how should we approach the “gay Chrisian” debate (pt 3)

Condemnation is a third common response in the debate over the legitimacy of a homosexual-Christian identity. By condemnation I mean more than denouncing a behavior or lifestyle. What I have in mind is a mindset that leads to condemning the homosexual as a person, often with the implication that they are without hope. Those who would fall into this approach will often assert the following:

1. Sexual sin is the most egregious sin & homosexuality is the worst kind of sexual sin. This line of reasoning usually places the homosexual in another class of sinner. While I would argue the Bible depicts varying degrees of sin, sexual sin often receiving special attention, we run into trouble when our attitude toward fellow sinners set on a sliding scale. First, our scales aren’t exactly calibrated to the divine standard. Jesus declared that Sodom, the quintessential symbol of homosexual depravity, would receive a more tolerable judgment than Capernaum (Mat 11:23-24) not because Capernaum was more sexually depraved but because while living morally they rejected the truth set before their eyes. Second, inordinate attention to behavioral sin distracts from corruption in the heart. I can refrain from engaging in adultery but does my standing before the judge improve if I possess a heart riddled with lust for other women (Mat 5:27ff; see also Jesus accusation against the Pharisees in Mat 23:25-28)?

More important, however, than varying degrees of sin is the matter of repentance (Mat 11:21). We’ll come back to this when we propose a fourth (and better) response to this debate but for now we should consider that as sinners our preeminent concern is recognizing and repenting of the sin by which we’re convicted rather than arguing technicalities.

2. Homosexuality is a choice.
The heart is deceitful and sick (Jer 17:9) and I don’t doubt that some do choose homosexuality even when they claim they had no choice. However, to assert that all homosexuals made a calculated decision strikes me as shortsighted. All of creation suffers corruption as a result of sin (Rom 8:19-22) and mankind’s material and immaterial components don’t always function according to God’s natural design. Affirming our brokeness–bodies, minds, emotions, desires–need not justify sin.

3. Homosexuality is a form of God’s judgment on sinners.
In other words, the fact that someone is a homosexual proves that God has already judged that person. This notion seems to flow from a misunderstanding of Romans 1. The question is how we are to understand Paul’s claim that God gave them over to degrading passions (Rom 1:26). For the sake of brevity, God’s judgment is the “giving over” to passions which were already present. That is, rather than striving against their sin God simply gives them over to be mastered by their sin. Left unstated is whether or not this “handing over” is irrevocable (although the context implies that for God to give someone over is the last step before the final judgment), but homosexuality, in and of itself, is no more decisive than idolatry, murder, greed, and gossip–all sins to which men are “given over” in their depraved minds (Rom 1:28ff).

Finally, to claim that homosexuality is a fixed judgment that foreshadows one’s fate in the final judgment completely ignores the Paul’s claim in 1Cor 6:9-11. The homosexual, Paul states, will not enter the kingdom of God but within the Corinthian church were saints who were homosexuals prior to their new life in Christ. After all, justification & sanctification are all about God making the unrighteous righteous.

Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

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