The following post is the 1st of a 5 part series of posts on “Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality?” In this 1st post I will be answering the question “Is Homosexuality A Sin?” If you would like to see the other questions addressed in this series of posts, then just click the links below:
I originally wrote the content of these posts when I was asked to address these questions at a summer youth camp. The intended purpose of these posts are to help Christians who already have a firm conviction about the authority of Scripture. I want them to better understand what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. So my hope is that these truths will help instruct Christians who want to share the gospel with the homosexuals they know.
Is Homosexuality A Sin?
I think before we answer this question we need to first ask ourselves “What is a sin?” If we are going to call homosexuality a sin we should probably make sure we know what is a sin so that we can know whether or not homosexuality deserves to fit in that category.
The shortest and simplest definition of sin in the Bible is found in 1 John 3:4 and it says quite plainly that “sin is lawlessness.” According to this passage we see that disobedience to God’s law is a simple biblical definition of sin.
So now we need to read through God’s word and see if homosexuality is ever addressed. If it is addressed, then we need to figure out whether or not it is encouraged, allowed, or forbidden.
Homosexuality In The Bible
The bible is not silent about homosexuality. When we read through the Scriptures we find at least nine explicit references to homosexual behavior. Here are those references in the order they appear in the Bible:
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Timothy 1:9-10
understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
2 Peter 2:6
if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Is Homosexuality A Sin?
It seems to me that a surface level reading of these passages leaves us with only one conclusion…homosexuality is a sin.
For some people this may be all they need to hear. I can remember one time talking with a homosexual woman who believed in God and in the authority of Scripture, but she did not know what the bible had to say about homosexuality. No one had ever taught her where in the bible homosexuality was forbidden. After simply hearing and seeing for herself some of these passages she was convinced that her current lifestyle was not in accordance with God’s will and that she needed to repent of her sin.
I think one application we should take away from this example is that as Christians we need to make sure we know what the bible says about homosexuality and where it says it. We should make sure we know some of the references listed above.
Why Is Homosexuality A Sin?
However, most of my experiences and conversations lead me to believe that there are many more people we will talk to about this topic who will not believe in God or in the authority of Scripture. A simple surface level reading of Scripture will not be adequate. If all we know are a few bible verses that forbid homosexuality, then all we are saying people is that “homosexuality is a sin because God said so in the bible.”
I certainly believe that is a good enough reason to give people, but what if they do not believe in God? What if they do not trust the bible? What good will it do to just tell them homosexuality is a sin because God said so in the bible? Maybe we need to talk more about whether or not there is a God? Maybe we need to talk with them about whether or not they should trust the bible?
It might also be good if we knew why homosexuality was a sin. For example, it is one thing for a young man to have sexual relations with 100 other young men, but what if one young man only had sexual relations with one partner his entire life? What would be wrong with that?
It has been argued by some people that what the bible is really forbidding is not homosexuality in a monogamous relationship, but the unhealthy lifestyle of having multiple partners that was common in some of the societies when the bible was written.
What do we have to say to an objection like that?
One approach would be to have an in-depth discussion about all of the specific passages listed above. However, I would encourage you to try and have a conversation more about what makes any sin a sin. I think this will get at more of the heart of the issue and save you from some rabbit trails.
If you can steer a conversation in this direction, then I think you will want to eventually open up to Romans 1:18-32. I believe this passage teaches us that there is a 3-step progression that happens when we sin. I believe these three steps helps us see what makes sin a sin.
Do you see the three steps? Do you see how they are repeated 3 times?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and (Step # 1: Exchanging Truth About God) exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Step # 2: God Giving Over To Sin) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, (Step # 3: The Acting Out In Sin) to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (Step # 1: Exchanging Truth About God) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Step # 2: God Giving Over To Sin) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. (Step # 3: The Acting Out In Sin) For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Step # 1: Exchanging Truth About God) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, (Step # 2: God Giving Over To Sin) God gave them up to a debased mind (Step # 3: The Acting Out In Sin) to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they knowGod’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
S0 What Makes Sin A Sin?
According to Romans 1:18-32, idolatry is what makes a sin a sin. We sin when we are not acknowledging God, when we are not beholding his supreme glory, and when we are believing lies about God. Sin begins in our hearts and minds and then it moves out to our external actions.
So What Makes Homosexuality A Sin?
Let’s return to this question and see if we can connect the dots. What make homosexuality a sin?
As John Piper has explained, “When you exchange the glory of God for idols, the main one that you exchange the glory of God for is yourself. The idol that you have is yourself. Well, what sex are you? My sex is male. If you’re a woman your sex is female. And [Paul] seems to draw out the fact that in exchanging God for our most cherished idol, which is self, we are prone to fall in love with the same sex. So, implication: same-sex attraction is a dysfunctional form of idolatry. We worship created things that resemble ourselves.”
What Piper explains here is that selfishness and idolatry are one in the same. The love of self is idolatry. So we can call it idolatry or we can call it selfishness, but what makes homosexuality a sin is that it is finding comfort, love, satisfaction, sexual attraction, etc… in created things that are a reflection of ourselves. In sum, we want ourselves more than we want God. We believe in ourselves more than we believe in God.
Homosexuality & Sharing The Gospel
If homosexuality is a sin, then we cannot be afraid to call it a sin. We cannot be afraid of telling those we love that they should repent of this sin and turn to Christ. We want to encourage people to experience God’s plan for sex and marriage as laid out in Scripture.
If we cannot call it a sin then we are being cowardly. We certainly need to be praying for boldness about this issue. In our culture this may be one of the areas where you will receive some overt persecution for taking a stand. Yet, don’t forget that we can be bold and not be obnoxious. We can be bold and still be loving, kind, and respectful to homosexuals.
Lastly, we probably should not go to the next gay pride parade and hold up a big sign that says “God Hates Fags.” What we communicate with people in our evangelism is essential, but how we communicate it is often just as important.