We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.

Is homosexuality a sin?

There are three passages in the Old Testament (Gen. 19: 1-13; Lev 18:22; 20:13) and three in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; I Tim. 1:10) that have traditionally been read as prohibiting homosexuality. On top of this, the entire biblical narrative presupposes that sex is supposed to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage (Gen. 2:23-24). The biblical definition of “sin” is “missing the mark” (hamartia), and on the basis of this scriptural evidence, I have to regard homosexuality as “missing the mark” of God’s ideal. So yes, I regard homosexuality to be a sin.

Having said this, I need to add three important points.

First, there are a number of scholars who argue that these six passages are not as clear cut in denouncing all forms of homosexuality as they may initially seem. For example, some point out that the word Paul uses in I Tim. 6 and I Tim. 1 that is usually translated as “homosexuality” (arsenakoitai) is very ambiguous. It’s never used before Paul coins it in these verses and historically it’s been translated in a wide variety of ways. (For example, Luther translated it “masturbation”). Also, some scholars argue that the kind of homosexuality Paul had in mind when writing Romans 1 would have been the kind typically practiced by Romans and would not have included loving, respectful, monogamous committed relationships. I am not persuaded by these arguments, but neither can I casually dismiss this debate.

Second, there is absolutely no justification for the way many Christians today make homosexuality out to be worse than other types of sin. Judging from the way certain Christian leaders have publicly crusaded against homosexuality, you’d think it was the number one sin in the Bible and the most damaging sin to society. Yet, while we have at most six verses in the Bible that mention homosexuality, we have around 3,000 passages that address greed, gluttony and the need to care for the poor. Not only this, but if there are any sins American Christians are most guilty of, they’re greed, gluttony and apathy toward the poor. And if there are any sins that demonstrably kill people, it’s these ones. Yet Christians go after gays. Why? One can’t help but suspect it might be because it’s one sin they can feel self-righteous in condemning.

Third, and closely related to this, there’s no justification for the way many Christians make homosexuality a “deal breaker” sin. That is, many seem to think that it’s impossible to be a Christian and also be gay. You can be Christian and be greedy, an overeater and never sacrifice for the poor, but you can’t be gay? You can be Christian and be divorced and remarried, gossip and judge others — all mentioned in the Bible more than homosexuality — but you can’t be gay? Why?

When people get their life from their religion rather than from their relationship with Christ, they need to find some sin-group they can positively contrast themselves with. Sadly, for many Christians, this happens to be gay people.

This tendency to put sins on a scale of importance, ranking homosexuality near the top and other sins – the ones we are guilty of (and that are mentioned more frequently in the Bible) – towards the bottom is antithetical to the Kingdom. Jesus commands us to do the opposite. We’re to regard our sins, whatever they are, as planks sticking out of our eyes, and other peoples sins, whatever they are, to be mere dust particles (Mt. 7:1-3). With Paul, we are to confess that we are “the worst of sinners” (I Tim. 1:15-16).

So, while I believe homosexuality “misses the mark,” I adamantly believe it doesn’t do so more than any other sin we might think of — including the ones we are guilty of.

Related Reading

How do you respond to Proverbs 16:4?

“The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Calvinists often cite this verse to support the conclusion that some people are created wicked for the expressed purpose of being sent to hell. Since Scripture teaches that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), that God loves all…

How do you respond to Isaiah 48:3–5?

The Lord proclaims to his idolatrous people, “The former things I declared long ago, they went out from my mouth and I made them known; then suddenly I did them and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared…

The Right to Remain Silent

A reader (Thanks Adam) sent us this reflection written by Jason Hess on how we as Christians sometimes use the freedom of speech in ways that are in opposition with our call to love. How we live is infinitely more important than what we say, and sometimes our free speech is a detriment to bringing…

How do you respond to Romans 9?

The Deterministic Interpretation of Romans 9 Many people believe that Romans 9 demonstrates that God has the right and power to save whichever individuals he wants to save and damn whichever individuals he wants to damn. I’ll call this the “deterministic” reading of Romans 9, for it holds that God determines who will be saved…

What is the significance of Numbers 14:12–20?

In response to Israel’s bickering the Lord says “I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you [Moses] a nation greater and mightier than they” (vs. 12). Moses asks the Lord to forgive the people, and the Lord eventually responds, “I do forgive, just as you have asked” (vs.…

Topics:

What is the significance of Numbers 14:11?

In the light of the Israelites’ relentless complaining the Lord says to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” The fact that the Lord continued, for centuries, to try to get the…

Topics: