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Can you be a gay Christian?

Published: 25 June 2016 (GMT+10)

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Esteven T., United States, wrote:

Hello, my name is Esteven. I have read a string of articles about gay “Christians” [URL removed]; this is one of them.

My question is relating to biblical authority over the issue. Is it possible to be gay and “Christian” at the same time? When the Old Testament says to kill gays and the new says that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. I have looked much more into the issue and there has seem to be a lot of “Christians” coming out as gay. Are they lying to God and to themselves about being Christians when the Bible explicitly prohibits homosexuality. Should we stop listening to their music because of that? I have read one of your articles saying that people who struggle with homosexuality are akin to people who struggle with greed, for example. I have come across a lot of young Christians that are now accepting of gays. How can we enjoy the music from these gay “Christians.”

Gary Bates and Lita Cosner, CMI-US, respond:

Dear Esteven,

When we ask, “Is it possible to be gay and Christian?” I think it is useful to insert other behaviors such as “Is it possible to steal and be Christian?” or “Is it possible to be wrathful and Christian?” Because we tend to think of homosexuality and other sins of ‘disordered sexuality’ as more serious, this helps us to put the question in the correct context. What we’re really asking is, “Is it possible to sin and be Christian?”

Obviously, every single one of us sins in various ways. So what differentiates the believing sinner from the unbelieving sinner? I argue that one’s relationship to one’s sin differentiates the believer from the unbeliever. The first thing is to actually recognize one’s area of weakness, for example, an attraction to persons of the same sex. And then one needs to confess such sinful desires to God and ask for His help to overcome the sin. The true believer should hate his or her sin and be grieved by its continued presence in his or her life and fight against it daily, and not try to make excuses for it by saying it is somehow acceptable to God. Even though there may be lapses or defeats, if one is in Christ, one will also experience various levels of increasing victory over it as one grows in Christian maturity. For instance, someone who was characterized by lying in his pre-Christian life may struggle a lot with it in his early days as a Christian, but after 10 years, for instance, that’s probably not as much a struggle.

If anything makes homosexual desires different from other sins, it is that in today’s culture people are encouraged to define themselves by their sexual inclinations. So if someone is identifying as ‘gay’, that’s a part of their identity that they may even embrace, which obviously complicates things when they are called to recognize and repent of that sin.

So can someone be a ‘gay Christian’? Well, people mean different things by that term. Some mean that they are celibate, but experience same-sex attraction. While it’s good that they recognize their sinful desires and are not acting on them, it might be problematic if they are still identifying themselves by a sinful urge they have, which wouldn’t be very conducive to growth. But if they mean, “I’m a Christian man and so is my boyfriend”, that’s a problem, because that indicates an unwillingness to confront and repent from one’s sin. Again, the litmus test with all things is Scripture and how one rightly divides the Word of God.

Scripture is clear that you cannot comfortably and habitually engage in any sin and call oneself a Christian. But before we condemn gay people too harshly, it is worth remembering that well over half of Christian men admit to habitually looking at pornography (and there is a growing percentage of Christian women too). Sexual behaviours are some of the most addictive (and destructive) in trying to break free from. We believe that same-sex attraction falls into this type of behavior, but unfortunately is justified by our modern culture ‘helping’ people identify and even celebrate their attraction as normal. Surely no one would think an addiction to pornography should be celebrated. And similarly, rates of cohabitation before marriage and even abortion in the Christian world are a far bigger problem—in terms of the number of people engaging in them—than homosexuality. But once again the culture has identified these practices as normal and not sinful.

So should we be accepting of gay people in our churches? They should absolutely be welcomed when they visit; it might be the bravest thing they’ve ever done as a gay person to come into a place they think will be condemning of them. Should they serve in leadership or be accepted into church membership before they repent? Of course, absolutely not, but nonetheless we should love our gay friends, neighbors, and family members; and part of that is lovingly telling them about the Bible’s commands and the Gospel, which has the power to transform lives.

So what about the biblical passages regarding homosexuality? First, we have to recognize that the Bible presents monogamous lifelong marriage between a husband and wife as normative; it is part of God’s good created order. Anything that deviates from that, whether it is rape, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. is recognized as an aberration. In the theocratic state of ancient Israel, homosexual practice was a crime that received the death penalty (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13), because it was seen as an abomination; a twisting of the created order. In the New Testament, Paul clearly indicated that the Gospel changed new believers who had previously engaged in homosexual practice, so that they did not do that anymore. It is often said that Paul is homophobic because he put homosexuality in a list of things that keep one out of the Kingdom of God (Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10), but he is just listing one of many sins that exclude us. The point is that we all fit somewhere in that list, and we are all in need of the same Gospel. And that Gospel has the power to change us, no matter which sin we especially struggle with.

It is more important than ever for Christians to have a biblical view of homosexuality and transgenderism and to be able to engage with others. We’ve produced a small booklet to help: Gay marriage: right or wrong? And who decides? There are also a few articles I would encourage you to read:

Gay marriage—a big stick to beat the church with
We’re all ‘born that way’
Creationism and the problem of homosexual behaviour
Homosexual behaviour v the Bible

I hope this is helpful.

Helpful Resources

Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Gary Bates, Lita Cosner
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $2.00
Kindle (.mobi)
Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $2.00
eReader (.epub)

Readers’ comments

Robert M.
2 Corinthians 5:17—

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things become new,

It seems to me that this verse answers the question. If a man or woman does not change and be conformed to Christ and the teachings of the scriptures then he is not ‘in Christ’ and is not a Christian. How can a person remain ‘gay’ or a homosexual and claim to be a follower of Jesus?
Dan M.
Dear Dr Sarfati
In response to your comment on my feedback: Yes I believe Jesus told us in John 7:24 to judge the sin (actions and not appearances) of another but the judgment of the sinner (spirit) is God’s domain.
In other words, yes we are to judge whether another’s actions are moral or not according to God’s word. If I’m still missing something please clarify.
Thanks Dan
Jonathan Sarfati
Dear Dan

Sometimes the ‘judge not’ command is wrenched out of context (not by you) to rebuke those who even judge wrong behaviour. But the Bible sometimes requires judging people who commit the wrong behaviour.

Rather than ‘reinvent fire’ here, I (as an individual) recommend this off-site article by CMI contributor Bill Muehlenberg, Thou Shalt Judge (2008).
Mike A.
Thanks for writing on this sensitive and important issue. Unfortunately, too many Christians are changing their minds on this issue because society tells them that homosexuality is OK, and that any objections to it are outdated and don’t apply any more. Young people especially are confused on this issue because the public schools here in Canada actively promote homosexual, trans-sexual and transgender lifestyles as the new norm. Additionally, if anyone holds to a viewpoint that homosexuality is sinful as described in Scripture, they are labelled as homophobic and hateful.

Schools in my area even put up slogans such as, ‘As long as you are happy, does it matter who you choose to love?’ or ‘love is love’. If you stop and think about it, even if someone rejects the Biblical viewpoint and chooses to celebrate homosexuality, there are still many sexual relationships that people would object to and so yes it ‘does matter who you choose to love.’

This can be a very confusing issue and unfortunately, many churches remain silent on it and allow 'the world' to tell their members how to think on this issue.

Adrian C.
But there is one important aspect left out from the article: role of knowledge. While in some way there is no difference in the gravity of sin (Romans 6:23) there is in some other way (Matthew 10:15; 11:22–24), particularly, dependent on knowledge (Luke 12:47–48; Acts 17:30; Romans 14:5,14). One can’t repent of a sin unless one knows it’s a sin. Even misled by a culture accepting untrue gay propaganda (about being born gay), the lack of knowing the truth has a bearing on the question posed. But gays should be helped to see and answer: ‘Can I give it up if God asked?’ Even good things are sinful and idolatry if we can't give them up if God asked (cf. Abraham giving up Isaac or Matthew 10:37).

Should a gay person be accepted a member? It depends. Some say people need to get changed before joining a church. Others that salvation (and proof of it like grieving known sin, not celebrating it) is enough and God will continue to change them along the way. There are many Christians that habitually break the speed limit (often even as they come to church) and they don't really think it’s a sin (despite 1 Peter 2:13). That's not even a membership question. Asking people to change before joining may be an unneeded obstacle. But accepting an unchanged member may be a bad testimony for the church to the world (Romans 14:16). And the culture certainly is a factor in such a decision (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Also, the puzzle you mentioned between what Scripture says about who is a Christian and the reality of many habitually sinning should be clarified and the key is your term ‘comfortably’. Real Christians are bothered by their sin (at the extent they know it’s sin), struggle with it and want to change (they see it as a chain not a celebrated goal). That proves the Holy Spirit is working.
Adrian C.
Your emphasis on celebrating homosexuality vs. repenting aligns with Romans 1:32
they [homosexuals, see context Romans 1:26–32] not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Many Christian gays believe that God made them that way (=gayness is a biological condition). While it’s possible (genetic and mutation research on mice indicated mutations that lead to gay-like behavior), I find it very unlikely for multiple reasons (there was no conclusive gene correlation found in humans, evolution would prune it out, general lack of correlation between gay parents and gay children, etc.).

A gay-gene affecting so many people should be like a sore-thumb but wasn't found despite many studies. Even social psychologist Carol Tavris declared at a Skeptic Society conference: “no clear biological component of homosexuality has been established.” ([link deleted per feedback rules]).

The mind is pretty amazing and can easily fixate on odd behavior, particularly related to sexuality, and the vast majority if not all homosexuality is not linked to a mutation any more than, say, fetishism is but it’s rather a matter of psychology. People believing in born-gayness may end up believing that it's them (just as horoscope readers find something that matches the horoscope).

Even if there was a biological side to homosexuality, that would be a small factor wouldn’t rule out free will. There are people who are biologically very inclined to overeat but that doesn't mean they have to be obese. Lastly, a question that doesn't fit the celebration mentality is this: if it's indeed a mutation, and a detrimental one for that matter as it leads to an evolutionary disadvantage, shouldn't it be fixed, if a cure was found? Or, should scientists look for a cure?
Jonathan Sarfati
Or a dilemma for many anti-Christians: would be be right to abort a baby with a ‘gay gene’?
Brian H.
Well written. it is helpful to remember that we are all fallen and sinful. Repentance is the key. Changed lives because of Christ is the key. No matter the sin.
Gian G.
I just got informed yesterday from my atheist sister that she is bisexual. I told her I wouldn’t treat her in an ‘anathema zone’ but told her I disagree with her lifestyle. I even told her that I exhort her to change her lifestyle but if she wishes to continue, she may do so but I let her know I do not compromise.

Regarding the issue of gay Christian, it all comes down to indeed how that Christian deals with their sins (not just homosexuality). If he/she is struggling and desires to rid off that desire, than yes he/she is a genuine Christian who is struggling to battle against that sin. If that person accepts and celebrates that sin, then that person is not really a Christian because he/she is embracing that sin and not condemning it.
Andrew E.
I think the issue of leadership and membership needs to have a little more attention because one needs to ensure they are not tolerating one ‘sin’ but not another. I think there is room to accept people into membership and leadership despite the fact they still have some ‘growing’ to go in certain aspects of their life. Or to put it another way, does a person need to ‘fix’ everything before they can be considered for membership or leadership?
Jonathan Sarfati
No, but how about not flaunting a particular sin and affirming it as a part of that person’s identity?
Chuck J.
You express how I believe on this subject. I publicly acknowledge that I am a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus. Others may see pride in me. However, I do not define myself to others specifically that I am a prideful person. I do not demand that you accept my pride and not condemn the pride. I prefer that people see how Jesus is in me. Praise God and the work He does through CMI.
Eugene M.
As a Christian who has struggled with same-sex attraction since my youth, thank you for faithfully representing God’s Word, and those of us who try to live as He wants in this particular area.

We are all broken by sin, whether it be ours or someone else’s, and no one is innocent. We are all called to see past our sin to our Saviour, and that changes our relationship with our sin. It is no longer ‘who we are’ but is now something we used to do, and we may still struggle and fail, but our relationship with God is now our primary identity.
Michael R.
Thank you for an excellent article. I do agree that repentance is such an important part of being a Christian. Repentance was preached by the Old Testament prophets, by Jesus and by the Apostles and St Paul. All new Christians must take a serious and honest look at their way of life and repent, i.e. turn completely away from those things which were sinful before they came to Christ. Those of us who have been Christians for some time must still continue to examine ourselves and our lifestyles in the light of Holy Scripture and sound Christian teaching. Sadly in many churches today we rarely, if ever, hear a good sermon on the importance of repentance, and in popular culture the message is clear: don’t repent, celebrate.
Tim K.
Good article. When we get saved we change our mind (repent) about sin and put our faith in Christ Jesus for salvation. As a result our identity is in Christ not our sin. We don't identify ourselves as an adulterous, thieving, lying, or gay Christian.
Kevin P.
1 John 5:16 talks about 1) sins, and 2) sins unto death. I believe that John used the phrase “sin unto death” to refer to those sins in the Old Testament that required the death sentence. In the Old Testament a man desiring to have sex with a woman that he was not married to was a sin. Actually having sex with her was a sin unto death.

I do not believe that I will ever, in this life, be able to stop sinning in various ways. I do believe that I never need to commit a sin unto death.

I believe that the New Testament gives me an obligation to doubt the faith and salvation of anyone who commits a sin unto death (including myself).

Man made global warming has been accepted - without evidence - simply because it is repeated over and over as a fact. The same with evolution. And now homosexuality as a kind of person instead of as a kind behavior.

Scientifically, objectively, the identity of an unborn child can only be male or female. There is no homosexual “kind of person” only “a behavior”.
Dave R.
Do you know, I really dislike the usage of the word ‘gay’ as a description of something ugly and unnatural?
I consider myself to be gay and a Christian—or, indeed, a gay Christian—except that ‘gay’ here is used in the traditional meaning of the word, viz., ‘carefree’, ‘happy’.
It’s surely a sobering sign of the times we are in when good, innocent words are thus defiled.
Jonathan Sarfati
It’s a reality of diachronic linguistics that many words change meaning over time. A good example is the word ‘replenish’, which in Early Modern English (e.g. the KJV) meant ‘fill completely’, but now means ‘refill’ (see Replenish the earth: Were Adam and Eve supposed to fill the planet with their descendants—or to refill it?)

I agree that the change in the meaning of ‘gay’ is most unfortunate.
Dan M.
Yes, we are all on that list, (1 Corinthians 6:9–10) in one way or another but Christ has commanded us to repent, turn from our wicked ways and follow him. This has given me us a freedom few people will experience.
When I engage gays and share the gospel, sometimes they get angry. I always share with them that they are not being singled out because they are only one of ten groups in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and most of America is living in sin according to the gospel. Sin is sin and if you love God you will try to please Him rather than yourself if you are a genuine Christian. We are to share the gospel in meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15), and not judge because God is the only qualified judge (John 12:48), but we must tell them the truth (not to warn them is sin).
Actually as a Christian, I feel attack and discrimination by the gay community because I’m not allowed to believe in the truth of the Gospel message which is my right. The gay community is the aggressor by redefining marriage (a slap in the face), that has stood for six millennia, forcing Christians to participate in gay weddings (if there can be such a thing), by profession and filing suit if they refuse. Where’s the freedom in that! We are commanded to love them but we cannot participate in their sin, (2 Corinthians 6:14–18).
In these last days we must stand strong for Christ no matter the consequences.
Jonathan Sarfati
I agree with most of the above, except that Jesus told us to judge. That is:

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24)

He forbade only hypocritical judgment.
David P.
A very well-balanced response and biblically centered.

One problem I have when welcoming any unbeliever into church is that unless that person is lovingly ministered to as an unbeliever needing Christ’s salvation, he may be accepted, remain and eventually be thought of as a fellow Christian—without having been saved. I’ve seen it happen, and some of those become Sunday school teachers or involved in music ministry or other areas of ministry that are only for true disciples of Christ. So yes, welcome them, but minister to them, get them into a Bible study class for unbelievers, and stay with them until they either repent and receive Christ or leave. But they should not remain in ‘fellowship’ in the state of unbelief. That is the most loving way to minister to them.

An example would be from an evangelist we once met who told the story of a lady in her eighties who attended one of his prophecy conferences. When he asked about her church life, she said she had taught Sunday school for sixty years. He asked her when she was saved and she responded with a blank look. He then explained the Gospel to her and her need for salvation and she received Christ. But there were sixty years’ worth of children who may have never heard the Gospel. We must not allow unbelievers to languish in our midst without being intentionally ministered to. And it is not unloving to ask visitors if they know Christ as their Savior and Lord and if they have been born again.
Debbie R.
Good article but you didn't answer the question asked about listening to a gay ‘Christian’ singer’s music. This situation is popping up more and more, and I think is important to be addressed, especially for young people.
Jonathan Sarfati
A fair question. My own opinion is that it would depend on the words. I’m sure many people listen to music by composers whose lives were not the epitome of good Christian living, but if the words were good or at least morally neutral, I don't see a problem. E.g. I think a Protestant is not sinning by listening to music by the Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, who was called il Prete Rosso (‘the Red Priest’) because he was a redheaded ordained priest.
Hugh O.
A great article. I agree we should welcome all but only accept into fellowship who Christ does. Also we often label another’s sin worse than my sin. However sin is sin and God has no favorites. We all struggle with some sin and perhaps the biggest is self-righteousness. I am thankful everyday for God’s grace by Jesus Christ and yet I also struggle with sin. In someways this is encouraging because when I don't struggle sin ruled my life. Praise Jesus.
Jonathan Sarfati
I agree with a lot of the above, but not with the implication “All sins are equal”. Creation magazine interviewee Rev. Dr Peter Barnes wrote an article I like, Are all sins equal? (2008), where he answers “No”, but I think you would also largely agree with his concluding paragraph:

Rather than declare that all sins are equal—which violates both common sense and Scripture—we ought to recognise that any sin cuts us off from God. It is misleading to say that God is equally opposed to each of our sins, but it is true to say that He utterly opposes all of our sin.

Vicky K.
The word is clear on an unmarried person who engages in sexual intercourse, especially when considered to be of an illicit or illegal nature, such as homosexuality:

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. 1 Corinthians 5:9–13 [KJV]
Jason B.
Well said. Thanks for your comprehensive response that puts the issue of gay marriage in a biblical perspective. God’s Word is authoritative and makes it very clear that homosexuality is sin against God, but I appreciate your emphasis on other sexual sins that the ‘church’ has seemingly embraced. For example, adultery through divorce and remarriage is out of control in the church. We need to get the beam out of our own eye before we attempt to get the speck out of our brother’s eye. We are just like the Pharisees who needed Jesus to remind them of God’s perfect intention from the beginning. We’ve drawn the line so far from God’s intention that gay marriage seems like an extreme sin, when in reality, all sin is rebellion against God.
Michael T.
In a street evangelism context, on the day of the Sydney [Gay and Lesbian] Mardi Gras one year, a young man asked me, “If I’m a Christian and I’m gay, will I go to Hell?” I said, “If you’re a Christian, you’ll go to Heaven.”
Eileen T.
I would also add that another difference to other sins is the fact that it causes another human being—Christian or otherwise—to sin with you. The sacredness of legitimate marriage is that you become ‘one flesh’. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:15–17]
Thank you for a balanced article. I know a psychologist using biblical counselling who has led innumerable ‘gay’ men and women back to happy biblical relationships.
David B.
Good article. I totally agree it’s where your heart is on an issue that matters. My pastor pointed out that being tempted isn’t sinning it’s acting on the tempting that makes it sin.

On a side note several identical twins have turned out 1 gay 1 not, given that they have the exact same genetic information it kind of puts to rest anyone being born that way (understanding we are all born into sin after the Fall), so there’s always hope that we can get to the bottom of why someone has homosexual tendencies and help them overcome them, like any sin though the person has to want to overcome it.

I've seen footage of a guy with a secret camera in a gay night club, all the men admitted to either have being molested as a child or that they molested other boys at a very young age and just new what to do, in other words they were molested before they were old enough to remember; this could give the impression to someone they were born that way.

Anyway love them is the best way to respond; no sin is too big for Jesus to change.
Ken B.
A very thoughtful article on a real-life issue. On the question of how the church relates to ‘gay’ people, 1 Corinthians 5 is relevant. Here was a situation where people were actually flaunting their sin:
v1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate” and the church seemed happy with that
v2 "“And you are proud!". Paul then says what should have been the response:
v2 “Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” But further down he qualifies this:
v11 “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” I don’ t believe this is an instantaneous ‘kick-them-out’ reaction, but rather an end situation if the person involved insists on their claim to be a Christian and on their ‘right’ to continue sinning.
Dwight F.
I agree with what you have said, however there is one item that is missing. Homosexuality that is the norm in a nation is a sign of God’s judgment of that nation (Romans 1). Homosexuality is the stage where a nation has reached where God's judgment must come to past. If you remember in the 60s where you had the sex revolution and the 70s abortion became the norm this shows that sin has become worst and nothing will stop sin until God’s judgment has be laid on that nation. The fault is with us the Christians because we are suppose to be the salt of the earth. Now if we warn people of the consequences of their then there maybe chance that they will repent so avoiding God’s judgment. However if we keep silent (which we have done in the past and present) then our nation is lost.
Paul S.
It comes back to: Do you agree with God about your sin?
A Christian says Yes, I need help.
They are then open to the Holy Spirit’s help. God changes them, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
The moment anyone says No, they cannot be helped and are refusing the conviction and change of the HS. That might be the unpardonable sin.

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