The passage in Genesis 18 we studied Sunday illustrates how we are to respond to those struggling with sexual sin.
In short, Abraham pleaded with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah because he figured there had to be a few righteous people among the wicked there — and God heard Abraham’s cry, and said he’d spare the cities if he could find even 10 righteous souls within their borders.
It’s a stirring moment. We see God’s determination to bring justice to this situation because of the sexual sin among those in Sodom and Gomorrah, but we also see the Lord’s compassion and mercy as he held back his powerful hand and was willing to hear Abraham’s appeal.
As believers in Christ, a huge part of our mission also must be justice and compassion — both of them, all the time.
It should come as no surprise that the opportunities to exercise justice and compassion in response to sexual sin are more than numerous in 2021. Our culture has steadily declined with regard to sexual morality over the decades — but in recent years, the pace of the decline has been rapidly increasing.
While LGBTQ and transgender issues dominate the headlines and gain ground and acceptance in the public square, let’s not pretend that heterosexual sin is somehow “not as bad.” It is. So, whether we’re dialoguing with someone struggling with lust or promiscuity toward the opposite sex or with lust or promiscuity toward the same sex, our response is identical in both cases: “I love you. Tell me more about your story. Let’s talk about it.”
But depending on the person, compassion may be easier to exercise than justice. Some believers may have a much harder time “laying down the law,” so to speak, for fear of offending others. As Scott noted, if a lesbian couple were to come into our church, our response would be to welcome them with open arms and love them and pray for them and do everything we can to lead them to Christ. But if that couple were to come to our church with an agenda — to promote the LGBTQ lifestyle or try to convince church members to side with them — then justice would be the appropriate response as we would tell them that such behavior isn’t appropriate at Calvary.
Beyond our approach as believers to those wrestling with sexual sin, let’s acknowledge how difficult it is to wrestle with sexual sin, in the first place! Our culture tells us, “If it feels good, do it.” And “don’t push away your desires.” But desire doesn’t determine right and wrong. Just because you desire something doesn’t mean that “getting” that something is a good outcome.
“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
A common argument justifying sexual sin is “that’s how I’m wired” or “I’ve been this way since I was born.” But as Pastor Scott noted, all people have bad wiring in one way or another. It’s our sin nature, and it puts us all on a path toward wrong behavior, whether it’s sexual sin or anger or lying or cheating or stealing. That’s why we all need Jesus. And in the end, we must let Christ work in our lives and help us wrestle with our faulty wiring, every day.
In regard specifically to homosexual behavior, the Bible is clear that it’s sin — just as a heterosexual affair is sin. Some may hit back, however, with a common argument that “Jesus didn’t speak about homosexual behavior; therefore, you can’t say it’s wrong.” But that’s a fallacy: As Scott also pointed out, Jesus didn’t speak about wife beating, either — but that doesn’t make wife beating fine and dandy. Besides Jesus did speak about the issue. In Matthew 19:4-5, answering a question about marriage and divorce: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” The standard Christ set for sexual expression is in the context of marriage between men and women. Period.
But do you believe God’s grace is big enough to handle all these sexual challenges? If not, you’d better believe it! God forgives and empowers each of us — whether our struggle is heterosexual or homosexual sin. Or any struggle! When Paul said he asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh, God’s answer was “my grace is sufficient for you.” It’s sufficient for you and me, too!
You may wonder if people can change their sexual desires — or even if God can change them. Well, do you believe a thief can be cured of his desire to steal, or that a greedy person can change toward becoming generous? Of course, they can! (And don’t forget that all of us are constantly tempted to do all sorts of things, every day — and the Lord empowers us to say no to those temptations. It’s part of our life this side of heaven, and it’s a universal struggle.)
Indeed, Paul talks about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? 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 such 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.”
As such were some of us — but no longer!
God can change anyone from the inside out and take away unwanted desires. But even if he has another plan in mind for you; a purpose for the thorn in your flesh that you won’t fathom here on earth, the Lord promised that his grace is sufficient for you as you manage them every day.