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Forbidden Desires

Someone wrote me recently and asked this question. “Should a believer say it’s okay to be attracted to the same gender, or be gay, just as long as you don't lust or have sex with the same gender?” Here are some biblical thoughts in response.

Short answer? No. We should not say that. To say that is to forfeit the very basis of biblical Christianity and close the door of hope to those caught in the web of homosexuality.

I understand the temptation to want to define the sin of homosexuality in the direction of external, sexual behavior. It lessens the magnitude of the confrontation. But you can’t do that. Here’s why.

1. The Bible condemns sinful desires, not just sinful conduct

The approach that wants to avoid condemning homosexual desires runs contrary to the biblical teaching that “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

From that starting point, we know that when the Lord looks at the heart, He condemns sinful desires, not just sinful behavior. It’s rooted in the Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

This is woven throughout the fabric of New Testament teaching. Jesus condemned not only murder and adultery, but anger and lust as well (Matthew 5:21-28).

He condemned the Pharisees for making a show of external compliance while inside being full of robbery and wickedness (Luke 11:39-40).

The deeds of the flesh which prohibit sinners from the kingdom of God include sinful heart issues like impurity, enmities, strife, jealousy, envying, and “things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Promiscuity and sensuality are condemned, and we are to make no provision for them (Romans 15:13-14).

In other words, sinful desires invoke the Law’s condemnation—not just external deeds. So we can’t reduce the sin of homosexuality to homosexual acts, as if the desires were not also sinful. A heart that desires sinful things is as guilty in the sight of God as the body that does them. It’s the sinful desires of the heart that lead to sinful deeds in the flesh (James 4:1-2).

So, to whitewash the sinful desires and condemn only the external actions is to point people in the direction of the Pharisees (Luke 11:39-40). We know what Jesus thought of the Pharisees, so it’s obvious we cannot go that route.

2. Why is even the homosexual desire sinful?

I won’t bog us down in refuting the flimsy self-justifications of homosexual theologians on the clear biblical mandates against homosexuality. Let’s just assume that the Bible means what it says when it condemns homosexuality in clear and unambiguous terms and affirms that unrepentant homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of God (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Homosexual desires and behavior are sinful because they violate God’s created order. God created the woman to be the suitable helper for man, and appointed that they would leave their parents and be joined together as man and wife (Genesis 2:18-25). Jesus affirmed that order during His time on earth, with emphasis on the male and female distinction (Matthew 19:4-6).

For a man to desire a man as an intimate, sexual companion is to sin from the heart against the perfect order that God established. Even the illicit desire is forbidden and brings guilt to the human heart.

Some try to distinguish between homosexual desire and homosexual lust, and say that only the lust is sinful. I reject that. The desire itself is perverted, which means the heart that produced it is perverted. God will not look upon a perverted heart and accept it as righteous in His sight. It is rebellion against His created order. Hair-splitting over semantics only avoids the real issue.

3. How then do we deal with homosexuals?

We shouldn’t think that homosexuals are a monolithic group. Some are flamboyant; some are shockingly promiscuous; others are riddled with guilt and a sense of slavery from which they would love to escape.

Homosexuals need to be confronted with their sin (just like promiscuous heterosexuals and pornography users do, too). “But I can’t control these feelings,” they may protest. Fair enough. But it’s precisely at that point that Christians must press the case, not relent.

The fact that they are slaves to wicked desires shows how desperately lost they are, and that they must be saved by Christ because they cannot save themselves. The Law which condemns them thus becomes the tutor which leads them to Christ (Galatians 3:24). We call homosexuals to come out of their lifestyle to saving faith in Christ, because they can’t stay in homosexuality and have any hope of seeing the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

If Christians soften the judgment by excusing the desires, we blunt the convicting force of God’s Word and leave them in darkness. Shame on us if we do that simply so we can accommodate the spirit of the age. Homosexuals are like other sinners in this: they must acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy and mourn over their sin if they wish to be saved. (Matthew 5:3-4).

4. Is homosexuality the unforgiveable sin?

Nope. Not at all. As clearly as the Bible condemns unrepentant homosexuality, it offers the same hope of eternal life to every other sinner on the planet.

We gladly point homosexuals to the same Savior that redeemed us from our sins—the Friend of sinners who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Christ washed us from our sins; He can wash, sanctify, and justify every homosexual who humbly comes to Him as well (1 Corinthians 6:11). We say with assurance that Christ will receive and forgive every homosexual who humbly comes to Him for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

What we say to homosexuals we say to all: Turn from your sin and come to Christ for eternal life.

God bless you and help you as you seek Christ. "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).