Ephesians Study, Part 35: What about Homosexuals?
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.
- "Are homosexual acts sin?"
- "Are we to hate sin?"
- "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
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.
Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous,
nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
--1 Corinthians 6:9-10
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.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her
has already committed adultery with her in his heart. --Matthew 5:28
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.
He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here." The woman
answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have correctly
said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one
whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." --John 4:16-18
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.
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is
called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."
Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He." --John 4:25-26
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
Remember in John 8 where Jesus was addressing the subject of the woman caught in
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in
adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they
said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the
very act. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what
then do You say?" They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might
have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote
on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up,
and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to
throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the
ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning
with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was,
in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman,
where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord."
And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
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.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ
for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are
Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the
covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the
promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according
to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. --Romans 9:3-5
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 wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did
not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and
swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the
world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called
brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler,
or a drunkard, or a swindler -- not even to eat with such a one. For what
have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the
church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked
man from among yourselves. --1 Corinthians 5:9-13
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
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.
The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to
all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting
those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance
leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their
senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive
by him to do his will. --2 Timothy 2:24
We are required to gently correct the wayward, that is discipline with love.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. --2 Timothy 3:16
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
Jesus tells us how to do this in Matthew 18.
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private;
if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he
does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that
by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he
refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen
even to the Church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. --Matthew 18:15-17
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.
The first step is to go meet privately, one on one and talk about what you
can show is a problem. If you cannot support your constructive
criticism with Scripture, stay at home and leave the other person alone. If
that works, you have helped yourself, the fellow believer and the Church.
If that does not work, Jesus says to get another believer, or two, and
sit down for some private group counseling. If two or three of
his fellow Christians see his behavior as a Scriptural problem, it is
pretty hard for him to ignore it. He may not decide to change,
but he cannot blow it off as one person's opinion. The goal is
not to break the sinning brother, but to show him the error of his ways
and lead him to want to change. This is still a confidential and
If that does not succeed, then Jesus says to tell the Church. I think
the intent is not a public announcement at the next worship service. I
think the intent is to inform the Church leadership, the Pastor or Elders of
the problem, so perhaps they can assist with the change in behavior. They
can also ultimately decide if the next step is necessary and appropriate.
If they fail in the correction, then Jesus says to treat him like a pagan,
like a Gentile and tax collector. Treat him like an outsider, like an
enemy of the Church. Do not associate with him. Your association
with him damages your walk and reputation and that of the Church as a
whole. At that point, leave his correction to God, you have
completed your assignment.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person
or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of
Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for
because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of
disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. --Ephesians 5:5-7
I hope that I have adequately covered the issues raised in the earlier lesson.
...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.