Why we can’t just answer with “It’s a sin.”
Sharing the Gospel with members of the LBGT+ movement needs to be understood in terms that they understand. Simply answering questions on sexual deviance with the pat answer that it’s a sin is technically correct but incomplete and it’s this negligence on the part of the Christian Apologist that is doing damage to our message.
It’s time you guys. It’s time that we stop avoiding questions about homosexuality by brushing them off with “it’s a sin” and thinking that this answer resonates with the masses. It does not resonate and it is not helping shine biblical light on the more central issues.
Let me be clear before you start panicking: Homosexuality in practice is a sin. There is no amount of Scriptural acrobatics that can be used to get around it. Homosexuality is a twisting and marring of God’s design for sexuality and we as Christians need to be defending God’s design for all walks of life including, but not limited to, the LBGT+ Community.
Now that you’re not worried I am going to be too progressive here, let’s dig deeper.
A common question
When I do public speaking events teaching and training on Christianity, we always open up for live Q&A at the end. And every single time I am asked about what the Bible has to say about Homosexuality. No surprises here, it is a pressing issue in today’s world. But here’s the thing, and I ask you to pay close attention. Lean into this with me: the only other question I am asked every single time is what is sin?
What is Sin?
The vandalizing of Shalom.
What is Shalom?
God’s design for creation in universal flourishing, delight, and wholeness.
Much of the Evangelical Christian community has a botched notion of sin. The word is used frequently enough, but in a way that oftentimes reflects a base misunderstanding. Even worse, “sin” is often construed as introspective, something merely relative to the individual, as opposed to what happens when the standard of holiness is ignored. Sin has become something measured in calories. Sin has become what makes us inauthentic to our self-image. Sin has become those things that don’t make us happy. But sin, in reality, is none of those things at all. Sin is the vandalizing of Shalom.
Plantinga on sin
Cornelius Plantinga Jr. does marvelous work in the study of Hamartiology. In his Breviary he speaks directly to Christians, especially here in the West, showing how we misunderstand the nature of sin. And he does this by setting sin against its counterpart: Shalom. Shalom is the way things ought to be. Shalom is the universal flourishing of all creation. And therefore sin is anything that ceases or slows Shalom from happening. Anything and everything that detracts, removes, or works against Shalom. And when we see sin from this standpoint we realize that sin is not simply the breaking of God’s laws. In actuality it is a betrayal of our flourishing, of our very image, the image of God himself in us. Sin is anti-flourishing. Sin is anti-wholeness.
What is hamartiology?
The study of sin.
The irony is deep: At its core, sin is an inauthenticity. We are convinced that fulfillment comes through self-identity. We say to be authentic to ourselves. But this user-defined expression doesn’t work. It always fails. The truth is that we can only understand ourselves, experience joy, and live fully, when we are an accurate reflection of God’s character. Do you see the implication here? If you want to reflect God’s character, then seek out what defines his character. If you want to experience joy, then quit trying to invent your own identity, and pursue the identity that God offers you. The Holy Spirit eagerly awaits this union.
The context for the LGBT+ discussion
And it is out of this context that we need to communicate effectively why lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are sin. We are certainly not harping on these individuals out of spite, out of arrogance, or out of some belief that we ourselves are righteous.
At least that should not be the case. But we Christians have been guilty of exuding this attitude.
Self-defined happiness, apart from God’s instruction, is a problem common to all of us, not just one group. But homosexuality has taken center stage in our culture. Those pursuing homosexual relationships are a hurting group. And so we are compelled, in love, to share what the Bible says to these individuals about reentering into Shalom. How do we do so? By sharing God’s definition of joy.
Joy. Not happiness. Happiness is fleeting and it is temporary. It is triggered by dopamine, caffeine, or some mixture of both. Happiness is never quite complete because there is always that tugging on the sleeve of your mind that there is something missing. Joy is to be permanent and all encompassing. Joy is liberating and pure. Joy never ceases.
Christ’s emphasis on joy
It is the goal of apologetics evangelism to always be pointing at Christ but it is not simply our pointing at him that conveys the message here; it is our pointing at his unending love for his people and his desire for them to live fully that is the reason why the LBGT+ lifestyle we must flee from. It is Christ’s emphasis on Joy that is crucial here. We must convey to them that joy is not what Christianity substitutes for sex; but rather sex is something we try to substitute for joy. It will not work. There is no substitute for joy no matter what kind of pleasures we might try to find. And the temporary tribulation that an individual experiences by not indulging in same-sex-attraction is much easier to bear than a “tribulation which advertises itself as pleasure.”(what is the proceeding symbol?) How do we know? Because the suicide rates for this community are staggering. When James warns us in his epistle about what happens when we begin down the road of twisting sexuality, his brutal honesty is for our redemption:
“Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloveds.”
When God sets out to limit us in places we would not otherwise know that we require limitation, He does so out of love for us and righteous jealousy for our joy. “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” God is protecting us from death.
So the next time you are asked, “What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?” I beg you to consider answering that question in the context I have laid out here. And in that context, begin to exegete Scripture the way we have classically done for centuries. When we set our audience in the context of sin and what it actually is, apologetics evangelism to the LBGT+ community carries the same emphasis in love as God does on this issue: that Homosexuality is an emergency. And that we as Christians care immensely about abating death. Our truth speaking will then naturally pour out of a place of genuine concern for the person’s life, and not from a place of dismissal or pat answers. It’s our attitudes that convey the depth of joy that we desire for all of us caught in the vandalizing of Shalom and in this shared space, we carry each other’s burdens toward Calvary and lay them at the cross there together as neighbors.
Anna Kitko is a Christian Apologist who specializes in Cults and New Religions. Her writing ranges from solving biblical difficulties to training people how to avoid coercive persuasion from aberrant Bible-based groups. She is an avid reader of Christian history and loves to point out ancient heresies being re-packaged and re-distributed in our culture. In addition to being a Regional Director for RC, she personally directs the chapter at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Anna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.