2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
1 Thessalonians 4:2-8
Paul specifically instructed the people in Thessalonica to abstain from sexual immorality. The body must be treated in holiness and honor. Disregarding this instruction is not disregarding man, but God. Paul was serious about this matter of sexual immorality. His address here about sexual immorality is an important one because he particularly touched this subject and separated this offense from any other kinds of sin. And in our age today, the most current issue of sexual immorality is the issue of homosexualism. This issue rose to prominence in the past two decades. 2013 became a historical year that documented the victory of the gay rights movement with the US Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. Ever since June 26 2013, the church of God has been struggling in her dealing with this touchy subject. It is important therefore to come back to the Holy Scripture to find out what God says about this subject. Sadly, there are many Christians who have been led astray by the world’s perspective and thus take side with the world in
discouraging clergies to take a strong position against homosexualism.
discouraging clergies to take a strong position against homosexualism.
One of the most important arguments to shut down the Christian faith position that names homosexual practice as wrong is on the blurring of this particular sin with other kind of sins. This is a messy issue to deal with due to the rise of gay rights movement in the western world. In the name of freedom and the use of the weapon of non-discrimination, the gay rights movement is gaining in the world. Regretfully, they are not only gaining in the world, but also in the church. Many churches are confused as to what position the church must take. The voice of the world in this matter is very strong. Dealing with it properly according to the word of God will mean fierce battle. In the era that strives to avoid conflict altogether, the west has devised a way to get out of the duty to address this issue. One excuse is through the argument that homosexualism is a sin that is no different than other sin. And so many Christians and even clergy and professors of theology argue that homosexualism ought not to be singled out in the pulpit. Avoidance of addressing this issue then becomes the norm among many clergies. Many pastors are overwhelmed with fear when face to face with the issue of homosexual practice. The pressure from the world, from many people in the pew, from church activists, and even from church council, has frightened pastors to address the issue. Just because they do not feel like fighting it in every meeting and encounter with the people in the church alone has caused God’s servants to drop this matter altogether. To add to that, the supporter of the acceptance of homosexualism is equipped with a very deadly ammunition to battle any strong address against homosexual practice. They view homosexualism as equal sin to any other sins such as greed, wrath, murder, and so on and so forth. Sin is sin they argue. With such argument, then, they discourage God’s servants not to deal with this issue in specific manner from the pulpit. They prefer pastors to use generic term and clutter it together with other sins.
The problem with such argument is manifold. It is true that sin is sin no matter what. In the eyes of God every sin is sin, and the punishment of all sin is death, no matter how big or small the sin is. That is true. But that alone doesn’t have the strength to diminish the seriousness of the sin. Just because all sin is sin doesn’t carry with it the excuse to view homosexualism to be the same as stealing for example. For the two are not the same. And knowing that Jesus has paid all our sin, past, present, and future, should not become the excuse to dwell in the sin either. Paul singled out sexual immorality, which includes homosexualism, as a particular kind of sin. He said in 1 Corinthians 6:13b-18:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
The fact that sexual immorality is a sin that is done within the body makes it unique compared to other kinds of sin. Homosexualism, which is one of the many sexually immoral sins, is not only a sin that is done in the body, but it is also the kind of sin that comes out as the consequence of people’s suppression of the truth that God exists. Paul said in Romans 1:24-27:
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Homosexualism is peculiar in that sense. Paul singled out homosexual practice in Romans 1 to specifically address this matter in order to reveal to the church in Rome the truth about it. And thus, to equate homosexualism with other sins is false. It is a different kind of sin. This sin runs deeper within our construct compared to other sins done outside the body. Even compared to other sexually immoral sins, this homosexualism stands out as unique. Paul calls it dishonorable passions. And he goes further as to indicate its unnaturalness. Men burnt with passion for other men, and women engaging in sexual practice with other women, are contrary to nature. For sure what is natural is that men engage in sexual practice with women. All other sexually immoral sins are still within the category of naturalness in that sense. But not so with homosexualism. Thus, once again, blurring the line between homosexualism with other kinds of sin is flatly wrong.
Next, the blurring of the line argument is a very dangerous way of doing theology. It is important for us to understand that homosexualism is unique not only in itself just as the Bible describes it, but also it is unique in the world’s perspective. Let me show you how it is unique in the world. Ever since its victory at the federal level in the US, gay rights movement has won a very dogmatic position. Gayness is considered to be normal. It is seen as a natural thing. Many arguments from science have been written about this matter to prove that gayness is natural. For certain from the scientific research the argument goes about it finding the gay gene within the human DNA. Thus, the current view and will likely be the permanent view by the world, this particular practice is seen as not sin, or using the world’s language – it is not morally wrong. Homosexualism won in the US federal level primarily because it is viewed as morally right. This understanding makes homosexualism stand out compared to other kinds of sin. All other sins, such as greed, wrath, malice, slander, murder, etc. are still seen by the world as morally wrong. The world continues to condemn all the other sins. But they no longer condemn homosexual practice as morally wrong. Now, if you think about it seriously, you will get what I am showing you in this short article. Homosexualism is also unique in the eyes of the world. But the world’s perspective sees a different uniqueness. Whereas the Scripture sees homosexualism as a unique sin, the world sees it as a non sin practice – which makes it unique in the morality section.
The pressure from the world to the church is not satisfied with the position of some Christians who have reduced the uniqueness of homosexualism to that of sin equal to other sins. The world is pushing further in order to pressure such Christians to even move homosexualism from the sin category. The world wants homosexualism to be recognized as normal. This is in conflict with the Scripture that clearly declares it as sin. However the voice of the world is very strong, which confuses many Christians. Many gay Christians, together with their supporters, gradually buy the world’s sale. They too begin to desire the acknowledgement that gay practice is not sin. Thus following the world’s perspective, practicing homosexuals no longer feel remorse for the homosexual practice they engage in. And not only that, even the thought that homosexual tendency is sin is not in the equation anymore. This adds to the difference between homosexualism and other sins. When God appeared to Isaiah, Isaiah fell prostrate before God and called himself: “I am a dead man”, because he immediately recognized his sin before the Holy God. So in deep remorse and repentance, Isaiah bowed down before the Lord. David repented with great remorse over his adultery with Bathseba and his murder of Uriah and realized his sinfulness even before he was born. Peter was in great remorse as well as he walked away from the courtyard of the High Priest after he denied his Lord three times. He understood the depth of his sin. Paul repented with great remorse as well knowing how deep he had fallen in his zealousness persecuting and killing God’s people. He called himself the least of apostle. The prophets, the apostles, all joined together in bowing down before God acknowledging their sins before Him. St. Augustine, who laid the foundation for systematic and deep reflective theology, followed the prophets and the apostles in repenting from his great sin. He too bowed down before the Holy God feeling great remorse of his sins. Martin Luther, the initiator of the Reformation movement in the 16th century, found how great his sin was and never stopped calling himself a sinner while acknowledging the paradox of his saintness before God. All Christians throughout the ages have gone through the same path the prophets, apostles, and church fathers, which is repent from their sins with great remorse. But homosexualism is unique because many have taken it as a no sin, and thus there is no requirement to repent from it. Since it is a natural thing, then there is no point to repent from it. Thus instead of repenting from it upon hearing the declaration of the word of God that points out its sinfulness, many of the practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christians and their supporters speak against the faithful declaration of the word of God and not few walk out during a sermon on the subject. Paul is right in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 to say that:
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
This is a sad reality. But this reality is upon us. Christians are called to stand their ground. Christians are called to be faithful to the word of God. Even in the midst of the pressure of the world, we are called to hold our ground. The mistake of the past, both from the world and from the church, in mistreating those who are homosexuals, should not become the excuse to then move homosexual practice into the no sin category. The world has moved it from the morally wrong category into the normal category. But the church must not follow the world’s lead to move it from the sin category into the no sin category. This is a wake-up call for those Christians, pastors, elders, deacons, theologians, biblical scholars, professors of theology, to name what is sin as sin. Moving homosexualism from the sin category into the no sin category is sin. Doing so is a lie. It is misleading. Christian leaders who do such thing will have to answer to God himself. So, in the name of Christ Jesus for the sake of his mercy, I call you to repent. The word of God couldn’t be clearer about this matter.
Now, alongside the proper naming, Christians also must never mistreat the homosexuals either. Even though they sin in that area, they too are created in the image and the likeness of God. Their status as God’s image bearers should never be dismissed. For sure, I have to remind all of us that we too are sinners. But yet in our sinfulness we still bear God’s image. And so, people with same sex tendency should not be depraved of their dignity and honor they have within them as bearers of the image and likeness of God. If we ever mistreat them in any way, we must ask for forgiveness from those we mistreated and from God of whom they bear the image and likeness. Then we too must repent. The second greatest commandment still applies here that is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Now with all the proper steps cleared up, we can proceed to the next step, that is to call them to repentance and to instruct them in the way everlasting. Calling them to repentance is in fact an act of honoring and loving them. Calling them to repentance is a service to them and to God himself. Instructing them to not engage in homosexual practice is an act of honoring and loving them. It should not be seen as an act of exclusion. As a matter of fact, calling them to repentance and instructing them to abstain from homosexual practice is an act of embracing them as God’s image bearers. As God’s servant I call all God’s people not to embrace homosexualism, but to embrace the people who have fallen into homosexual sin as God’s image bearers. Call them into repentance. And instruct them in the way of the Lord. Do not condone their homosexual practice. Condoning their homosexual practice is dishonoring them and not loving them. The bible has declared that such practice is unnatural. In respect of their dignity as God’s image bearers and as a respect to God himself, we must never condone their homosexual practice. We know that such practice depraves them of their honor. And so, do not condone their lifestyle. For certain do not permit gay marriage, for it is the same as condoning it. But if we are to honor and love them, then call them to repentance and instruct them in the way of the Lord of eternal life. May the Lord grant us strength to stand firm in the truth. May the Lord grant us the courage to be faithful in declaring God’s message even at the expense of our life. May the Lord grant us wisdom to distinguish right from wrong and name what is as is. May the Lord grant us clarity of mind to keep lie at bay and to keep the truth close to our heart. May the Lord grant us love to call all sinners to repentance and instruct them in the way toward eternal life. Praise be to the Lord of truth and love, grace and mercy. Amen!