“Feelings are neither right nor wrong; they just are.”
(Richard Henegar, Elder, La Mesa
(California) church of Christ)
One of the leading social issues in the United States right now is the matter of homosexuality. Same sex (technically “same gender”) marriages are headline items in Massachusetts, New Mexico, and California. New comedies and reality shows on television and dramas and musicals on the live stage are trying to reach the gay market segment. The role of gays in ministry is splitting denominations. The question of how to evangelize this small, vocal segment of the population is, or should be, a concern of every eldership and ministry. On my “What Does the Bible Say About..?” web site the various questions I have answered about homosexuality are among the most popular. People are eager to know what the scripture says about the issue.
One of the points of contention between many churches and the gay movement centers on the question of whether homosexuality is a choice or whether it is inborn. Although geneticists say that there is no genetic requirement that anyone exhibit homosexual tendencies, many people still claim that it is something that is “hard-wired” into one. Many preachers will argue that homosexual feelings are a choice, even though they may appear very early in life. I recently had a man ask, “How could I have made such a choice at age four?”
From a purely biblical standpoint, the question of whether these tendencies are inborn or not is irrelevant. I started this article with an apt quote from my friend, Richard Henegar. He has repeatedly pointed out that our feelings are not judged by God; our actions are. Paul doesn’t tell people not to be angry. He says instead to act appropriately on your anger. “Be angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph 4:26) Anger is not wrong, it is just a feeling. What you choose to do with it may be right or wrong, however.
Never does the Bible condemn homosexual feelings. Instead it condemns acting on those feelings. “If a man lie with another man as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Lev 20:13) Paul apparently coined a Greek word, arsenokoites, very specifically referring to the act, as opposed to the feeling. “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10) He goes on to say that some in the Corinthian church had previously committed such acts as these. It is not that they changed their feelings when they became Christians. Instead, they changed their actions.
Some of my friends ask, “Why would God make me this way, if he did not intend for me to act on these feelings?” My first answer is that you don’t know that God gave you these feelings. Could they not come from another source? “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth any man; But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas 1:13-14) God created us with the ability to choose between right and wrong. If we follow after the wrong, it is not God’s doing, it is our own. This leads to the second response. If a man did not have a natural desire for a woman, the human race would have died out before it even started. But it is just as wrong to act on those desires without control as it is for a man to act on his desire for another man. Note that Paul, in the quote from 1 Corinthians above, listed adulterers and fornicators along with those who commit homosexual acts.
The definition of “being a homosexual” even before committing the act is not a biblical concept. The Bible says that we make choices, right or wrong, based on our feelings. It is the job of Christians to tell people that bad choices are not permanent. After all, each of us was as much a sinner as anyone who commits a homosexual act. We are, thankfully, saved from our past.