A discussion on sexual immorality

(Jamie Hobbs) #1

As others have eloquently answered this question, I won’t beat a dead horse, but I did want to offer a brief story on the topic. It centers around the concept that people are born homosexual and they have no choice in the matter. There actually was another thread on this very topic last week I believe, but as the topic is fresh here, I’ll post here. @CarsonWeitnauer, perhaps the two could be linked? I’m not sure.

I had a “chance” conversation today with a chaplain on this issue. I say “chance”, because I believe there was very little actual chance in our meeting. We introduced ourselves to one another and discovered that we were both in ministry. Then out of the blue he goes straight to the topic of being born homosexual, meaning he was mulling it over even before our meeting. He said he doesn’t consider it a lifestyle and he doesn’t use that term, because a lifestyle can be chosen, and this person he was referencing was born homosexual. In the hospital setting we were in at the time, he said he sees gender ambiguity and hermaphroditic situations in birth all the time. So in his mind he was certain that homosexuality is just another such DNA anomaly. Yet he seemed like he was stuck on how to minister to this person, and here is another minister he could bounce ideas off of. Coincidence? Not likely.

But to the point, I told him that people are predisposed to sin, as we are conceived in sin. He nodded. There are some people who tend towards theft, or wrath, or vanity, or whatever sin it might be, while they might not tend as strongly towards other forms of sin. He nodded. So too can people be born predisposed to homosexuality as sin. He said, “exactly right, they’re born that way.” But I asked him to let me take it one step further. I have talked to several individuals who tend toward homosexuality, but who have decided not to live in that lifestyle. They have chosen not to give into that temptation any longer and sin. “Go and sin no more,” says the Lord. So you see, it is a choice. I might be tempted to steal, but not actually steal; or lie, but not actually lie. So this person you are ministering to might be born predisposed to homosexuality, but that sin just like any sin does not define who they are in Christ. If they are saved and have the Spirit working in their life, then they can choose to deny that sin.

It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “chance” meeting today and I told this chaplain as much. And then I see this topic come up giving me an opportunity to share this story. Apparently God actually does know all things.

Discussing "The Secret History of Leviticus" by Idan Dershowitz
(Kim O.) #2

Yes I love it when God moments happen. Thank you!

(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Jamie,

Would you say that our heterosexuality may also be part of our predisposition to sin? That is, it seems to me that there is sometimes an assumption that to be heterosexual is to be basically good and right.

But, when I think of everyone I know who is sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex, it seems like there is a lot of sin wrapped up with a heterosexual orientation. For instance, lust, even to the point of pornography; vanity; materialism in the pursuit of romance; divorce; affairs; selfishness, even to the point of committing crimes; and the list goes on. The #metoo movement, the #churchtoo movement - these have largely been the revelation of sins and crimes committed by people who were attracted to members of the opposite sex. And even within the best of a heterosexual marriage there is sin and idolatry. So we can and should in all honesty say, “I was born with a predisposition to be attracted to people of the opposite sex, and this has often led me into grievous sin that I need to repent of and turn away from. My heterosexual desires have not made me a good person. But Jesus is graciously forgiving me and teaching me to love my neighbor.”

To be clear, I affirm that God made us male and female and that marriage is intended for one man and one woman for life. At the same time, Jesus himself was single. That is, in the Scriptures, heterosexual marriage is not the completion of human identity and godly obedience.

To sum it up, I think sometimes too much emphasis is placed upon which gender we are attracted to and comparatively less emphasis is placed on whether or not our desires are being increasingly conformed to the holiness that God intends for us. Whether we are attracted to members of the same sex or the opposite sex, we are all in the same category of sinners, called to be recipients of grace who pursue holiness.

(Jamie Hobbs) #4

I was commenting specifically about the sin of homosexuality in this case, as that was the focus of this particular topic. Plus the anecdote was fresh in my mind having happened only yesterday, and this was a great opportunity to share it. But to carry the predisposition to sin out to all forms of sin, then you’re absolutely right. I hope you don’t think my sharing that story was in some way saying that homosexuality is a greater form of sin compared to others.

I will say that heterosexuality in itself is not a sin, as the Lord designed mankind that way. It can be misused certainly. But the very act of homosexuality is seen as an abonimation before the Lord (1 Cor 6:9-10). Notice that homosexuality is listed among many other forms of sin, but heterosexuality is not. It’s forms of abuse are though. All this to say that man’s predisposition to sin, no matter what the sin, is every man’s and woman’s battle. One that cannot be won without Christ.

(Carson Weitnauer) #5

Yes, we are on the same page in agreeing that homosexual sins aren’t a greater form of sin compared to others. I think that means we need proportionality and humility in how we discuss it, particularly if it is not something that we personally experience.

Where we might be in disagreement is your statement, “Notice that homosexuality is listed among many other forms of sin, but heterosexuality is not. It’s forms of abuse are though.” It seems that this might come across as if we are placing homosexual sin in a ‘worse’ category. But, for instance, if our heterosexual desires consistently express themselves in sexual immorality, there is something profoundly disordered about our sexuality.

And In 1 Corinthians 6, I see heterosexual sin (or, at least, all kinds of sexual sin) mentioned much more prominently than specifically homosexual sin. For instance:

  • The sexually immoral and adulterers (v. 9)
  • “Sexual immorality” (v. 13)
  • Prostitution (v. 15-17)
  • Sexual immorality (v. 18-20)

I also think we need to read chapter 6 in light of 1 Corinthians 5, which is an extended reflection on the way the Corinthian church has wrongly made its peace with a situation of grievous heterosexual sin. This passage leads me to wonder if I have not complacently accepted the status quo of how compromised we are in terms of heterosexual sin.

Another way of looking at it is to say that the same sin list in 1 Corinthians 6 is quite clear in its disapproval of greed, theft, and drunkenness. But in my limited experience, I have not regularly heard the same fervency about these sins from the pulpit or in conversation. Why aren’t there more sermons about greed and more small groups where people share their bank statements with one another?

What I think ‘levels the playing field’ is 1 Corinthians 6:11— “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” It is not heterosexual attraction that we see as the ideal. Rather, what we prize and cherish as our greatest aspiration is to be God’s people, forgiven by God’s work, and empowered by God’s spirit.

(SeanO) #6

@CarsonWeitnauer @Jamie_Hobbs I am doing my best to follow your trains of thought, but forgive me if I misunderstand. Would this be an appropriate summary you could both agree with?

Heterosexual sex within marriage is God’s design and is honorable and appropriate, but sexual desire can be warped due to the fall and manifest itself in both heterosexual and homosexual desires. There is no sex in Heaven and our ultimate identity is in being redeemed children of the living God through Christ; not in our sexual desires.

(Jamie Hobbs) #7

A very appropriate summation, @SeanO.

(Jamie Hobbs) #8

The only difference I can detect in what you’re saying and what I said is that I wasn’t talking about heterosexual sin, I was talking about heterosexuality in general. Heterosexuality in itself is not a sin, whereas homosexuality in itself is. However, when you started talking about 1 Cor 6 and mentioned heterosexual sin, then yes, that is just as egregious as homosexual sin.

We might be splitting hairs a bit, but I think we’re on the same page.

(Kim O.) #9

Sean, I really like the point you have brought up regarding there is no sex in Heaven and ultimately our identity is in Christ not in our sexual desires. At the heart of the matter is where do you find your true identity? I think the clarity of this point especially with believers who say I’m Christian and gay" is key.

(SeanO) #10

@Koberheu Yes - I have found that some people have simply never thought about the fact that in eternity we are like the angels in the sense that there is no sex. This fact actually can be startling. It forces us to reconsider where we center our identity.

Matthew 22:30 - At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

(Carson Weitnauer) #11

Hi Jamie,

It sounds like we have a lot of agreement. I’m grateful for the places we see eye-to-eye and for the opportunity to learn from one another in a place we may disagree. I think the one point of tension might be here:

Heterosexuality in itself is not a sin, whereas homosexuality in itself is.

I would contrast this with something Sam Allberry, a member of the RZIM speaking team, is quoted as saying in a Focus on the Family publication:

The presence of same- sex desire in some of us is not an indication that an individual has turned from God more than others, or that they have been given over by God to further sin more than others.

The Focus on the Family booklet goes on to say:

Homosexuality is comprised of many aspects, including these three: attractions, behavior and identity. We make a distinction between the three and note that only same-sex behavior and lust, and acting like the opposite sex are condemned in Scripture. So when the Bible uses words like “abomination,” or “detestable,” it is not talking about people, but about behaviors, things people do. We regret that such words have been used to describe individuals.

As Sam Allberry discusses Romans 1 in another article:

The strength of Paul’s language here should not make us think that homosexual conduct is the worst or only form of sinful behaviour. Paul may be highlighting it because it is a particularly vivid example, and may have been especially pertinent for his readers in Rome given their cultural context. Either way it is illustrative of something that is the case for all of us: as we reject God we find ourselves craving what we are not naturally designed to do. This is as true of a heterosexual person as of a homosexual person. There are no grounds in this passage for singling out homosexual people for any kind of special condemnation. The same passage indicts all of us.

I find these arguments compelling. To my mind, these nuances keep the storyline of Scripture intact: we are all made in God’s good image, we are all fallen, we are all offered forgiveness, and all Christians are in the process of being made like Christ.

(Jamie Hobbs) #12

I think we’re in 100% agreement. No tension whatsoever.

“This is as true of a heterosexual person as of a homosexual person. There are no grounds in this passage for singling out homosexual people for any kind of special condemnation. The same passage indicts all of us.”

Absolutely true.

(Carson Weitnauer) #13

Hi @Koberheu,

You might find encouragement in these words from Sam Allberry:

As a Christian, one of the key things for me is realizing that identity as Christians is not something that we discover in ourselves, nor is it something we create. It’s something we receive and are given by the only person who can know our actual identity, which is the God who made us. So my identity as a Christian comes from the fact that I’ve been created by God and redeemed by him through the saving work of Jesus.

So this is where I need to have a different understanding than our culture. Our culture says, “You are your sexuality,” that the sexual feelings that you have are the most you — that is, the real you. For me, that’s just not the case. I want to use language that can describe an aspect of what is going on in my life, but which doesn’t imply that that is what defines me, or what is the center and heart of who I am.

The language of “same-sex attraction” perhaps is less familiar to people outside of Christian circles. It’s a bit more clunky. But I think it’s less prone to being misunderstood. I use it because I don’t want to imply that a particular set of sexual temptations is where I see who I am. It’s not the lens through which I understand myself. That’s why I tend to use the language of being same-sex attracted.

At the same time, I think we need to be respectful of people who identify as gay and Christian. For instance, David Bennett, a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, identifies himself as a “gay celibate Christian.”

I’ll share some excerpts of how he defines his position:

Finding the moral empowering – and the grace and consolation – of the Holy Spirit ‘in homosexual terms’ is, it seems to me, what leads many of us to label ourselves ‘celibate gay Christians’. To deny the present struggle and say I’ve been ‘healed’ from all temptations of the flesh is often the error the Corinthians made of thinking they were already resurrected or without a flesh and yet behind closed doors were still indulging sinful behaviours. The scholar Anthony Thiselton coins it, “over-realised eschatology.” On the flipside, to deny that God will not transform us to live in victory over these desires is to commit the error of “under-realised eschatology.” In other words, we are still being made holy and we aren’t yet perfect. These are both scriptural errors that lead to sinfulness, to endorse or to deny the presence of such fallen desires is equally wrong, and hence why I call myself a gay celibate Christian.

To call myself a ‘celibate gay Christian’ specifies both my sexual orientation and the way I’m choosing to live it out.

We have the unique opportunity to break a culture of victimhood and restore a culture of dignity. The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, it is holiness. We need to stand for a different way to live in the gay community, and welcome them into the Church to receive Jesus’ love. Also, many of those pressured by Christian culture to say they have been “healed” live with secret sexual sin and shame. We must break such a culture of silence in many churches and encourage a culture of repentant honesty before God and with each other.

I still identify as a gay person but have given my sexuality entirely to God and died to it, letting it be crucified with Christ submitting to God’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman and the only context for sexual intimacy.

Identifying in some way with others in the gay world opens a unique door to share the gospel, and speaks against the horrible treatment Christians have often meted out to the gay community.

(Carson Weitnauer) #14

That’s encouraging. Thank you for the opportunity to hash it out together! It helped me to think it through again.

(Melissa Cortner ) #15

I have a question about the subject of homosexuality from the book of Romans… In Romans 1: 18-32 it says (in a broad since) that man was given up to vile passions because of idolatry. I have the idea then that we are experiencing this surge in sexual sins, of all kinds because we have been idolatrous. I mean all of us, Christians included… Is this a misguided notion? I wonder if we Christians had been perfect in our love for each other and those around us, if sexual sins would be so prevalent. This passage makes me feel somewhat responsible for it all…

Melissa Cortner

(Jamie Hobbs) #16

Melissa, I don’t think it’s misguided at all. I’m glad you brought this up, because as I re-read the passage you referenced, I found that I hadn’t read it in quite that light before. To speak to this part directly…

I think the extrapolation is that, if we Christians had been perfect in our love for each other, a whole multitude of sins would not be so prevalent. So in that sense we do carry some measure of blame. Now, I believe that every person has to answer for their own sin, and Christians sinning less does not directly equate to lost people also sinning less. But in that we have been silent about sin, not always dealt with our own sin, not educated generations of children about the importance of avoiding sin in favor of “letting the children express themselves”, and largely allowing the Church to be ineffective in society; that’s where our culpability lies. We can’t stop sexual immorality by attacking sexual immorality. That’s the fruit of a sinful heart. Therefore, the cure is to focus on the heart, which is where Jesus comes in.

(SeanO) #17

@mharlamertcortner I would like to nuance this idea a bit with some historical truth - there has never been a time in history when sexual sins were not prevalent. They may be more socially acceptable in certain cultures or at certain times because the prevailing society approves of them. But oftentimes when a culture has a more Biblical sexual ethic on the outside, there is sin in secret and other sins that are not spoken against. In America’s history for example, there were other very terrible sins - like racism, even when the prevailing ethic was different - not to mention hidden sexual sin and shame associated with it. So, society has always been broken.

Second, I would like to say that in Jesus we have been set free from guilt and shame. We have all sinned and contributed to the brokenness of the world. But the goal of Paul in Romans is to point us first to our brokenness and then to Jesus, who sets us free from sin and from shame.

Romans 8:1-2 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

You should not live in guilt - in Jesus we are set free for obedience. We repent of our sin and live with joy and freedom.

Lastly, I agree the Church is salt and light for the world around us. But no matter how faithful the Church is, the world will still be broken until Jesus returns. And rather than speaking in broad terms about the Church’s failures, I think it is more helpful to focus on how we can help build up our local body of Christ. Even in the days of Elijah, when so many had turned away from God, God had preserved a remnant of 7000 who were faithful. And our job is to be part of the faithful remnant and be salt and light - rather than letting shame or guilt weigh us down.

I Kings 19:28 - Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.

Do you agree with those ideas? Hope those thoughts are helpful. The Lord Jesus give us freedom and peace in His work on the cross.

(Melissa Cortner ) #18

Thanks for that Jamie. Originally, in reading that passage, my focus was directed toward those who were “given up” to the lusts of their flesh in vs. 26. More recently (these past few years) I parked at the the part before that bit, vs. 18-25, although we see and understand His attributes, we don’t glorify Him… And we make worldly idols of all kinds for ourselves. I had the realization that the passage wasn’t just referring to those sinners who had rejected the Lord; it was referring to me.


(Jamie Hobbs) #19

Indeed. Thank God that Jesus paid the price we could never pay. Now you don’t have to feel guilty, but redeemed. Yes, we have scars that remain that serve as reminders, but the good thing about scars is that there are scores of people out there with the same scars. You can let unbelievers know that you relate to them, that you aren’t above them, and that you can introduce them to the One who saves.

(Melissa Cortner ) #20

Thanks for that Sean. I admit that I do sometimes feel burdened under the responsibilities of being a Christian. How I am preceived as Christs representative is of utmost importance to me. I do realize that it’s not all up to me, and that if He wants to use me, He will even if I’m not perfect. After all, none of our examples from the Bible are of perfect men… In fact they are all quite flawed (except forJesus, of course). I may not quite have the balance between my responsibilities as a Christian, and the part from the catechism where we are supposed toGlorify God by enjoying Hiim forever… I’m still working on that one.

Thanks again