LAWSON: Our entry point into a conversation about homosexuality is to address the sin. No one wants to be saved until they know they are lost, and no one needs a Savior until they know they are under the wrath of God. The Bible is clear that no homosexual and no effeminate will enter the kingdom of heaven. So, it would be a call to repent of the sin, turn away from it, and embrace the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. As much as we would like to be peacemakers, we are called to speak the truth in love. We must speak the truth because homosexuality is a violation of the holiness of God at a deep level.
The Holy Spirit alone can bring the conviction of sin. That is not something we can do. According to 2 Timothy 4:2, the first things you should do when preaching are to reprove and to rebuke, and then you exhort with patience and instruction. The reproving is the exposure of the sin, and the rebuking is the call for repentance. The exhortation is the persuasion and the summons to leave one’s sin and come to the mercy and grace of God, who alone can forgive sin. As Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come, let us reason together,’ says the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool.’” That is our point of address.
Homosexuality is not a result of being lonely. It’s not because you need new friends. It’s not because you’re feeling insecure. It’s not because you were rejected as a child. It’s because you have sinned and are living in sin. Homosexuality is a gross and despicable sin in the eyes of a holy God. However, He is a God of much grace and mercy as well. If you confess your sin and repent, He will give you a new start. As Paul said, “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14). That being said, you’re going to have to forget it and turn your back to it.
GODFREY: I agree with what you’re saying, but shouldn’t we make it clear that the gay person has to do more than just repent of being gay, as if homosexuality is the only sin that matters in the eyes of God? Our message needs to be that the person who doesn’t know Christ as Savior is alienated in every part of life from God. In other words, the whole life is sinful, not just one part of the life. There has to be repentance for every part of a life that’s alienated from God. Sometimes people who wrestle with an obvious and public sin, hear us saying, “It’s only that one sin that matters.” I think we should be careful to avoid that because the main issue is alienation from God because of rebellion against Him. It’s the problem of the heart in resisting God, and it manifests itself in many other sins as well.
LAWSON: Absolutely. John’s gospel says that the Spirit has come into the world to convict men of “sin, righteousness, and judgment: of sin, because they believe not” (John 16:8–9). Ultimately, the damning sin is the rejection of Christ. So, I completely agree with you. As the question is asked, though, it is a glaring sin. The main problem, however, is the sin of unbelief. One’s rejection of Christ and the free offer of His grace is the same as trampling underfoot the precious blood of Christ and insulting the Spirit of grace by treating it as a common thing.
KIM: I agree with both men. There is a lot of truth in what’s been said that we ought to keep in mind. If I may add a caveat to this: Christians often struggle to distinguish and balance the message with the manner. I think this is part of the generational struggles we have. There is the truth, but how do we display and teach that truth? I feel for the person who is asking this question. I can’t imagine what this person feels while seeing his or her sister walk in sin. As our brothers point out, there is nothing else one can do but pray and depend upon the Lord for His Spirit to work in that person’s heart.
At the same time—and I want to be careful how I say this—we should remember that the person struggling with homosexuality is still a bearer of the image of God. We also should remember that, like any other sin, it requires the love and stick-to-it-iveness of those around that individual, to walk with her as she journeys and struggles through this sin. This person’s loved ones need to display the love and the truth of Christ in their lives.
Now, it takes wisdom to distinguish what it should look like to convey the clear message and the clear goals of repentance, rejection of sin, and understanding that God calls us to a life of holiness. Yet, in getting there, our engagement is just as important as the message we proclaim. The manner and the love with which we display and discuss this issue will be an impactful witness in helping others see the love and the righteousness of Christ as we minister to them and pray for them.
THOMAS: This is one of the most difficult questions in our culture right now. I agree with everything that’s been said, but I want to add a couple of nuances. I want to distinguish between same-sex attraction and acting on that attraction. I say this because, in our culture, some people have a disposition to be hot-tempered or prideful, and I can accept the fact that some people struggle with same-sex attraction.
If this was a sibling of mine, I would want them to know that I love them, I’m there for them, and I’m going to help them through their life’s journey. I certainly would want them to know, and they probably already know, that this is sin and it violates the commandments of God. However, I’d also want them to sense that, if they are going to live a celibate life struggling with same-sex attraction, the gospel can help and empower them. Without that knowledge, there is hopelessness. So, in addition to telling them that this is a sin and that there will be damning consequences unless they repent, I also want them to know that there’s hope, power, and strength in the gospel. I would want them to know that Jesus can help them overcome this struggle, which they may have for the rest of their lives.
This is a transcript of Steven Lawson’s, W. Robert Godfrey’s, Joel Kim’s, and Derek Thomas’ answers given during our 2021 National Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.