“Just as I am” applies to all repentant sinners, no matter what the sin.

Christians are paying increased attention to homosexuality. This is not due merely to the organization of the Metropolitan (homosexual) church in New York City in 1968. Or to its rapid growth since that date to 150 congregations and a membership of nearly 30,000. Rather, current interest is more broadly based. If the decade of the sixties was a time of unrest and turmoil, the decade of the seventies spelled moral revolution in American society, and we have not yet seen the end.

Nature Of Denominational Interest

In 1974 the United Methodist Council on Youth Ministry resolved “that homosexual practice should not be a bar to the ministry of that denomination.” Three years later, the Episcopal church also ordained a practicing homosexual. Then the official board of social responsibility for the Church of England published an astounding report that led to wide ramifications in this country. In perfect double-speak, it stated that homosexuality is good, and that we must rid ourselves of ancient prejudices against this reasonable lifestyle. It even approved homosexual “marriage.” But then the same report reversed field and unmercifully condemned homosexual practice as unbiblical and a perversion of our moral nature.

A number of Roman Catholic priests have also spoken out boldly in defense of practicing homosexuals, and just recently five respected Roman Catholic theologians published a work attacking the traditional position of their church and advocating Catholic approval of homosexual lifestyle. By contrast, all recent papal encyclicals on this topic have been biblically grounded reinforcements of the traditional position of the church, but they are ignored by an increasing number of highly vocal priests.

Then in 1978, after 13 months of work, a United Presbyterian task force declared that the orientation of practicing homosexuals is consistent with the standards of the denomination. It approved homosexual lifestyle and argued that each local presbytery should decide for itself what it would do in handling the issue.

In 1984 the general conference of the United Methodist church will again consider the subject. The National Council of Churches will also be acting on it when a committee gives its report on the Metropolitan church’s application for membership.

In short, every major denomination has spawned its group of homosexual enthusiasts. Their number has been small, but they have been very vocal (and highly visible in the media). They work for recognition of homosexual practices as a fully legitimate lifestyle for the lay Christian and, in many cases, for the right to ordain practicing homosexuals to the Christian ministry.

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Freedom From Oppressive Restrictions

Over the years the issue of homosexuality has become fused with the worldwide movement toward greater human freedom. Restrictions against homosexual lifestyle have been declared to be of a piece with positions promoting racism, and with restrictions inhibiting the freedom of women.

Bona fide human liberties are, of course, worthy of the Christian’s support and, indeed, obedience to the Bible requires us to support many aspects of this broader movement in our society. But homosexualism seeks to slide in under the same rubric of basic human freedoms. In the name of liberty it demands full acceptance as a legitimate lifestyle for any just society. Indeed, we must also, so many insist, affirm it as a divinely ordained lifestyle for the Christian church, on a par with union of man and woman in holy matrimony. What is needed, we are told, is a new openness so we can slough off the twisted sexual ethics inherited from puritanical Victorians. If in the past we had been unwilling to open our minds to new truth, we would still suffer the curses of child labor, polygamy, and slavery. These, too, were frequently defended by pious but unenlightened appeals to the Bible. It is imperative, so many conclude, that we reexamine our Bibles and call for illumination to free its ancient truths from corrupting encrustations.

Such an appeal cannot be summarily dismissed by any Christian who seeks to judge all issues by Scripture as our only infallible rule of faith and life.

Open To New Light From Scripture

What do we learn about homosexuality when we search the Scriptures responsively? We can state the answer unequivocally: the deeper we penetrate into the biblical teaching, the more thoroughly we see that it reinforces the church’s traditional rejection of homosexuality as a morally approved lifestyle. We are thrust tight up against one of two alternatives. On one view, we must face up to the biblical data and reject homosexual practice as sin. On the other view, we must hedge and trim the biblical teachings to make them palatable to certain contemporary ideas; but when we do this, we twist the Bible out of recognizable shape. We reject it as our rule of faith and practice; it becomes a false guide that can be safely ignored.

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Old Testament passages unmistakably condemn homosexual practice. “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Lev. 18:22; see also 20:13).

The view that this passage condemns only rape or sex without love will not wash. The point of the passage is that sex in a marriage between different sexes is approved, but identical sexual relations between those of the same sex are condemned. Neither can we set aside this passage as irrelevant for us today. The prohibition against homosexual practice falls in the immediate context that condemns adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice. As Richard Lovelace notes: “Unless modern readers are prepared to say that most of the acts from this list [Lev. 20] … could be right for today, their argument for the exemption of homosexuality is weak” (Homosexuality and the Church, p. 88).

But even more significant is the nature of the command itself. The practice is condemned on the ground that it is detestable to God. The wrong is rooted in the character of God. The New Testament carries this same radical condemnation of homosexuality: “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity.… 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” (Rom, 1:24, 26–27). Even unnatural homosexual desires result from sin. They are contrary to God’s created order for the sexes and must be traced to our broken relationship with God. Homosexuality may be like a defect in the genes that causes a missing finger, or it may be like a chemical imbalance that causes a disability in the physical body. Or it may in other cases be the result of personal sin. In any event, we dare not judge because we do not know its immediate origin; we know only that ultimately it is less than ideal, and a product of the fall of man.

Of course, heterosexually oriented persons are in no position to look with proud disdain on the homosexual. We are all under the curse and are all defective.

Godly Faithfulness By The Homosexual

To the homosexually oriented, therefore, we say: (1) Recognize the nature of your condition, but do not deny your own personhood or your own worth. You are created in the image of God; you, just as you are, are of infinite worth to God and to your fellow human beings. (2) Try to turn from your homosexual orientation. The evidence is clear that such a turn is often not very successful, yet the Bible challenges us not to treat anything as too difficult for God. Change can occur by the power of God working through the gospel and the spiritual resources of the Christian community (see 1 Cor. 6). (3) Encourage your church to establish procedures to aid you in your desire to exercise self-control. Some situations may prove inappropriate for you, just as others are for heterosexuals. A proper mix of wise restraint and trustful freedom is necessary. (4) Finally, be faithful to God’s created order for the protection of the family and society. In obedience to Scripture, refrain from homosexual practice, and recognize your homosexuality as creating the possibility of a special call from God. Your situation is similar to that of many heterosexuals who remain single.

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To summarize, as a homosexual you may be able to turn around your sexual orientation. But if this should prove impossible after you have sincerely sought the spiritual resources offered by Scripture, then your greatest good under God is to be found in a life of purity and sexual continence in the life to which God is calling you. And we must always remember that God never calls us to any burden without also giving us the gift to bear it.

Godly Attitudes Toward Homosexuals

What shall we say to those who are heterosexually oriented? We, too, need to repent—of our un-Christ-like attitude toward homosexuals. Like our God, we must learn to love the sinner while condemning his sin. And we must learn to accept nonpracticing homosexuals as we would accept unmarried heterosexuals. We may recognize their orientation as a defect and may in rare situations make adjustments for their different orientation. But we must affirm their honored position in Christ, we must acknowledge their gifts, and we must recognize their ministry as essential to the spiritual health of the body.


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