Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a so-called ‘archaic British law’, was scrapped by the Supreme Court last week, legalizing Homosexuality in India. The Supreme Court ruled that, “Sex between consenting adults of the same gender is no longer an offense”. Even as parts of the media and society celebrated this decision, many others including large parts of the Church in India denounced this move. But many young Christians don’t know where to take a stand. I say ‘young Christians’ because I feel the younger generation is much more sensitized to the questions of ‘Personal liberty and rights’ than many of their predecessors. And the testimony of the Bible against the practice of Homosexuality pulls them in another direction. We Christians, especially our young people, need a convincing answer from the Bible, an answer which can also engage our peers in the world.
Is one ‘born’ a homosexual or is it a matter of ‘choice’?
One of the Supreme Court judges, D Y Chandrachud, said “Punishment under Section 377 made the LGBT a closeted community, destroyed the identity of members and reached their dignity, all part of right to life”. According to this judgement, ‘suppressing homosexuality is like destroying a person’s identity’.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision, one of the stand-up comedians said sarcastically that ‘being a homosexual’ is not like ‘choosing or desiring to eat a samosa’. What he meant is that homosexuality is one’s identity, it is not based on one’s choice or desire. Homosexuality is as ‘natural’ as heterosexuality. It’s a kind of ‘sexual orientation’.
Christopher Yuan, who was once a homosexual, said in his article titled ‘Is anyone born gay?’, “In 1993, I grounded my coming-out narrative in this forthright declaration — and I meant it in every way. ‘I didn’t choose being gay,’ I reasoned. ‘I’m born this way!’ I was wholly convinced my sexuality was the core of who I was — not simply what I desired or did. It felt like I finally had discovered my true self. My heart and friends affirmed this, as did the world around me. This is who I am. I am gay. Sexual orientation seemed self-evidently true”
This language of ‘identity’, ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘being born that way’ is one of the reasons it has not been easy for young Christians to respond to Homosexuality. If one is born that way, how can you discriminate against him/ her? Isn’t it like being a racist? It is like discriminating against people who are born with ‘dark skin’. Matters are made worse because the Bible also does not say anything ‘explicitly’ about the ‘condition’ of homosexuality. Bible scholar, D.H. Field says, “The Bible says nothing specifically about the homosexual condition, but its condemnations of homosexual conduct are explicit”. But on the other hand, the Homosexual community and its advocates have used this language of ‘identity, orientation, personhood’ as a scientific fact and they have been successful in drilling this down the psyche of the society.
But Yuan says that these claims are not conclusive in any way. He says that the American Psychiatric Association made this statement as recently as 2015: “Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime.” So, Yuan goes on to say that “scientists are far from discovering the factors that contribute to the development of sexual attractions, so it’s untenable and irresponsible to claim that the innateness of sexual attractions is a proven reality”.
The Argument from ‘Original Sin’
Ambiguity in the Bible and the absence of scientific evidence does not give us any ground to hold that ‘homosexuality cannot be a person’s identity or sexual orientation’. For the sake of argument, let us assume that it is possible that ‘person could be born gay’. Does that sanction us to accept ‘homosexuality’?
Here, Christians have to reckon with the Biblical truth of ‘original sin’. It teaches us that due to the sin of Adam all human beings are ‘born’ sinners and ‘by nature’ sinners. Blogger and author, Matt Perman in his article ‘What is the Biblical evidence for Original Sin?’ gives us a good survey of Biblical verses to ground our understanding of this subject.
Psalms 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child”
Genesis 8:21 says, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”
All these verses show us that man is ‘born’ a ‘sinner’. Even the use of words like ‘child’ and ‘youth’ tell us that from a very early age there are signs of sinfulness in human beings.
Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that humanity is, “by nature children of wrath”. Matt Perman says that because we are ‘by nature’ sinful it makes us subject to the wrath of God. Perman in his exposition of Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “Paul is here reminding Christians of what they were like before their conversion to Christ (“you were dead in your trespasses . . . in which you formerly walked”). Thus, all people, until and unless they are converted, are sinners. Paul goes on to make it absolutely clear that all Christians came from this state (“. . . we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh”) and that all non-Christians are still in this state (“. . . and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”) Thus, Scripture regards all people before they are saved by Christ as sinners and thus deserving of punishment from God. Which is to say that from the inception of our existence, we are sinful”.
Does being born ‘a sinner’ and being so ‘by nature’ warrant us to accept that condition. No! Rather the Bible calls us to repent and to put our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38). By the same principle, a man who claims to be born ‘a homosexual’ and that it is his nature i.e. his ‘identity or orientation or personhood’ warrant us to think that they are right in continuing to engage in a homosexual lifestyle. Not at all. Rather the Bible lays on us the burden to call them to repentance because homosexuality is an aberration from God’s express design for sexuality.
Unnatural, for it is against God’s Design
The call to repentance and faith in Jesus is a call to revert back to the original plan of God for all of humanity. Instead of that, if we choose to remain in our sinful condition then it leads us to deviate from God’s original plan. That is why in Romans 1, Paul shows us that God intended to show “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature” (v. 20) through Creation so that we “honor him as God or give thanks to him” (v. 21). Instead of that, due to its sinful condition humanity made some disastrous ‘exchanges’. Instead of worshipping God they worshipped “images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (v. 23). And this idolatry snowballs in to more graver forms of idolatry. It began to take the form of perversion of ‘God’s design for sexuality’ which was always meant to be between a man and a woman. Instead of that human beings began to redefine sex by “exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” i.e. same-sex sex (v. 26, 27). And Paul calls it contrary to nature because it is against God’s design for sexuality.
Based on these observations, we as Christians cannot agree with people who justify their homosexuality just because they are ‘oriented or born’ in a certain way. In fact, Romans 1 seems to suggest that homosexuality is the result of man’s condition of ‘original sin’ as revealed in the scriptures. And therefore, we should call them to repent and put their faith in Jesus so that they can be rescued from its negative consequences. Homosexuality is not final, rather the Bible talks about some people who turned from such a lifestyle and were living righteous lives (1 Cor. 6:9, 11). So, we will fail in our duty towards homosexuals if we accept their sexuality and do not offer them an alternate lifestyle through faith in Jesus Christ!
Stop being hypocritical and humble yourself before a Holy God
In a context of homosexuality, often the hypocrisy within the church comes to the fore. And it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand we discriminate against homosexuals, claiming that they are deeply sinful. On the other hand, some of us maintain our veil of purity by hiding our own personal sins. In such a circumstance, if a homosexual walk in to our church or our home or in to our office we begin to manifest this double-standard. Unknowingly our demeanor changes, when our thoughts begin to discriminate between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Our eyebrows go up and we become defensive. Unseen lines of division are created in our minds. And all these behaviors have their cumulative effect in producing a church which is hostile to homosexuals.
The reason this needs to be pointed out is because such an attitude effects our response to homosexuality. We can never be credible witnesses in such an atmosphere of discrimination and hypocrisy. And this arises because of our own low view of how sin effects our lives and also because of a low view of the holiness of God.
Note the two other instances when Paul condemns ‘homosexuality’ as a forbidden sin, where it never appears alone. It comes with a list of many other sins that prevent a person from entering the Kingdom of God.
In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 it is written, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”
And in 1 Tim. 1:9-10 Paul says, “the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine”
We might think that our sins are not as serious as ‘homosexuality’. But there is no such hypocrisy in the mind of God and his apostle who wrote these words. They mention homosexuality with many other forms of sin, all of which render us to be sinful people who are liable for divine punishment, unless we repent and turn to God in faith. For God ‘heterosexual immorality in the form of pre-marital and extra-marital sex’ is also an ‘unnatural’ behavior. A glance at the newspapers will show us how church leadership, both in India and abroad, lack so desperately in the area of sexual chastity. Being prideful, greedy, alcoholic, gluttonous, lacking compassion for the needy, beating father and mother, lying, is also equally ‘unnatural’, because God never created us to engage in any of them. And yet, how easily we live unrepentant lives despite having some of these sins in our own lives. Our pews are filled with such people.
In fact, the very presence of homosexuality in the society is a cause to humble us. It shows us that we live in a deeply sinful society. Through homosexuality, God is not just condemning individual sins but also pointing to the corporate way in which the whole of human society has gone away from God. That is why in Romans 1, the sinful human condition does not stop at homosexuality rather it goes on to show the degeneration of the whole society, as mentioned in Rom. 1:29-32.
Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities in Genesis 19, were destroyed by God primarily for their sexual perversion through homosexuality (Gen. 19:4,5; Jude 7). But we often think that they were destroyed only for their homosexual behavior. No! Rather it is important to note that the sinfulness of these twin cities was never restricted to homosexuality. Rather they were equally condemned for their ‘pride, gluttony, apathetic behavior on account of their prosperity and their lack of compassion for the poor and needy’ (Ezek. 16:49).
In fact, John Piper says, “the sins of greed and pride and selfishness and anger are more widespread than either same-sex attraction or homosexual behavior… Yes, the number of people who are ruined in this life and the next by the sins of greed, pride, selfishness, and anger is vastly greater than the number of people ruined by same-sex orientation or sinful homosexual behavior… homosexuality is no deadlier a sin and certainly no more widespread than greed and pride and selfishness and anger”.
Therefore, homosexuality also serves to function as a warning for the Christians, that they should not live hypocritical lives. We live in a sinful culture and we are not inoculated from its influence. For example, look how the ‘righteous Lot’ (2 Pet. 2:7, 8) offered his own daughters in exchange for his angelic visitors to those men who were vying for bestial sexual satisfaction (Gen. 19:8). So, Christians need to guard themselves when living in such a world. Many types of sins can knowingly or unknowingly creep in and destroy us. Instead of that if we love to live sinful lives and try to hide it with a mask of religiosity, then our hypocrisy will be quickly exposed. Not only that, our testimony to the sinful world then carries no value. Instead, Christians should hate sin in all its forms and try to live holy lives. This does not mean that we can be perfect in this world, but we know that we need to confess our sins and God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 Jn. 1:8-10).
When we hate sin and live holy lives we are better qualified to point out the moral bankruptcy of homosexuality. Even those whom we correct are able to see the sincerity in our hearts. This integrity becomes a shining light in a society seeped in the darkness of sin. Often, it is in such an environment that God uses the gospel call of the churches as an effective instrument to call sinners to repentance and faith. Apostle Paul who knew the power of sin and the need for holy living in the light of God’s holiness became an effective witness to homosexuals. He could proudly say that some members of his church who earlier walked in the path of homosexuality are today walking in righteousness. In 1 Cor. 6:11 he says “And such (includes homosexuals) were some of you. 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”. We also need to become such witnesses in India. But before we become one, we need to stop being hypocritical, rather humble ourselves before a truly Holy God.