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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 Sanders, 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)