Homosexual Orientation vs. Homosexual Behavior
by Kevin Probst
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The term ‘homosexuality’ is not found in the Bible. Nor is the term ‘lesbian’. The absence of these modern day terms in scripture does not indicate that scripture is silent regarding this issue. The Bible does not address orientation but the Bible very clearly and unequivocally addresses behavior. Same sex is condemned in the Pentateuch and also again in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul strongly warned about homosexual behavior, even listing it as one of those sins that, if not confessed and cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ, would certainly lead one to hell. (1)
God’s plan from the very beginning was that sexual relations should be between one man and one woman involved in a monogamous relationship that would last a lifetime. God’s condemnation of sexual activity outside of these parameters must be taken very seriously. Those involved in homosexual behavior or adulterous behavior in the Old Testament were subject to the punishment of death. The instructions were very specific and unarguable: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, that is detestable.” (2) The penalty for such behavior was clearly spelled out: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both have done what is detestable. They must be put to death’. (3) The severity of the law of the Old Testament is now redundant due to the fact that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice by which he made available an abundant grace to all who would believe in him and repent of their sins.
Since the fall of man our depraved nature has habitually taken the good and beautiful gifts of God and corrupted them. God gave us the ability to create art, but we have corrupted that gift by creating works that degrade the holy nature of God, even winning awards for placing a cross in a jar of urine and declaring it art. (4) God gave us music as a way of expressing our praise for him but we have corrupted his gift by using it to promote violence and hatred and twisted sexual behavior. God gave us the gift of sex so that we might procreate and multiply God’s crowning achievement, the creation of the human being. As a bonus he threw pleasure into the formula but we have corrupted his gift by trespassing beyond the parameters he has clearly set for us in scripture.
Lest Christians get on their high horse and beginning flailing away at those who commit sexual sins, let us beware of Christ’s requirement for holy living. He didn’t come to lower the standard of his Father’s holiness, on the contrary, Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (5) If anything, Christ is now raising the bar by requiring that those who call themselves Christians draw on the grace of God made available by his Holy Spirit and allow him to purify our minds.
So what are the parameters regarding sex in the Word of God? They are simple and very clear. We have only three options regarding sexual activity if we are to please a Holy God: (6)
1. Abstinence before marriage
2. Fidelity in marriage
3. Celibacy in singleness
Sometimes orientation can be changed. (7) There are others who seem to be destined to a life full of temptation. We must not believe the lie our culture is continually screaming in our ear that no one can really be fully human unless they are participating in some sort of sexual activity. The Apostle Paul refuted this lie when he commended those who chose celibacy as a lifestyle and were able to free themselves of sexual activity in order to live a more exclusive and sanctified life for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. (9)
The Bible does not condemn those who have an orientation toward homosexuality or toward infidelity. But it clearly condemns those who participate in sinful sexual acts. We must always distinguish between temptation and actual sin. Those who must fight a proclivity toward homosexuality and who do so successfully have not sinned. Those who fail in their struggle need to experience an alternative love, a love that demonstrates the holy nature of a forgiving and merciful God. True followers of Christ will not shove a boot in the face of the homosexual or the one who is sexually promiscuous. Rather, they will demonstrate the true nature of Christ who graciously offered living water to the woman at the well whose life was shredded with sexual sin. (10)
We often fall into the trap of treating gay and lesbian people as if they were lepers. We condemn their sin while committing an equal or greater sin of acting as if their actions merit a greater punishment for their sins.
Today Christians are expressing great concern over same-sex marriage. It is easy to find scripture to oppose such a union. But the marriage Christians should be more concerned about is the marriage of homosexual sin with Christianity itself. The idea that one can live in a continuous state of sin and disobedience and still claim ‘at-one-ness’ with Christ Jesus is a blasphemous heresy. Of course, the homosexual should be welcome to come as they are to our Christian assemblies but they are not welcome to stay as they are. The church is a place for all sinners to repent of their sin and join the body of believers who rejoice in Christ’s power to deliver us from sin.
What are the causes of homosexuality? Some would claim that there is a gene that causes one to be oriented toward homosexuality. There is no sure evidence of this claim and the study of identical twins with the same genetic code but differing orientations seems to contradict this claim. Environmental factors seem to play a part in orientation. Observe that very few homosexual men have a strong, healthy relationship with their father or any other male figure in their early lives. We all have inclinations. We all have orientations and a whole realm of experiences that have brought us to where we are. The Bible minimizes the psychological and environmental aspects and makes behavior the primary issue. We are all called to repentance.
1. 1 Timothy 1:8-11
2. Leviticus 18:22
3. Leviticus 20:13
5. Matthew 5:28
6. Matthew 19
8. 1 Corinthians 7:22-35
9. 1 Corinthians 7:8
10. John 4:1-26
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Great job addressing this volatile issue Kevin. I think that you defined the problem well. It is a heart and behavior issue that is no different than any other issue of disobedience. I was just reading in Numbers about the man picking up sticks on the Sabbath and his subsequent stoning. This may seem harsh to some however God calls for our complete obedience not just obeying how we see fit. Little foxes spoil the vine as little sins always lead to our permission for larger sin to eventually enter our lives.
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