Perhaps the most controversial and divisive issue that the Christian church has encountered in the past century is its relationship with the LGBT community, and I believe the church’s less than graceful handling of this topic is one of the chief reasons for its declining influence in western culture. While the church seems adept at caring for all variety of people, it seems either less prepared or less willing to extend that same grace to Christians with same-sex attraction.
I will start by saying that I am not going to address issues such as same-sex marriage or other legal issues that arise with such a topic. To be honest, my views probably do not align with either the conservative or liberal schools of thought, and I will leave this topic to the other writers should they choose to address it. I am also not addressing the members of the LGBT community who have no interest in being a part of the church or coming to know God. Instead, I will focus both on the church’s views toward the homosexual community and how the church needs to interact with Christians that identify as gay.
For Christians, there are a number of stigmas that we need to discard. For starters, we need to understand that homosexuality is not a disease to be cured. Biblically speaking, homosexual actions should be included in the category of lust. But lust is not the disease; sin is the disease, and lust is just one of many symptoms of the sinful nature within that all people, regardless of orientation, will live with every day for the remainder of their lives until the complete healing and renewal that comes with their reunion with Christ in heaven.
Next, we should understand that “conversion therapy” produces, at best, limited success.[i] [ii] These practices seek to remove the desire that a person with same-sex attraction may feel, but a desire will likely never be removed,[iii] and I feel that such practices should be done away with for a number of reasons.
Conversion therapies assume that the actions of man can undo the sinful nature within. While it is certainly possible that God may decide to change the desires in your heart, people that claim to have changed their sexual orientation are the exception, not the rule. In the same way that an alcoholic or addict can remain sober and pure for the rest of his life, the desire for his vice will likely always be there. A married man, no matter how much he loves his wife, will always feel some level of attraction to other women. It is only when we act upon these desires that we commit an immoral act, and these desires can only be changed should God decide to do so.
I must add, this is not at all to diminish the value of church groups that meet to support those with same-sex attraction, and I am especially not suggesting that one should not pray about it. While we can pray for God to alter the sinful nature within, the duty of the church should be to prepare men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, for purity, not for conversion.
Now there is the issue of origin. Were homosexuals born that way? Maybe, maybe not. As it stands now there is no real way to know if it is due to genetics or psychology or any number of reasons.[iv] We do not, however, have any good reason to think that it is a choice, and we should never make the claim that a person has chosen to be gay. Once again, we cannot choose our desires or our vices.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, Christians need to lead the way in the fight against violence and bullying against homosexuals. Regardless of whether someone wants anything to do with God or the church, there is no excuse for harassing or ridiculing someone for any reason, especially for their sexual orientation. Never again should Christians use the word “gay” as a derogatory term or use any other similar insults. Ridiculing or bullying someone for any reason is completely contrary to the message of Christ.
Finally, the church needs to understand that it is possible for a practicing homosexual to be a Christian. Our salvation does not depend upon our sexuality. While our culture proclaims that our sexuality is the foundation of our identity, we as Christians need to understand that our identity is found only in our place as children of God redeemed by Christ. Ironically, the church that says a homosexual cannot be a Christian is making the same error as the secular culture: they are equating a person’s identity and worth with their sexuality.
But all of this being said, there is no way to reconcile homosexual actions with Scripture. While it is certainly possible that a person who lives such a life can be a Christian, they will never find Biblical support for their actions. Despite what fringe theologians and writers have to say, there is no way to make it seem that God condones same-sex actions or relationships, even monogamous ones.[v]
Now, a person can rightly say that this seems unfair. Why should a heterosexual person get to enjoy romantic intimacy while a homosexual person cannot? But it is important to remember that all people, regardless of orientation, are called to celibacy until they are married. But marriage is not guaranteed to everyone. The desire for human intimacy is a legitimate and pure need that almost all people have, but it is a need that can be fulfilled independent of sex or romance. Love, especially, can be had by any person, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done, in the person of Christ and the infinite and fulfilling love that He freely offers to all people.[vi] [vii]
The final issue that must be understood is that God’s desire for us is neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality. Many people may think that homosexual is the opposite of heterosexual, and to an even smaller number, they may think that straight is good, gay is bad. But this is not the case. Lust has no gender; a man lusting after a woman is no different than if he were to lust after another man. To God, homosexual and heterosexual are meaningless terms. There is only marriage or lust. Sexuality is intended to be an aspect of marriage, not of relationships.
Writer and theologian Christopher Yuan notes that God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” God does not say, “Be heterosexual, for I am heterosexual.” Yuan explains that holy sexuality is not based on orientation, but on obedience to express sexuality only in the confines of marriage. A man does not need to be attracted to all women in order to be married, he only needs to be attracted to one woman.[viii]
Heterosexuality should not be a person’s goal. Hypothetically, even if it is possible to change your sexual orientation, you will still struggle with lust. The only difference is that you’ve changed the targeted gender of that lust. But how is one better than the other?
The church has become known as an enemy of the LGBT community. As western culture has shifted the focus of a person’s identity to equate with their sexuality, the church has generally responded with a sweeping condemnation of homosexuality without attempting to understand or minister to the gay community. Why is the church so willing to rush to the aid of alcoholics or adulterers or even serious criminals, but the issue of homosexuality remains taboo? For the large number of gays and lesbians who come out, why are they shunned from both their family and their church?
These men and women, our brothers and sisters in Christ, are ostracized or ignored when they need the loving support of their church. Even though the church cannot condone their actions, it cannot shun those who come seeking support and guidance on such a difficult topic. The church needs to be a place where all people, regardless of their desires, can come together to find both the fulfilling love of Christ and the strength of fellow believers to stay strong through all of their struggles.
– Jacob Ferretti
[i] American Psychological Association, “What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?” Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality, apa.org, accessed August 26, 2015.
[ii] “What is conversion/reparative therapy, and is it biblical?” gotquestions.org, accessed August 27, 2015.
[iii] Matt Moore, “Gay Conversion Therapy: Experiencing Jesus Is a Better Alternative,” The Christian Post, April 12, 2015.
[iv] American Psychological Association, “What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?”, Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality, apa.org, accessed August 26, 2015.
[v] Christopher Yuan, “Why ‘God and the Gay Christian’ is Wrong about the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships”, Christianity Today, June 2014.
[vi] 1 John 4:16, ESV
[vii] 2 Corinthians 5:15
[viii] Christopher Yuan, Out of a Far Country, pg. 187, Waterbrook Press, 2011.