The following is from an article in a newsletter published by Theology Matters. [Editor]
All sin is serious. Only the death of Christ can atone for it. There is no sin so small that it does not need the atoning blood of Christ. There is no sin so great that the atoning blood of Christ is not sufficient to cover it.
But Scripture does single out some sins as particularly serious offenses to God our Creator. Idolatry, for example. We also see the motivations that drive us to certain sins are especially twisted. The hatred that leads to murder, for example. And we observe that certain sins have graver and more lasting consequences. King David’s adultery with Bathsheba set in motion a series of events that tormented David, his family, and the entire kingdom of Israel for many years.
Some people question why recent debates in the church have revolved around same-sex behavior. They ask, “What about other sins like greed, thievery, pornography, gossip or adultery? The political answer is that other sins don’t have advocacy/lobby groups promoting them. We would be debating gossip if there were groups lauding gossip as a blessing from God that the church should celebrate.
There are four deeper theological answers why same-sex behavior is a particularly serious sin that we can’t afford to ignore. There are reasons why Old Testament law lists same-sex relations among the “abominations” that can cut off individuals and the people from their God (Leviticus 18), and why the apostle Paul cites those relations as a striking distortion of God’s created order (Romans 1).
First, proponents of same-sex behavior, in affirming it as a natural, God-given “orientation,” effectively deny human fallen nature and therefore our need for a Savior. Second, this same-sex “orientation” is claimed as an identity–“it’s who I am”–that has priority over our identity as new creations in Christ. Third, same-sex behavior would unite Christ, who dwells in us, as “one flesh” in a sinful relationship. Fourth, same-sex advocates blaspheme Christ by blessing in his name a behavior he condemns and came to redeem.
1) Advocacy for same-sex behavior as a natural “orientation” denies humanity’s fallenness and need for a Savior
Advocates for same-sex behavior reject Scripture’s clear prohibitions as out-dated. They claim its writers were not aware of sexual “orientation” as part of the created order. Jeffrey Siker, Professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University, writes on the Covenant Network homosexual advocacy website, that the biblical authors knew nothing of “sexual orientation” since it is a “modern notion.” He claims: “Sexual orientation is as natural and unchosen as left-handedness or brown eyes. It is simply part of the rich diversity of God’s creation.”
Siker is wrong. First his logic is faulty. Christ did not come to redeem physical characteristics like brown eyes. Second, social science evidence suggests that sexual desire is quite changeable over different periods of life. And we all choose whether or not to act on those desires.
Third, biblical writers knew about humanity’s sinful orientation. Biblical, historic, creedal Christian faith interprets Genesis 1-3 as Creation and Fall. God creates all that exists and pronounces his creation to be “good.” But in Genesis 3, human beings want to be like God, so they reject God’s command and choose to sin. That sin is passed onto every subsequent generation. From Genesis 3 onward, every human being is born with an “orientation” toward sin. Specific acts of sin flow from our sinful orientation or nature. So, Scripture tells us, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Psalm 51 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Just because a desire feels natural and assails us powerfully does not mean that God intended that desire in creation, or that God wills us to gratify that desire today. Everyone is born with a sinful orientation that makes us slaves to sin. Paul writes:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5).
The Christian designation for this sinful nature or orientation is “original sin.” Every human being is born with an orientation toward sin and not toward righteousness.
Only “crucifying the old self” and “new birth” in Christ gives us a new orientation toward the things of God and away from self and our sinful desires. So, Paul writes:”Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24).
In this sense a sexual desire for someone of the same sex is no different from other disordered passions that belong to the flesh. It is evidence of the sinful nature. Those passions, whatever they may be, cannot be subdued by human choice alone. They must be crucified through the power of the Holy Spirit.
2) Proponents of same-sex behavior exalt it as an identity that takes precedence over their identity in Christ.
Those who claim that their identity is found in their sexual behavior are rejecting the lordship of Christ. The identity of a Christian is in Christ not in the individual’s deeds or behaviors. Claiming an identity related to a human behavior, rather than Christ’s death on the cross, denies the need for a Savior. It is saying to Christ, “This is who I am in my essence and therefore you cannot change me and should not change me.”
Interestingly in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists past identities of his Christian readers. The words used to describe them are nouns not verbs. Paul does not say that the Corinthian Christians had been “people who committed acts of idolatry.” He says instead that they were idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, slanderers. Their identity was based on their behavior. But, Paul says, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” No longer is their identity found in their behavior. Now their identity is in Christ.
All of us have sinned and will continue to sin until either Christ returns or we enter glory. Daily we yield all of ourselves to the lordship of Christ–our relationships, our dreams, our time, our behavior, our gifts, and our skills. Daily we repent of sin and struggle against sinful desires. The difference in our lives is that now out of love for Christ, we want to crucify every act, every thought, every desire that is not of Christ but part of our old sinful nature.
3) Sexual immorality is a serious sin because of our union with Christ.
Paul explains why sexual sin is a particularly serious sin in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. In the pagan culture of Paul’s day, people viewed satisfying sexual appetites as no different from satisfying physical hunger. The attitude was: you’re hungry, so you eat; you are lusting, so you find a sex partner. Paul explains, on the contrary, why sex is a far more serious thing than eating. It is a matter of uniting ourselves with another person. But, once Christ has claimed us, body and soul, we no longer belong to our ourselves. Our bodies belong to him, and everything we do in them implicates him. Paul asks:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never. Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” … And do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God….Therefore honor God with your body.
The Gnostics of Paul’s day believed that the body was a throw-away and only the soul was of eternal importance. Therefore, what people did with their bodies was of no importance. Christ’s resurrection and our bodily union with Christ changed how Christians view the body. It is not a throw-away. For the Christian, the body will be raised immortal and united with Christ for all eternity.
The sexual act unites two people. Baptism unites us with Christ. Therefore, to be united to a prostitute means that Christ is united to the prostitute. People who unite themselves with members of the same sex similarly unite their bodies to sin and then seek to unite that sin to Christ. What we do with our bodies matters. Therefore Scripture tells us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)
4) Advocates of same-sex marriage blaspheme Christ by using a worship service to bless in the name of Christ, a behavior that the Word of God says Christ died to redeem.
Finally those who seek to bless same-sex behavior do not worship Christ in truth. They deny Christ’s work on the cross by blessing in his name and with his authority a behavior that he died to redeem. Therefore, they blaspheme the name of Christ.
In the Old Testament (Isaiah 36-37), the field commander of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came to Jerusalem to capture the city. In an effort to demoralize the people in the hope they would surrender, he told them that Yahweh was just like the gods of the already defeated neighboring cities. Yahweh calls the field commander’s words blasphemy because he denied God’s nature and power. In the same way, invoking God’s name and authority to bless a behavior that God in His Word condemns is blasphemy–exchanging the truth of God for a lie; worshiping the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
The church must condemn sexual immorality in all of its forms in order to open the way for those ensnared in it to confess their sins, receive cleansing, and enter into a new life in Christ. These gifts of God: new orientation, new identity, union with Christ, and reconciliation to our Creator–are not available to those who persist in unrepentant sin. They are freely given to all who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, come to God and plead, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”