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ss nucleus - spring 2008,  Homosexuality: a Christian response

Homosexuality: a Christian response

Martin Hallett helps us to think it through

As founder and director of True freedom Trust, I have been involved in the Christian debate on homosexuality for over 30 years. I have been shocked by the way that some Christians with same-sex attractions (SSA) and their relatives have been treated by their churches - others have been wonderfully supported. Many Christians are accused of homophobia if they say that the Bible speaks against homosexual sex. This debate generates fears and prejudices on all sides, but I never imagined that it would cause the kind of traumatic divisions which we see in the church today.

This article will help you consider a biblical standpoint and how Jesus might have responded. As medical students, you will encounter homosexual colleagues and patients who are not Christians. You may know people in your church or CMF groups who are struggling with the issue; perhaps you are struggling yourself.

Sexuality will inevitably provoke strong feelings. It connects with some of the most basic human needs and desires, beyond just sex. The way we react to the sexuality of others is affected by how we feel about ourselves as men or women, and our fear of how others will respond to us. Men who believe they are thoroughly heterosexual often find it more comfortable to relate to a lesbian than a gay man. Likewise, women often feel more at home with gay men than lesbians.

I was at a theological college and known as a celibate Christian with SSA. Other male students honestly admitted I made them feel uncomfortable because I reminded them of insecurities they felt about their own sexuality. They were not struggling with homosexuality themselves, but sometimes wondered if there might be a chance of it being hidden within.

what is True freedom Trust?

True freedom Trust is a Christian support and teaching ministry for men and women who accept the Bible's prohibition of homosexual practice and yet are aware of homosexual tendencies, or struggle with other sexual and relational issues. We also offer support to families, friends and church leaders of those who face these issues in their lives. TfT was founded in 1977 by Martin Hallett and the late Canon L Roy Barker. We have support groups and voluntary workers across the UK. We also provide help and encouragement to people overseas through email and correspondence. In addition we have four private email support groups for TfT members - men, women, spouses and parents.

is this the 'love of Christ'?

I believe that these kinds of fears often fuel the views expressed by evangelical Christians, especially in some of those campaigning against 'gay rights' issues. Many gays and lesbians claim that they are hated by evangelical Christians. This may not be entirely true, but can they be blamed for believing this? When have evangelical Christians protested against fear and prejudice towards homosexuals?

Westboro Baptist Church in the USA have become notorious with their 'God Hates Fags' campaign ( Their behaviour is so extreme that it has been attributed to mental illness. Even though they are certainly not Christlike, many believe that their response expresses what evangelical Christians really believe, but are not honest enough to admit. This may be unfair, but if Christians do not challenge such homophobia, the world will assume that we agree with it.

When we see God's condemnation of sin in Scripture, we can usually recognise a bad outcome for sinful behaviour. Ourselves, or someone else will usually be affected, either directly or indirectly. For example, greed, envy and pride all have obvious negative consequences. Sexually – lust, adultery, fornication and promiscuity can easily be recognised as harmful, not just sinful.

A lesbian couple living in a monogamous relationship for 40 years may claim that their sexual behaviour is an expression of love for one another. No-one else has been adversely affected by the relationship and their lives have been enriched through this answer to the loneliness and fear that they once experienced. A well meaning Christian may suggest that lesbian relationships are sinful. At worst, it will be interpreted as a ploy to deny them love and happiness; at best, it will be seen as a lack of understanding. Is it therefore surprising that Christians provoke anger when we seek to impose our biblical views of sexuality on society? We claim to encourage fairness, happiness, fulfilment and love. Many believe that we are proclaiming the very opposite!

what does the Bible say?

There have been many books written about the Bible's view of homosexuality, from every theological shade within the church. The majority, from a conservative view of Scripture, conclude that homosexual sex is wrong. Some, thankfully few in my opinion, believe that even homosexual orientation is wrong. Others question whether all homosexual relationships are condemned, saying homosexuality that is promiscuous or engaged in by heterosexuals for a thrill is sinful.

Those who question the authority of Scripture argue that the biblical writers were influenced by a kind of early homophobia or that they did not have our present day understanding of sexuality. We certainly have to be aware of our own homophobic tendencies as we approach Scripture.

The idea of sexual orientation is a very modern concept. We know that homosexuality and heterosexuality, in terms of sexual orientations, are not seen in the Bible. I suggest that, in biblical times, it was not assumed that only a certain group of people would be inclined or tempted to engage in homosexual intercourse. It was seen alongside many other temptations and sins that we are all likely to experience. We will look at key scriptural passages on the issue, which will help us to gain an accurate understanding of the true biblical position.

the Old Testament

Nowadays, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah [1] is less often used as a reflection of God's views on homosexuality. A parallel should not be drawn between the attempted homosexual abuse that took place there and pleas for acceptance of loving same sex relationships today. However, the word 'sodomite' is still used in an offensive, unchristlike way to hurt and humiliate people with same sex attractions. In fact, the story of Sodom is mainly about a self-centred and self-pleasing society that was unconcerned about the poor and needy. [2]

Leviticus 18:22 says that lying with a man as one does with a woman is an abomination, but the same book also tells us not to wear mixed fabrics. This has led many to reject the ban on same sex intercourse as irrelevant today. In fact, many parts of Leviticus refer to religious rituals, health and hygiene regulations, which may not be as relevant today. But the homosexual prohibition is regarding ungodly behaviour, which is unaffected by cultural change; for human nature is the same now as it was then.


Some people argue that Jesus never mentions homosexuality, contrasting him with imperfect human beings who were probably homophobic, like the apostle Paul. However Jesus only ever cites two states – marriage and celibacy. He describes the unmarried as 'eunuchs', [3] which could not be taken to mean being physically castrated. Jesus maintains the Old Testament principle of no sex outside marriage, at the same time upholding the marriage relationship between one man and one woman.


The apostle Paul is more explicit about same-sex intercourse, possibly because his audience comprised both Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 1:26,27, he uses these sexual activities as examples of the results of mankind's disobedience and the Fall. He does not seem to make any distinction about the quality or type of relationship (eg long term monogamous compared to casual promiscuous). Homosexual acts are listed amongst other results of disobedience like greed, envy, gossip and even rebellious children. The next verse makes it clear that Paul is challenging all of us to holiness. [4] In that context, we are all sexually deviant - not just those struggling with homosexuality.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, same-sex intercourse is listed alongside greed, idolatry and slander as unacceptable in God's kingdom. Paul affirmed that the Corinthian Christians had made a decision to forsake this way of behaving as with any other sin. He does not say they no longer struggled with any of these issues, as we all struggle with sin. He is talking about a lifestyle choice not to sin, which we all fail to achieve fully on this side of eternity. But in the next verse, Paul follows on to affirm our certain hope of redemption through Jesus:

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [5]

It is wrong to use this verse as evidence for a change of sexual orientation, or to imply an end to all homosexual temptation and sin. It clearly condemns same-sex intercourse in the same way as it condemns behaviours like greed, idolatry and slander – but it also proclaims our wonderful redemption through Christ. The issue of struggling or not struggling with sin is not addressed here, but in Romans 7 and elsewhere in the New Testament.

the biblical position

Nowhere in Scripture is any same-sex sexual activity described favourably. In fact, it is always described in the context of other sins that are more 'socially acceptable'. We often take these 'socially acceptable' sins far too lightly, given that all sin is detestable to God. But why is homosexual sex considered sin at all? If a homosexual relationship causes no apparent harm and it seems to bring happiness and fulfilment, surely it cannot offend God? If love is the foundation of a gay or lesbian relationship and 'God is love', how can he be offended?

Many well meaning evangelicals search for statistics to prove that gay relationships don't last and may even harm us physically, especially when they involve anal penetration. Lesbians are usually not mentioned as their sexual behaviour is less clearly perceived as harmful. In fact, their relationships are often longer lasting than many heterosexual marriages. Others say that homosexuality is wrong because it can be changed, and we therefore have a choice not to entertain homosexual feelings.

These arguments that attempt to justify the biblical prohibitions are misguided in my opinion. The reason for God being offended by homosexual behaviour is due to the significance of marriage between one man and one woman. It is not merely a lifelong union for love and companionship, with a procreative potential. It has a strong spiritual significance that Paul describes as a 'profound mystery'; he compares it with the relationship between Christ and his church. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…' [6] The words used in Genesis must be significant as they are repeated verbatim by both Jesus and Paul. [7]

In fact, marriage may symbolise the very activity of God's original creative process. It gives mankind a taste of the mystery of God being three yet one, and uniting with him – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The 'act of marriage' should involve a selfless act of love, which involves not only a physical union between two people, but also a spiritual union between mankind and God – an act of worship. It is this element, often described in such terms as the 'sacrament of marriage', [8] which means that any sex outside this ideal offends God's intention, expressed in Genesis, for the unique sexual relationship between husband and wife. It is therefore a spiritual issue, not a sociological one.

the Christian response

How can we hope to follow this ideal, whatever our sexuality? For we live in a world that tempts us to believe that the biblical position is immoral as it apparently denies love and fulfilment for gays and lesbians. However, following Christ means walking down the 'narrow road' of making sacrifices and choices we would not make if we were unbelievers. But explaining our choices to non-Christians is very difficult.

As we seek to find our way forward with Christ, we need to appreciate that our sexual feelings are saying more than just a desire for sex, or even a desire for love, although that is usually a strong component. I believe our sexual desires are often derived from the way we feel about ourselves. That is the fundamental sense of our self worth and how that has uniquely developed from our earliest days.

Right from conception we receive messages about ourselves, especially from significant people like parents or role models. This is not to say our parents are necessarily to blame for the way we feel about ourselves. The development of our sense of value is complex, involving many different influences. There may even be a genetic component, which affects the way we respond to external stimuli and relationships. Our parents may actually have given us very positive messages about our worth, but other factors may have led us not to receive them fully, or even to reject them. In fact, we respond to these experiences in ways that are unique to us; there being no clear formula as some would suggest.

Sometimes the person or behaviour to which we are attracted may be one of the results of this complex developmental process. For example, if someone is sexually stimulated by wearing nappies, there clearly exists a link with childhood. This link may exist with most, if not all, of our sexual desires and attractions. They are speaking to us about ourselves in one way or another. In my experience, a very common factor in same-sex attraction is to be drawn to the person I would like to be or have been. Sometimes, it is a person from whom I would like to have known affirmation.

These sexual feelings may sometimes be a manifestation of a low sense of self-worth. If I then consider them unacceptable, the problem is compounded. Some people seek to deal with this by rejoicing in their sexuality, which helps with a low self-worth. But they may resent any Christian they perceive as threatening this.

Sexual behaviour easily becomes addictive because of the major issues with which it connects. The resultant orgasm, or other stimulation, has a drug-like potential to control. As with any addictive behaviour, good accountability is vital. This should be with another person who helps us to understand what has provoked the behavioural problem and leads us to know God's forgiveness. In this way, our sexual addiction is not only a problem, but an asset. For example, it can help us to understand ourselves and others.

If we don't experience this freedom, the pain of self-hate drives the addictive behaviour and we feel even more self-hate as a result - the classic 'addictive or dependency cycle'. A sexual problem, often kept as a secret, encourages Satan, the Accuser, to convince us that we are unloved by God or that we are useless to him and others. This wicked lie must always be challenged. When I have honestly sought God's forgiveness, I have found that the most effective way of receiving his love is to realise that failing to do so offends him.

God is in control

The other great mystery is God's sovereignty in all this. We proclaim, often glibly, that God's ways are not our ways. But how significant and true that is! The Lord hates sin and suffering and he wants us to fight against it – but he also allows it. How can our human minds understand this apparent paradox? It is liberating to accept it as God 'writing our story', just as he 'wrote the stories' of people in the Bible. He created mankind knowing we would sin and he would have to die for us. So we must value our story, good and bad. That is not to claim bad as good, but that all things have some value. Our valuable stories, including our sexuality, help us to understand ourselves and often others more effectively. We can minister to people when we are in the pits of despair and when we are on the 'mountain top' of joy and peace.

It will be very difficult for non-Christians to understand why loving homosexual relationships should be wrong. As Christians our first aim is to express God's love to the unbeliever, which means helping them to feel understood and known by us. We need to communicate, asking questions to understand the other, and sharing ourselves so that we – and therefore the gospel – will be understood.

Before the Fall, God said that 'It is not good for the man to be alone' [9] when mankind's relationship with him was perfect. We are created to need relationships with others as well as with God. However, we cannot hope to relate effectively to another person when we don't feel we are valuable. A low sense of self-worth will encourage us to fear being rejected. Consequently, we may reject or become unhealthily dependent on another person. We need to have a limited number of special relationships empowered by our self-worth from God, in order that we do not feel single or unattached. These are big issues that need continual work, which will inevitably involve some problems. Perfectionists need to learn to fail and not to let it become self-destructive.

As we work at receiving God's love and forgiveness and accepting our value, some of the developmental components of our sexuality may be changed, but this will not necessarily happen. However we should know love, purpose, direction and meaning in our lives through our Lord Jesus Christ and his people. This is growth and healing for all of us and our sexuality. I wish I could say that it is easy and that I have fully experienced this ideal. Maybe not, but I continue to persevere towards that goal with the help of Jesus.

Additional resources

There are now many Christian books available on the issue of homosexuality, including:

  • Still Learning to Love and Out Of The Blue by Martin Hallett, available from True freedom Trust, PO Box 13, Prenton, Wirral
    CH43 6YB, tel 0151 653 0773
  • Peterson D (ed). Holiness and Sexuality. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2004
  • Several good booklets in the Grove books Ethics and Pastoral series – particularly Ethics 101, 121 and 132; Pastoral 38 and 104.
  • Schmidt T. Straight and Narrow? Leicester: IVP, 1995
  • Tylee A. Walking with Gay Friends: a journey of informed compassion. Leicester: IVP, 2007
  1. Gn 19:1-29
  2. Ezk 16:48,49
  3. Mt 19:12
  4. Rom 2:1
  5. 1 Cor 6:11
  6. Gn 2:22-24
  7. Mt 19:5; Eph 5:31
  8. Anglican Book of Common Prayer
  9. Gn 2:18
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