KNOXVILLE - James R. Aist
(Note: the numbers in parentheses refer to specific references listed at the end of the article)
"The Lord is...not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)
The Bible repeatedly and consistently condemns homosexual behavior as sin (Genesis 19:5 with Jude 1:7; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; and I Timothy 1:10). This fact has led some to conclude that it is not possible to be a born-again Christian and, at the same time, a homosexual person. But there are some circumstances in which this seeming impossibility actually does exist.
Before I delve into this topic further, let me state clearly and unequivocally that I do not believe that one can die an unrepentant, practicing homosexual – so-called "Christian" or not – and spend their eternity in heaven. The Bible is also unequivocal on this point (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Hebrews 10:26-27). So, please read on and hear me out. I believe there is something important here that all born-again Christians should realize, as we seek to gain a better understanding of homosexuality from a biblical perspective. But first, I need to lay a foundation upon which to construct the points I want to make.
Three Stages of Repentance
The first step on the road to repentance is to agree with God that what you have done is wrong, i.e., that it is "sin" (1 John 1:9). This may be experienced as Godly sorrow and/or a change of heart regarding your sin (2 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Kings 8:46-47). As a result, you will feel compelled to confess in your mind and with your mouth that you have sinned (2 Samuel 12:12-13).
The second step on the road to repentance is to actually turn from your sin (2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20). That means that you make a quality decision to stop doing the sinful thing you have been doing and then follow through on your decision and stop doing it. This is where the genuineness of your commitment to your decision is tested and proven; it's the really hard part. Without turning, your confession is, at best, questionable and to no avail.
The third and most rewarding step on the road to repentance is perseverance. It is common experience to be tempted to return to some of our old, sinful ways after we have turned from them. Unfortunately, it is also common experience to give in to such temptations by choosing to do so (James 1:13-14). To really conquer sin means not only to confess and turn from it initially, but also to persevere in our repentance to the end.
Justification and Sanctification
When we become born-again, all of our past sins are instantly forgiven. We refer to that wholesale forgiveness event as "justification." But, sadly, we remain vulnerable to various temptations that can lead us to sin again (1 John 1:10). For purposes of illustration and later reference, here is a partial list of specific sins mentioned in the Bible: covetousness, drunkenness, envy, gluttony, gossip, greed, hatred, hypocrisy, idolatry, jealousy, laziness, lust, lying, murder, pride, profanity, rage, selfishness, sexual immorality of all kinds (e.g., adultery, fornication, homosexual sex), slander, theft and vengeance. Can you identify any sins in this list that you are still having trouble with? I can see a few that I am still struggling with.
Over time, the Holy Spirit, with our cooperation, cleanses us from more and more of our remaining sins in a process called "sanctification", whereby we are convicted of a residual sin, confess it (1 John 1:9), turn away from it and, eventually, conquer it. This is why we born-again Christians often detect sin in both ourselves and in our fellow believers, even though we are already "saved"; these are simply sins that we have not yet allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of. The presence of such sins in our lives does not mean, necessarily, that we are not yet saved; it may just mean that we are still a "work in progress." This is not at all to minimize or trivialize our need to be sanctified; God did not call us to a life of compromise; rather, He called us to a life of holiness.
Same-sex attractions are powerful temptations, but biblically speaking, they are not sins. To have such attractions is akin to a married heterosexual man having opposite-sex attractions to women other than his wife. These attractions are temptations to sin and nothing more; they are not sin, although they would lead to sin if acted upon. Apparently, same-sex attractions are not something that anyone chooses initially. Rather they seem to occur initially in homosexual persons without their volition or intent. This is an important distinction that Christians need to be aware of. The Bible condemns homosexual sex acts, but it does not condemn the initial experience of being tempted by same-sex attractions. If the Bible did condemn the experience of being tempted, then Jesus would not have been without sin, would He?
Furthermore, Jesus said "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28). Thus, "acting" on either opposite-sex or same-sex attractions includes "looking lustfully" as well as the physical, sexual act itself; both are sin, and, as such, they are to be renounced, resisted and repented.
And finally, same-sex attractions are not of God; they are of the devil and are evil, as are all temptations to sin (click HERE). There is nothing good about either same-sex attractions or the practice of homosexuality in any context.
Who Are these Homosexual Born-again Christians?
Now let's see if we can identify just who these homosexual born-again Christians are, keeping in mind that born-again Christians already have eternal life and will spend their eternity in heaven with God (1).
There are many born-again Christians who are homosexual in the sense that they experience only same-sex sexual attractions and feelings, and they have chosen to live a life of celibacy in order to maintain their sexual purity. They are tempted to sin sexually, but they do not actually sin by acting on those temptations, either mentally or physically. Their same-sex attractions will not keep them out of heaven, because they are not sinning sexually. It is relatively easy to recognize that these folks are truly born-again, homosexual Christians who will be in heaven with us. Who among us does not struggle with temptations of our own, having to refuse to give in to them in order to maintain our Christian integrity? But none of that disqualifies us from heaven. Take another look at the sins I listed above, and see for yourself if I am not right about this.
But there is another situation in which we can recognize truly born-again, homosexual Christians. I am talking now about practicing homosexuals who have been born-again and have not yet, but will soon, repented of their homosexual practices. This situation is not unlike that of a heterosexual man who is fornicating with a woman, gets born-again, and continues to fornicate with the unbelieving woman for a while. Because the man is now born-again, the Holy Spirit will begin to convict him of his sinful lifestyle, and eventually, he will stop fornicating with her, thus repenting of his sexual sin. In the same way, a homosexual person may get born-again and continue to live in a sinful, homosexual relationship for a while, until he/she is convicted by the Holy Spirit and leaves the homosexual lifestyle. In both of these cases, the person who was involved in a sinful, sexual lifestyle, continued to live in sin for a while, even though he was already a born-again Christian. Now reflect back on what was said above about repentance and sanctification, and you will see that, after they were saved, their lingering sins were of a sexual nature, whereas for the rest of us, lingering sins may be of a different nature, such as rage, gossip, slander, greed, or lying. We must keep in mind that the lingering presence of such sins in our lives does not mean, necessarily, that we are not yet saved; it may just mean that we are still a "work in progress" and in need of additional repentance. And, this truth applies regardless of the particular nature of one's sins, including homosexual sins. My assumption is that, among those homosexual people who identify themselves as Christian, there are always some who really are born-again believers. These are the ones who will, eventually, repent and leave their homosexual lifestyle behind, as many have already done (2).
The Arch Enemies of Homosexual Born-again Christians
We should all be aware that there are many people who name the name of Jesus but are not helping homosexual born-again Christians become who Christ really wants them to be. I will not belabor this point, but I will call out these "wolves in sheep's clothing" for what they are, based on what they are doing, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be. Firstly, there are those who seem to have only condemnation, and no compassion, for those who have turned out to be homosexual. They are quick to point out the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, but seem to ignore the fact that God loves homosexual people and wants them to repent and receive the good news just as much as He wants the rest of us to do so. Secondly, there are the purveyors of "gay theology", who tell homosexual people that God approves of homosexual sex and that it is not necessary for them to repent in order to spend their eternity in heaven (3). And thirdly, there are those who teach the "gay gospel", saying that, although God considers homosexual sex to be sinful, he does not require repentance in this case because His grace somehow gives homosexual people a dispensation, or exemption, that will enable them to spend their eternity in heaven despite their sinful lifestyle (4). Many of the homosexual, born-again Christians have believed these heresies and will, therefore, have to reject them in order to repent and become the men and women that God intended them to be all along.
Demonstrating the Love of Christ
So then, how can we show the love of Christ to homosexual born-again Christians? Perhaps we can best do this is by doing what Jesus would do (5). Jesus would befriend homosexual people when he had the opportunity to do so (cf. Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:34), and He would treat them with kindness and respect, without approving of their homosexual behavior (cf., Romans 12:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:6). He would further demonstrate His love for homosexual people by encouraging them to repent of (turn away from) their homosexual sins (6). In the same way, if and when the opportunity presents itself, we can discuss with a homosexual friend God's plan of redemption and point out that it is for them just as it is for us. The personal testimony of Rosario Champagne Butterfield (7), an ex-lesbian turned pastor's wife and mother of many, provides a powerful and instructive example of how to go about demonstrating the love of Christ to a practicing homosexual.
(For more articles by Professor AIST on HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)
1. Aist, J.R. 2012. What Does "Born-Again" Mean? (click HERE)
2. Aist, J.R. 2012. Homosexuality: Good News (click HERE)
3. Aist, J.R. 2012. Gay Theology: Did God Really Say "You Must Not...?" (click HERE)
4. Aist, J.R. 2012. The "Gay Gospel" (click HERE)
5. Aist, J.R. 2012. Homosexuality: What Would Jesus Do?" (click HERE)
6. Aist, J.R. 2012. Repentance: Confess, Turn, Persevere (click HERE)
7. Butterfield, R. C. 2013. My Train Wreck Conversion. Christianity Today, January/February. (click HERE)