Christendom today has seen an increase in the number of people that claim that same-sex attraction (SSA) is not sinful as long as we don’t act on it, as long as we don’t engage in homosexual activity. Indeed, there are some like Matthew Vines that will claim that the Bible does not even address SSA. However, there are several related issues that undercut such a claim about SSA being permissible, one of which I’d like to address in this post.
A first problem with the idea that SSA is not sinful is that is ignores the connected nature of sin and righteousness that is established in God’s word: righteousness, and conversely unrighteousness, is an all-or-nothing venture. Similar to being pregnant (you either are, or you’re not), to be righteous you must be completely righteous, top-to-bottom. We’re either righteous in our actions, motives, and desires, or we stand condemned by unrighteous actions, motives, or desires. Some might have us believe that we can have righteous desires (SSA) without unrighteous actions (sodomy), but God’s word denies such possibility.
This interconnectedness of righteous desires, motives, and actions is confirmed when we see that the 10th commandment is included in the moral law: coveting (which is sinful desire) is condemned, even when it is not acted upon. God’s law regulates not only what we do, but the end or goal for which we do it, and the desire that motivates us. It is not enough not to steal, not to murder, and not to commit adultery. We must not even desire such things. And, as Jesus confirms this in His sermon on the mount: we stand condemned by the law when we desire something sinful, even before we act upon that desire (e.g., Matt 5:27-28). If our desires are unrighteous, regardless of our actions, we stand condemned by the law because sin and righteousness concerns both our actions and our desires. So, the idea that SSA is permissible because it is not acted upon falls short of the biblical teaching about the nature of sin and the nature of righteousness. SSA is sinful because it desires something other than God’s design (i.e., a monogamous, heterosexual, covenantal union), even if that desire is not expressed physically.
But the good news is that God sent the god-man to die in our place, and that substitute was fully man. His full humanity is important because His perfect obedience to the law included possessing only righteous desires. He is my substitute, which means He bore the wrath for every one of my sinful desires, AND He has imputed to me the perfections of his humanity, including all of His righteous desires. I am acquitted because of His perfect obedience to God’s law, including the 10th commandment. Praise be to God the Father that the Son was willing to not only fulfill the law outwardly, but inwardly too.
Because of His full obedience, I am fully forgiven of my sinful desires, and I am given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help me crucify my remaining sinful desires, motives, and actions, and to help me replace them with righteous desires, motives, and actions. There is genuine hope for those that battle against SSA because Christ has given us a new heart and has sent His very own Spirit to help you in your fight for godliness. The gospel gives us the strength and hope we need to fight for genuine conformity to God’s law, rather than mere outward conformity, because the gospel addresses even our deepest needs: new desires that spring from a new heart.
I hope to see you in Louisville on May 14-16 for the Founders National Conference as I look more closely at the nature of sin, desire, and same-sex attraction. For more information, see the event page below.