probably the most emotionally divisive issue facing our nation.
It's a hot topic, as a range of Newsweek covers on the issue suggests:
January 18th, "AIDS in the Arts"; February 1st, "Gays in
Military"; March 22nd, "Taming the AIDS Virus"; June 21st,
"Lesbians Coming Out Strong"; and October 25th, "Sexual
Correctness. Has It Gone Too far?"
Homosexuality is a heavy issue facing our culture and the
church, and I want to address it as honestly as I know how. But I want to begin
by making a few statements.
First, if you don't hear anything else I say, I want you to
hear this: if you're a homosexual, you matter to God. He loves you, cares about
you, and has a plan for your life.
Second, you matter to me. Pastors and other Christians
haven't always made that clear. In fact, if we've done anything, we've said
you're the enemy, which you're not. You've been ridiculed and rejected by
Christians and the church all your life, and I want you to hear me say I'm
sorry. Many Christians need to repent and ask for forgiveness for the hate
they've expressed toward the homosexual community.
When I was a student pastor during seminary years, I got a
phone call from a funeral home in town, requesting me to perform a funeral.
They informed me that the person was not connected with my church or any
I said, "Fine. If the family needs me, that's
He said, "There's something I have to tell you. You're
the last pastor I've called. Every other pastor in town turned this funeral
down. You need to know this man was a homosexual and died of AIDS. None of them
will come to be with the family. None of them will do the funeral. None of them
want anything to do with it."
I became extremely angry at that, and that incident marked
me for life. Another experience that marked me was having a gay friend. Early
on in our friendship, we had a long discussion. As I was leaving, he said,
"You're the first Christian who's talked with me and never made me feel
like a faggot. Thanks for being a friend."
I share these incidents with you because you need to know
what I'm going to say right now is not tinged by homophobia and insensitivity.
I say it with compassion, not out hateful judgmentalism. I hope you'll let me
talk honestly about this as a pastor who's trying to teach what God has to say.
Homosexuality departs from
God's blueprint for sexual intimacy
I want to begin by looking at God's original design for us
as human beings, found in Genesis 2.
"The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be
alone. I'll make a helper suitable for him.'" The Lord God made a woman,
brought her to the man. "For this reason a man will leave his father and
mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and
his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."
There are four foundational truths I want you to get from
that passage. First, God created sexual identity. Second, when he created
sexual identity, the identity was male and female. Scripture says the suitable
helper for Adam was a woman. Third, God created sexual intimacy. And fourth,
that sexual intimacy was to take place as the two became one in the context of
That's the blueprint, according to Scripture, that God
designed for our sexuality. Homosexuals depart from this blueprint in two
First, rather than embracing solely the design for
sexuality, homosexuality embraces a preference as the blueprint for
sexual intimacy, or at least for their sexual intimacy and expression. Second,
they depart from God's intent for sexual intimacy to take place within the
confines of a marriage.
When God's blueprint is on one side and homosexual departure
is on the other, it should come as no surprise that when the Bible speaks about
homosexuality it suggests that the homosexual departure is not God's design.
Some Scriptural language is very clear about this.
For example, Leviticus says, "Homosexuality is
absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin." Leviticus 20:13 says,
"If a man has sexual relations with another man they have done a
Romans 1 says, "The wrath of God is being revealed from
heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth
by their wickedness. They exchange the truth of God for a lie. Even their women
exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also
abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one
another. Although they knew God's righteous decree that those who do such
things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but
approve of those who practice it."
It is extremely compelling to me that every single reference
in Scripture about homosexuality condemns it without question. So let's review.
God created human beings as male and female. He intended for
sexual intimacy to be there and there alone in the context of marriage. As a
result, the Bible sees any departure from that design, homosexuality as one
example, as outside of God's will for our lives.
Homosexuality is no different
than any other behavior that is outside of God's will
Let's play devil's advocate with the Bible. Let's look at
the big arguments that say, "Yeah, but" and see if the Bible stands
What's the great argument against everything I've just said?
"This is how I'm made! You can talk about Scripture all day long, but this
is who and what I am. This is in my DNA structure. It is unfair, even cruel to
condemn me for how God made me. I didn't create this desire; God did. Why
should I be condemned for following my natural desires?"
Let's acknowledge that many people who pursue a lifestyle of
homosexual behavior have a strong tendency toward that behavior. Some people
seem to have a homosexual orientation that can be brought to the surface
through a variety of psychological factors and personal experiences.
But a homosexual orientation is no different than any other
kind of orientation somebody can have toward a particular behavior or a particular
lifestyle that may or may not be outside of God's will. For some, this
orientation might be pride, alcohol abuse, gambling, a quick temper, slander,
or gossip. All of us have certain aspects of our that shape who we are
and make us prone to certain temptations and activities. There may be an area I
struggle with all my life that's not a big deal for you.
But an orientation towards something is a lot different than
a legitimation of it.
Let's say you believe, "I do what I do because I am
what I am." Let's test the validity of this statement.
Psychologically it can't be true. Psychologists will tell
you that who we are is a combination of nature plus nurture. In other words,
disposition joins with personal choice, and that's how we're formed. Saying,
"I do what I do because of my biological " is psychologically
not true. You may have a particular orientation, but you make the choices that
Let's determine the philosophical validity of the assumption
"I do what I do because I am what I am." If your philosophy is that
desire should shape morals, then you believe whatever you desire to do you
should have the legitimation to go out and pursue it.
But that can't be right, because what if my desire is for
murder or for molesting young children? You can't pick and choose where you
want to apply your philosophy. Either it's true or it's not. Either desire
legitimates behavior, or it doesn't.
Does the belief that "I do what I do because I am what
I am" hold up morally? From a moral and spiritual perspective what matters
is not where you're tempted but what you do with the temptation.
Homosexual temptations must be
resisted like every other wrong desire
I may have moments, and I frequently do, when I desire to
knock somebody's block off because one of my weaknesses is temper. But that's
different than giving in to the feeling. The Bible does not condemn homosexual
desire. But like any other desire outside of God's will, it says resist the
The Bible makes it clear in James that "We're all
tempted when by our own evil desire we're dragged away and enticed. Then after
desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin when it's full grown gives
birth to death."
Temptation comes through desire. Just because desire is
there doesn't mean that what you want to do is okay. I'm a heterosexual man and
have sexual desires, some of which are to fulfill that sexuality outside of my
marriage with another woman. These sexual temptations are no different in God's
eyes than the homosexual temptation that another man might have. When faced
with the opportunity, it is up to us to turn away from the desire.
Now, the gay person is going to say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah.
At least you can get your sexual appetite fulfilled in marriage. I can't."
But when you follow this logic, you're saying that desire determines
everything. Essentially you are saying the number one rule of life is to have
your sexual appetite satisfied and that if any morality says it cannot be
fulfilled then that morality is immorality.
That's a superficial understanding of life.
Look at 1 Corinthians: "Remember this. The wrong
desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others
have faced exactly the same problems before you, and no temptation is irresistible.
You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't
stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will
show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently
There are other arguments worth mentioning briefly when
playing devil's advocate. Some believe if they don't pursue their homosexual
lifestyle, they can't be happy. In their opinion, it's the only way to be
happy, and being happy is the primary goal in life.
I need to challenge that assumption with some sobering
statistics about just how gay gays are. Homosexual men are six times more
likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual men. Between 25 and 33
percent of homosexual men are alcoholics. The national average is seven
Homosexuality cannot be
condoned simply because the large number of homosexuals
My second argument is that many
homosexuals claim you can't condemn what is prevalent in our society,
questioning how anyone can say something's wrong when many people are involved
That's frightening, because what they're saying is if 51
percent of all the people do it, then the majority is right.
However, recent studies have disproven this claim. It used
to be standard operating thinking that the homosexual community made up at
least 10 percent of the American population. The recent study, not by the Moral
Majority but by the Patel Human Research Center in Seattle, found that it's
really 1 percent of the American population that is homosexual.
Homosexuality does not become
acceptable if it is practiced monogamously
Third, some homosexuals claim the real issue is commitment
and love. They'll buy almost everything I've said, but they say the difference
is they're monogamous. If monogamy is maintained, they believe all is well.
This assumption is problematic in a couple of ways. First,
few homosexuals are even remotely interested in a monogamous relationship.
Bloomstein and Schwartz in their extensive study of American couples found that
gay men essentially have adopted a lifestyle of adultery. The Bell and Weinburg
study on homosexuality suggested a third of all homosexuals have had over a
thousand partners in their lifetime. In fact, that study found less then 10
percent of all homosexuals are in any kind of relationship.
McWarder and Madison, themselves a gay couple, found in
their study of over a hundred gay couples that zero percent of gay couples were
sexually monogamous after five years.
Secondly, the argument is weak because it still contradicts
God's original design in creation, which is the marriage of a man and a woman.
Even if you have the most loving monogamous relationship in the world with
someone of the same sex, it's still a violation of God's design because the relationship
was intended to be between a man and a woman.
Homosexuals can find freedom
from the homosexual lifestyle
So what's a homosexual to do? Is
there hope? Is there a Plan? Can they
change? Are they supposed to change?
A lot of people say, "No, you can't change."
They've tried and failed. They say, "Even if it's wrong, I can't stop the
I don't agree. I think there's hope. Like any other
lifestyle outside of God's design, there can be freedom from
you want it. You may have an orientation toward homosexuality, but it's not all
nature. We make choices, and we pursue lifestyles. Like any other practice, if
your nature is affirmed by practices, then obviously you're going to embrace
that behavior. But you can stop nurturing the behavior.
Just as an alcoholic can't stop drinking by holding the
bottle in his lap, so a homosexual can't turn from his lifestyle if he's
hitting the bathhouses every week.
The success rate of secular attempts at counseling, such as
the five year program by Masters and Johnson, rated as high as 66 percent,
which is quite high for human behavior modification. If you throw God into the
counseling mix, recovery rate is even higher. There are some Christian
ministries that have a 90 percent recovery rate for homosexuals.
That doesn't mean they always find the opposite sex
attractive. It doesn't mean they wind up getting married and having kids; but
it means they turn away from their desires.
The Bible talks specifically about this shot at change.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks specifically about former homosexuals in the
church. In 1 Corinthians 6, he says, "Don't fool yourselves. Those who
live immoral lives, who were idol worshipers, adulterers or homosexuals, will
have no share in his kingdom. Neither will thieves or greedy people, drunkards,
slanderers or robbers. There was a time when some of you were just like that,
but now your sins are washed away. You're set apart for God, and he's accepted
you because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done
What Paul says is good news. He recognizes that homosexual
behavior isn't of God and that some people in the church used to be practicing
homosexuals but were able to receive God's forgiveness. Paul acknowledges that
they were able to find freedom from the practice and that Christ gave them a
Those of you who are homosexual, it took a lot of courage
for you to come today, and I hold you in high regard. You knew I was going to
be talking about this.
I want you to hear me say something in conclusion. You're no
different than any of the rest of us struggling with temptation and desire. I'm
not different than you; you're no different than me. We are just struggling in
different areas. Christ is working in all of us.
Mecklenburg Community Church is nothing but a colossal
collection of moral foul ups. You're in bad company here. You're surrounded by
sins of pride, greed, pornography, , lying, stealing, and
adultery. But through the power of Christ there's hope for all of us.
I will also tell you what is different about this place.
Rather than shoving sin beneath the surface and not dealing with it, we want to
expose it in our lives. Instead of denying and rationalizing our sinful
behavior, we want to discover it, bring it to God, ask for forgiveness, and
become changed people.
God calls all of us to become something we aren't naturally,
which is like him. So let me go back to where I began. You matter to God. You
matter to me. You matter to this church. It's a safe place. The message of the
Christian faith, though, is true. It can't be compromised, and your life can be
different if you want it to be.
James Emery White is senior pastor of Mecklenburg
Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is author of Opening the
Front Door and What Is Truth?
James Emery White is founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a consulting editor to Leadership Journal. He is author of Serious Times and A Search for the Spiritual, and blogs at churchandculture.org.