How can it be wrong if it doesn't hurt anyone?

(Tim Behan) #1

Hi Everyone,

This is my first time posting here so just quickly introducing myself before asking my question. My name is Tim, I’m married and have two children. I live in New Zealand, I’m a Construction Site Manager and I’m 34 years old. That’s me in a very brief nutshell.

My question that I would like to hear all your thoughts on is this:

I have had a number of conversations recently, many of them centre on the issue of homosexuality in particular, but they’re all around free choice of some sort. And I keep getting asked the question… “How can it be wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone else?”. So, in the instance of homosexuality, if two consenting adults want to engage themselves in that sort of relationship, what can be wrong with it if it’s just between them and not hurting anyone else?

I would like to hear everyone’s thoughts on a gracious and yet still a good thought-provoking answer to that. But I don’t want to limit the answer to “because God said so” because I don’t believe for a second that God makes arbitrary rules and therefore anything he says is for our benefit… so I’m trying to think of a way to answer this (or question this) in order to show that actually it is for our benefit that God has made things this way.


(SeanO) #2

@tsbehan Thank you for posting. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. I think at the heart of this question “what can be wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone?” is both a misunderstanding of human identity and a misunderstanding of how sin is truly destructive.

Of course - loving our neighbor and living lives set apart to Christ in word and deed is often the most powerful witness.

1 - A Misunderstanding of Identity

Sometimes when someone poses a question about sexual ethics to me, I respond with this question: “Did you realize that according to the Bible there is no sex in Heaven?”

Sometimes I need to share Jesus’ story from Matthew 22 when the Pharisees challenged him to tell them which of a man’s wives he would be married to in Heaven - and Jesus responded by saying that there is not marriage in Heaven.

Now, here is a follow up question: if there is no sex in Heaven, do we need sex to be fulfilled human beings? What is the purpose of sex?

Hopefully this leads to a good discussion where we can discuss why Jesus is more fulfilling and more necessary and more fundamental than sexuality. You see, at the root of sexual ethics is a misunderstanding of identity rooted in idolatry.

Romans 1:25 says - “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him … .They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”

Tim Keller puts it this way - an idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.”

You see - some people make an idol out of sex. They say - without sex I am nothing. But it is only without God that we are nothing.

If God is not at the core of our identity, our identity is always on the verge of crumbling.

Tim Keller has a fuller explanation here:

2 - How Sin is Truly Destructive / The Real Tragedy of Sin

You can approach this topic with a question like, “What makes anything wrong in the first place?” and talk about how we need a moral lawgiver to establish moral laws, but here I will take another approach.

When most people say something is ‘wrong’ they actually by default mean that it is inconvenient or painful for themselves or another person. This definition excludes God by default from the picture.

But what was it that really happened in the Garden of Eden that was so tragic? Why did Christ have to die on the cross? Not only to teach us to love one another and be reconciled to each other, but chiefly to reconcile us first to Himself. In the Garden the tragedy was separation from God.

Isaiah 52:1 - But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

People who question the Bible’s sexual ethics feel God is trying to steal something from them - to take away their pleasure, when in fact God is trying to restore them to Himself. But how can we communicate this to someone who does not believe in God?

The key, I think, is what Blaise Pascal and C. S. Lewis noted when they said that the cravings within us cannot be satisfied by physical pleasure or anything else in this world - because we were meant to find our true joy in God alone.

Jeremiah 2:13 - My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Sexuality is a cracked cistern - if people try to find ultimate satisfaction in it they will always need more - never be truly filled.

This is a tricky one to communicate - because you need to somehow see if this person has ever had this realization in their own life.

Do you find that sexuality really fulfills the deepest longings of your heart?

What is it that you really desire most in life? (I’m willing to guess most people will not say sex)

You need a question to redirect the person to realize that even they already know that sex is not the ultimate thing (this goes back to identity) and that the tragedy of sin is that it has separated us from the One who can really give us peace and satiate the deepest longings of our heart.

Sam Alberry also has some great resources on these matters

Homosexuality and the consequences behind it
If everything is predestined, then how can God judge?
How to respond to an unbeliever regarding homosexuality
Did God make a mistake?
My Question: SS marriage
My Question:Is it okay for homosexuals to be married in the church
Homosexuality, sex and marriage
Question on salvation, Noah Fincher
My Question: How to deal with homosexual couples?
(Helen Tan) #3

Hi @tsbehan

Here’s the perspective of Rosaria Butterfield, an English professor, a former lesbian and gay activist, and now a pastor’s wife. In this short video, she talks about the key points in her coming to Christ:

Rosaria had genuinely believed that the world would be a better place with a politics of inclusion and acceptance and felt that sexual diversity was a key part of what diversity meant. She did not struggle with same sex attraction until she came to Christ. The way she came to Christ was through conversations with a pastor who entered a long-term friendship with her. He did not talk about her sins at the out start as she had no idea that Christians believe that original sin distorted everyone and would not have any clear understanding of what he was saying. She thinks that this approach could lead to anger and confusion.

Instead, he spent time talking about the Bible and life with her, being a good neighbor. When she came to Christ in 1999, it was not because it was “a good deal” but because of who Christ is. She was convicted that although she thought that she was on the side of justice, peace and compassion, it was Jesus whom she had been persecuting the whole time.

From Rosaria’s testimony, it looks like one approach could be not answering the question directly at the outset but instead to begin to introduce them to the Person of Christ. As with anyone who’s lost in their beliefs and convictions, it takes love and commitment to help them do that. As RZIM has always taught us, we need to take the time to get behind the motivation behind the question, which would enable us to better tailor our answers to their needs.

I look forward to more thoughts on this. Thank you for asking this question, Tim.

(Lindsay Brandt) #5

Hi, Helen, I am curious to see how you would not answer the question directly but yet introduce them to Jesus without their feeling ignored or neglected or like you’re not taking their question seriously. I like where you’re going with it; I think it’s a good answer, and I’ve had plenty of experience answering these types of questions before when I worked as a manager at a McDonald’s quite a while back ago. I know how I approached and would, but it is always good to see how others would do it; it adds to my learning :). Perhaps it could with the above presented situation, as well. Look forward to hearing from you!

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #6

Hello @tsbehan. It’s nice to see you here! Welcome to Connect!

I would like to recommend to you this book:

Just to add, aside from the good insights that were shared, you will see from the book usual slogans that are used by people who hold to a negative view of freedom, which is the spirit of the age. Here are some examples (the numbered item is the slogan, then the bold sentence is a brief answer for it, which will help you with your discussions.):

  1. People can do what they want – just as long as they don’t hurt anyone.

• Whose standard of hurt do we use to arbitrate for this?

  1. You can do whatever you want – as long as it’s between two consenting adults.

• It’s possible for consenting people to do deviant things.

  1. You can do whatever you want – as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home.

• Child abuse and wife beating could be done in the privacy of one’s home.

  1. People can believe and do whatever they want; they should just be tolerant of other’s views.

• Why insist on imposing tolerance on everyone, if one’s belief only applies to the person itself?

  1. You can do what you want; just don’t violate another person’s rights.

•How can we do whatever we want, if people have inalienable rights? From where do people get these rights?

Disclaimer: The sentences in bold do not serve as a one-liner answer for each numbered item. My intention is to show in propositional form a possible way of dealing with it. You could think about it so that you could construct a better response from it from the approach.

(Tim Behan) #8

Thank you all for your responses to this. Very helpful. I look forward to going through all these wonderful resources.

(Jennifer Judson) #9

Tim, perhaps their question is too narrow. They are not considering the possibility that they themselves are being hurt.

We are all created to be image-bearers. This is very connected with the comments Sean had on identity. As Christians become more and more conformed to the image of Christ, our image becomes more in tune with (in synch with, in alignment with, etc) the image of God. If we do as Christ commands and abide in Him, this will be the outcome.

What if you do not know Christ, or have no relationship with him, or willfully choose to mock and scorn him? What happens to your image-bearerness (if I can create a word)? I read just the other day (wish I could remember precisely where–perhaps in a different post), that we disconnect more and more from being in the image of God. Basically, God allows us to become more and more human and eventually we lose the ability to connect with our God-image and fall completely away into destruction. This concept was on a discussion of heaven and hell and was illustrating that hell can begin for persons even before their death as they completely lose this connection to God.

That is not the end God wants for us. The whole of the Biblical story is God’s plan to save us from that self-destruction through the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I think homosexuality is a difficult area of discussion because there is so much extreme history that has caused pain. Can we get to a place with a person where we are not condemning the person or the identity, but the particular action of sin? Can we convince them (the homosexual) of that? I know that “love the person, hate the sin” is a bit of a cliche, but we have to admit as a church we’ve not always been successful on that score. What can individual Christians do to love our friends and family that are same sex attracted? How can we introduce them to the person of Christ–as in video reference from Helen Tan?

For a good resource I recommend looking at the website that Sam Allberry is connected with: Lots of good content on that site.

God bless.

(Helen Tan) #10

Hi Lindsay, thank you for asking. It made me reflect more on what was said :)) I think we share the view that it’s difficult to form a one –size- fits-all strategy as each person is different with their individual background and biases. What this discussion is doing is provide a range of thoughts and responses for us to draw on depending on the circumstances. The approach adopted by Rosaria’s pastor is one option which I felt is worth bearing in mind, particularly if longer term discussions are possible.

The reason why I shared this option is that from my personal encounters, conversations have inevitably degenerated into combative situations with seemingly immovable subjective viewpoints which got me nowhere. This can admittedly be attributed to my lack of tact and skills, which I’m here to improve on :)) I’ve found that, oftentimes, people asking this question have already got their guard up and are primed to battle. To diffuse that tension, one thing I like to do upfront is acknowledge that they have a valid question, one which I would love to discuss with them at length over time (learned this from watching Ravi). One key element Rosaria highlighted was that extended time was spent with her to enable her to experience Christian hospitality, and to discuss the Bible and life. Of significance to her was that her pastor did not point out her sins at the outset. That conviction came as she got to know Jesus.

So, if given the opportunity, I would extend an invitation: “I think you’ve raised an important question and can see that it means something to you, and I appreciate that. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought too and hope that we can meet up for tea or a meal to talk more as the current time frame will simply not do justice to the question you have raised.”

In these future meetings, I would listen and allow the conversation to grow organically while keenly seeking any opportunity to introduce the God of the Bible. Here’s something I do at times when deemed appropriate. I jumpstart conversations (if they’re floundering or simply to re-direct them) by asking something seemingly provocative such as: “Do you think that the God of the Bible is a killjoy?” If the answer is ‘yes’, it opens up the opportunity to ask: “In all fairness, would you accord me the opportunity to show you who He is and what He is like before embracing this view?” This could be the start of a fruitful discussion. In the process, one point which I would want to get across is that we are all universally guilty of sin, whatever the nature of that sin is, and hurting others and getting hurt is inevitable. We all need help. We all need the perfect love of God as seen in Christ.

What I’ve talked about is a generic response based on a longer term perspective. I look forward to more thoughts and suggestions for improvement. You mentioned that you’ve had extensive experience in this respect and I look forward to hearing and learning from you.

(Jennifer Judson) #11

Thanks, Helen. I’m learning so much from everyone. I really appreciate you starting this post, Tim. It’s such an important topic.

(Ron Livaudais) #12

Other questions that may be asked are, Does homosexuality violate God’s created image or nature? He created both male and female in His image. Male and male and female and female represent only half of God’s image and nature. Does homosexuality distort the picture of Christ and the Church? Christ is considered the head of the Church, it’s Bridegroom, and the Church represents His Bride. The Bible states that Jesus is coming back for His Bride. Does the homosexual relationship in any way pervert the image of the relationship between man and woman and the relationship between Christ and the Church? So, the question, who does it hurt in regards to homosexuality may be a misdirected one. The seeking of God’s purpose and truth may be the answer to a host of any number of questions besides, is anyone is being hurt, whatever one may define hurt to mean in its own narrow way. When confronted with a delemna or question about a particular matter, is there an assumption that there is only one question that will bring a sufficient answer, or may there be an array of questions that may lead to the answer you are looking for?

(Ron Livaudais) #13

I like the idea of getting to the root cause(fallen nature)of our separation from God instead
of dealing with the symptoms of our sins. Once Christ comes in and gives us a new heart
and our sins are forgiven, then we will realize that it was our fallen nature that had to be risen
and our relationship restored before we could live a life where sin no longer had a hold on
us, and by the faith of the Son of God and His unlimited Grace, that we could live a life
victorious over sin and pleasing to God!

(Jennifer Judson) #14

@ronliv2004 the following is an excerpt from a segment by Ed Shaw on It speaks to what you were getting at in your post. The full page is well worth reading.

Real sex is unity in difference

This is made very clear right at the beginning. Read Genesis 1:27 where two distinct sexes are created. Read Genesis 2:24 where sex is created as the union of these two different sexes. Through sexual intercourse a man and a woman become, spiritually and literally, one. That is what real sex is all about.

And that is why sex outside marriage can’t be right in God’s sight. Just as permanence and faithfulness are required to truly unite two different people, so is the fact that the two people are fundamentally different. If we remove one integral aspect of the biblical picture of marriage (sexual difference) why should we retain its other essential features such as permanence and fidelity?

But why is that sexual difference so significant to God? Why see it as so important as to deny some people the joy of sex? Because sex and marriage between the different sexes is there to provide a picture of the permanent, faithful, stable relationship between God and his people (Hosea 2) and, in particular, Jesus and the church (Ephesians 5:28-32). This is the greatest marriage ever in which two essentially different realities, God and his people, become one for all of time (Revelation 21:1-4). Marriage exists primarily to point us to this union of difference – between God and humanity – with which the world will end. Start redefining marriage and you are destroying the essential beauty of God’s eternal picture of his love for his people.

So actually what often makes heterosexual sexual relationships so difficult for humans – the difference between the sexes - is what makes them so beautiful in God’s sight. Melinda Selmys, a Christian with experience of both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, reflects on this:

It is because of, and not in spite of, the tensions between the sexes that marriage works. Masculinity and femininity each have their vices and their strengths. The difficulty when you have two women or two men together is that they understand each other too well, and are thus inclined more to excuse than forgive. That frank bafflement which inevitably sets in, in any heterosexual relationship (“Why on earth would he do that? I just don’t understand…”) never set in throughout all of the years that my girlfriend and I were together - naturally enough. We were both women, and we chose each other because we seemed to be particularly compatible women.3
(3 Melinda Selmys, Sexual Authenticity, p.113.)

(Lindsay Brandt) #15

Thank you for responding, Helen, and I think it is a great response, too! I cannot fully respond about my own experience here at the moment, but I wanted to get back with you to let you know that I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts and the ways you would approach. I will try to get back on as soon as I possibly can to expound upon my own experiences. Thanks again, Helen!

(Tim Behan) #16

Hi again everyone. Just wanted to say again how thankful I am for all the responses. Jennifer… some really helpful points which I will think some more on and see how I can put them across to those I know.

Thank you all. :slight_smile:

(Lindsay Brandt) #17

Hi, Helen! Finally, my schedule has allowed me to get back to this to give a better response and share a little more! You make a really great point that people often already have their guard up in asking these questions. The type of question we are discussing here are loaded and can very easily lead to heated conversations. I like that you point out the importance of building and developing relationship as key to dealing with these questions over time, too. Most of my experience involved fellow employees or employees that were under my charge, and where I happened to work, people came from very rough, harsh backgrounds and so were extra suspicious and protective of themselves and their views. They had their guards up about being “converted” in the first place, as I found out once they saw that I was a Christian, and so asking them to go to a meal or have a coffee to discuss more was highly suspect to them. In most cases, though, I like your approach of asking people to meet to talk more after letting them know that you are interested in responding to them and their questions.

So, I worked at a McDonald’s a few years as a manager, and because people saw that I was a Christian, they began approaching me with all kinds of questions. (None of the other employees, out of the thirty or so that we had, was Christian.) Since we had a few people working there who were openly homosexual, one of the big questions they really wanted to know was if I thought it was wrong. Now, after taking a beginner’s apologetics course, I recognize there is no winning answer to that question and that approaching the question with a question or approaching indirectly might normally be the best options. However, at the time, because this group was very suspicious of indirect answers to things and would call a person out if it seemed like she was avoiding a question, I was honest and said, “Yes.” To my surprise, there was no angry reaction (I found they appreciated my honesty), and that led to more questions, one of which was the same one that Tim was asked (the question that titles this thread). I approached by trying to direct to God’s love, because I knew that the questioner was not going to understand a biblical explanation very well without knowing God’s love for her or being in relationship with the Lord. If I am remembering correctly, I said something along the lines of “God loves people, including you, so much that He has taken great care to design everything according to His knowledge of what is best for us. Like a good parent, He sets boundaries for us to keep us within that design so that we are able to prosper in the way which He meant and designed for us.” I framed it in God’s design and connected His desire for us to live according to that design with His love for people, because so often, people will think of God as some kind of control freak who makes arbitrary rules that He insists on people following simply because He is God. I then proceeded to say that God knew that people would not live according to His plans/design for them, and so out of His great love for them, He planned for that also. Then I introduced Jesus, which led into questions about salvation. This is only one example of a specific conversation I had with someone with which I had already built a level of trust. We had talked about God and the Bible off and on, little bits of conversation here and there, because this individual (along with others) was “testing the waters,” I think, to see how I would react. It was fortunate at the time that I was going through human services classes so that I could recognize this and respond with the greatest care I knew how. Besides this specific example, if I had a bit of a stronger relationship with the individual, I would ask something like, “How do you know it doesn’t hurt anyone?” Or I would ask whether they thought parents only had rules for their children that pertained to harming anyone. Those more directly engage the question, but I used the conversation that followed to talk about the love of God and Jesus. As these conversations went on, people wanted to know more about the Bible. One of the other managers I had developed a relationship with told me that she wanted to make a decision for Jesus but that she didn’t know if she could because she could never understand why homosexuality is wrong. Instead of giving her a theological or technical answer at that point, I simply told her that everyone struggles at times with accepting the way God has things, even mature Christians, but that the struggle is okay. I told her that she could have a relationship with Jesus and still struggle with that, that it did not have to be a choice between the two and that as she grew in her relationship with him, he would lead her. This seemed to give her some peace. Since I deleted my Facebook, I have since lost contact with her (I moved across the country, and she’s not a phone person), but I know she had other Christians come into her life during the tail end of our conversations, and I trust that God will work through them to help her.

I know that these are very specific, but as you wisely said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this, so the best I can do, I think, is share some examples of my responses in more specific situations. But I try to do what you were talking about and direct people to the love of God rather than talking about what is right and wrong. If we talk about what is right or wrong, coming from different ways of understanding what is right or wrong that are based on very different presuppositions, then we will simply get entangled in conversation that leads nowhere and ceases to produce the fruit we are hoping to see. My responses in the examples I gave were uninformed by any trained knowledge of apologetics or evangelism, because I hadn’t taken any courses or even heard Ravi speak at that time, so some may think the responses are “off,” but I know that the individuals I spoke to kept returning for more conversation, which tells me the responses, at least for those situations, were fruitful.

Anyways, this was kind of lengthy, but those are just a couple examples from my own experiences I chose to share.

(Helen Tan) #18

Hi Lindsay! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share very practical advice from your experiences with people on this subject. I see that through the time you’ve spent with them that they must have seen something different and special in you, and have grown to trust you enough to not be offended when you were honest. You’ve shown that, very often, it’s how we come across to others in our daily lives that makes room for a more honest dialogue. Pointing to the love of God and Jesus and whetting their appetite for more is a good way to draw them into more conversation. What you said is a great gentle reminder for us to always share the truth in love.

(Sandy) #19

Hello Tim, and thanks for the question: “How can it be wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone else?”.
Of course, the variables of who’s asking - what’s our relationship, do they believe there is a God, etc. - would dictate each particular conversation. Answering the questioner as we’ve been taught. Still, here’s how my response might begin…

“First I agree completely that as adults we have free choice. So let’s look at that a moment - where did we get that ability from? Why do we function with such a will to choose?”

This should open up a discussion for truth in love, that hopefully, leads to opportunities to share from The Word and Father’s heart including Deut 30:15,18 that shows how even as adults we don’t always have the information or ability to make right choices. In this conversation I like thinking of and using the idea of violation of purpose, as learned from Ravi. I’d then ask “Can the thing made really know better its purpose than the One who made it?” Hence, I go to the handbook provided by the Creator who I know only has my best in mind.

It’s tempting to talk about the sin of homosexuality specifically, but I think it’s important not to make the unbeliever think that their sin is worst than any other, but rather the core issue being one of the heart condition and why Jesus came not only to take away sin, but is Himself the Cure. Finally, I may talk about the assumptions of ‘not hurting anyone’. What about those cases of hurting parents and torn families? What of so many who thought the same way, and later in regret, rediscovered their proper gender roles again and the toll it took. I would also gladly confirm for them how every time I ‘choose’ not to believe God how it always comes at a cost, with consequences, always loss of peace, and how every violation ultimately robs the soul (hurting ourselves)…dulling the heart making it harder and harder to enjoy closeness with our God who desires only to lavish us with the everlasting love of a Good Father!

(Laurie King) #20

Hi Lindsay, I thoroughly appreciate you offering specific conversations on this very divisive issue. I don’t think you can ever go wrong in pointing to the love of God first. And most can understand the analogy of a parent’s admonition toward her child. It might seem super fun to eat potato chips and Hershey bars 24/7, and after all it isn’t hurting anyone, right?! But a parent who truly loves their child is not going to sit back and let this one so precious to them, destroy them self. He is after all the creator, designer of each of us and certainly should have authority and wisdom to know how we “work best” and what our purpose is. This is a very personal conversation for me as one of my own is struggling with SSA.

(Lindsay Brandt) #21

Hello, @Laurieb75. My heart goes out to you and your loved one that struggles with SSA. That certainly cannot be easy at all, especially because in the Christian world, we have so many different responses to that struggle, some that can be destructive and harmful to the struggling individual both mentally and spiritually…and sometimes, unfortunately, physically. I fear that some of the adverse reactions we see from those of the world towards Christian beliefs about homosexuality are indeed caused by the hateful acts and words of those who merely label themselves Christians but do not truly understand the state of their own depravity before God that would instill the humility necessary to engage with individuals struggling with SSA in a loving, God-honoring way. I pray for strength and wisdom for you and that God brings people into your life that can be a support and help, people who are able and equipped to minister to this person you care for in a way that shows him/her God’s love and hope provided in Jesus Christ and that he/she does not have to be alone in the struggle.

(Harris Ratnayake) #22

I didn’t read everyone’s post so my thoughts may have been addressed already - if so forgive me.

The question implies that wrong has to do with hurting people. This is how the world thinks. But if you ask them is it wrong to have an affair if your spouse doesn’t know about it even they will question the “wrong means hurting people” philosophy. Wrong has to do with breaking the law. Legal wrong has to do with breaking the government’s law and moral wrong has to do with breaking God’s law. And just as the government’s law is designed to help (supposedly) society as a whole God’s law is designed to help the entire universe (my thinking) as a whole.