraction, some degree of repentance certainly needs to happen.
Consider this analogous scenario. Imagine a teenage boy who has become a Christian is assigned to read a particular book in school. He is not responsible for choosing the book; the teacher, after all, assigned it to him. Something of a sexual nature is presented in the book, and he finds himself aroused and interested. He does not, however, give himself to lust. He simply moves past the explicit passage.
Later, the explicit passage comes back to his mind. Once again, he refuses the temptations to lust. Nevertheless, he will almost surely feel some sense of guilt for letting thoughts resurface in the first place. Every time these thoughts come to his mind, the boy is making a moral decision, even as he wards off lustful thoughts with repentance and by grace.
Most Christians recognize that sinful things that are unintentional and not premeditated regularly enter our minds. Nevertheless, these thoughts arrive, and so these thoughts produce some moral accountability, even though we seek to push them out of our fantasies and imaginations. This common experience among all Christians—indeed among all humanity—reveals that sin is more deeply rooted in our hearts than we ourselves know. This is one of the reason repentance regularly marks the Christian life.
People struggling with same-sex attraction must understand that they are in the same position as any other sinner. We all need to live lives of constant repentance, recognizing that the entire Christian life is one of constant temptation to sin and simultaneous call to obey Christ.
This of course, does not minimize the particularly difficult challenges those who struggle with a same-sex attraction face. But these men and women should not be separated from the rest of the body of Christ into a different category of sin and sanctification. For this reason, Christians need to be candid with one another and not assume that only a few people in the congregation struggle with sin. Every person in the congregation struggles with sin.