The best scientific research I have seen, at least from sources not biased against Scripture or religion, have concluded that a gay or lesbian identity is changeable. A person embraces a gay or lesbian identity by choice, it is not inherent. This means that a person can have a homosexual orientation but still embrace the gospel call to accept Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and the master of one’s life. Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is core to what it means to be a follower of Jesus, so this finding is very significant. There is no immutable barrier to LGBT people accepting the gospel and participating in the life of the church.
At the same time, research indicates that, in most instances, homosexual orientation is not a choice, but is ingrained into the person’s being. So-called “change therapies” have had very limited success over a period of five or six years (there may seem to be a “change” over the short term, but it usually does not last). It is likely that where a change can be scientifically verified, the person was actually bisexual rather than homosexual, but these categories can be hard to separate clinically. If one’s orientation is ingrained, and not subject to change, that is extremely significant for how Christians should treat LGBT people. To demand a change in inner thought processes and urges when such a change is unlikely or impossible is more abusive than godly.
How do we explain the presence of immutable characteristics that incline a person contrary to God’s original creation design? From a biblical perspective, these are a consequence of human rebellion and sin, but not necessarily the individual’s own rebellion and sin. Sin is not just a legal breaking of the law. Sin is a poison or an infection that is ingrained inside all human beings from birth and distorts everything we do and everything we are. In this we are all on the same ground. We are all broken people whose brokenness may manifest itself in different ways, but from the standpoint of the gospel, we all start in a similar place. We are “out of compliance” by nature. That means “temptation” is not the same thing as sin. In a broken world, sexuality of all types can incline a person toward sin. In this the homosexual and the heterosexual are on the same ground. Both are broken, in the biblical sense, and both need the redemption that comes in Christ and the support of the Holy Spirit. Sin and its consequences cannot be eradicated by effort, they require divine intervention, which will only be experienced in its fullness at the Second Coming (Rom 8:22-23; 1 Cor 15:51-54). Until then, we are all in need of compassion, understanding and forgiveness.
This tells me that any Christian outreach to LGBT people must occur in full awareness of a common brokenness. If heterosexual Christians act as if they are morally superior to homosexual people, they are not only abusive, they are wrong from a biblical perspective (don’t worry, we will be looking at the biblical texts themselves soon). They are like those Jesus describes as seeing the speck in another person’s eye while missing the plank in their own (Matt 7:1-5, NIV). The biblical perspective on sexuality is not biased against gays, its analysis penetrates deep into all human self-deception and delusion. LGBT people are not exempt from the biblical analysis, neither are they to be singled out as uniquely lost or depraved in some way.
Another emerging conclusion is that bisexual and homosexual are not the same thing. If one thinks of orientation as a continuum with full heterosexuality at one end and full homosexuality at the other, bisexuality is a condition in which the person is somewhere between, attracted at times to the same sex and at times to the opposite sex. Most people are at one end of the spectrum or the other, but some are at various places in between. For church communities that like everything simple or “black and white,” sexuality and its manifestations are more complicated than they would like. Add in intersex and transgender, and things are far more complicated yet. Bisexuals may have more choice in how they express their sexuality, but bisexuality is also more a symptom of human brokenness than the result of a person’s decision and action.
In this generation, people and human sexuality have proven to be more complex than we realized before. I would like to turn in the next blog to some of the biblical data to see what “word from the Lord” we can get to help manage the complexities as church communities.