Many times I have stated that God does not see homosexuality as the worse sin. While I still believe this to be true. I now am wondering if in defending this concept I have watered down the truth. Let me explain what has brought me to this question.
Recently, my niece's college professor was lecturing on social concerns and tolerance. He made the statement that homosexuality was sin, but to no greater degree than eating a whole bag of cookies; God saw them both the same. My niece said that she agreed with this statement and asked my stand on this issue. I had to admit that I have not given this issue much thought and that some might think after hearing me speak that I would agree with such a statement.
Hearing this from my niece whom I love and feel very protective toward, I really had to give this serious thought. Is this what I believe? Put in those terms, it seemed that it couldn't possibly be true. If our young people see gluttony the equal of sexual sin, what will keep them pure? I had to take a closer look at what the Bible says before I could answer her.
Does the Bible say that "all sin is the same in God's eves"? Surprisingly, we have a passage of Scripture that does speak of both eating and sexual sin. 1 Corinthians chapter 6 speaks to the issue of over-eating (verse 13) and then goes on in the following verses to the issue of sexual sin.
"God has given us an appetite for food and stomachs to digest it. But that doesn't mean we should eat more than we need. Don't think of eating as important, because some day God will do away with both stomachs and food. But sexual sin is never right; our bodies were not made for that, but for the Lord, and the Lord wants to fill our bodies with himself...Don't you realize that your bodies are actually parts and members of Christ?...Run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against your own body." (Living Bible)
I realized that I was unprepared to give my niece a clear statement on this issue. I have been so busy fighting those who want to make homosexuality the worse sin that I have lost sight of how grave a sin that it is. I thank God for this challenge. Over the past year or so I have added to my personal prayer time "God help me see sin the way You do, to hate sin in myself and in the world". Some time ago I saw myself becoming callous to sin. I am exposed daily to so many people who have made wrong choices. Sadly, it has become commonplace to see people caught up in sin patterns. I also wanted to be more aware of the sin that crept up in my own heart. In some ways I see this question that has been put to me as an answer to my prayer. I need to give much more thought to the issue of sin. Does it hurt to see sin the way God does? I can only speak from my limited view, but yes, it hurts and it should hurt. It gets us in touch with the broader picture. We get a glimpse of the pain God feels over His fallen world. The correct response to sin is not necessarily anger, but grief. God grieves over our sinful condition.
"There is no little hotter place in hell for homosexuals" This is one of my favorite statements. I use it when a parent is facing their own prejudices or for a media interview.. .this is the statement that usually gets in the paper. I still believe this is true, but I now am open to correction or a different viewpoint. Are we absolutely sure that God sees homosexuality as no greater sin than heterosexual sin? Could my response simply be a defensive reaction to those who would condemn homosexuals? Certainly Jesus has said: " God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it." (John 3:17) Condemning someone for their homosexual sin is never right.
I am always uncomfortable when someone brings up the scriptures in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 which describe homosexuality as being an abomination. It always seems that they use these Scriptures to condemn, not to rescue. What a strange word anyway. It is such an old fashioned word--who knows what it means anymore? I found the Hebrew word (Io'ehhah) to mean: "The highest degree of offense, abhorrence and loathsomeness." Proverbs 28:9 states: "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." Abomination, in Scripture is linked with magic, divination and sexual transgressions. All of these sins then are a high degree of transgression.
Since that definition didn't tell me enough, I went to my Living Bible to see how it read. Lev 18:22; "Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden for it is an enormous sin" and in 20:13 "The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have brought it upon themselves". I am aware that the laws in the old testament are really strong and we don't abide by them today. Good thing we don't, Leviticus 20:9 says: "Anyone who curses his father or mother shall surly be put to death" I don't think parents of rebellious kids would get away with that one, these days! But we can't dismiss this part of the Bible, as I have done for years. I think we can agree that God considers homosexuality a very serious sin. This makes the good news of the New Testament even better for those who turn from sin, we are forgiven totally. The impossible laws in the old testament make what Jesus did for us even more wonderful. This is the joy that we have to share with the world. The old testament shows our need for a Savior. We were lost and without hope before Jesus came and made a way for its to be forgiven. Thank you Jesus for the hope of eternal life.
Why does any of this matter? Certainly we know that when we exhibit an Old Testament attitude, we become judgmental and critical of others. Not what Jesus desires us to be. Jesus said that none of the laws would pass away: "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the Law to become void and fail." (Luke 16:17) But He also said: "1 have not come to do away with or undo, but to complete and fulfill them." (Math. 5:17) So the law remains true, but something greater is now in effect, that is the law of love. After repeating the first two commandments, loving God and neighbor, Jesus said: "These two commandments sum up and upon them depends all the Law and the prophets." (Math. 22:40)
Yes, homosexuality is rightly called an abomination, but our response must not be one of condemnation and turning away from the person involved in the abomination, but to rescue that person from his sin. Yes, we must stand on the side of truth, we can't white-wash the Bible to make it easy to take. We must speak truth to those who are waffling back and forth in and out of sin. In pondering all this, I have come to the conclusion that acting out sexually--involving another person--is a higher offense than simply masturbating and thinking homosexual thoughts, although both are sins in God's eyes. If you belong to Christ, He lives in your body, so do not take the Christ in you and join Him to another in an unholy way. If we are falling into sinful fantasies, we should recognize that these can be warning signs of deeper sin up ahead. The answer here is not to condemn ourselves, but to know our weakness and admit our need for God. That is where the power to overcome all sin comes from. The worst part of sin is that it is progressive in nature but we have the power or at least we have an avenue to that power that can halt that progression toward sin.
Today, we find that we must walk a fine line. In our generation, the god of this world has been named "tolerance." This is the god of secular humanism. It is a half-truth. Christ does indeed want us tolerant of others, no question about that, but He does not want us to tolerate sin. Paul speaks to this issue in 1st Corinthians chapter 5. Here a man was obviously sleeping with his mother-in-law and Paul speaks sharply to the church for tolerating this condition. He says if this situation is not confronted, it will multiply in the church: "Know ye not that a little leaven Leavened the whole lump?" He demands action to be taken against the offending person. However, in 2nd Corinthians, he advises the church to go after the man and restore him to fellowship. This is the pattern we are to follow. We are not to tolerate sin, but grieve over sin as God does. We are to do everything in our power to turn the person away from sin, failing in this, we are to continue on in love, praying for them and always ready to be there for them whenever they choose to leave their sin behind.
Paul also warns us in the last verse of Romans chapter one. After speaking about homosexuality and a number of other sins, Paul says: "Though they are fully aware of God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them." (Amplified Bible)
We must be very careful what we are tolerant of and not give approval to sinful practices. Yet, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Walking a balanced Christian life is never easy, but God wants us to thoroughly confront the hard issues and seek Him for guidance. He will give us wisdom and the balance we need.
Anita Worthen is the Administrator at New Hope Ministries and co-author of the book "Someone I Love Is Gay" (IVP) March 1997
Set Free MinistriesSet Free offers hope and healing through the Lord Jesus Christ to individuals overcoming sexual and relational brokenness.
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