Reprinted from the May 2014 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
There is no doubt that the biblical view of the homosexual lifestyle is increasingly under attack in our culture. I have read columns written by members of the mainstream media that call our viewpoint “completely and totally stupid” and “hateful bigotry.” Although this reaction is distressing to Christians, it should not be surprising. We must remember that our message is “foolishness” to the world: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
One thing about this discussion that I find surprising is that when faced with this topic, many Christians will first argue that homosexual desire must be a choice rather than a true yearning that occurs within an individual. Going down this road will immediately elicit a strong response from anyone who supports a homosexual lifestyle, and the rest of our message will most likely be lost on that person.
I agree that the practice of homosexuality is a choice that is contrary to God’s will (cf. Romans 1:26-27). However, I find it hard to argue that the desire related to homosexuality is based on a decision. It would be like trying to argue against an emotion or feeling. If someone says, “I feel sad,” it would seem absurd for someone else to counter with “No, you don’t!” How could that person possibly know what the other person is feeling?
The same thing is true with desire. If I tell someone “I really want chocolate” and he says, “No, you don’t,” I am going to look at him like he is crazy. If someone says he has a desire for someone of the same sex, how can I possibly argue that he really does not without calling him a liar? I personally have no idea how these types of desires arise within an individual, but I know I am not privy to another person’s thoughts or impulses.
I am not aware of a biblical basis for this type of argument, except maybe for the assumption that God would not create someone who was filled with a desire that was contrary to His will. However, would this desire not be a form of temptation caused by the weakness of our flesh?
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).
If a married man has an attraction to a woman who is not his wife, we would never argue that his desire does not really exist but is simply a choice. Instead, we would focus on not giving in to the desires of the flesh or putting ourselves in situations where our impulses will overwhelm us. Giving in to these desires would be adultery and, therefore, sin: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The same is true with homosexuality, but we often act as though it is something completely different. Are not all temptations a desire to do something contrary to the will of God? Man is constantly dealing with the conflict between the will of God and his own fleshly nature: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).
Although we may face many different temptations, the Christian message should be that all sexual activity outside of the marriage bond between a husband and wife is sinful before God. We understand that we will never be able to convince everyone that the Bible’s message regarding homosexuality is true, but most will be unwilling to even listen to our point of view if we attempt to argue that desire is a choice. However, approaching this topic in the right way might provide us with an opportunity to present the biblical view of sexuality in a spirit of gentleness.
Timothy Agee works for FDH Consulting and also manages information technology for the Gospel Advocate Company. Tim is a deacon and adult Bible class teacher at Bellevue Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.