Becky: One of those nights when I'm thinking about something and I can't sleep. So I'm just going to shoot you a whole bunch of questions right now, and hopefully compose a more clear picture of where this all came from tomorrow. But for your late night insomnia, here you go. . .
1. Where does the Bible talk about homosexuality, and what other words might it use (to help me find those references in some kind of search engine)?
2. Is there a Biblical basis for treating homosexuality any different than we do other sins, I.e. gossip, disobeying/dishonoring parents, etc.?
3. Is there a clear distinction, Biblically, between homosexual ACTS or BEHAVIOR and just having homosexual . . .desires/urges/feelings/whatever, but not acting on them, I.e. not having any sexual relations at all?
4. How should the church deal with sexuality? I don't think it's biblical to ask people to "clean up their act" and then come to church. . . I think God works on our hearts and our "besetting sins" with us after we are saved. . . but is there/should there be a place in the church for a homosexual who is a believer, but hasn't been healed/whatever by God of their homosexuality? Should we expect homosexuals to change, or should we treat them like heterosexuals, and only condemn the sinful ACTS, not the (sinful? see question 3.) desires?
Dad: The Bible addresses homosexuality and sexual immorality from a law perspective in Leviticus 18:22, and again in the New Testament in lists of bad things that either keep us from God’s kingdom, or at least have no part in the behavior of believers (Mk. 7:21-22, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Eph. 5:3-10, Col. 3:5-8).
I did search Biblegateway, but the actual word homosexual rarely appears in the New International Version. It describes behaviors (e.g. man lying with another man) so it’s not that easy to search. There are tons of articles written on the topic from all perspectives, and I recommend Gospel.com, and search on homosexuality. There’s a lot of stuff there that would represent a conservative, biblical perspective. I only took time to scan a few articles.
As far as types of sin; sin is sin in the respect that it is what makes us need salvation, and keeps us separate from God. The effects of sin vary tremendously because they vary in their natural and/or legal consequences. Even different types of lying have different consequences – relational, legal, etc. As far as how we treat it, there is a sense in which we have to look past each person’s characteristic sins, and treat each other with love anyway. However, there is also the principle of enabling continuous sin, or a life-style of sin. If someone gossips constantly, we can smile and ignore them for a while, but at some point we need to privately say something like, “I’m concerned that some of what you share with me is gossip, and so in order to prevent me from being a part of gossip, and to help you keep from gossip, I’m going to stop you when I am concerned that a conversation is heading that direction, is that okay with you?” It is a gentle, yet straight-forward way to head off sin. I have actually had to say that to a few people, and what I find is that conversations are couched in more spiritual terms, or conversations just end. More sensitive areas like homosexuality are much more difficult to deal with.
I have only had to deal with those struggling with the feelings, not the behavior. Here it is important to affirm that the desire to do wrong isn’t wrong until it becomes a habit, or leads to sinful behavior, and I would treat homosexual desires and behavior in the same way I’d treat covetousness and stealing. Not that the have the same effect on us and others, but they are similar in their sense of how they affect us: we want something and think about it to the point of obsession, and eventually act on it. In that sense, the natural desire leads to sin.
Here’s where the naturalness of desire and tendencies needs to be addressed. I have a tendency to like sports, conversation, interrupting, procrastinating, having more stuff than I need, pride, listening to other’s life-stories, helping people solve problems, mowing the lawn, nature, etc. Those are things that characterize me, some of which are good, and some aren’t. They all come naturally to me, but some actually lead to sin. If I had anger, violence, stealing, sexual immorality, etc. on my list of natural tendencies, it wouldn’t make any of them any less sinful. We all naturally desire sinful behavior, and behave sinfully. What comes naturally only helps us see what kinds of sin we will have to deal with.
The church needs to get a better handle on this concept and help us use our positive tendencies – gifts – to the benefit of the Body, and help us deal with all variety of sin by assuring us of forgiveness and providing encouragement and accountability in overcoming weaknesses. In some areas of sin, such as sexual sin, the same principles apply, but additional boundaries may need to be established for those who have fallen into sinful behavior, such as not allowing them to work alone with children, youth, etc.
There is one area that few churches have learned to do effectively, and that is dealing with those who excuse their sin, and want the church to accept their practice of it. This can be sexual sin, lying, stealing, gossip, etc. There needs to be a process according to Matthew 18 to go from personal confrontation to eventually asking them to leave and cease being a part of the Body. In this case, the pastor or an elder should continue to follow up for a time to try to restore the individual, but it is fine at some point to say you’ve done all you can. I have not seen a church ever do this effectively. It is either ignored, or done badly, with not much in between. I had to do some of it with the school, but never was good at it. I tended to be too gentle, or too firm.