Okay, so in parts 1 and 2, we have established a few things.
First, whenever the Bible condemns homosexuality, it is always referring to homosexual practice, NOT simply experiencing an attraction.
Second, the Bible never actually mentions same-sex attraction at all. It is curiously silent on the issue.
Third, given this fact, we must use biblical principles and apply them correctly to this issue of SSA in order to rightly deal with it. When we do, we see that SSA goes against the nature of the created order, is caused by sin, and causes the one attracted to desire sin.
Fourth, therefore, it would be right to say that SSA is sinful in the sense that it is caused by sin, rooted in sin, and leads to sin. However, this does not make it equal to sinning. As Piper says, "Sinning is what happens when rebellion expresses itself through our disorders."
Therefore, it would be right to say that although same-sex attraction is sinful in this regard, experiencing a same-sex desire is not a sin.
Okay, whew...we're caught up. Now, I mean at least two things when I say that experiencing a same-sex desire is not a sin. Here we go...
First, experiencing my general orientation is not a sin. My sexuality is disordered in that I experience a homosexual orientation. What I mean is that my sexual desires are exclusively “oriented” toward the same (homo) sex. This is true of me whether or not I am experiencing a specific attraction at any given moment. As I sit here writing, I am not experiencing an attraction to another man, but I am still exclusively attracted to men. So at this moment, though I have a homosexual orientation, I am not sinning in this regard.
Second, experiencing a specific same-sex attraction is not NECESSARILY a sin. Lets say that I experience an attraction to another man. I don’t go looking for it, but it rises up spontaneously within me. At this point, my attraction falls into the category of temptation, and I can do one of two things. I can fight the desire in the same manner that anyone who is tempted with pride, jealousy, or fear would, and kill it before I sin. Or I can follow the desire into lust of the mind and eventually the flesh, which is a volitional sin.
When I look at another male and experience the butterflies of attraction, I must lay the desire for inappropriate activity with him at the feet of Jesus, and turn toward the superior promises of reward found in pursuing righteousness. If I do this, even though I have experienced the disordered groan of a broken creation, I have not sinned.
However, a word of caution must be inserted here.
There does seem to be a biblical category for being tempted without sinning. Jesus was tempted in every respect, yet remained without sin (Heb. 4:15), and James 1:14-15 distinguishes between temptation that leads to sin, and sin itself. However, it seems impossible to determine when exactly I have crossed the line from temptation into sin.
For example, how long can I experience the desire before I fight it, and still be blameless? Two seconds? Ten seconds? .3 seconds? Because Jesus is God, he knew exactly where the line was between temptation and sin, and never crossed it. But because I am finite, I cannot definitively see this line.
Therefore, even though it is possible to be tempted without sinning, it seems wise to agree with David when he says, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults” (Ps. 19:12). I always want to say to the Lord, “If there was any sin in the way I handled that temptation, I am sorry. Keep me from it in the future.”
So, here is the synthesis of all three parts. SSA is sinful in the sense that it is disordered by the fall, present contrary to the created order, and leads to sin. However, it is not a sin to experience SSA. Rather, SSA must be treated like any other temptation to sin. It should be fought with blood earnestness in a way that recognizes our fallibility and finitude.
When I do this - when I fight temptation, turn to Jesus, and trust his promises, God is pleased. He is not displeased because I need to fight, but pleased because I am fighting.
This is good news for all of us who experience all manner of temptations! May this fact lead us, no matter our particular groaning, to rest in Jesus more deeply, fight temptation more fiercely, and look forward to the day when our fight of faith will result in “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).