This is the text of a sermon I preached in August 2008. I encouraged the congregation to imagine having a conversation with a friend who shares that they are gay. What would you say? How would you respond? We often forget that homosexuality isn’t an issue to be debated – it’s about real people that we love. There are many calls to prayer and repentance in this message, as we seek to apply all of God’s word to this challenging reality.
Today we’re going to talk about, “What does the Bible have to say about homosexuality? What would you say to a friend who is gay?”
Rather than make this an issue-oriented message, I’d like to make it a personally oriented message. When I think of homosexuality, I think of people. I think of people who hurt and the fact that Jesus cares about people who hurt.
I’d like you to pretend that you’re sitting in one chair and a friend or a family member is in the other chair. They’ve just told you or maybe you’ve known for some time that they’re gay, they’re homosexual. What would you say? Let’s say they’ve sat down with you and said, “I know you’re a Christian. I know you believe the Bible and I know we’re worlds apart because of these things. But I’m open. Would you tell me why you believe what you believe?”
Let me share some things that are on my heart. What would you say in that kind of situation?
1. I’d look eye-to-eye and say, “God loves you.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
God loves the world, doesn’t He? There’s no exceptions. You can’t read this as, “For God so loved the world (except for the homosexual) that He gave His one and only son, (except for the homosexual) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life, (except for the homosexual). For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, (except for the homosexual) but to save the world through Him.” You can’t read it that way. You can’t read it, “… except for…” anything.
So the first thing I’d say is that Jesus had an amazing ability to love people, even those whom some in society think are unlovable, even those who were caught up in sins. Jesus can love anybody. God loves you.
One AIDS patient said this, “AIDS patients inevitably face suffering and earlier than expected death and isolation because AIDS stigmatizes its victims like no other disease.” Do you think God cares about that? Of course He cares. There is no one who is outside of God’s love.
So, I’d say first of all, God loves you. If that’s all I had to say everything would be great. But to be honest, if he or she is asking me what do I really believe, I’d say…
2. Homosexuality is not God’s design, and homosexual sex is a sin
Sin is an ugly word. It’s in all of our lives. But homosexual sex is included in that long, long list of things that are sins in our lives. It’s a sin because it’s an attempt to use one of God’s greatest gifts, the gift of our sexuality, outside of God’s directions for my life. It’s a sin because God has specifically said no.
Here are just some of the places in the Bible where God talks about homosexuality:
Leviticus: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable.”
Genesis 2:20,24 “For Adam no suitable helper [no complement] was found. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they become one flesh.”
1 Corinthians 6 “Do you no know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived. And here’s a part of that long list. Neither the sexually immoral nor the idolaters nor the adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
There are many other Biblical references to same-sex sexual relations. They all say it’s wrong. With absolute consistency throughout the Bible there is only one context in which sexual relations are blessed, and that is within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. And God looks at marital sex and says, “This is good!” That’s why I believe sexual relations between two men or two women is a sin, because I trust what God has to say.
This is such powerful stuff. You look at these words and they’re fairly clear verses about the lifestyle of homosexuality. But some people will say, “That’s the Old Testament” or “That’s Paul, but what did Jesus have to say?”
Whenever somebody says Jesus didn’t say anything about this, it’s assuming two things. First, that Jesus commented on everything that we face and He didn’t. And it’s also assuming that the letters that are in red in your Bible, that those are somehow more inspired by God than the rest of it. That’s not what the Bible teaches.
The Bible teaches that God inspired those that wrote the books of Ephesians, Deuteronomy, Psalms and all of those books just as much as Jesus was inspired. The difference is, Jesus was always inspired when He spoke. Every word that He spoke on this earth was an inspired word of God. Paul was only inspired a very few times and every time he was we get to read that. He said a lot of dumb things just like you and I do. So the whole Bible is inspired by God.
But it’s important to make a distinction here – and it’s a distinction that most of the people who talk about homosexuality and God’s will often fail to make. It’s the difference between homosexuality (that is, same-sex attraction), and homosexual behavior, in other words sex between men or between women.
Listen very carefully now, because this is a crucial distinction. Homosexuality is not a sin. Same-sex attraction is not a sin. It is a temptation.
Life is full of temptations, and if you’re like most people, there are some temptations in your life that are very, very strong. There are others that are light, or depend on circumstances. And some sins are not particularly tempting to you at all. There are some things that tempt you that are not tempting to me. And there are probably some things that are very tempting to me that aren’t even on your radar.
For most people here today, indeed most of the people in the world, sexual temptation is a real issue in our lives. How many people here, at some time in your life, before, during or after your marriage, has ever been sexually attracted to someone who isn’t your husband or wife. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but my guess is that the answer is all of us.
Sometimes it’s stronger than others, depending on our circumstances, but it’s always there, lurking in the background. For most people that temptation is focused on the opposite sex.
Sexual temptation is not a sin. And, as we learned last week, when faced with sexual temptation the best strategy is to flee, because our sex drive is strong, and many a well-meaning believer has played with fire and gotten burned.
The thing is, you have no control over what tempts you. None at all.
For a small segment of the population, when it comes to sexual desire, they find themselves attracted not to the opposite sex but to the same sex. Through no choice of their own, their unique temptation is toward other men, or other women.
And my question is this: Why do we treat homosexual temptation as if it were somehow worse than heterosexual temptation? Why do we treat homosexuals who succumb to sexual temptation with less grace than we do heterosexuals who fall and get involved in a pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relationship? And we do – don’t we?
Billy Graham said not about homosexuality but about all sins, “Never take credit for not falling into a temptation that never tempted you in the first place.” That’s a good statement. It gives a little humility to life.
Same sex attraction is not a sin. Homosexuality is not a sin. But acting on that temptation, engaging in same-sex sexual relations – that is a sin, and I know that’s a word that a lot of very kind, gifted, loving, wonderful people find very difficult to hear. But it’s no more or less a sin than engaging in sexual relations heterosexually with someone you’re not married to.
The Bible actually draws this distinction, although indirectly, in 1 Corinthians 6:9, this time from a different translation: Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9-10 (NLT)
If the practice of homosexuality is not sin, then nothing in this book is a sin. But if homosexual sex is a sin, everything in this book is equally a sin. This is really what it comes down to in many ways. God created sex. So I’m going to trust his word when he says how we’re supposed to use and enjoy this marvelous gift.
As you look through the list, if I was talking to a friend, I think they might have some good, honest questions. Like: ”Isn’t calling homosexuality a sin? Isn’t that judging? And isn’t judging a sin?”
Josh McDowell says that the most often quoted verse in the Bible used to be John 3:16 but now it’s Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, lest you be judged,” that even people who are not believers quote this verse.
If you look at Matthew 7:1 it obviously means don’t judge others without looking at yourself. That’s what this is talking about.
“Judge not” means that you do not condemn the other person, that you recognize that God can work in their lives. They’re a sinner, I’m a sinner, we’re all sinners. You’re tempted by some things. I’m tempted by other things. To tell the truth, both of us sometimes fall. We’re all in need of God’s grace. So “judge not” means that you realize that the homosexual is a person just like me, struggling with a sin that I may nor may not understand. But they’re a person just like me.
It is not judgmental to state God’s standard and God’s standard is sex is for marriage. That’s His standard. He makes it simple.
Let me give you some insight into why I think the homosexual community is so angry so often. I think they intuitively sense many times that there is somewhat a double standard. And the homosexual looks at that and says, “We want the same standard.” That’s why I think the homosexual community is so angry.
In fact this is the next thing I’d say to my gay friend – and I say it now to anyone here today who is gay or is struggling with same-sex attraction. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that the Christian church has treated you as though your sin is worse than my sin, as though your temptation is worse than my temptation.” I’d personally say, “I’m sorry for all of the times I’ve laughed at “gay” jokes, or used ugly words that dehumanize homosexual people. I’m ashamed of myself, and ashamed for the church, because I can’t imagine Jesus ever treating another human being as unlovingly as we’ve sometimes treated you. Please forgive me. Please forgive us.”
3. The church needs to repent over our treatment of homosexuals.
Last week I talked about how difficult it was for me as a single Christian to remain faithful to God’s sexual standards. I was 39 when I got married, and believe me I’ve suffered just as much sexual temptation as anyone. But one thing I had going for me was that I could always get together with other Christian men about what I was going through, and they’d understand. They’d accept me, hold me accountable, encourage me, and love me.
And I’ve wondered – if I were a teenage boy who was tempted not by girls, but by other boys, if I was struggling with same-sex attraction, who in the church would I have felt safe sharing that with. Probably no one. So I would have kept it to myself, tried to fight it alone, to suppress it, to deny it. You know what happens when you treat temptation alone? First, you get lonely. And second, the temptation gets stronger.
So what happens to most teens who are struggling with same-sex attraction in the church? They either hide it, living a secret life of fear and shame. Or, when that fails, they embrace it and say, “Since I can’t overcome this, I’ll go to be with those who say it’s not a problem. I’ll find people who will love me, and accept me, and encourage me. And that, of course, is when people “come out” and embrace the homosexual community as their own.
They run there, because they sense that there’s no place for them here.
The word “repent” means change your way of thinking and acting. And that’s what we need to do, because of what we said in point number 1. God loves the World – including homosexuals.
A fourth thing I’d say to my friend – and this may be the most difficult to hear. I know saying that homosexuality is a sin is not politically correct. But the next one might be the most difficult to hear:
4. You have a choice – God has a better way.
No one really knows what causes some people to have same-sex attraction. It’s not genetic, at least not entirely. If homosexuality was genetic, 100% of identical twins would be homosexual if their twin was homosexual. It’s just not so. In fact, if one identical twin is homosexual, the other twin’s chances of being homosexual are about the same as the general population. It’s not genetic.
But it’s not a choice either. No one wakes up one morning and says, “Hmmm. I think I’ll be gay!” Nurture plays some part in the equation. Among men the incidence of homosexuality is much higher where there was an abusive or absent father. There may even be some factors in the womb that contribute to this particular sexual orientation.
But here’s the thing. Every one of us in this room is born with certain predispositions to do the wrong thing. Some of you are really intelligent. You are born with the predisposition to intellectually pride, looking down on other people. You’ve got to battle with it. Some of you grew up in families where you were abused, beaten. A high percentage of you have to struggle with rage in your life. You can become addicted to rage when you’ve been a victim in your life.
Neither of those is your fault but you still have to live with them.
What does God have to say about all this? It doesn’t matter if it’s our DNA. It doesn’t matter how our families function or didn’t function. God says, Here’s how I want you to live. I will give you the strength to live that way.
Each of us are morally responsible to God for giving ourselves permission to cross over the line between temptation and sin. That’s one of the clearest things in God’s word.
Is there a record of anyone, anywhere being set free from homosexuality? My answer would be yes. An immediate yes. It’s in the Bible. Homosexuality wasn’t the only sin in the list of a lot of sins that we get involved in our lives, but about every one of them, God’s word says this: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6:11 (NIV)
He says you were set free. Here’s a Biblical example of someone set free from the sin of homosexuality. That truth is being lost today that we can be set free.
Now, here’s some information you certainly have not heard from the secular media.
The National Association for research and Therapy for Homosexuality charts a 25-30% cure rate for homosexuals when same-sex attraction is treated as an addiction, rather than an inherited and unchangeable trait. Masters and Johnson have reported a 50 to 60% cure rate after five years.
Sometimes cure means you’re never tempted again. What once attracted you to do what God says do not do, touch what God says do not touch, just loses its attraction to you. A person who experiences predominantly or exclusively same-sex attraction, and who sincerely wants to change, after several years of compassionate treatment, has over a 30% chance of becoming totally heterosexual in their sexual orientation. That’s pretty amazing, and compares favorably to the cure rate for just about any addictive behavior. That’s a wonderful thing.
But sometimes cure doesn’t mean never being tempted again. It means gaining the ability to resist what was once an irresistable temptation. What does it mean to be cured of alcoholism? Most of us understand this in our society – once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. Continuing to go to Twelve-Step meetings, continuing to realize they’re going to be tempted by this sin for the rest of their life. The possibility of lowering the frequency and intensity of homosexual desire, and actually having the ability to have genuine heterosexual desire and relationships – even marriage – is even higher.
That’s not discounting the fact that God sometimes miraculously heals of a sin and the temptation is gone immediately. He’s God. He can choose to do it. But we all struggle with besetting sins in our lives. It’s a process. It takes a while.
I want to conclude with practical steps of advice, a tool, for those struggling with the sin of homosexuality in their own life or to give to a homosexual friend. This list came from a homosexual man to those struggling with homosexuality, one who became a believer and began to allow God to heal and to bring a great new sense of peace and joy.
Get professional help.
Find a church with a caring ministry.
Meditate on God’s word.
Change the places you go and who you go with.
Avoid the temptation to immediately throw yourself into a heterosexual relationship. If you do that you’re going to feel like it didn’t work and you’ll immediately you go back to your old lifestyle.
Advice for those with a homosexual friend:
1. Get a hold of your emotions. Don’t talk to anyone about their homosexuality until you can see them through the compassionate eyes of Jesus, and until you’ve come clean about your own sexual temptations and failures.
2. Forgive – as God forgives you.
3. Get God’s perspective.
4. Keep lines of communication open.
5. Demonstrate love and acceptance.
6. Let go.
7. Pray and wait
For homosexuals here
For those who know and love a homosexual person
For our church – to be safe and loving, speak truth, but always in love