With “hot” topics like homosexuality and gay marriage floating around these days, is there really anything new to be said, or anything to be gained by writing (or reading) another article on the topic? Perhaps I’m too idealistic or naive to think that I can add anything constructive, and yet I had some thoughts that might be useful to some who read this, helping people on both sides of the issue to see some aspects from a different perspective.
I have read a number of articles myself on this topic, and I find it annoying that authors hide their perspective so that you can’t tell what they really think — like what angle they take. I will go against the trend and say in the up front what my perspective is — but please read further, because I promise you that the nuances that follow might prove valuable to you. To clarify: I am not writing here about what any state or nation ought to do about laws. I am writing to those who care about or are interested in God’s perspective. And I love writing about God, because it seems so few really know his heart, and so many get confused by all the loud rhetoric — and I love telling people about his incredible love for them.
I do, however, believe that the Bible teaches that homosexual acts are sinful — not the worst of sins, not the least of sins, but sinful, like a lot of other things that people do — even good people, people who go to church and love their kids and most of the time try to do what is right.1 I don’t want to dwell on debating or proving that it is a sin, I instead want to focus on the issue of temptation. Those with same-sex attraction are likely tempted to sin in that way — but temptation itself is not sinful. If it were, then Jesus was sinful, because the Bible tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). But in the same breath, the writer finishes his thought with the words “yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). Let us read the passage in its entirety:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV).
Jesus was tempted IN EVERY WAY! If that is true, surely Jesus struggled with same-sex attraction, too, since that is clearly one way to be tempted. If Jesus only had the easy temptations, then he wouldn’t be that great a high priest, representing us before God. But he is a great high priest! He was tempted in every way.
The passage goes on to say that Jesus practiced “reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:8) and that “he learned obedience from what he suffered” (verse 9). Jesus SUFFERED by enduring temptations but ultimately submitting to God’s will. SUFFERED! Jesus can identify with all of our struggles. Many temptations are not easy for us, and they weren’t easy for Jesus. Jesus can sympathize with us in all of our struggles, because he knows what it is like.
Of course, we want to win the struggle, so that we don’t sin… But that can be a learning process, requiring discipline, like a runner in training. And it often requires a large amount of grace from God. While Jesus didn’t sin, most people in any kind of difficult training experience both victory and defeat. Sometimes it is the defeats that teach us the most.
While struggling with temptation can be used to build character in our lives as it did in Jesus’ life, it is often only for a season. Jesus wants us to boldly go to him, asking him to help us gain victory over temptation. He will intercede for us. In due time, we may hope to be relieved of the burden of a particular temptation.
Yet we think of a struggle the Apostle Paul shared about in 1 Corinthians 12:7-9:
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (NIV).
We don’t know if this “thorn” was temptation or something else, but we can see how God can use the burden of temptation to reveal His power as we rely on His grace — whether or not we ever get set free.
In response to his disciples saying that in some circumstances it is better not to marry, Jesus told them, “‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it'” (Matthew 19:11-12, NIV). I wonder whether those who want to follow Jesus but who have no freedom from same-sex attraction might not be able to offer themselves as single, celibate people (eunuchs) for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? Some would even suggest that such folks might even fit into the first category that Jesus mentions, the one of “being born that way”.
But the promise to eunuchs from Isaiah declares an incredible blessing over such people:
“‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off'” (Isaiah 56:4-5, NIV)
Don’t forget that Jesus himself lived as a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Jesus fully identifies with those who embrace such a lifestyle.
1 My goal is not to present an air-tight argument about homosexual practices being considered a sin in the Bible. I only want to demonstrate that such a statement is reasonable. So I will give just two examples:
- In Leviticus 18:22, it says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (ESV).
- In Romans 1:26-28, the Apostle Paul writes, “Women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other… When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done” (NLT).
I am aware that there are some who interpret these passages as not prohibiting homosexual acts within the context of gay marriage, but after listening to their arguments, I feel that the more traditional view of these verses makes better sense to me.