In this post, I’d like to address perhaps the most common mistake Bible-believing Christians make in discussions with those who commit homosexual sins — the question of “choice”.
Homosexuality and the Purposes of Marital Intimacy (with related links)
Homosexuality — What the Bible Clearly Says
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part one)
This post continues a series triggered by the recent Kirk decision to permit the ordination of those actively practicing homosexual behaviour. We’ve been looking at this in our Bible Study, with these posts roughly based on that study.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
The Question of “Choice”
Sometimes, a person who commits homosexual sin will defend their actions by saying, “I didn’t choose to be this way.” Christians may respond, “Yes, you did.”
Often, the two are talking about different things. The unbelieving homosexual knows he chooses to act as he does. He is not usually talking about behaviour but about desires. When a person who commits homosexual sins says, “I didn’t choose to be this way,” he is saying that he did not choose to have the kind of desires / lusts that he has.
The Christian, on the other hand, is talking about behaviour. When he says, “You DID choose,” he means that the person to whom he is talking chose to commit that sin.
A Bible-believing saved sinner and a homosexual sinner may actually agree as to whether the actions are chosen. The disagreement is generally two-fold — whether the actions are sinful (the Bible very clearly says they are) and whether the person chose to have those desires / lusts. That second disagreement is what I’d like to look at in this post.
The Choice and the Progression
The Bible does not say people choose to have homosexual desires. Many Christians will be surprised by that, but look carefully at Romans 1. It says people choose not to honour God and be thankful (verse 21). The result is pride, darkened hearts, and thinking / acting as if God is like man, or even like animals (21-23).
Because of this rebellion, God gives them up to uncleanness (24), vile affections (26), and eventually to a reprobate mind (28). God no long restrains the wicked lusts and desires of the rebel’s heart, and his corrupted thinking takes control.
This passage really tells of only one choice — to rebel against God, to not thank and glorify Him. Everything else came out of that choice. Was it a choice to become enslaved to homosexual lusts? It led to that, but the Bible does not tell us that they knew that was the choice they were making.
The person making the choice rarely sees the road ahead. Satan doesn’t put up a signpost saying, “This way leads to slavery to all kinds of horrible sins.” The person knows he is not following God, but probably very few really understand that this path leads to being controlled by, given over to, this kind of sin. Satan’s deceptions don’t come with user warnings.
From Where do the Desires Come?
Romans 1:24 tells us those desires are in the heart. We are all born with sinful hearts, with many wicked desires lurking deep within us. James 1:13-15 tells us that the origin of our sin is internal.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
An unrestrained human heart is a breeder of evil, multiplying wickedness. Once God gives someone over to follow their sinful desires, all that wickedness of the human heart, which a person may not have even fully known was there, makes itself known. A person doesn’t have to choose to have sinful desires – they just come. The more he follows sin, the more evil his heart produces, and the more wicked desires will come to the surface.
“Born That Way”?
Those who commit homosexual sins often claim they are “born that way,” that there is something innate that makes them have homosexual desires. They mean this as an excuse, that being born that way makes them helpless to do any different – it is an accident of birth that makes them do homosexual sins.
The truth in the claim? Romans 1 tells us the desires come out of a sinful heart, and every sinner (including cleansed and forgiven sinners) was born with such a heart, capable of producing an abundance of perverse sins. The error in the claim? The latent evil was in the heart at birth, but it did not dominate the heart and mind to the extent to produce homosexual sin until rebellion resulted in God giving them over to sin. The truth in the claim to being “born that way” is horribly twisted into an excuse.
This would be a very weak excuse, anyway. We do not excuse greed, or lying, or violence simply because a person claims they were born with a tendency to those things. If we are born with an innate selfishness, or pride, that does not make those things right. That we are born with sinful desires of all kinds is simply evidence that we need a Saviour, not an excuse to sin.
The Folly of the “You Chose It” Debate
The “You Chose It” debate is completely unprofitable for Christians.
- Scripture simply doesn’t support this. Romans 1 does not say a person chose to have homosexual desires, it tells us he chose rebellion against God. That may lead some people to homosexual sins, but the Bible does not say they knew that would happen.
- Those given over to sins have deceitful hearts, and Satan works to blind their eyes. They may not recall accurately their past choices.
- If we (wrongly) tell someone that the Bible says he has chosen to have these desires, when he has no memory of having done so, we discredit Scripture in his eyes.
- Even if we win the argument, what have we accomplished? No one ever got saved by admitting he had chosen to have a particular temptation. It isn’t part of the Gospel.
- Arguing over how the sinful desires came about turns the focus from the fact that God can forgive and set the sinner free.
- We accept a false premise — that if the sinful desires were not chosen, then there is nothing wrong with following them. That is a lie from the pits of Hell. The origin of the desires / lusts is irrelevant — to follow them is sin and rebellion against God.
We simply cannot prove that a person ever said, “I want to have those particular lusts and desires.” The Bible does not tell us he did. The Bible tells us he chose a path away from God, and God gave him over to pursue his own destruction.
Christians need to get this one right. Decisions a person makes lead him into the grip of homosexual lusts, but there is nothing in the Bible to say that a person knowingly chose to have homosexual desires, or chose to be controlled by them.
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part three)
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part four)
Romans 1:32 and Homosexuality
I agree with you in the main, but I wonder if there is such a thing as homosexual desire as opposed to heterosexual desire. Rather, I think there is simply desire and for various reasons an individual gives himself to expressing that desire in various illegitimate ways. A holy desire for one’s own wife in marriage is something that has to be cultivated, and is the only legitimate expression of sexual desire. But because we are perverse, that holy desire is not something that simply comes naturally – both before and after marriage it has to be cultivated by spiritual disciplines.
Hello, Don. Interesting thought. I Corinthians 10:6 talks about lusting after evil things. I John 2:15 talks about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and says these are not of the Father but of the world.
The first verse, I think, would fit with what you are saying, but the verse in I John seems to indicate that there are actually evil lusts/desires, not simply illegitimate expressions of good desires. So I’m not sure I’m quite on board with you here.
But I guess the thing I wonder about is, how could you prove what you are saying to someone who is given over to this sin? He thinks it IS a different desire, and I think you’d have a hard time pointing to Scripture and saying, “See, right here, it says you really have the same desire, it is just that you are expressing it the wrong way.”
Which is not to say there’s not value in thinking through the distinction and examining the Scriptures to see if what you suggest is supported. If you are right, that could definitely be of benefit in helping a person who is saved out of this sin come to a better understanding and break free of any remaining hold it has on him. But I think it is a line of discussion which probably won’t be particularly helpful to an unsaved person, even if you are correct.
You are right that it might not be very convincing to a lost person … maybe not even to a saved person!
But the problem with our desires is that like every other part of human makeup, they are corrupted by the fall. You don’t have to teach a man how to lust, it comes naturally. You have to teach a man to have a holy desire only for his wife and to reserve those desires only for his wife. This is true of Christians as well, we are easily captured by youthful lusts.
As far as the lost person, struggling with his “same-sex” lusts, his first need is to acknowledge that he is a sinner. I would be after that more than so much trying to convince him that his lusts are specifically wrong. If he can see that he is a sinner and under the wrath of God, we are ready to move on to the next step.
Agreed entirely. And your last paragraph really ties in to the point of both this post and the last one. The real problem is not homosexual sin. The real problem is that a person has chosen to rebel against God.