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I wish I could affirm homosexuality, but can’t

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Sir Ian McKellan at The Gay Pride Parade in New York City after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages (Credit: AP Images/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx)

I want to affirm homosexuality. I really do. I want to tell people that have struggled their entire lives with the feeling that they were attracted to someone of the same gender that it’s alright to embrace those emotions. That it’s alright to live the life that feels most right to you. I want to say the same to the people that feel like they were born into the wrong bodies. I want to tell them that the surgeries and the hormone therapies will make their lives better and allow them to find the peace and sense of belonging that they want so badly. I want to say all of those things and I think every Christian should.

But I can’t. We can’t. At least, not unless someone can show us how our understanding of God’s word is wrong. Personally, there’s a part of me that hopes it is. There’s a part of me that wants to be misunderstanding Paul when he calls such behavior unnatural in Romans 1. And there’s a part of me that wants the prohibitions in Leviticus 18 and elsewhere to be contextually limited to that time and no longer relevant today. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and studying the subject hoping to find convincing, God-inspired evidence that that is the case. However, with every book, every prayer, and every minute spent in God’s word seeking guidance, I simply become more and more convinced that the scriptures are clear on this subject and that acting on a homosexual orientation is against God’s will.

However, they are equally clear on a number of other issues as well and we can’t afford to make the mistake of thinking that the passages prohibiting homosexual activity are the only ones relevant to the discussion. For starters, scripture is clear that we are called to love everyone that God places in our lives. That means acknowledging that a person is more than their sexual orientation and treating them accordingly. But it also means, in Christ, loving them too much to pretend that living in ways that contradict God’s plan will not keep them from experiencing the kind of abundant life that he longs to give. And it means recognizing that that fact is equally true for everyone, both homosexual and heterosexual, who engages in sex other than that between a husband and wife. All sex outside of such a relationship is equally sinful and it is hypocritical and unbiblical to believe or teach otherwise.

Scripture is also clear that God’s love for us and his offer of salvation in Christ are in no way based on sexual orientation, gender, race, or any other attribute we may possess. God loves the LGBT community in the same all-encompassing and perfect way that he loves every person that he has created. Someone who self-describes as LGBT is in no way less of a child of God or less loved by our heavenly Father. And that needs to be the message that is expressed alongside God’s truth on this subject every time the latter is presented.

Lastly, scripture is clear that we cannot stay silent on this issue or act as though it doesn’t concern us (Matt. 5:13-16, 1 Peter 3:15-17, Eph. 5:11). Recent history has demonstrated that this is not a discussion we can avoid or ignore. Moreover, it would be naïve to think that there are not people struggling with such temptations in our local congregations. This is an issue we must speak on because it is one that is directly relevant to both the local church and the larger culture.

Yet, perhaps our greatest difficulty in engaging this discussion is that it can sound paternalistic and condescending for the Christian to say that he or she knows how someone else should live or who they should love. In truth, it would be if that was our message. However, as Christians, we are not presenting our views but God’s and we must never forget or stray from that as it’s the only reason that we have the right, and also the obligation, to speak on something that is, at its core, an extremely personal issue.

Ultimately, I will never know what it is like to live as a member of the LGBT community and I understand why those who do find the Christian argument against such a lifestyle difficult. Moreover, I’m still open to being proven wrong in my belief that acting on a homosexual orientation is a sin, as I would hope people on both sides of this discussion are. After all, none of us are perfect and it’s quite possible that our thinking is flawed. As I said, there is part of me that hopes it is and it would certainly be easier for the Church if we could go along with the culture on this topic. However, we cannot afford to let any amount of seemingly reasonable argumentation, appeals to simply let people live their lives, or accusations of intolerance and bigotry change our thinking unless they first change our understanding of God’s word. In the end, God’s view on the subject is the only one that really matters and neither we nor the larger culture can afford for us to forget that.