There is a tremendous amount of pressure on churches, especially in the United States to clearly state where they stand on the whole challenge of gay marriage as it becomes legal in more and more states. Please understand as I begin this effort to reach a clear answer that I’m not discussing what is right or wrong with what the different state governments are doing in removing the restrains on those who are in homosexual relationships. What the government does has very little, if any affect on what the local church does. As Paul declared to the church in Corinth in chapter five of the first letter, “We are to judge those who are inside, not those who are on the outside.” Those on the outside of the church will be judged by the Lord but we are to judge in the sense of correcting those who are inside the body. We may not be able to say what will happen in the governmental world. But we can look closely at what the Bible teaches for those who are Christians. Many things are legal that aren’t right spiritually or before God. Perhaps the simplest illustration right now is abortion. It is wrong, forbidden in Scripture but is legal in our society. Our world doesn’t hold either the provider of abortion nor the patient responsible for their actions in abortions.
There can be no doubt that homosexual relationships are forbidden in Scripture. In I Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul was was writing to a church that had multiple sexual problems. They had actually turned sex into a religious ceremony offered to an idol god in places like Corinth. He clearly said that ones who are wrongdoers would not inherit the kingdom of God. He even proceeded to say what these unrighteous acts were. “Sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, nor men having sex with men, nor greedy, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” If he had stopped there we could stand and shout that anyone guilty of any of these sins had better get ready for the fires of hell. But Paul continued, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God.” Two obvious lessons from this text is that men having sex with men was sinful and that one can be forgiven of the sin and live a different kind of life pleasing God. Yes, one who is homosexual can change, can repent and can be fully forgiven of that sin. But they cannot go right back to living that same life. They must change, being washed in baptism, justified before God based on their faith and set apart for God to live a different kind of life. One might easily say, that passage condemns men having sex with men but says nothing about women in lesbian relationships, and that would be true of this passage.
In Romans 1:18-32 Paul discusses what will happen to those who reject the gospel of Jesus that has the power to save and set out on their own path to do their own thing. He said they once knew God but didn’t glorify him as God and became empty in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened, so that when they professed wisdom they were acting like fools. These sinners were not thankful for the wonderful blessings God had given them. Beginning inverse 24 he said, “Therefore God gave them over in their sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged their natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Let’s be overwhelmingly clear that homosexual relationships are sinful in exactly the same way as sexual relations between men and women who aren’t married to each other. Both sins are described as “Sexual immorality.”
So, lesson one for us is that when we discuss the sins of homosexual relationships we must not set it apart as though it were some super awful sin worse than any other sin. It does amaze me how in church we can all get hot and bothered by homosexual activity even on TV while failing to notice that in show after show they are showing men and women in sexual relationships who aren’t married and in too many churches the distinctions made are equally out of kilter. Let’s condemn all forms of sexual immorality while pointing clearly to the fact that one involved in either kind of sin can turn from that sin in repentance and be completely forgiven of the sin and be right with God. Certainly that doesn’t mean that one can go right back to the sinful relationship and be right. God always demands a change in our lives. Being sanctified means to be set apart for a new life with him.
Look at I Thessalonians 4:3-8. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
All forms of sexual immorality are against God’s will. But doesn’t it change things when the homosexual couple gets married? It does in the eyes of the world and of the state. It has no affect on God’s judgment since he created marriage between a husband and wife, a man and woman, not between two men or two women. One of the primary purposes God gave for marriage was to reproduce. He created us for relationship with the opposite sex, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. But, what if I only desire someone of the same sex and know that God made me that way? Don’t I have the right to fulfill those desires? No more so than the person who is not married and has God given passions for one of the opposite sex. Just about every teenager in the world has strong passion for someone sexually. But it doesn’t lessen the sin for them to fulfill those desires. Sex was made for a man and woman who are married to each other and committed to one another for life.
But what if a homosexual couple who are married start coming to church or want to place membership with the church? We treat them with love, respect and kindness as Jesus Christ did the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. We are his body and should imitate his actions and attitude. If they come regularly, they should be confronted with their sin as time goes by in a loving way. If they wish to become members, then study God’s word with them and try to lead them to God and obedience to Him. If they have been members of the church in some place or there, and you learn of the relationship you should react the exact same way you would if some man and woman in the congregation were living together and were not married and you learned of that. What would you do then? Surely, you would go see them, one on one between you, the Lord and them and talk with them about their life and their relationship with God. You would need to talk to them about what it means to repent of sins and turn from that sin to God. But what if you go and they won’t change? You go again and again and you pray and get others to pray for them that God will convict them of the sin. If after time that doesn’t do any good you take two or three others with you that will be kind, loving, considerate and compassionate while talking about the sin in their lives and the need to turn to God. In time if there is no repentance and you have exhausted every effort no avail you go to the whole church to ask for their prayers and their help in trying to bring these folks you dearly love to their right thinking on the subject. I believe that is what Jesus said do, isn’t it? (Matthew 18:15-20)
But do people in those situations ever change? Absolutely! I not only know that from Scripture but from experience. But if our actions are to avoid people in such situation from the moment they enter our building and treat them like they had ebola or worse and that we fear touching them as though we might catch it, then there is little or no hope of people changing. But I’ll be honest and say that I would be fearful of facing the Lord in judgment after I had treated anyone in such a way. Such action imitate Pharisees and not Jesus. If we want to be the Lord’s church we must act like the Lord.