In the case of the latter issue, churches have tended to fall into one of two extremes. Either they embrace sexually active homosexuals, condoning the gay lifestyle (a lifestyle of being sexually active), or they condemn homosexuals to “hell” in no uncertain terms. Neither of these extremes is biblical and both attitudes show woeful ignorance of reality.
Some churches, a distinct minority, are trying to understand. On the one hand they recognize that Scripture condemns homosexual acts, just as all sexual acts outside of marriage are condemned; on the other hand, they recognize that homosexual desires are not a “choice” and that many of their members struggle with homosexual desires even while trying to be loyal and faithful members of the Church, obedient to God’s moral laws.
Understanding the causes of homosexuality helps take away the fear of homosexuality.
These Desires in Conflict, the title of a book on the subject written by Exodus founder Joe Dallas, need to be understood and reconciled if the Christian struggler is to have peace of mind and lead a more normal life.
Homosexual desires not a choice
Leviticus 18:22 makes it plain that sex between two men is not acceptable to God. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
Millennia later, we see the apostle Paul addressing the problem in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where he writes: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
He adds these interesting words: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (verse 11).
Verse 11 shows us that there were people in the Corinthian church who had been practicing homosexuals but had left their former lifestyle behind them. They were no longer breaking God’s law in this area. But does this mean that they no longer had homosexual feelings?
Leviticus chapter 18 lists homosexual acts as one sexual sin amongst many. 1 Corinthians chapter 6 shows that homosexuality is one sin amongst many that can keep you out of the kingdom of God. As with the other sins, repentance and baptism does not mean that somebody is never going to be tempted again in their area of weakness. Satan is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He will always exploit an individual Christian’s weaknesses, which vary from person to person.
Just as somebody who has had a history of fornication is going to be tempted to commit fornication again, even after repentance and baptism, an individual who has had homosexual relationships in the past will be similarly tempted. For the person struggling with homosexual desires, it can be more difficult. At least a fornicator can eventually be satisfied within an heterosexual marriage, but the homosexual will always feel that something is missing in his or her life. The clear distinction made in verse 9 between “homosexuals” and “sodomites” also shows us that not all people who are attracted to the same sex conduct themselves in the same manner.
Which brings us back to a fundamental truth that few understand. Homosexual orientation (same-sex attraction) is not a choice—homosexual acts are. Herein lies the difference between homosexual and gay. All gays are homosexual, but not all homosexuals are gay. Many, perhaps even most people who have homosexual desires desperately want to live a heterosexual lifestyle. They wish to marry and have children and to be “normal” like everybody else. Gays, however, enthusiastically embrace a particular lifestyle with an emphasis on promiscuous sex between people of the same sex. Being gay is a choice. Having homosexual feelings is not.
Does God make people homosexual?
This does not mean that God determines that some people should be heterosexual and some homosexual. This is what gays want everybody to think because that seemingly justifies their doing whatever they want. Many churches have fallen for this argument.
It is a fact that most homosexuals know that they have always had homosexual desires as long as they can remember, even when they were very young. So they conclude that they were “born this way.”
It must be emphasized that there is no evidence that people are born homosexual. At the same time, it is clear that most people with homosexual feelings remember being different from their earliest memories. What is the answer to this puzzle? An explanation (based on considerable evidence) is that homosexuality is caused very early in life when something goes wrong in the emotional upbringing of a child.
For example, a boy who feels rejection from his father in his formative years will always be trying to fill the gap, craving love from a man to fill the emotional void he felt as a young child. Later on, this desire becomes sexualized.
An obvious question comes to mind here: Why is it that some boys with no father at all turn out all right, when others with a father are homosexual? The answer lies in one word: perception. Children are very sensitive and emotionally vulnerable, some more than others. A child’s perception of rejection can cause homosexuality. A family of six boys, all neglected equally by an absent father, may only produce one boy with homosexual feelings. That boy’s perception of rejection was different from that of the others. A mother who overly compensates for a neglectful or absent father is also going to be a contributory factor.
Understanding the causes of homosexuality helps take away the fear of homosexuality. Homosexual feelings are reactions to deficiencies in early life. For many people who have same-sex attraction, the learned behavior (and to some extent, even the feelings) can be unlearned, through a process known as reparative therapy, pioneered by people like Dr. Joe Nicolosi of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality). The process isn’t easy, and those who try it are not always successful. It takes time and involves costly psychiatric counseling sessions, but it has helped hundreds of people overcome their homosexual feelings sufficiently to function as heterosexuals, marry and have families.
Double standards, even in churches
What we have in most churches is a terrible double standard when it comes to the subject of homosexuality. Society in general will overlook adultery, even wink at it, in spite of the fact that adultery destroys marriages and can have a lifelong devastating effect on innocent children. Many Christians today have committed fornication, have been guilty of idolatry, have coveted and occasionally gotten drunk—and freely admitted to these past sins with others, but the sin of homosexuality is still one that must remain secret. It’s in a category all of its own—as the Victorians used to call it, “the sin that dare not speak its name.” This only makes it harder for those who struggle. If the apostle Paul knew that there were people in Corinth who had this problem, why is it today that few church leaders are aware of homosexual strugglers in their midst?
If churches had all along tried to understand this problem instead of polarizing it, a gay lifestyle might never have become popular. If churches during the past century had educated parents about the causes of homosexuality and helped those struggling with homosexual desires to resist and overcome as they must have done in Paul’s time (“and such were some of you”), the Western world could be very different today.
How can churches help?
Most churches are afraid even to address the issue of homosexuality. The liberal churches tend to say very little other than condoning the gay lifestyle and encouraging people to stay “just as you are.” The more conservative churches fear being labeled "liberal" by simply addressing the issue, even if they are not compromising with God’s law. The result is that churches have polarized between the traditionalists who condemn gay people to hell, even using hateful slurs, and the liberals who embrace people openly living the gay lifestyle, even accepting them as clergy.
One consequence of this dilemma is that church pastors and members often have no idea that there are people in their congregations struggling with homosexuality. Many of these members are crying out for help. They do not want to give in to their sexual desires, but need help, encouragement and acceptance from others, especially their pastors, if they are to remain faithful Christians.
Following are the essential ways in which churches can help:
First, by realizing and publically acknowledging that they have loyal and faithful members who nevertheless, through no choice of their own, struggle with same-sex attraction.
Second, by learning and teaching the facts about homosexuality and how best to help homosexuals. This is a much-needed part of Christian education. Leaders must try to understand the causes of homosexuality, teach good parenting, and help families to have healthy and godly relationships.
Third, by accepting, respecting, befriending, and offering to help all the believers regardless of what mental and spiritual struggles they have. Ministers especially need to learn what approaches are needed to relate to and help all kinds of people. Consider Paul’s example when he said, “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more,” and, “Give no offence…just as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 9:19; 10:32-33). We must do our best to serve, “win” and “save” all those whom God is calling into His Church. We must be good shepherds to nurture everyone’s spiritual growth.
Fourth, by learning what additional steps to suggest to people with same-sex attraction. In some cases, it may be wise to suggest a Christian counselor who has strong expertise regarding this subject. The possibility of reparative therapy should be explained to anyone who might be interested in pursuing that course.
In summary, we must keep clearly in mind that while all evil actions including deliberate lusting are sins, inclinations of the mind are not. The inclination is not depravity. Giving in is. God’s people must flee all immorality and temptation. Just as the acts of adultery and fornication are sin, it is the acts of homosexuality that are sin.
I hope this explanation and set of brief suggestions will give you a good start toward understanding this critical subject. I hope that all church ministers and members will be prayerfully prepared to help their brothers and sisters in Christ—those whom God is calling into His Church—including those who still struggle with various serious temptations.