WHAT IS SAME-SEX ATTRACTION?
Same-sex attraction is the internal draw toward marriage-related experiences and enjoyments with persons of the same sex. We believe that same-sex attraction must be defined relative to God’s design for sexuality. We believe that God’s design for sexuality requires us to steward our sexuality in one of two ways, both motivated by love for and devotion to Christ: either by desiring and expressing our sexuality exclusively toward an opposite-sex spouse in Christian marriage, or by chaste, celibate, and faithful devotion to the Lord in singleness (1 Corinthians 7:1–11, 32–40). Sexual desire and expression in marriage entails relational, emotional, and physical elements—things pertaining to romance, sexual contact and enjoyment, and the physical affection associated with such (Ephesians 5:22–33; Song of Solomon 2:4-7, 8-17; Proverbs 5:15-23; 30:18-19). Same-sex attraction is the desire to pursue or enjoy any of these exclusively marital elements with someone of the same sex.
We believe that same-sex attraction is a result of the Fall. The corruption resulting from the Fall has affected all aspects of human existence and experience.
We believe that, because the biblical standard is faithfulness to an opposite-sex spouse, it is heterosexual. However, the concept of heterosexuality, though often used to describe the biblical sexual ethic, is incomplete. Those who can describe their experience of sexuality as heterosexual also fall short of holiness in many ways regarding sexuality, being subject to the same fallen nature as those with same-sex attraction. We believe that the solution to all who struggle sexually is the same, namely repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
IS SAME-SEX ATTRACTION SIN?
Scripture emphasizes that all human behavior comes from our hearts (Matthew 15:18–19) and that our hearts are corrupted due to the enduring effects of the Fall (Jeremiah 17:9). This means that every inclination of our hearts, including our thoughts, emotions, and desires, as well as our deeds, is corrupted by sin (Genesis 6:5; Titus 1:15; Romans 3:10–19; Ephesians 2:3). The experience of same-sex attraction, however, is not generally the result of a conscious decision but rather one that individuals became aware of as they grow older. Living with same-sex attraction can prove a special challenge for those who want to live according to God’s design for sexuality.
We do not believe that same-sex attraction is a benign condition; rather, it is a manifestation of original sin or indwelling sin and not a morally neutral sexual orientation that can be used for both good and evil. The struggle against indwelling sin is reflected in Scripture, among other places, in Romans 7:5, where Paul describes “sinful passions…at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” Similarly, in Romans 7:20, Paul describes sin as the unwanted pull of his flesh toward what he did not want to do.
We believe that same-sex attraction, though a manifestation of original sin or indwelling sin, is differentiated from willful sin. If the struggler experiences a spontaneous, sexual attraction toward someone else but, in faith and submission to God, resists that pull and does not act on it in thought, word, or deed, then that individual is actively repenting and has not engaged in nurtured, willful sin.
DOES SAME-SEX ATTRACTION ARISE FROM A SEXUAL ORIENTATION?
We do not agree with the cultural perspective that same-sex attraction is genetic, fixed, and unchangeable, arising from the secular notion of sexual orientation; rather, we recognize that its genesis most likely involves multiple pathways in an individual’s life. In addition to original sin, multiple pathways can include the following: biological components, cultural factors, family history, abuse, and more.
HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND SIN AND TEMPTATION?
Same-sex attraction is frequently connected with legitimate desires of the heart, including, but not limited to, desires for love, intimacy, control, comfort, affirmation, and affection. Coming from a sinful heart, these desires have become idolatrous and disproportionate, replacing true love for God and love for neighbor as God intended. Jesus clearly linked strong, inward desires (“lustful intent”) with behavior itself (Matthew 5:28). And James spoke of those same disordered desires as conceiving, tempting, and giving birth to sin (James 1:13–15). It is nearly impossible to separate temptation from sin in the moment of struggle, but the distinction is nevertheless helpful. Inward thoughts, desires, and temptations can be intentional, but sometimes they also arise seemingly from nowhere, unbidden and unwanted.
WHAT IS THE HOPE FOR SOMEONE WITH SAME-SEX ATTRACTION?
We affirm that our sole hope in all sexual struggling is to turn constantly toward the grace of God through Jesus Christ. God’s grace “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12–13). We gain hope as we become increasingly convinced of our own sinfulness and the efficacy of Christ’s person and work on our behalf. As Paul states in Romans 2:4, “…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”
We affirm that one who believes in Jesus Christ has been set free from the definitive power of sin (Romans 6:8–11) and has been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In a very practical sense, through the inward work of the Holy Spirit, believers are able to successfully resist the pull of the flesh and increasingly live with renewed hope, renewed desires, and transformed behavior (Ephesians 4:17–24; Galatians 5:16–26).
We do not believe that a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction should identify with his or her attractions and adopt the label “gay Christian.” Christians are called to walk in newness of life in the Spirit, even though we continue to struggle with persistent feelings and attractions that are unwanted (Romans 6:1–14; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3–4; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Identity labeling gives undue prominence to this life experience and struggle. Identity is important: who we are and who we want to become is wrapped up in how we view our relationship to Christ.
WHAT DOES CHANGE LOOK LIKE FOR SOMEONE WITH SAME-SEX ATTRACTION?
We understand that there is a wide continuum of what repentance and change might look like for the individual experiencing same-sex attraction. Change happens when a believer walks in ongoing faith and repentance. We believe that, as with all types of sinful attractions and inclinations, the habit and power of sinful desires weakens even as affection for Christ and love for righteousness grows. We have observed in many people with same-sex attraction a lessening of those desires. But this experience is not the same for all. For some, change can include sexual enjoyment of and faithfulness to an opposite-sex spouse in marriage. Others increasingly find true and satisfying peace in devotion to God as a single man or woman. However, individuals may continue to experience and wrestle with same-sex attraction throughout their lives, just as those whose sexual temptations have been toward the opposite sex often continue to wrestle with those sinful desires even while married. What the Lord calls us to is holiness in our thoughts, words, and deeds (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 2:11–12), but not necessarily to marriage or especially to the general experience of heterosexual desire (1 Corinthians 7:6–8, 35, 38). We believe that in the reality of a fallen world, no sinner is fully and exhaustively delivered from the enduring presence of sin, nor will we be until we see Jesus face to face (Romans 7:21–24; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 15:53–57).
We proclaim that the typical way the Lord transforms our hearts and character is through participating in the ordinary means of grace, which include, but are not limited to, Scripture reading, public and private prayer, discipleship, accountability, fellowship, public and private worship, hearing God’s Word preached and taught correctly, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and ongoing faith and repentance, which is obedience to God’s Word.
In conclusion, a message of hope to Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and to their brothers and sisters, who endeavor to help bear their burdens as they walk in faith and repentance:
Harvest USA unswervingly affirms the inerrancy of Scripture. It is the inspired Word of God and is God’s decreed will and wisdom for his people. Many people, however, misunderstand the biblical mandate for sexual purity, particularly as it concerns same-sex attraction or homosexual behavior. The arguments raised against the traditional and historic biblical understanding of God’s created intent for sex, sexuality, and sexual identity are too numerous and diverse to address here.
The New Testament writers were neither merely reinforcing the Old Testament moral law about sexual behavior nor adding new rules to the early Church. It is true that God’s moral law was not overturned in the New Covenant, but now there is a far bigger picture to comprehend in Christ: Jesus has brought about the new creation through his life, death, and resurrection. Christians have been released from the punishment mandated by the moral law because, and only because, that punishment fell fully and solely on Jesus Christ.
There is an obligation upon Christians who have been freed from the punishment of the law. What is the nature of that obligation? It is that Christians “belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that [they] may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4). In other words, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:15, Christians should “no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” This obligation is one of celebrating the freedom the Christian enjoys from the weight of the law. But it is not a freedom to do what we please; rather, it is the freedom to live according to who we really are, in our union with Christ. The Christian is called to a life of faith and repentance because of the love shown for him or her in the life and work of Jesus Christ.
The call to holiness in sexual thought and behavior in 1 Corinthians 6:18 (“Flee sexual immorality…the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”) is presented in the larger context of Paul explaining that the Christian is united in the new covenant to Christ, to become increasingly like him, to enjoy him and his love. Living in increasing holiness demonstrates that God’s Spirit is at work within us and that we are a part of this new life. Therefore, God wants us to see meaning and purpose in this struggle for sexual integrity. He wants us to enjoy our union with Christ, which by its very nature sanctifies us and transforms our thinking. He wants us to depend upon the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus has given to us, to empower us to fight this battle, and he wants us to know that he embraces us even as we struggle.
For the Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction, the call is to continually seek the grace of God through Jesus Christ in order to struggle well. And when that struggle seems at times to be unending or even hopeless, we encourage you with Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).