My Neighbour Wants to Know the Christian Viewpoint on Homosexuality Romans 1:21-32; Matthew 15:10-11, 16-20
6/12/2019 3:29:50 AM
June 9, 2019
Rev. David Williams
We just watched a video clip of Rev. Sam Allberry. Sam is an ordained Anglican minister in the UK who experiences same sex attraction. That is, he is “homosexual.” But, as you saw, he has made the choice to live a life of celibacy given the Biblical testimony about his desires. Today we are dealing with a very difficult topic that is a hot topic in our culture today. Somebody submitted the question, “My neighbour wants to know what is the Christian viewpoint on homosexuality?”
My neighbour wants to know what is the Christian viewpoint on homosexuality? Part of the difficulty on answering this question is that Christianity is not uniform. There are many churches that cover a broad spectrum on this issue. Let me then refine the discussion to what I think the Biblical viewpoint is on homosexuality and that is the viewpoint that Christians should hold. 2 years ago I did a series on things I wouldn’t touch with a 10’ pole and we dealt with this issue in depth over 4 weeks. Today we are going to give a quicker response to the issue, but if you want access to those other sermons please let me know and I will send them to you!
This is one of the questions that the Bible does, in fact, deal with directly. However, there is so much confusion in our culture these days, and our culture’s view on homosexuality has changed so far, so fast that many of us are left confused and wondering. So we are going to look at one passage that specifically deals with homosexuality, among other things, and then another passage that helps us dig a little deeper into the problem.
Like most of our answers to questions in this series, the answer to the question is not the starting point. Rather, the answer is a conclusion we come to from a deeper foundation. That’s certainly the case today too, even though the Bible does talk about homosexuality repeatedly.
Turn please to Romans 1:21-32 and Matthew 15:10-11, 16-20.
What It Says
Our first passage, from Romans 1, is dealing broadly with the problem of sin and how it has affected humanity. One of the examples of how our rebellion against God is demonstrated is that people engage in homosexual behaviour, but let’s take a closer look at what Paul is saying.
First, consider v. 21- they knew God but did not glorify him or give thanks to him… and verse 23, they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images [of creatures]” The fallenness of humanity, the sinfulness of people, is primarily rooted in our rebellion against God. Even though humanity knows at least a little about God, we routinely, naturally, reject God neither giving him glory nor thanks and, instead, turn to things he created and glorify and thank them instead!
What happens when we consistently do this? What has happened to humanity? God, honouring our free will, gives us over “in the sinful desires of [our] hearts.”
God releases us in our rebellion to serve our sinful desires. One of the major results of our following our sinful desires is sexual sin. Sex feels great! It’s enjoyable! Even when we don’t follow God’s plan for sexual intimacy, it’s still pleasurable (at least in the short run) so we chase after it! Paul gets very specific describing how the Gentile world has expressed this sexual impurity- describing both male homosexual behaviour and lesbian behaviour.
This is pretty bad! It’s Paul’s ultimate example of how fallen humanity has become! But take special note of something…
God surrendered people to their sinful desires, he did not change their identity. I’m going to come back to this in a moment, but notice that God surrenders people to follow their own fallen, but free will. That is living out our humanity in a fallen state. God surrenders people to what was already there in sin, he doesn’t change people to make them homosexual. He just allows the natural consequences of sin to run their course.
A few other observations from the text before we move to Jesus’ words in Matthew…
Rebellious people think they are wise when they are actually foolish. When God surrenders people to live out their sinful desires, they often think they’re wise people. They look upon people who don’t live out their sinful desires and call them fools, repressed, ignorance, old fashioned, etc. I’m pointing this out because today the secular world around us thinks it is very wise and liberated. The same culture looks upon people who hold conservative morals, whether Christian or not, as foolish, simple, repressed, oppressive, homophobic, etc. This shouldn’t surprise us! Paul identified it two thousand years ago! v. 28 identifies something too, “God gave them over to a depraved mind…”
Our intellect is fallen too. It’s not just our desires! Our minds are fallen as well as our desires! It’s not that our minds work perfectly, but we have these pesky fallen desires to deal with. Rather, our whole heart- our minds, desires, wills, preferences and imaginations are all tainted by sin and fallen! This affects even the way we think about issues, including issues surrounding sin and our sinful desires!
The result of this further surrender by God, to our sinful desires and sinful minds, results in a range of sinful behaviour such as murder, slander, greed, depravity, envy, deceit, malice, gossip, hating God, insolence, arrogance and boastfulness! Paul has painted a bleak picture! Let’s see what Jesus has to say….
In Matthew, Jesus is addressing a very different group than what Paul was talking about in Romans. Jesus is speaking to very moral people- the Jews. Jews didn’t live like the outside world. They were much “better” people who were chosen by God to be his light in the world. BUT they, too, needed correction in their thinking. Jesus is telling them that their strict laws surrounding cleanliness, which was equated in God’s law in the OT with holiness, was only symbolic. The problem is not unclean food entering the body, but unclean thoughts, desires and actions coming out of sinful hearts.
The problem of sin is rooted in sinful hearts, out of which come sinful activities. It’s not our activities that make us sinful, they reflect our sinful hearts!
The problem is not just what we do, but what we want to do! It’s what we imagine, fantasize about, think about and wish we could do if we wouldn’t get caught or face consequences! Jesus also lists a variety of expressions of a sinful heart- evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Interesting the range that covers! Slander and sexual immorality are both listed as the sinful results of sinful hearts! And slander is just as sinful as sexual immorality or even murder! Certainly murder is “worse” in terms of its effect, but slander makes you just as much a “sinner.”
Ok, so we’ve seen that the problem of sin is not just our sinful actions, but our sinful hearts out of which come our sinful actions. Furthermore, not only are our actions sinful, but our minds are fallen and our desires are fallen too! Remember, the heart is not just the source of emotions, but includes our thoughts, wills, desires, preferences, etc. So we see that our hearts are thoroughly corrupted by sin! This is the issue far more than just sinful actions. A person in a coma, who can’t “do” anything wrong, is still sinful and in need of a saviour!
Same sex attraction is an example of a sinful desire. So is lust. So is greed. So is the desire to be “in the know” which leads to gossip. These are all desires. You may not act on them- the married man who lusts may not commit adultery physically! But Jesus says that if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart you’re just as sinful and responsible as the man who carries out those thoughts to their physical conclusion.
As Christians, we are not to yield to or even entertain our sinful desires. Fantasizing about being rich is a sign of greed. Fantasizing about sex with people you’re not married to is lust. Fantasizing about sex with somebody of your gender is equally sinful. And the longer you entertain, feed, and cultivate these fantasies or thoughts, the harder it is to eliminate them, to resist them and to change them.
As we follow Jesus, as we learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, our thought life, our fantasy life must come under the Spirit’s careful scrutiny if we are to be transformed.
There is a war going on in the Christian’s heart. There is a battle between the sin that naturally dwells in our hearts and the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in our hearts and bring us new life. This battle is the Holy Spirit waging war on our sinful character to transform us to be more like Jesus, a process called sanctification. This is an ongoing process with which we are expected to cooperate. The Spirit won’t do it on his own against our will. But this is a process that is never finished this side of the resurrection.
Sometimes the Spirit’s victory in complete, sometimes it is partial. This means that for some people who
experience certain sinful desires, the Spirit removes the desire, removes that temptation completely! This includes but is not limited to same sex attraction. But sometimes the Spirit does not remove these desires, or other desires, like lust, greed, etc. And the believer’s discipleship journey is one marked with constant struggle against these desires. This is the normal Christian experience! And includes same-sex attraction.
So what are we to do with this? And how do we interact with the secular society around us? First, remember that Paul says those who are living in constant rebellion against God think they are wise when they are not. Their intellects are fallen, so even how they think about sin is fallen. And they approve of those who engage in sinful practices.
We should not be surprised that a secular culture approves of people fulfilling their sinful desires. We no longer live in a Christian society. We no longer even live in a society whose values are shaped by Christian values even if people are not practicing Christians! Our collective rebellion against God means that we urge one another on in our rebellion, even when that rebellion takes different forms.
Our current society has something else happening too- we don’t ever question or evaluate any desires! If it feels good, do it! If you want it, do it. Everything around us urges us to give in to our desires without thought- in fact our economy depends on it! Advertising is designed to create a desire in you and the hope is that you won’t stop and think if you actually need that thing. If you want it, buy it! But….
Sinful desires do not define our identity. So on the one hand, our culture approves of fulfilling all our desires- we call this “pursuing happiness.” But one of the major mistakes in our culture is that we are defining identity based on desire. Why? Because if I can elevate same-sex attraction to an identity issue, then I’ve put it on the same plane as race and gender. This makes arguments against same-sex attraction similar to racism and sexism. It becomes an identity issue rather than a desire issue. And when you think in those terms, you quickly see that homosexuality is not like skin colour or gender at all! But our secular culture treats them all the same!
This reframes the question to one of fulfilling our desires rather than living out ones identity. We don’t say that compulsive liars should be allowed to lie. The desire for power over people may make you a tyrant, but that’s not your identity that you are then free to live out. It changes the gay marriage question to one of “which desires is it appropriate to act upon” rather than “denying someone love.”
The Church’s role is to provide a community in which people find support fighting against their sinful desires. This means not shaming people who have sinful desires, even same-sex attraction. It also means not affirming their desires or encouraging them to live out their desires. This includes same-sex attraction, along with greed, lust, slander, gossip and all the other manifestations of our sin.
Our stance towards homosexuality should be one of agape love. That means being primarily concerned with other people’s well-being, especially their spiritual well-being. This means helping people in their struggle against sin. It means providing a grace-filled environment, characterized by both forgiveness and repentance. It means loving people who experience same sex attraction, doing all we can for them, providing for them in their need for brotherly love, affection, friendship and community, because everybody needs that, but especially because it’s not appropriate for them to find that in romantic relationships.
Ultimately, sin is rooted in our hearts. Thank God His Spirit creates in us new hearts!
Thank God that through Jesus, we have new life and the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our heart, transforming it from within. Thank God that we are given a new heart of flesh, replacing our heart of stone. Amen.
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