“Between Sundays” is a weekly e-letter written mainly for the people of Calvary Community Church, but that I hope will be a blessing to the wider readership of this little blog. This past Sunday we looked to God's Word to answer the question, "How Do We Help Those Suffering From A Homosexual Orientation?" You can watch or listen to the sermon, and download the manuscript (see the "Notes" icon).
It was (and continues to be) my hope that this sermon will get our church family thinking and talking about how to love, disciple, encourage, and serve people suffering from this particular sin. I have been encouraged already to hear of the conversations that are happening, applying the Biblical texts to this sin, and, as we discussed Sunday, to the various sins that we all struggle with. And it has been good to hear from many of you who have talked with me personally, called, texted, and emailed. Thank you.
One of those interactions was a gentle, very thoughtful email from someone with a sibling who has suffered with same-sex attraction. It raised a concern with my point that there is a difference between homosexual desires and homosexual practice.
It was one of my aims in the sermon to undo what I think is an error in the church on understanding homosexual desires. Namely, there are many in our church (and the wider evangelical church) who equate same-sex desire and sin, rather than seeing same-sex desire as another evidence of The Fall disordering humanity in a way that can lead to sin. But I believe we need to have a category for a person who can be a celibate, Christian man or woman, suffering from a homosexual orientation. (see points #2 and #3, pages 5-7, of the sermon manuscript)
The email's author was concerned, I believe out of love for the listener, that I made an "incomplete dichotomy in not addressing how desire/temptation can lead to sin that itself is not the actual practice of homosexual acts."
The main point of the author had to do with the issue of lust (citing Matthew 5:27-28). The author agreed, it is those who practice who are condemned; but, there is still a way to give into the desire and sin without physical, homosexual activities.
Therefore, the author states, "I believe it is a great disservice to those struggling with same-sex attraction to leave them with the idea that so long as they don't practice homosexual activities they are in the clear." (emphasis mine)
This is an excellent point. So, let me clarify and respond.
I agree with the use of Jesus' warning "that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5:28) as a way to warn someone with same-sex desires against lust. Certainly lust is a sin - for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. This is why I argued in the sermon that we must "show [those with same-sex desires] love in such a way that they feel accepted even while their behavior (sinful acts) may be rejected." (sermon manuscript, page 9)
Therefore, as it appears I may not have been clear enough, let me be clear here: lust, in Jesus words and elsewhere, is sin, and thus falls under the category of behavior (sinful acts) which must be rejected.
But I also want re-iterate: In our fight for holiness and battle to mortify our sin, we need to understand the difference between desire and act, temptation and sin. If we do not understand that distinction, I believe we ourselves will wrongly despair, and then wrongly counsel others. Let me explain with an example.
I am walking down the sidewalk and note someone walking toward me. I then notice it is an attractive woman, and I may feel rising within me the desire to hold my gaze upon her, and I realize this desire is up to no good. So, I look away.
I believe that at that moment I have not yet sinned; but temptation to sin - to lust - is now present. And I have two choices.
I may look back at her - the classic, despicable, male double-take - and sin.
Or, I may look away, and fight. I preach to myself that "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) I place before my vision the promise of Jesus, and that it is in him I shall be satisfied. I remind myself that I am to "rejoice in the wife of my youth" (Prov. 5:18) and that I must guard myself in my spirit, and that I must not be faithless to the wife of my youth (Mal. 2:15). I bring up into my mind the beauty of my bride, the joys she brings me, and the vows I made to her 22 years ago.
And I keep walking down the sidewalk, tempted, tried, holy, victorious in Jesus. I do this only because he is the one who struggled against sin to the point of shedding blood (Heb. 12:4). He fought temptation, defeated desires, struggled against sin (Heb. 2:18) all the way to the cross, and bled out so that I could be clean.
And that verse is so important for us strugglers - homosexual and heterosexual alike. It lets me know that there is a struggle. That there will be desires that are not yet sin, and that I can fight. I can fight like he did. That I can turn to the Spirit and ask for his help. That I can look at others and encourage them in the struggle, to cheer them on toward holiness as their fleshly desires, in league with the world and the devil, seek to drag them down into sin. And I can point them to Jesus.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
If you are in the area, I invite you to join me to continue the conversation ::