“Perplexing and painful as the homosexual Christian’s dilemma is, Jesus Christ offers him or her (indeed, all of us) faith, hope, and love – the faith to accept both his standards and his grace to maintain them, the hope to look beyond present suffering to future glory, and the love to care for and support one another. ‘But the greatest of these is love’ (1 Cor. 13:13).” John Stott (1)
Homosexuality – The Battle
Homosexuality is one of the most volatile topics in our culture, and men struggling with same-sex sexual attractions find themselves in the middle of a personal, theological, cultural and political battleground.
On the one hand, a monumental shift has taken place in our culture over the last 50 years, with a growing acceptance and celebration of homosexuality. Gay-identified characters are common in movies, on television, in plays and in books. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) groups are regular features of colleges and universities, and gay-straight student alliances are even found on middle and high school campuses. The judiciary has been bombarded with “gay rights” cases, and political battles about re-defining marriage and hate-crimes are a regular occurrence at the ballot box and in state and federal legislatures. Even in the church, denominations have battled about how to address those struggling with same-sex attractions, with some choosing to ordain self-identified gays and lesbians.
On the other hand, God’s word clearly states His plan for human sexuality, and Judeo-Christian teaching has been consistent for 5,000 years – same-sex sexual relationships are not God’s intent. (2) For many men and women struggling with same-sex attractions, faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to God’s word are more important than their attractions or desires.
So where does a Christian struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction turn? The culture promotes “Gay Pride” and denounces “homophobia.” But the church and God’s word are clear about God’ intentions for our sexuality. And what about those who claim to have “come out of homosexuality”? (3) Are the changes in their lives real?
Friends and family members get caught up in this battle, too. They want to be compassionate and loving, but they also want to follow God’s word. Where do they turn in this conflict? And how should churches and denominations respond to those with same-sex attractions?
Thankfully, there are some answers. For years now, Focus on the Family has sought to address these issues with both grace and truth. (4) And while we can’t deal with every issue related to homosexuality in a series of articles like this, we can provide some helpful information about the basics of male homosexuality, and we can point you toward other resources.
If you are a man struggling with same-sex attractions, a pastor or church leader trying to understand this issue, a family member with a loved one struggling with homosexual behavior, a youth worker or educator, a mental health professional, or just a Christian who wants to know the truth, then this article and the ones that follow are for you.
Our primary concerns are to remain true to God’s word and character and to speak the truth about homosexuality in love.
God’s Good Design for Sex and Gender
“In the mystery of creation, man and woman were ‘given’ in a special way to each other by the Creator…. The fundamental fact of human existence at every stage of its history is that God ‘created them male and female.’” John Paul II (5)
As Christians, we start with the premise that God made us and loves us. As Creator, He designed us with specific intentions about who we are and how we should live. The Bible teaches clearly about God’s plan for marriage and sexuality.
Jesus explained some of this when he was asked about marriage and divorce. He pointed his audience back to the very beginning, to the creation account:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Mark 19: 4-6)
What do we learn from this?
Jesus took the creation account seriously, quoting Genesis to remind his followers what they were to emulate. For centuries, church doctrine has affirmed Jesus’ words, that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s intent, and that sexual expression is designed for that relationship.
Jesus’ teaching about marriage is consistent with other portions of scripture which teach us that God is relational – He lives in an eternal, loving relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human beings are created in God’s image to be relational. A man and woman coming together in marriage are supposed to reflect the image of God – living out a committed, caring relationship.
Scripture and experience give evidence that male and female are complementary and designed for each other. Male and female are made in the image of God and bear His imprint – separately, in their masculinity and femininity, and together, in their unity.
God’s word is also clear that He intended marriage to be permanent – a husband and wife become one flesh, and Christ says we are not to separate what God has joined together. God intended for the marriage union to last.
The marriage of a man and a woman portrays a deep spiritual reality. Marriage is the most vivid and consistent image in scripture of God’s relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, God is the husband and Israel is His beloved spouse. In the New Testament, Christ is the groom and the church is His bride.
Finally, but perhaps most obviously, when a man and woman come together in a marital relationship, there is a natural outcome – children! God tells the first man and woman “to be fruitful and multiply.” (6) Just as God is creative and productive, he made us that way, too. A man and woman cooperate with God in bringing new life into the world. A husband and wife – in their complementarity – model for their children different aspects of God’s character.
“Here then, are three truths which Jesus affirmed:
1. Heterosexual gender is a divine creation
2. Heterosexual marriage is a divine institution; and
3. Heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention.
A homosexual liaison is a breach of all three of these divine purposes.” John Stott (7)
Biological Sex – Male and Female – a Divine Creation
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27
Humans are made in the image of God – male and female. Our gender and sexuality are part of God’s plan for us and reflect something of who He is. Now let’s be clear, God is high above us, and He is not male or female in the way humans are. But the Bible says He has revealed himself in his creation, and that his image and likeness are reflected in a special way in His creation of men and women.
Think about all that is reflected in male-female sexuality and about what that tells us about God. Our gender and sexuality were designed to lead us to joy, connection, relationships, family, pleasure, children, marriage – God must really enjoy these things to have planned for us to participate in them.
Here’s what one writer says about God’s design in creation:
• God designed us for union with Him and with others
• Our bodies have been created by God and are good
• Our bodies reveal deep truths about the meaning of life
• Through our bodies, we make visible the love of God (8)
Physical Reality: Male or Female
God created humanity, in his image and likeness, male and female; but as individual beings, we are either male or female. (9) Individually, we are made to reflect God’s image either as a man or a woman. From the very point of fertilization we begin to show those differences.
Because of the ways our culture has changed in the past 40 or 50 years, it’s become politically incorrect to emphasize the differences between men and women. This, despite the fact that scientists and researchers continue to find more physical and psychological distinctions between men and women; indeed, every cell in the male body is different from every cell in the female’s.
God says both male and female are good, they complement and complete each other. The original man – alone and without woman to complete him – was not called good. It wasn’t until both the man and the woman were created and formed that God said that His creation was very good. (10)
Our culture has certainly worked to blur these male-female differences – but they still exist, and the differences are more than just physical. Our bodies show the deeper reality of masculinity or femininity – a reality beyond biology, a reality that reflects something of who God is.
(1) John Stott, Same Sex Partnerships? A Christian Perspective, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1998), p. 83.
(2) See, for example, Robert A.J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001); Joe Dallas, The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007); or Dennis Prager, “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality,” OrthodoxyToday.org, < http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/PragerHomosexuality.shtml > (29 January 2010).
(3) For example: “Stories of Hope,” < http://www.pureintimacy.org/homosexuality/ > (28 September 2010) or ”Real Stories – Men,” < http://www.exodusinternational.org/content/blogcategory/20/149/ > (29 January 2010).
(5) Pope John Paul II, “Original Innocence and Man’s Historical State,” General Audience, Wednesday, 13 February, 1980, < http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/catechesis_genesis/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19800213_en.html > (29 January 2010).
(6) Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9:7.
(7) John Stott, 1998 p. 36.
(8) Jason Evert, Theology of the Body for Teens – Parent’s Guide, (West Chester PA, Ascension Press 2008), p. 5.
(9) See Ray S. Anderson, “Being Human as Male and Female,” On Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology, (Pasadena: Fuller Seminary Press, 1982), pp. 104-129.
(10) Genesis 1:26-31.