Ephesians Study, Part 35: What about Homosexuals?

Review:

Three weeks ago during our lesson, I made the statement that I believe that the New Testament instructs us, as Christians, to love sinners but to hate the sin.  Specifically, I included in that my belief that we should love homosexuals but hate homosexuality.  You may recall that when I said that, I was asked for Scriptural support for that position. 

As I started to research this question, I realized that the question is made up of three separate questions. 

  1. "Are homosexual acts sin?" 
  2. "Are we to hate sin?" 
  3. "Are we to love sinners, even homosexual sinners?" 

This week: What about homosexuals?

l.  "Are homosexual acts sins?"  I am not going to develop the case, which could be started with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, followed by at least two lists of sins which the New Testament authors say are sins, and in First Corinthians we are told, disqualify one from Heaven. 

In at least a couple of lists, homosexual acts are included with murder and other "black" sins.  Of course lying and being a drunkard are in some of those same lists also.

First Timothy 1:8 is another list that includes homosexuality.

So I am going to assume that we have a consensus in this class that homosexual acts are sins.  Please note that I am not saying homosexuality although I carelessly failed to restrict my original statement to homosexual acts.  I think that you can support the conclusion that the tendency to sin, but refusing to act on that tendency, is not a sin.  It is the acting out of the sinful tendency that creates the sin.  It is the giving in to the sinful urge.

Of course you can go to Matthew 5:28 to try to argue that the tendency is a sin.

With deeper study, I don't think you can support the contention that the tendency to sin is sin in itself.  Every human is born with, and dies with, the tendency to sin.  Paul clearly wrestled with that all his life, and each of us does too.  I believe that deeper study of this quote with the rest of the New Testament will lead you to the conclusion that the sin occurs when you decide to sin if given the opportunity.  If the thought enters your mind, but you fight it off, you refuse to yield to the temptation, sin did not occur. 

So a predisposition to homosexuality, checked by self control, I believe, is not a sin.  It is the giving in to the sinful urge that creates the sin.

2.  Are Christians to hate sin?  We have spent a couple of lessons on the fact that we are to imitate God, and as a part of that we have discussed how much God hates sin and why.  So I doubt that this second part of the question is the real question.  I hope that we have made that point and that no one questions that God hates sin, we are to avoid sin and we are not to condone sin, but like God, are instructed to hate sin.  So let me deal with the third part of the question.

3.  Are we to love sinners?  Paul tells us as Christians to imitate God, which includes the imitation of Jesus.  In this week's lesson, I will challenge each of us to judge our own Christian walk by "WWJD, what would Jesus do?".  There are a number of places in the New Testament where Jesus goes out of his way to exhibit his love for identified sinners.  One example of this is when Jesus meets the woman at the well in John 4.

Jesus told her she was living in sin, that she was a fornicator.  But did he withhold his love?  No, he showed her greater love than he did to many other people he met.  He identified himself to her as the Messiah.  In this case Jesus clearly did not approve all of what she was doing and how she was leading her life, although he exhibited love and compassion toward her.  He loved the sinner but he hated the sin.  You may recall that Jesus was criticized for eating with the tax collectors.  The tax collectors were disliked by society, partially because they also extracted more than the legal taxes and kept the rest.  They were crooked.  They were stealing.  But Jesus loved them as individuals, without approving their sin.

Remember in John 8 where Jesus was addressing the subject of the woman caught in adultery.

Notice he told her to sin no more but he did not condemn her, just the sin.  He loved the sinner, but condemned the sin.

Paul clearly exhibited the same differentiation between the sin and the sinner.  In Romans 9, Paul says he would give up his own salvation if the Jews in religious leadership would only understand and accept Jesus.  He has the greatest of condemnation for the Pharisees for their lack of recognizing the Messiah and for being an impediment to Christianity.  But as individuals he indicates he would still give his salvation for their salvation.  He loved the sinner, but hated the sin.

There is an interesting insight that I came across as I studied this question.  If the person in question is a non-believer, I believe that we as Christians have an even greater responsibility to love the sinner while hating the sin, than if the person in question is a Christian.

In next week's lesson we will make reference to the admonition to a Christian wife to stay with her non-Christian husband because she may set an example that will lead him to acceptance of Jesus.  This instruction is not restricted to non-Christian husbands who do not sin.  So whether that non-Christian husband sins, or does not sin, does not change the instruction to the wife.  Here again you see an instruction to love the sinner.

What about a Christian who is living in sin?

In the case of a Christian who is sinning, we are in something of a different situation.  In that case the New Testament teaches us to love that person, but requires us to address the sin and assist that Christian in correcting that action.  The New Testament gives us instructions about how to go about that, but with love.  If, however, the errant Christian refuses to correct his ways, then we are instructed to remove him from our midst to and have nothing to do with him.  Paul is very direct about this matter. 

I think it is relatively easy to see why this may be.  If a Christian is living a sinful life, and refuses to correct his lifestyle, it damages the rest of the Church, it damages the effectiveness and the message of the Church.  Therefore, for the unity and effectiveness of the Church, and for us to carry out God's purpose for the Church, a Christian leading a sinful life is worse than a non-Christian leading that same life.  I hope in the past we have made a strong enough case about "once in Grace, always in Grace" that you would understand that disassociating with the person and removing him from our midst has nothing to do with his salvation.  Man didn't earn his salvation and he does not have the power to take it away by his actions.  But he does have the power to lead a life that would cause the rest of the Church to ostracize him.

Just to close this loop, Jesus and Paul admonished us many times that Christians are to love one another like God loves us.  That was unconditional.  There is nothing that a Christian can do that should cause you not to love them, but there are a lot of things that they could continue to do that would make it necessary for you to disassociate with them.

Don't Tolerate Sin:

Although we are to love the sinner, while we hate the sin, that does not mean that we are to put up with the sinning.  The New Testament has a number of verses that tell us not to put up with a fellow believer who is living in a way that damages the Church, living in a way that is not worthy of his calling as a Christian.

We are required to gently correct the wayward, that is discipline with love. The Scripture is provided to us for several purposes, but one is the tool to use for the corrections needed, for ourselves and for fellow believers who are tripping off the path.   The obvious next question is:

How do you go about correcting a wayward fellow Christian?

Jesus tells us how to do this in Matthew 18.

So if a fellow Christian is leading a life with willful intent to ignore Biblical teachings, not just tripping from time to time, Jesus says there are several steps to go through to help him make the needed change.  Note that you or I are not the judge and jury.  We do not go tackle the person and hold him down until he gives up and changes.  Paul supports the idea of disassociation with anyone who is immoral, impure or covetous, especially if he is a Christian. I hope that I have adequately covered the issues raised in the earlier lesson.

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Next week:

...we will get back into Ephesians with Chapter 5 Verse 5 and continue to learn what is not in the walk worthy of our calling.