*Editor’s Note: As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on same-sex marriage this week, the Church & Culture Team felt it timely to take a recent address by Dr. White on the matter and turn it into a four-blog series that will be issued Monday-Thursday of this week. This is part three of that series. To read earlier installments, click here.
Now that we've explored God's original design for human sexuality and relationship, this brings us to the orientation issue.
Because the biggest argument against what the Bible says really isn’t about what the Bible says – that’s clear – it’s about whether we should accept it. And the biggest reason some give for not accepting it has to do with orientation.
Because people say, “But this is who I am! It’s how I was made!”
From this, many homosexuals will say that it is unfair, even cruel, to condemn them for pursuing how they naturally are.
They say, "Why should I be condemned for following my natural desire! How can God condemn me when He is the one who made me this way!"
Or they’ll say, “How can the Bible be right when God made me gay?”
Because of this, some Christians early on in this cultural debate used to deny that it’s really an orientation. That it’s all a choice.
But friends, I’m sorry, that’s crazy.
It’s just not true.
Many people who pursue a lifestyle of homosexual behavior didn’t set out to be this way; they really do have a very strong tendency toward that behavior. They genuinely have a same-sex attraction. Arguing that is stupid.
Now, can a homosexual orientation be brought to the surface, or pursued, through various psychological factors or life experiences?
But here’s the larger truth:
A homosexual orientation is no different than any other orientation someone can have toward a particular lifestyle that may be outside of God's will.
Someone might have an orientation toward pride, another for chemical addiction, another for gambling or slander, someone else for stealing or lying.
All of us have a certain make-up that shapes us and makes us more prone to a particular temptation than others.
From this, think how dangerous it would be to say, “God made me this way so it’s ok for me to pursue this.” Are you sure that God made you that way, or is that just your brokenness? Because this whole world is broken and we are all sin-stained and sin-soaked, going all the way back to Adam and Eve.
So be really careful when you say what God did, in terms of how and who you are.
So play this out: let’s say you want to defend pursuing a lifestyle on the basis of orientation.
You say, "I do what I do because I am what I am. And because of who I am, this is what I must do."
Play that one out. Is this right?
It’s certainly not accurate from a psychological point of view. Most would say that who we are is a combination of nature plus nurture. It’s how we are put together and the choices we make in life.
It’s not accurate morally, either. If your philosophy is that desire should dictate values, then that means that whatever I desire to do is to be pursued and fulfilled without restraint.
Please hang with me on this.
If I say that because I have the desire, it must be a legitimate lifestyle,
...what if my desires are to murder?
...what if they have to do with molesting young children?
You say, "You're crazy! Nobody in the homosexual community is saying that!"
Of course they’re not.
But that’s beside the point; it is a question of where the philosophy logically leads. Once you make a philosophy such as this a guiding value-system, it applies across the board. You can't pick and choose where you want to apply it. Either desire legitimates behavior, or it doesn't.
What matters is not so much where you are tempted friends, but what you do with that temptation.
I may have moments when in my anger I desire to inflict bodily harm on someone. In fact, a person who struggles with anger is very much oriented toward that very action. But that's very different than it authorizing me to give in to the feeling and act on it.
This is very important; the Bible doesn't condemn anyone for homosexual desire. You need to know that. There’s nothing condemning homosexual desire, only homosexual practice.
But like any other desire outside of God's will for our life, it calls us to resist that temptation.
If someone tells me they’re gay, I hardly bat an eye. What I want to know is what choices they are making about how they are living in light of their orientation. The Bible makes this very clear in the book of James:
The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer." (James 1:14-15, Msg)
The progression there is critical to note.
Temptation comes through our own desire. But just because desire is there doesn't mean what we want to do is okay. Each of us has our own unique areas of weakness, areas where we have desires that aren't of God.
As a straight man, I may have desires for sexual fulfillment outside of marriage with a woman who isn't my wife. But that is no different in God's eyes than the homosexual temptations another person might have. When faced with that temptation, it is up to both of us to choose – to either turn away from the desire, or to give in to it.
Now, the gay person might say,
"Well, at least you can get your sexual appetite fulfilled in a marriage. I can't!"
But that's going back and saying that desire is what determines everything. That sexual fulfillment is the one area in our life that must be in charge and determine everything. You’re saying the most important guiding value of your life is making sure you have an orgasm.
That somehow that is the one temptation that should not be fought?
But that’s not what the Bible tells us about temptation, no matter what kind it is. In the New Testament, we read in the first letter to the Church in Corinth:
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it." (I Corinthians 10:13, NLT)
It’s a really interesting verse. A direct promise that no temptation that has seized you is different than any other temptation any of us face. And that God is faithful and He will provide a way out for you to choose if you so desire.
James Emery White
Adapted from the fourth installment of “Holy Matrimony,” a series at Mecklenburg Community Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. If you would like to listen to this address as originally delivered, as well as the series of which it was a part, click here.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.