Is Homosexuality a Sin?
That is one of the most inflammatory questions raised today. Just ask musical artist Lauren Daigle, Chip and Joanna Gaines of the show Fixer Upper, or NFL quarterback Drew Brees, all of whom have faced recent criticism over their views on homosexuality because of their Christian faith.
Is homosexuality a sin? Providing an answer can be challenging given the pluralism of our day.
But is that even the right question? Or is there something deeper we should be asking?
And is a simple “yes” the right answer for the Christian? Or is there more that the questioner needs to know about the nature of sin?
First, notice the question. “Is homosexuality a sin?” rather than “Is homosexuality wrong?”
The difference between sin and wrong in a postmodern world
The postmodern world questions the concepts of absolutes, truth, and reality. Beginning in earnest in the 1960’s postmodernism sought to cast off the rigidity of rules in favor of an “anything goes” philosophy. Among other features it affirms the “believe what you feel is right”, “follow your heart”, and “live your own truth” mantras that bombard western culture today. Prior to the postmodern revolution sin and wrong may have been nearly synonymous as people saw morality in more absolute terms. That is not the case anymore. Wrong can now be a very personal act, what applies to me may not apply to you. It is not absolute. Sin, on the other hand, is more concrete. It is a standard set by a higher power, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Sin assumes the divine
The word sin is unique in that it specifically brings God into the conversation. Sin references a standard of morality that rises above human constructs to the Divine will. It takes us beyond a horizontally oriented person-to-person understanding of morality to a vertically oriented divine-to-person understanding of morality. For the postmodern mind a wrong may be the breaking of a standard set by human tradition, philosophy, law, or in some cases just feeling. Sin, on the other hand, is defined formally as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression of divine law.” Sin references God and His divine standard. Wrong (for the relativist) references human beings and their standard.
A question of authority
Another way to look at sin is to ask, “What does God think about that behavior?” Conversely, in the postmodern world of relativism another way to look at wrong is to ask, “What do people think about that behavior?” Therefore, when it comes to sin, the answers are not to be found in the whims of earthly ideology, but only in an understanding of what God has declared . . . if it is even possible to know such a thing. If the answers we find run contrary to our preferences we have a crisis of authority to navigate. Who is to be the final authority in our lives? Human understanding or God’s revealed will? That brings up the obvious question of who would dare to claim knowledge of God’s will? A quote from Michael Krugeris helpful here, “We [Christians] don’t believe our knowledge comes from our efforts to figure out God, but rather is the result of God graciously revealing himself to us. For Christianity, religion is not about man finding God, but about God showing himself to man. It is about God seeking out lost sinners and opening their eyes to the truth. That is the opposite of an arrogant claim.” If God has revealed Himself to us, then we have a choice to make, submit to His authority, or cling to our own.
Sin is not just a behavior
More than an individual act, sin is the state of the heart that is turned away from God and toward self. It is a general attitude and posture of the human will with a fist raised to God in defiance of His claim to authority over our lives. According to the Bible, behavior is not the root of sin, it is simply the fruit. The root of sin is the heart and the mind. It is our very nature that is opposed to God. It is our thoughts and feelings that condemn us, not merely our outward acts. The moralist in their pride is just as far from God as the immoralist in their licentious behavior. Both fall far short of the glory of God. So to ask ala carte from a list of behaviors whether or not they are sin misses the deeper point. Our problem is not so much in the things we do, it is who we are. Rather than asking, “Is homosexuality a sin?” maybe we should be asking, “Am I a sinner?” Do you desire to live a life submitted to God’s authority, or would you rather play by your own rules?
What is God’s purpose for the relationship between men and women?
God’s creation is not arbitrary. There is reason and meaning behind it all. In fact, the things that have been made reveal the divine attributes of the Creator (Romans 1:18-19). God uses earthly pictures to point to heavenly realities. The vastness of the universe displays His incomprehensible power. The laws of nature reveal that He is a God of order, the sunrise each morning attesting to His great faithfulness. Human beings were created in His image (Gen 1:26) and that means our capacity to reason, choose, create, love, and relate come from Him and tell us something about Him. He has placed us in authority over creation and that delegated authority mirrors His ultimate authority over all things. He has written moral law on the hearts of all people because He is righteous and just.
In the same way, God’s design for men and women is not arbitrary. We reveal truths about Him in the way we relate to each other. It is part of what it means to be made in His image. A loving earthly father shows us a glimpse of the Heavenly Father. A mother’s tender care of her children points to the tenderness with which God calls all people to Himself. The marriage relationship is more than a love shared by two individuals, it is a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). Likewise, two becoming one in marriage is a mystery that reflects the three-in-one nature of God. The fundamental truth of Christianity is the Trinitarian nature of God. And He has chosen marriage as the earthly example of that nature.
Trinity is a theological term referring to one God existing in three distinct persons. Each person – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are equal, but they each have distinct roles. Eternally in loving community, the three persons of God form the basis for all other relationships including marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The Bible teaches that a man and woman, while retaining their own personalities and unique features, become one in marriage, imaging the oneness of God. Two people but one flesh, two individuals but one mission, two voices but one song . . . that is what marriage was designed to be. But it can only fulfill that design in a heterosexual monogamous relationship. God often uses earthly realities to point to heavenly truths. Marriage is one of those pictures. To deny His design in favor of human constructs or preference is to live a life contrary to His will. It is a usurpation of His authority and desecration of His image. It is putting human understanding above Godly wisdom. It is sin. But that is not the end of the story nor even the most important part.
God loves sinners
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Sin is a life lived in opposition to God. It is the natural starting point of every human being from the moment of conception. That means the argument, “I was born that way”, actually applies to everyone but we manifest our rebellion behaviorally according to our predisposed weaknesses.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sin is a fist raised at God, spitting in His face, fighting desperately for the throne of authority that belongs only to Him. Sinners are traitors and betrayers, they have left the Father’s loving arms for whatever this world can offer and in that way they are adulterers leaving their one true love for the arms of a prostitute. Sin deserves nothing but wrath, separation, punishment, isolation, total abandonment, and ultimate destruction . . . But God who is rich in mercy and love comes near to the sinner. He reaches out to those who hate Him with a love so overwhelming it cannot be imagined must less described in words. Because He is just the penalty for sin had to be paid, but rather than pour out His wrath on the guilty, an inconceivable sacrifice was made. A substitute stepped in to take what I deserved. Jesus Christ, the spotless lamb, bore my shame and guilt as He suffered on the cross, enduring the wrath and separation from the Father that was to be mine. And by the power of the Resurrection He now offers life in His name to any who would receive His gift. He offers His perfect and spotless life in exchange for our soiled and wretched selves. He offers not to reform, but to renew and regenerate making us alive and enjoying a righteous standing before God the Father. And one day, He offers life eternal in heaven where sin will be no more.
Is homosexuality a sin?
Apart from Christ we are all sinners. That is our default setting. Does homosexuality violate God’s moral standard? Yes, but so does lust in your thought life, greed over material things, ill will toward your neighbor, and that little lie that you told today. Without God’s loving intervention we are all in the same boat – dead in our trespasses and sins. We all express sin in different ways but the root is the same. There is no one who lives life well enough to meet His perfect standard and He does not grade on a curve. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). It is pass or fail and we have all failed. As a people, we are in need of a Savior. Thankfully though our sins are many His mercy is more and His grace abounds to those who would but receive it. He offers new life to all who would come to Him. That includes those who live in sexual sin of any kind, those who judge others in prideful moralism, and those who outright reject Him or doubt His existence. So ask the difficult questions, wrestle with the depth of our depravity as fallen human beings, and be eternally thankful for a God who seeks to forgive and renew hearts that have strayed from His love.