“I just can’t help it, I can’t quit.” Sometimes those who commit homosexual sins will say this — and sometimes Christians, in responding, completely miss part of what Romans 1 is telling us about this sin.
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)
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part two)
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part three)
The Scottish Kirk recently decided 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. In this post, we’ll look at five verses from Romans 1.
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;
“I Just Can’t Help It”
Those words sound like an excuse — and they may be. But they may be something completely different, a cry of desperation, and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference.
“Gay” people are often not gay (happy) at all. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center, in a 2008 paper based on multiple studies, said lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are “one and a half to three times more likely to have reported suicidal ideation” than other youth, and one and a half to seven times(!) more likely to have reported attempted suicide.
Those who commit homosexual sins have higher drug and alcohol use than the general population, according to many studies such as this one. Another study found higher levels of psychological distress than the general population.
When people who commit a sin say they can’t quit, when study after study shows many are miserable, and some try various therapies to change, perhaps “I can’t quit” is more than a mere excuse.
“God Gave Them Over”
Christians will often respond to “I can’t quit” or “I can’t help it” by saying, “Of course you can. You simply have to decide to stop, and stop.”
But let’s look at the terminology God uses in Romans 1. God “gave them up” to evil, to uncleanness and wickedness. He stopped restraining the evil that was in their hearts, and let sin rule their minds, so the normal mental restraints on evil no longer function. This speaks of slavery or imprisonment to sin — the word translated “gave them up” is used in Matthew 4:12 to describe John the Baptist’s imprisonment.
God made us to love beauty and goodness, truth and self-sacrifice. We have an innate appreciation for self-discipline / self-control (we admire athletes who exemplify these things). But these qualities, which restrain sin, are weakened to no longer provide a counter-balance to the power of temptation and the slavery that sin brings. When people persist in smashing into the crash barriers, God eventually removes them. Ugly behaviour is no longer repulsive, self-control is replaced with self-gratification, and these restraints on sin are weakened or crushed as it becomes the cruel master.
Most people have seen the power of hard drugs over addicts. They may say they will quit, may go for treatment, but many never really quit. They may fight to quit, but then return to it. The hunger for the drug grips the mind, and they may be unable to think of anything else, until finally they take another hit. For many (thankfully not all), there is only one tragic end to the story. The same can be true of those addicted to alcohol.
We may understand this with drunkenness (via drugs or alcohol), but are sometimes slow to see that other sins can do the same. Perhaps it is not surprising, for many Christians have never personally experienced the full impact of what is described in Romans 1, when God gives a sinner over to his sin, when the mind becomes reprobate.
Some years ago, an American politician said, “My truth is that I’m a gay American.” It seemed strange to define himself in this way, but thus sin affects the mind. It became “his truth”, the one thing driving him. The alcoholic always thinks of drink, the drug addict of the drug, and the homosexual of his homosexual sin. The alcoholic, no longer just a person who gets drunk, is a drunkard — it takes control. The homosexual is no longer just a person who commits homosexual sin, he is a homosexual. It takes control, and those who define themselves by their sin may speak more truly than they know.
We know from Scripture that people can be saved from such a condition, but it is horrible when the restraints on sin are gone. The hunger for sin drives a person on, heedless of cost to his responsibilities and relationships, destroying any last vestiges of self-respect and dignity, often driving him to his death through suicide or reckless behaviour.
Messengers of Freedom!
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Christians shouldn’t tell an enslaved sinner that he can just stop, and appeal to his will power. He may not have any will power left — that is one of the things Satan seeks first to destroy. Jesus said the person who commits sin becomes the bond-servant, the slave, of sin. We should not be surprised when any kind of sinner says he can’t stop. When Scripture directly associates a sin with God giving a person over, we should expect many who commit it to find it impossible to stop (except for very temporary changes).
When Christians make this error, however, we have not just misunderstood the desperate condition of the sinner. We have lost sight of who WE are. We are messengers of the One who can set them free! When a homosexual tells us he can’t stop, he can’t help it, he gives us a wonderful opportunity to tell of the Saviour who makes sinners free indeed.
What if “I can’t help it” really was just an excuse? “God can set you free” answers the excuse just as well as it answers the despair. But that isn’t really what is important — the main thing is that it is actually true Biblically. God CAN give freedom from this sin.
Why would we waste such an opportunity, and argue with a sinner, when he admits what Scripture clearly says, that his sin is bondage? Of all the errors Christians may make in responding to this sin, this one may be the most tragic.