There are certain hot button issues in the church in 2020 that have become points of great dissension and division among the very people who are to be a model of unity for a watching world.
Some of those issues which are before us even as I write this article are race, politics, abortion, women’s role in ministry, and any and all matters related to homosexuality. None of these issues are necessarily new, but our culture has changed. Now, many things that would not have divided the church 50 years ago have erupted like an inactive volcano suddenly come to life.
How God views acts and attitudes of homosexuality is being questioned with greater regularity and deeper intensity in today’s culture.
My objective in this article is simple and singular. I wish to clearly point to God’s own word to identify and articulate what God has already made known regarding homosexuality.
One would hope that every single lover of Christ and the Scriptures would desire to discover, “What does God say?” This, however, doesn’t seem to be the main objective of many who address the question.
If we’re not careful, we can all fall into the trap of evoking God’s name in our debates in an attempt to gain his approval for our actions rather than out of a radical commitment to know Him and be transformed by His truth.
Are you coming to God’s word in hopes that he will approve and license you or a loved one to continue on the present course? Or are you prepared to alter your attitude, actions, and relationships if God’s word is made clear to you that He disapproves of your choices?
This question applies to all of us no matter what our relational status or life choices are. I trust that all of us will answer “yes” to the latter question.
I would challenge anyone who has found their way to this article—because of your sincere need to know God’s thoughts—to prayerfully consider your motives.
The cultural perspectives regarding homosexual lifestyles have clearly shifted over the last decade among evangelicals, and the trend shows no sign of reversing course. In a study conducted by the Pew Foundation in 2017, 64% of evangelical protestants surveyed said that homosexuality should be discouraged. In 2014, only 55% of evangelicals answered in like manner to the same question.
I can only imagine what that number would be if it were presented to a group of evangelicals in 2020. In light of the vast differences in views regarding homosexual behavior, I simply want to present two questions that I pray each reader will approach with raw honesty.
1. Should Our Desires Override God’s Intent?
The first question is simply, “Has God designed the world and everything in it to function as He intends?”
Another way to ask this question is, “Is God content to allow each person to decide and discern what function is best in any given circumstance or season? And if so, is God’s truth relative to the individual and his own desires?”
To answer this critical question, I point you to Isaiah 28:23-29, in which the prophet Isaiah asks a series of unusual questions that relate to our present inquiry. Isaiah asks, “Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant in rows?”
I am clearly aware that these agricultural questions have absolutely nothing directly to do with homosexuality. There is a critical principle at work here that has everything to do with our discussion, however.
The prophet is asking the reader to consider why a farmer does what he does and how he knows to cultivate in the manner which he does? And then the prophet makes this astounding observation, “For his God instructs and teaches him properly” (Isaiah 28:26).
The rules and principles of planting and harvesting are established by the Maker, not by the farmer. It is necessary that the Maker “instruct and teach properly” so that the farmer will fulfill his role in the Maker’s design.
The Sovereign, transcendent Creator cares to instruct the farmer on how he should plant, cultivate, and harvest his crop. Who better than the Master Gardener of Eden to instruct farmers how to do their work? If God stoops to train farmers in the way of His design, are we to think that the same God has not also laid out the more important spheres of His creation according to a master design as well?
It is undeniable that when the Bible says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27), that the terms male and female describe distinctions in their makeup and role.
Males and females are different, and their roles are not the same though there is no distinction in the degree to which God values them. Time and space do not allow us to explore in detail those unique functions, but they can be clearly identified in Genesis 2.
As Adam and his wife faithfully fulfilled their God-given role in harmony and unity, they would “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) and serve the Designer’s purpose for their lives.
It is worth noting that never is a word spoken regarding Adam and Eve’s love for one another. I’m not denying that love existed between the two, but I am suggesting that love for one another was not what validated their relationship. Instead, their role and function in God’s design was the bedrock of their identity, and so it should be in every generation.
2. How Does God Respond to Man’s Alteration of His Divine Design?
Having established that gender distinctions and roles are a feature of the Creator’s design for His world, the second question which needs to be asked is significant:
“What is God’s response, and how does He view man’s attempt to alter God’s good design specifically as it relates to homosexuality?”
The Apostle Paul’s warnings to the Corinthians are not ambiguous. He says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9). The term unrighteous refers to those who are not in right standing with God as evidenced by their conduct, which is contrary to God’s law.
The Apostle does not leave us wondering who these people are and what conduct warrants such a harsh condemnation. He continues:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? 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. – 1 Cor. 6:9-10, NKJV
A Lifestyle without Repentance, Not without Sin
Please note that homosexuality is not singled out, but it is included in the list of those who will not participate in the kingdom of God. It is also important to acknowledge that Paul is identifying people whose lives are characterized by these particular lifestyles and choices rather than condemning those who have struggled or fallen prey to any of these sinful attitudes at particular points in their lives. Notice, that Paul goes on to acknowledge to his readers, “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Some of the very first recipients of this letter in the church were formerly known to Paul and others to live lives that were characterized by these same sinful ways. But something had changed because they are not what they used to be. What made the difference? The Bible explains:
You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. – 1 Cor. 6:11
God Cleanses and Forgives
Though this passage and others like 1 Timothy 1:10 clearly teach that homosexuality is one of many choices which are “contrary to sound teaching,” the greatest message of all is that there is hope for those who are bound by the sin of homosexuality and other sexual sins.
Though the Bible leaves no room to wrongly believe that God condones or blesses homosexual relationships, the Bible also is just as clear that:
May all who read this article come to see that we all stand in desperate need of the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ and his completed work on the cross. Though “we also were once disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures,” the “kindness of God has appeared,” and Christ is willing to save us on the merit of his righteousness and mercy (Titus 3:3-5).
Rick Kirby, along with his wife and children, lives in Anderson, South Carolina. Rick serves as a corporate chaplain in the upstate of South Carolina, in addition to shepherding micro-church movements, which he does in partnership with the Evangelical Free Church in America and the Creo Collective. Rick has written as a freelance writer in the past with organizations such as The INJOY Group, InTouch Ministries, and Walk Through the Bible. Rick holds a Master of Divinity degree from Erskine Theological Seminary and presently is a Doctor of Ministry student at Erskine, as well. Through the years, Rick’s family has been deeply engaged in disciplining efforts globally in Brazil, Ecuador, and most recently in Puerto Rico. Among the many things Rick enjoys are woodworking in his woodshop and roasting (and drinking) coffee.