In the last post, we saw that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual practice, but is curiously silent about same-sex attraction. Because of this, I think it would be wise to first state what this does NOT mean.
First of all, the fact that the Bible is silent about SSA does not mean that the only way you can sin in the area of homosexuality is by having sex. The Bible's teaching about lust still applies to this area. When Jesus says that a man has already committed adultery in his heart if he looks at a woman lustfully, this applies to men looking at men or women looking at women as well. Lust is still a sin, regardless of the gender of the object.
Secondly, the biblical silence on this subject does not mean that the Bible has nothing to say to the issue of SSA. Rather, we must take biblical principles and correctly apply them to the issue.
In doing this, the next thing to note is that it is clear that SSA goes against the grain of the created order. We see in Genesis 1 and 2 that God created man for woman, and woman for man. This is how our desires ought to be ordered. Unfortunately Genesis 3 happened, and sin entered the world, disordering the good creation of God. Romans 8:20-23 tells us that not only creation in general, but our very bodies were tainted by the fall. And so we groan, eagerly awaiting our full redemption at the coming of Christ.
SSA is a disordered desire, a groan of creation a-la Romans 8:23. It is a result of original sin, exists contrary to God's created order, and makes us desire the wrong object. Therefore, I would agree with Pastor John Piper, who says, " It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will." In this sense, same-sex attraction is sinful.
However, that does not make same-sex desires the same as sinning. Piper continues, "But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders." So, although SSA is in one sense sinful, experiencing SSA is not in itself a sin. It's what one does with the desire that makes it sinning or not.
I mean at least two things when I say that experiencing SSA is not in itself a sin...but that will have to wait 'til later.
In part one, I pled for a nuanced discussion of homosexuality. Simply saying that homosexuality is wrong - as if that ends the discussion - is not good enough. It's incomplete. And the above discussion is why!
Lets say that someone experiences exclusive same-sex attraction, and all they hear from the church is, "Homosexuality is wrong!" They might falsely conclude that every time an uncontrollable desire rises up in them, they have volitionally sinned, leading them toward despair, thinking the battle is futile, and any number of untold consequences.
There is a lot at stake in how we think and talk about these things. Simplistic, reductionistic answers are simply not good enough. We owe it to people - real flesh and blood people with real emotions and souls - to elevate the discussion above simple cliches into the actual issues.
In the next part, I will talk about what I mean when I say that experiencing SSA is not in itself a sin. Feel the suspense, people!