Ed M. Vitagliano
AFA vice president
May 2018 – In churches around the country, Christians are struggling to answer an important question: Can a Christian struggle with same sex desire and still inherit the kingdom of God if he* does not participate in same sex activities? It is a question with eternal significance, since Paul says that homosexuals – among other categories of sinners – will not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Depths of depraved nature
The mental health profession denies the possibility of changing sexual orientation, even while readily admitting it does not understand the dynamics of homosexuality. The website of the American Psychiatric Association says: “No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.”
How can those who claim that no one knows what causes homosexuality insist that such a sexual orientation cannot be changed?
On the other hand, perhaps the APA is on to something. Perhaps they understand just how difficult it is to change the “inner man.”
Biblically speaking, this internal stubbornness does not apply only to a homosexual orientation. Scripture makes clear that unregenerate human nature cannot be changed by human effort. As Jesus said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
Does this mean that a gay person can’t help what he is? Yes. But this does not mean that the homosexual is not guilty before a holy God. In fact, we are all guilty before God because none of us can help what we are in our fallen condition.
A homosexual might even say, “I don’t want to be this way,” but that doesn’t help him change. Without the intervention of God, the adulterer stays an adulterer. The fornicator remains a fornicator. The gay man stays gay. None can change. We are all shut up under sin.
The problem is that many Christians never really saw their “lostness” in a biblical way. We think back and believe that we were, by and large, pretty good people who needed a little cleaning up around the edges – like a guy going to the barbershop and just wanting a trim.
That’s not at all how the Bible portrays us: people completely lost and ruined; alienated from God; cut off from His life; stubborn sinners; idolaters; enemies.
Repenting of being me
Part of the Great Commission is “that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47).
The Bible makes clear that homosexual acts are sinful. Yet what about a same-sex orientation apart from sexual activity? Is it also sinful?
The answer appears to be yes. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul speaks of the homosexual’s “degrading passions” – or desires – themselves. He also mentions that they “burned in their desire toward one another” and then committed “indecent acts.”
These sinful homosexual acts were rooted in same sex lusts. But what are these desires rooted in? Lust is simply the unleashing of the attraction. All three – orientation, lust, and act – appear to be located on the same sinful continuum.
However, this is not descriptive of the homosexual condition alone. All of unregenerate human nature is sinful. This means we are literally called to repent of who we are. Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18).
The homosexual is called to repent of his sexual orientation – to admit before God that its very existence is a manifestation of a corrupted sexuality. Yet every person is called to repent on this level. Perhaps it is not a broken sexual nature – but it is a broken something. When Paul says “nothing good” exists in the unregenerate nature, he means precisely that.
Grace, grace, grace
Perhaps the person born blind cries out to the Lord for a miracle, and sometimes God answers and heals. But if we are honest, most of the time God does not seem to be willing – for whatever the reason – to perform that miracle.
Likewise, countless people who self-identify as homosexual profess to have prayed endlessly for God to take away from them their same sex attractions – to no avail.
This is not the whole story, of course. Despite the media’s refusal to consider the reality of “ex-gay” people, there are clearly many who have left the lifestyle. While temptation remains, they have – by God’s grace – re-oriented their affections to the opposite sex. Scripture declares that homosexuals can be healed and saved (1 Corinthians 6:11).
A difficult road
On the other hand, like the blind or paralyzed person who cries out to God for physical healing but does not receive it, Christians who still struggle with same sex attraction may have found themselves similarly frustrated.
For some reason, God often responds to prayer requests as He did with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The battle goes on. The Christian must fight against his fallen nature as the Israelites fought against the continual encroachments of the Philistines.
What, then, do we say to the homosexual? What are they to do with their brokenness? First, if they remain defiant in it, they will eternally perish. Yet this is no different than the drunkard or the fornicator or the liar or the idolater. All who remain in their rebellion are damned.
We say to the homosexual as we should say to everyone else who is mere flesh: Law can’t save you. Religion can’t deliver you. All your righteous deeds are as filthy rags. There is none good, no, not one. Humble yourself before God, repent of who you are at your deepest level – and all that flows out of that polluted spring – and trust in Christ.
So, can a person be a “gay” Christian? The question itself smacks of politics and spiritual compromise. In the world there exist (1) non-Christians and (2) Christians. The former live in the flesh; the latter do not. The Christian has one object in his sight – Jesus Christ. God’s people desire to be like His Son – and everything else must go.
How does a person embrace an orientation that he disdains? Can a person be a Christian adulterer or Christian fornicator? If I come to Christ in defiance and, contra Paul in Romans 7:18, insist that there is some good in my flesh after all, true repentance has not occurred.
Can a person be a Christian and still struggle against same sex attractions? Yes. When we become followers of Christ, we continue to battle the flesh in all its permutations (Galatians 5:16-17). But we have the power of Christ on our side, and we are called to gain mastery over the impulses that have plagued us, even if the impulses themselves remain.
In His interaction with the rich young ruler, Jesus made clear that idolatry in the heart could keep a person from entering the kingdom. It says that the disciples were very astonished to hear this, and they asked, “Then who can be saved?”
To His followers and to every other human being who peers up at the mountain that is their sin and fallen nature, Jesus says the same thing: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25, 26).
This is what the gospel declares. The church must be the first to say so.
*This article will use the pronoun “he” throughout, rather than the more cumbersome “he or she.”
The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert A. Gagnon is arguably the best evangelical response to so-called “gay theology.”
The music and ministry of Dennis Jernigan were sparked by his lifelong struggle with homosexuality and the healing that came through Jesus Christ. Available at afastore.net or 877-927-4917.