A Christian Response to Homosexuality: What we mean by “Repent!”

Often, in conversation with people about the hot-button issue of homosexuality, those of us on the “it’s a sin” side of the discussion lose the debate before it ever starts.

The conversation is framed as the Christian preventing or blocking or shunning the homosexual from worshipping.  Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some (loud) voices in conservative Christianity for whom that is their sole agenda (and I’ve got my issues with them). But it’s not my heart at all, and to come into a discussion where I am cast as the one trying to take away rights means I have already lost the argument.

The gay community (spiritual and otherwise) has cast this as the new Civil Rights movement.  That puts me and Jim Crow on the same team, out of the gate.  Like wearing a “hello my name is Hitler” tag at a bar-mitzvah, that’ll make it tough to see eye to eye.  We have to start the conversation on the same page if we are to get anywhere.

In the next couple of posts (or at least in a few more posts, not necessarily the next ones), I want to try and peel back some of the rhetoric (from both sides, but  mostly from my own) and really evaluate the conversation.  Because we’ve done a terrible job, by and large, at properly engaging the real issues.  It’s very easy to run down one of a dozen rabbit trails (is the Bible true? what does it mean by “homosexual” in the Bible?  why are so many republicans having homosexual affairs? can you be a homosexual and a Christian?) and miss the actual points being raised.

I may give my take on some of the rabbit trails in the process, but I’d really like to start the conversation way before any of those issues.

It starts at my heart.  My desire, far from trying to hold back or oppress or marginalize a group of people, is to see people repent.

I know, I used a hot-button word.  One of the words on the signs that Freddie Phelps and his motley crew drag around to funerals. So, let me rephrase.  I want people join me in repentance. I want for all of us to look at our own lives and come away with the thought “I was born this way: wicked, sinful, arrogant, presumptuous, and wrong.  Crooked, pursuing my own pleasure over God’s glory, and content to throw rocks at the perceived ‘other’ in my life, before I dealt with my sin before God.”

That’s what I mean when I ask a homosexual to repent.  I don’t ask anything of them that I am not willing to do myself.  In fact, if I am not careful, I will have to repent of how I call for their repentance.  The Bible alludes to that in Galatians 6:1.  We have to watch our own sinful hearts in the process of calling out someone else’s sin.

That’s where the conversation has to start.  I know that I have never struggled with that particular sin, and so I have to watch carefully that I don’t speak of it flippantly, or make it sound worse than my sin, or unforgivable, or any of that garbage.  It’s a sin.  Repentance is the starting point. And if you don’t see your sin as a sin, it’s going to make it tough to start.

But (here’s a big point) I am not the one holding back the conversation, or preventing anything. I’m not denying any rights or pushing my agenda.  I’m ready to repent of all the crap in my life.  The more you show me, the more I’ll repent, and agree with God concerning my adulterous heart.  If anyone is preventing something, it’s the gay side of this conversation.  They refuse to start from the beginning of the conversation, at repentance.  They want to excuse their sin and highlight mine.

I in no way want to excuse the sin of conservative evangelicalism in this regard.  The loudest and most publicized among us have failed to love homosexuals, and seek their repentance.  We have failed to follow Galatians 6:1, and have fallen into the temptation to think we are above the level of that particular sin. Where we have done that, we need to repent, as well.

Christianity is a line of people repenting. To not repent and stand in this line is silly.  You’re a vegan in line at the hot dog stand. That goes for both homosexuals and unrepentant religious folks picketing them.  Repent, or get out of line.  We’re all repenting in this line.

25 Replies to “A Christian Response to Homosexuality: What we mean by “Repent!””

  1. I appreciate the desire to levelheadedly address this topic, and I hope you already plan to get here, but for those of us on the other side of the argument, you’re going to have to explain how you come to the conclusion that identifying yourself as L/G/B/T/Q is sinful. That seems to be an assumption that is foundational to any other argument you make, and it’s an assumption not held by many of us. Honestly, I won’t be able to hear much of the rest of your argument very clearly or openly until I hear how you come to such a conclusion to begin with.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Melissa. As always, this issue will immediately boil down to our most fundamental difference: the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. There’s no way to avoid that the original authors of scripture (both the human and the divine authors, to be sure) believed homosexuality to be a sin. 2000 years of Christian leaders have believed homosexuality to be a sin. The only way to make the Bible say that it is not a sin is to undermine either the divine authorship of Scripture or to participate in academic/chronological snobbery of the worst kind.

      The Bible is clear here. It doesn’t make it any worse of a sin than heterosexual sexual sin, and I reject those who would attempt to make it a sin above any other sins. I’d rather not get into the specific verses, because that is following a rabbit that I don’t want to follow–but they are all over the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, by various authors from various backgrounds.

      My point in this post (and others coming) is that the conversation is almost always framed as a Christian trying to stop someone from something. And that’s not true to my motivation at all. It’s an unfair, unfounded claim.

      We’ve been here before, Melissa. I really hope you’ll take another look at the Bible, and the claims of those who hold to inerrancy. You too need to join us in repentance.

      1. I’m well aware of your stance and what your reasoning is — I just felt it would be helpful to spell out that reasoning to explain the foundation of your argument for readers.

        I think you’re speaking a bit broadly here: “There’s no way to avoid that the original authors of scripture (both the human and the divine authors, to be sure) believed homosexuality to be a sin. 2000 years of Christian leaders have believed homosexuality to be a sin. The only way to make the Bible say that it is not a sin is to undermine either the divine authorship of Scripture or to participate in academic/chronological snobbery of the worst kind. ”

        You could also say that 1600 years of Christian leaders believed the earth was the center of the universe. It doesn’t make it true.

        I know you and I won’t get anywhere in this discussion, but I just hope that someone who might be struggling with this concept might know that ALL of Christianity is not anti-gay, and that the issue is not as simple as you portray it to be.

        Maybe I’ll be more concerned with who is sleeping with whom when there is no more war, hunger, or genocide in the world. (Re-reading that, it sounds like a low jab … but I really do mean that sincerely. Two guys who love each other just doesn’t seem like a big deal when there are starving children somewhere.)

        1. Did you catch what you did there, though? You called me anti-gay. I’m not anti-gay. You want the conversation to be framed as me bashing gay people. But I’m not. Christianity is not anti-gay. And I am not concerned more with who is sleeping with whom than I am with war or hunger. You are putting all types of words in my mouth, unfairly. Is it impossible to work toward world peace and toward individuals repenting before God, simultaneously?

          The issue is how we look at scripture. I look to scripture, and when I find a part with which I disagree, I repent. I assume that the Bible is right, and that I am wrong. (that’s not to say I don’t think critically, and examine whether or not my initial impressions of the passage are incorrect before I blindly say “God said it, that settles it.” I think you know me better than that) You, when you come in contact with a part of scripture with which you disagree, you assume that you are correct, and ask scripture to repent. Your reasoning and intellect are the court of highest authority (or some other free-thinking theologian’s reasoning and intellect are). You don’t have a God who can confront your inner sense of right and wrong. The Scriptures (and the God of the scriptures) submit to your reasoning and intellect. That makes you God, and God a loveable pet, who can’t correct you.

          Im not on some agenda to rid the world of gay people, or to demonize this one particular sin. I’m interested in all of us approaching God from a position of humility and various brands of brokenness. If you are not willing to come before God and be repentant, go and call yourself pagan or spiritual or pantheist (and I won’t fuss about it). To be a Christian is to be repentant. And in order to repent there has to be a standard to call you to repentance. For the Christian, that is the Bible. It’s the lynchpin holding this entire operation together.

          1. Let me define “anti-gay.” I mean, believing homosexuality/being gay to be wrong. I consider myself “anti-abortion” because I believe abortions are wrong. I don’t see that as mudslinging. If you don’t believe homosexuality is a real, natural, acceptable way of living, then I would say you’re anti-gay. Just like I’m anti-abortion.

            I don’t place my reason/intellect over the Scriptures. As a Wesleyan, I use Scripture as my highest source of understanding God, with reason, tradition, and experience as other ways of knowing God, through Scripture and outside of Scripture. Just because I don’t subscribe to Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean I have a low regard for Scripture.

            I would be more than happy to have a literalist, Biblical conversation with you about the “undeniable” scriptures you speak of. I believe Scripture doesn’t say much (really, anything) about a loving, consensual relationship between two people of the same gender. Literally.

            All I was asking for to begin with was an outline of the reason you see being gay as sinful, more than just “for the Bible tells me so.” It seems to be fair to your readers. But maybe I’m the only one who reads your blog and subscribes to a different understanding of the issue. If that’s the case, then no explanation necessary.

          2. You place your reason on par with Scripture, then. Either way, there’s no way (other than by personal revelation or conviction) for God to confront you.

            And I’m not taking the bait and chasing the rabbit of picking verses, not because I think you might be right, but because it’s a waste of both of our time, and will only serve to polarize the people reading the blog. And as I’ve said earlier, it misses the point of the discussion. Whether homosexuals are sinners or not is not up for debate, just like whether I am a sinner or not isn’t up for debate. The issue is repentance. For me to highlight all the verses that speak directly to that sin misses the point that the conversation isn’t apples to apples to begin with.

          3. “Anti-homosexuality” would be more akin to “anti-abortion.” “Anti-gay” can sound like “anti-homosexual.” It’s an important distinction because the persecution that gays have received. One says, “I don’t support your relationship,” and one says, “I don’t support your right to live.”

  2. I went to this amazing thing at a local church in town. It was called: “4th community conversation: homosexuality”. There was a panel of 6 guests from different areas on the spectrum (all in someway have it in their lives). Some identified themselves as Christians, some as homosexuals, some as human beings, past homosexuals, and 2 pastors. It was an amazing, amazing unifying conversation between the church and people who have/had engaged in homosexuality. There was over 1000 people there!! I went in as a Christian, unclear of what I believe about the whole subject, and came out with a clearER understanding of what it means to love.

  3. I cannot believe I am writing on a blog… I never do this, but dang it, this issue gets me every time. btw- Hi Ben! How’s it going?

    Ok, yep, I am in total agreement with you Ben about the Bible is the bottom line for truth, and that God gets to write anything he wants in it. If he says purple is bad, then I will have to repent of my love and affection for purple (not to mention it would only be by his power that I could cease to love it), BUT ONLY because I am choosing him over me. Purple is never the issue, and in the big picture purple will have never mattered. The issue is never what sin or which sin. It is always about choosing Jesus.
    So to bottom line it- the biggest sin and the only one that matters is choosing my desires over a relationship with Jesus (which I do ALL the freaking time!) No matter if it is a lie to the IRS, telling someone they do not belong (wink wink), singing a worship song while thinking about the phone bill, or being gay, for that matter, being straight- if any of that is apart from Jesus it is worthy of repentance- but not bc of the act.
    The super cool part is that if I am in relationship with Him- that stuff will get dealt with by Him IF it needs to get dealt with. He leads my heart to repentance. If I do not believe in Him, there is no sin. I know that one oughtta get you goat, but if you don’t know Jesus, who cares? You should do everything your heart desires and I say go for it and I hope you don’t get hurt too bad.
    Otherwise, when you do buy this whole business of Him being who He said He was, and that he came to save you from you- then yes get in line for all of it. All repentance does is pull us closer to our maker, and woohoo for that. It almost makes me want to repent for crap that isn’t wrong just to cuddle up. After all, what is so wrong with repentance?

    I hope that was not the trail you were trying to avoid.

    1. No, Dusty, that was certainly not a trail I was avoiding. I agree with everything you’ve said. But I do take exception to your “winking.” 🙂 I am not telling anyone they don’t belong. I don’t think they want to belong here, this is a place for people who admit that God is right and they are wrong.

      You have stated my point in a way only you can! Thanks! It’s not about the specific brand of sin, it’s about repentance, and confessing that Jesus is worth cuddling with. (yep, I realize the wonderful irony of that comment on this post.)

  4. Melissa, I agree that what Church leaders have believed throughout time is not the strongest point in Ben’s argument. Important, but not as strong as the authors’ intent. However, what those leaders believed about the physical center of the universe is less relevant to this argument because the Bible doesn’t make claims about the physical center of the universe. The Bible does make claims about homosexuality. From here, we go chasing that rabbit, examining every passage until we get back to the fact that some Christians trust that what is in the canon is trustworthy through and through and some Christians believe that some parts may be tainted with the human authors’ [ungodly] opinions. I spell that part out for the reader who hasn’t necessarily been exposed to the battle over Scriptural authority.

    Ben, I think you have to be careful with how you approach Christians in the other camp. I know Christians who desire to repent over sin and simultaneously don’t believe that homosexuality is something to repent over.

    My question is this: Melissa, why must we wait to be concerned about homosexuality? The same line of reasoning could say, “I’ll be concerned about my gossipping problem when wars and famines cease. One person talking trash about another doesn’t seem like that big of a deal compared to genocide.” Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels surely show that all sin is a big deal.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Lauren! I’ve brought all of my friends out of the woodwork on this one!

      I appreciate the admonition to be careful. Of all the words used to describe me, “careful” and “sensitive” have never made the top 10. I do want to be kind, and careful.

  5. I love reading all your blogs Ben but especially ones like this with thought provoking issues. Not becuase i have something to contribute but because if it is not discussed in this manner, openly, honestly without malace we will never get anywhere and the wheel will keep going round and round. You know doing the same things and expecting different results? I by no means am saying that I sit on the fence, I do not. I believe in the Bible and it says it is sin. What bothers me terribly are the Christians who think when they get to heaven there will be no gays…won’t they be surprised when they see murderers? or the one who raped their sister? or the group of holy rollers they gossip about all the time? or the gay man from work? Of course “we will not care at that time” but no matter the sinful nature those who KNOW and accept him will be there. One thing I have learned on my walk with God is today as a Christian I recognize this is the sin in my life I need to address, tomorrow He will reveal another. I have had many things in my Christian life I justified and did not see as sin, as I grew closer, as He worked on me the sins became more and more. It is like the closer I got the more clearly I see the sin in my life and boy is it in my face! Maybe best described as the closer I get the dirtier I seem.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Deb!
      The point you make about the colser you get to Jesus the uglier your sin is is a phenomenal one. The bigger your sin is, the bigger the savior has to be.

  6. Wow. This is amazing. I love all of the comments and the post. Ben, I don’t think I’ve said one word to you since project last summer (not that I haven’t wanted to) but I’ve read a lot of your posts on here, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. You challenge Christians, and I have to say, it wouldn’t hurt one bit for some Christians to have their toes stepped on if you know what I mean.

    As far as the issue goes, it’s one that I’ve certainly struggled with. Not homosexuality, but demonizing homosexuals. I have never really demonized them aloud or anything, but the way I see it, my thoughts, if dwelled on, are as sinful as my actions. With that said, God has certainly revealed this sin to me recently. I read a book called A Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown. If God showed me anything from reading that, it was the chapter about the people we demonize. The two things that came to mind were John Piper (that’s a rabbit. don’t chase it.. lol), and homosexuals. I’ve come to realize though, that I may not agree with homosexuals and what they do, but my Lord commands me to love them anyway. Not that He forces me to love them, but because I have Christ in my life, I want to love them. I want them to see the unconditional love that Christ has for them. As far as my life goes, I’m as sinful as they are. I just want people, not just strictly homosexuals, but anyone, to repent WITH me. Just as Deb said, the closer I get to Christ, the more I allow Him to be at the forefront of my life, the more I see my sin.

    One thing I also want to say. Something Christ has revealed recently… Every time a person surrenders to something, whatever it may be, they usually end up in bondage (once again, I include myself here). The great thing is, when you surrender your life to Christ, it means freedom!!! Just something to chew on 🙂

  7. And so, friends, we learn a valuable lesson:

    If you want comments on your blog, just talk about homosexuality.

    Abortion, female pastors, and tithing will also work…

    1. Yeah, looks that way. I am wondering if I am doing any good, or just adding noise to the discussion. My heart is to actually talk about this issues, but even in the comments I’ve been derailed onto the very rabbit trails I wanted to avoid. I guess I should have seen it coming.

  8. Maybe it would be more effective and less noisy to just talk about repentance? If the point is what we mean by repentance, why do we have to just talk about sexuality or sexuality at all? In my opinion, the very idea suggests that it is significant than it actually is. However, sexuality seems to be more interesting to talk about than repentance….

    ooh maybe we can talk about predestination??? Just kidding:)

  9. “Is there anyone who // ever remembers // changing their mind // from the paint on a sign // is there anyone who // really recalls // ever breaking rank at all // for something someone yelled real loud one time”

    I think blogs are great because they provide us with an outlet for creativity and also a springboard to have good dialog WITH PEOPLE WE KNOW or with people who have very similar views.

    It serves as a good filler for between personal conversations.

    But the complete strangers who will ‘stumble upon’ a post on a hot-button topic like this are the people who are already looking for posts on the topic, and it isn’t because they are looking to learn anything. They just want to make sure that your argument has a comment underneath that casts doubt on it.

    I feel like these battles are won in the context of relationships. When people see you live out the Gospel, their canned answers to things they don’t like in the Bible lose most of their power…

  10. I frequent your blogs Ben and just enjoy them…no comments needed…lol! Since such a controversial topic with comments — might I ask a totally irrelevant question?

    I, as I get older, do become closer to Christ and each passing day find fault in so much as an attitude I had with my husband. So I do continually seek ways to have my life be a living testimony just in my actions. Believe me, it is taking me continued attempts to feel worthy of His love. With that said, it is by His guidance I am trying to raise these wonderful boys. So trying to forgive myself for past sins, (as I know God has already) — I continue to seek Him to follow the Manual for raising kids. People say there isn’t one, but there IS!

    Here it goes —So, maybe with your guidance of how you interpret some of it you could help me out here. I try to teach my children to classify people by blonde, short, tall, etc…not fat, skinny, black or white. I literally have to watch what they hear from others daily to teach them to not clssify others in this way. I want them to wholeheartedly see no difference in color, weight or anything! So my question is…is it “wrong” to date outside your race? I never have guided my kids in a manner that would lead them to even think other races are different or that they should date “white people”. The world is much more tolerant that years ago and interracial marriages and children are so socially accepted these days. Now I know there are verses interpreted in a way that leads us to think we should stick with our own race. I tend to lean towards, our hearts are the same color – so does it matter? I would like to know your biblical opinion.

    1. Tuesdee,
      Thanks for the comment. The short answer is no, it is not wrong to date or marry outside of your race. The prohibitions centered around interracial marriage in the Bible are always prohibitions against marrying outside of your faith. When God says for the israelites not to marry outside of Israel, it’s because they would be marrying people that don’t believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And ask anyone who is trying to faithfully walk with God in the context of a marriage to someone who isn’t… that’s not easy.

      Since the Old Covenant centered around a people, Israel, that makes sense. Today that same principle holds true. Christians shouldn’t marry nonbelievers, because the most central core of their worldview is fundamentally different. That’s not a justification for divorce if your spouse is not a Christian, and in fact the Bible speaks directly to that. But it is a warning to single Christians to not enter into a marriage covenant with a nonbeliever.

      Jesus was mixed racially. Rahab, way down the line of great-grandmothers (David’s great-great-great-grandmother), was not an Israelite, and her daughter-in-law Ruth wasn’t either (they get a shout-out in Matthew 1:5). But both of them exhibited faith in the God of the Bible. Thats a key point. The prohibition for marrying outside of your race had everything to do with faith, and nothing to do with skin color or culture.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Yes, it helps a lot! I never wanted to sway my children in any form and this lets me know I was not wrong in doing so. I will surely raise them to (I hope sucessfully) only court and marry girls who are of the Christian faith. Thanks for the history lesson as well!!!!!

        1. Also, this is just a passing thought, but I don’t think it’s wrong to identify someone by their race. The fact of the matter is that there are differences in culture between races. You have to be careful in highlighting the differences that you don’t make one better than the other. But to ignore the fact that there are differences is insulting, I think. In John’s vision of heaven he even mentions the different races present. That presupposes that, even in heaven where our sins have been washed away, there will still be distinctions between races!


          1. They aren’t blind…lol! They can obviously see the difference, but I do not want my children nor myself to say, “give it to the mexican”, the “black man”…most people don’t say “see the tall white man”, most say, the dark headed guy with the hat on….so if “most” don’t refer to white people by there race, I do not want any referred to by race. By only calling other races out and not our own, is in a sence saying we are better. So I, myself choose to teach my children to identify people by the color of their hair, eyes, clothes and not skin…I feel it is best that way. No different than not wanting my chidlren to identify people by the fat or skinny man. They aren’t blind but they also don’t need to pick people out by there color or size. In pre-school kids are taught the difference in fat and skinny…I do not do it that way. I refer to things are large, wide, narrow, thin. So, just how I do things. Thanks for the advice though.

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