Previously, we noticed in Romans 1 that homosexual activity is not the cause of God’s wrath, it is one of the outcomes of it. This is a very important distinction when it comes to how Christians should treat LGBTIQ people. This distinction is best illustrated by intersex conditions. We can probably all agree that intersex conditions are no more a person’s choice than being born with one leg missing, sterile, or without sight (see John 9:1-4 for a biblical example). We should not heap condemnation upon a person for conditions they did not create or desire. If it should prove (and both science and experience seem increasingly decisive) that a homosexual orientation or transgender condition arose from factors outside the person’s control, then condemning such a person for that condition is arbitrary and cruel. We all have some control, at least, over our behavior, but none of us chose to be born with sinful propensities and desires. Understanding the distinction between homosexual identity, orientation and attractions helps one to better understand how best to respond to people who are “different,” yet want to know Jesus Christ and be part of His church family.
Paul goes on in Romans 1 to list many other consequences of human rebellion and God’s response to it. “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom 1:29-31). The consequences of human rebellion include homosexual behaviors, but they also include many things one tends to excuse in church; envy, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, 30 slander, boastfulness, disobedience to parents, etc. Homosexuality gets central billing here as the “poster child” of human life lived at increasing distance from God’s original ideal for human life and relationships (verses 24-28), but it is one of many evidences of human brokenness (verses 29-31). Whatever we may say to LGBTIQ people, we need to say from a standpoint of common brokenness.
But what if you have never shared a single bit of gossip, were never disobedient to your parents, and never indulged in envy, strife, deceit, boasting or any of the other vices listed in Romans 1? Would that mean you are fully justified in condemning people who have failed in these areas? Paul has a message even for you, in Romans 2:1-3: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgment of God?” In this somewhat counter-intuitive text, Paul indicates that in the very act of focusing on the sins of another, a negative dynamic settles in on us as well. The sins of others brings out the worst in us. That is why confrontation, when it must happen, needs to happen with “tears in the voice” and with a strong sense of common brokenness. Until God brings us to that place, all our attempts to confront others over sexual misconduct will do more harm than good.