Homosexuality: Caring for those who experience same-sex attraction

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1 Corinthians 6:9-11

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Hot Button topics, and we are exploring various cultural issues where our culture speaks a very different message to us than God does in his word. In the first part of this series we looked at four topics – abortion, assisted suicide, alcohol and racism. So far in the second part of the series we have looked at living together and divorce. Today we come to the topic of homosexuality. How should we as Christians care for those who experience same-sex attraction? We will be looking at a number of passages from the Bible this morning, but let us begin with these verses here in 1 Corinthians 6. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and pray.)

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Out of all the hot button topics in our series, the cultural view of homosexuality has probably experienced the greatest and most rapid change in recent years. In the year 2005 same-sex marriage was illegal in every state in America. In 2015 the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right across the entire nation. This momentous change in law was preceded by a growing acceptance of homosexual relationships in our culture where many people no longer see anything wrong with homosexual or lesbian relationships.

In fact, it is no longer enough just to tolerate homosexual relationships in society. The culture now asks that you affirm and approve such relationships. The pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that if you even question the morality of homosexual relationships, you are branded as hateful or intolerant. Thus, anyone who takes a different view of homosexuality than the culture does is often shamed into silence.

But as authors Denny Burk and Heath Lambert ask in their book, Transforming Homosexuality: “Are these really the only two options? Is it true that our only options are either to hate our same-sex–attracted neighbors or to affirm them? This is a false choice. There is another option. It is the biblical option, and it also happens to be the one that is the most loving…. [We are] called to speak the truth in love.” (Denny Burk and Heath Lambert, Transforming Homosexuality, pp. 102-103)

As Christians we don’t take our cues from the culture. We must always return to Scripture and ask, “What does God tell us in his word?” God created this world, and he knows how it’s supposed to work. He knows what is best for each of us, and when we follow his way, our lives are changed for the better.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is wonderful news for those who experience same-sex attraction, and as believers we have the privilege of sharing that good news with our friends and family in the culture. But in order to do so, we must first make sure that we are responding to people and the culture in biblically appropriate ways.

So, how can we as Christians care for those who experience same-sex attraction? We are going to look at three ways this morning. 1) Show compassion. 2) Speak the truth. And 3) Provide supportive friendships within the church.

I. Show compassion

First of all, we must show compassion. Unfortunately, the church does not have a good reputation for showing compassion to those who struggle with homosexuality. In our efforts to denounce the sin, too often we have forgotten to love the sinner. We are getting better at this, but we have a long track record to overcome.

Here are some truths from Scripture that will help you grow in compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction.

   A. We are all created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27)

First of all, we are all created in God’s image. We read in Genesis 1: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27) This is that foundational verse we keep coming back to in our Hot Button Topics series. Every human being is created in God’s image, and so human life is sacred, and we all have inherent dignity and worth.

John Stott writes about this in his book on Same Sex Relationships. He acknowledges the problem of sin but then writes:

“Yet we also need to be sensitive to the fact that we are dealing with people’s emotions, their sexual identity and their dreams of finding love and acceptance…. We are all human and we are all sexual. If we stereotype and stigmatize one another, then we do not treat each other with the respect that each person deserves…. As far as the Bible is concerned, there is no such phenomenon as ‘a homosexual’ or ‘a heterosexual’: there are only people made in the image of God.” (John Stott, Same Sex Relationships, Kindle location 116)

We should have compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction first of all because we are all created in God’s image.

   B. We are all sinful, just in different ways (John 8:7; James 3:2)

Secondly, we should have compassion because we are all sinful, just in different ways. James 3:2 says: “We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2) And Jesus said to the Pharisees who wanted to condemn the woman caught in adultery: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

We may all have different struggles and different temptations, but there is one way we are all exactly the same. We all struggle with sin. Quoting from John Stott again:

“We are all frail and vulnerable and nobody has been sexually sinless apart from Jesus…. Besides, sexual sins are not the only sins, nor even necessarily the most sinful; pride and hypocrisy are surely worse.” (John Stott, Same Sex Relationships, Kindle location 122)

We also need to remember that Christians are not exempt from the temptation of same-sex attraction. Christians and non-Christians are similar in that we struggle with all sorts of sin, and there are not different categories of temptation depending on whether or not you are a believer. And so, whether you struggle with heterosexual lust or homosexual lust or any other sin, we should have compassion for others, because we are all sinful, just in different ways.

   C. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)

And then a third reason we should have compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction is because Jesus tells us that you should, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) You may never have experienced same-sex attraction, but you should love your friends and family members who do. And you should try to understand, as best you can, what they are going through, what it is like for them.

Sam Allberry is a Christian pastor in England who experiences same-sex attraction and yet chooses not to act on those temptations. He has some good advice for those of us who do not experience same-sex attraction. In his book, Is God Anti-Gay? (Questions Christians Ask), he writes about the following scenario:

“My non-Christian friend has just told me they’re gay. How should I respond?…. The first thing you should do is thank them for being so open, and entrusting something so personal to you…. It is also important to assure them that their fears of being rejected by you are unfounded…. Listen to them. It is good to ask people a bit about their experiences of homosexuality…. What’s the best way to share Christ with a gay friend? We need to make every effort to let them know that we are for them and not against them…. We need to love them more than their gay friends do, and we need to love them more than they love their homosexuality.” (Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay?, pp. 80-81)

Rosaria Butterfield is a Christian author who was saved out of a lesbian lifestyle. She relates her story in her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Her journey to Christ began when she wrote an article about her lesbianism in a local newspaper and received literally boxes of both hate mail and fan mail. She separated the letters out into two containers, but there was one letter that didn’t fit either category. She called it the “kindest letter of opposition” she had ever received. It was from a pastor who told her the truth about her sin but warmly accepted her as a person. That letter opened up a conversation which led into a friendship with the pastor and his family which led into her attending church and eventually trusting Jesus as her Savior.

How can we as Christians care for those who experience same-sex attraction? The first thing we need to do is show compassion. We are all created in God’s image. We are all sinful, just in different ways. Jesus tells us to love your neighbor as yourself.

II. Speak the truth

But we can’t stop there. It’s not enough just to show compassion. We must also speak the truth. In fact, one of the most loving things we can do for any person struggling with any sin is to speak the truth from God’s word to them about that sin, but always with an attitude of humility and love.

   A. Homosexual relations are unnatural (Genesis 1:27; Romans 1:26-27)

So, what does the Bible say about homosexuality? First of all, that homosexual relations are unnatural. Going back to Genesis 1:27 again, we read: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) This verse is given to us not only in the context of creation, but it also sets the pattern for God’s design for sexuality. We are created as sexual creatures, and the natural order is male and female.

The book of Romans explores this further. We read in Romans 1 about those who rejected God: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:26-27)

Sam Allberry writes: “This shows us why it is not true for those with SSA to say: ‘But God made me this way!’ Paul’s point in Romans 1 is that our ‘nature’ (as we experience it) is not natural (as God intended it). All of us have desires that are warped as a result of our fallen nature. Desires for things God has forbidden are a reflection of how sin has distorted me, not how God has made me.” (Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay?, Kindle location 286)

No one knows why some people experience same-sex attraction. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “the causes of sexual orientation (whether homosexual or heterosexual) are not known at this time and likely are multifactorial including biological and behavioral roots which may vary between different individuals and may even vary over time.”

Even if some people are born with a predisposition towards same-sex attraction, that doesn’t make it right or natural. We live in a fallen world, and so all of us are born with predispositions towards things that are not God’s intention for us. We all need Christ, and we all need a savior. As Kevin DeYoung writes in his book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?: “No matter how we think we might have been born one way, Christ insists that we must be born again a different way (John 3:3–7; Eph. 2:1–10).” (Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, p. 112)

   B. Homosexual practice is sinful (Leviticus 18:22; 1 Timothy 1:8-10)

So that’s the first thing the Bible teaches us about homosexuality – homosexual relations are unnatural. Secondly, the Bible tells us that homosexual practice is sinful.

We read in Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22) Or in the New Testament we read in 1 Timothy 1: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:8-10)

This passage in Timothy lists a whole number of things that mark us out as ungodly and sinful. One of the groups of sins listed is the phrase “adulterers and perverts.” This phrase in verse 10 translates two words that specifically mean “the sexually immoral and those who practice homosexuality.” The sexually immoral are those who practice any sex outside of marriage, including adultery and premarital sex, while those who practice homosexuality are those who directly engage in homosexual acts.

That’s the second thing the Bible teaches us about homosexuality. Homosexual practice is sinful.

   C. Homosexual sin is forgivable (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

We’ve seen two things so far. 1) Homosexual relations are unnatural. 2) Homosexual practice is sinful. But the third one is equally important. 3) Homosexual sin is forgivable. Jesus died for all our sins, and that includes homosexual sin.

We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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 Corinthians 6:9-11)

One again, notice that homosexuality is not singled out in any way but is listed along with a number of sins that unconfessed and unrepented of will keep you out of the kingdom of God. Notice also that Paul says some of the Christians to whom he is writing used to participate in these sins. But when they came to Christ, they were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were forgiven. Homosexual sin is not some special category of sin that is different from other sins. It is sin, but like other sins, it is sin that can be forgiven.

Now that doesn’t mean that when you become a Christian, you will no longer experience some of the same temptations and desires you experienced before you became a Christian. That’s true for all of us. But you have a new identity in Christ, and you have a new source of help in the Holy Spirit who will help you to live a godly life that is pleasing to God in every way.

   D. What about marriage?

What about marriage and the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to legalize gay marriage across the United States? Is same-sex marriage an option for those who experience same-sex attraction? Once again, we need to see what the Bible says about this.

      1) Marriage is to be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4)

First of all, the Bible tells us that marriage is to be honored by all. Hebrews 13:4 says: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4) Marriage should be honored by all, but does that include same-sex marriage?

      2) Marriage is between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-5)

The Bible says no, because Jesus made it clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-5: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5)

We looked carefully at Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 last week and came up with this Biblical definition of marriage: “Marriage was created by God as a sacred, covenant relationship between a man and a woman based on a public vow of lifetime faithfulness.”

Marriage is between a man and a woman, and so by definition same-sex marriage is not what God calls marriage, anymore than living together as boyfriend and girlfriend is what God calls marriage. God created marriage, and therefore God defines marriage. When we change the definition of marriage, we are no longer dealing with marriage as God defines it but with something else.

When it comes to our sexuality God calls all of us – homosexual and heterosexual alike – to one of two options: either sexual faithfulness between a man and a woman in marriage or abstinence and celibacy outside of marriage.

I recognize that makes it very difficult for the person who experiences same-sex attraction. I have a lot of compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction, even as I have a lot of compassion for anyone who is single and desires to get married. But the answer for the single person is not to engage in sex outside of marriage. As singles we are called to follow Jesus in our singleness, even as married couples are called to follow Jesus in their marriages.

As Christians we must show compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction. But we must also speak the truth in love. As Jean Lloyd, a former lesbian put it, “Continue to love me, but remember that you cannot be more merciful than God. It isn’t mercy to affirm same-sex acts as good…. Don’t compromise truth; help me to live in harmony with it” (“Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew about My Homosexuality,” Public Discourse, December 10, 2014, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/12/14149/).

III. Provide supportive friendships within the church

How can we as Christians care for those who experience same-sex attraction? 1) Show compassion. 2) Speak the truth. And 3) Provide supportive friendships within the church.

John Stott writes: “At the heart of the human condition is a deep and natural hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a longing for completeness. If gay people cannot find these things in the local ‘church family’, we have no business to go on using that expression.” (John Stott, Same Sex Relationships, Kindle location 818)

This is true not just for those who experience same-sex attraction, but for all singles in the church. We all need supportive friendships, and what place better than the church.

   A. We are one family in the body of Christ (Matthew 12:49-50)

First of all, we are all one family in the body of Christ. Jesus understood this. For example, we read in Matthew 12: “Pointing to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12:49-50)

One of the great things about being a Christian is that you have family wherever you go. We are one family in the body of Christ, and we should treat each other as family in the church. As Kevin DeYoung writes:

“The church has long known about the pain of persecution, infertility, betrayal, injustice, addiction, famine, depression, and death. The church is just beginning to learn about the pain of living with unwanted same-sex attraction. For a growing number of Christians it is part of their cross to bear. And it should not be carried alone…. If we ask the single Christian to be chaste, we can only ask them to carry that cross in community. Perhaps single is not even the best term for those whom we expect live a full life in the midst of friends and colaborers. If God sets the lonely in families, so should we (Ps. 68:6 NIV).” (Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, pp. 118-119)

   B. Be devoted in love; practice hospitality (Romans 12:9-13)

Secondly, God calls us to be devoted in love and to practice hospitality. We read these beautiful words in Romans 12: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)

We need to be devoted to each other in brotherly love. We need to practice hospitality and welcome people into our homes for meals, and conversation and friendships. Once again, this is true for all singles as well as those who experience same-sex attraction.

   C. Encourage each other towards love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Finally, we need to encourage each other towards love and good works. We read in Hebrews 10: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We all battle against sin in many ways, and we all need to meet regularly to encourage each other to love and good deeds.

CONCLUSION: How can we as Christians care for those who experience same-sex attraction? 1) Show compassion. 2) Speak the truth. 3) Provide supportive friendships within the church.

I would like to close by reading to you a testimony from a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction. This is Graham’s testimony. He writes:

“I have heard many passionate arguments that we must change our teaching on sexuality because not all facing this temptation seem able to bear the struggle; this view is presented as a change grounded in pastoral wisdom and love. My experience has been the absolute reverse. I have chosen a path of abstention from homosexual practice, but not as the result of some special strength or ability on my part, but because the Bible’s teaching is inescapably clear. The walk has not been easy. I have known periods of intense anguish and anger, but I have also experienced the mighty and compassionate hand of God pulling me free from that. That has been a wonderful gift, and an experience that resonates with the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament about the experience of living for him….

It is my conviction that changing our teaching to accommodate homosexual relationships does not just undermine a handful of Bible verses, but compromises the whole vision of the gospel. Jesus is worth everything. Jesus is able to keep us from falling. I fear we are accepting a message that says the single life is unbearable and life is not possible without sex. That is a lie. These views have no support in Scripture, or the wonderful life of Christ, which we are called to imitate. Dare we ever say that anything is too much to offer to God? We may groan with creation, (Romans 8), as we await his return—but what a reward awaits us: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will receive eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). And what joy Jesus brings us as he walks with us and cheers us on the way. (John Stott, Same Sex Relationships, Kindle location 686)

© Ray Fowler

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Click here for more messages from the Hot Button Topics series.
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Recommended Resources on Homosexuality:

Books: (* = highly recommended)
*Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, by Mark A. Yarhouse
*Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
Love into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard
*Same Sex Relationships by John Stott
Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
Transforming Homosexuality by Denny Burk
*What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

Resources:
Living Out: http://www.livingout.org/
True Freedom Trust: http://truefreedomtrust.co.uk/stories
Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew about My Homosexuality:
   http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/12/14149/

Messages
For audio of the messages in this series: pccflorida.org/sermons/
For full text manuscripts of the messages in this series: rayfowler.org/sermons/hot-button-topics/