Is Homosexuality a Sin?

Have you ever heard this question? It seems to be the million-dollar question within the gay-Christian debate.

Is homosexuality a sin?

Aside from what you might think, I’m not going to answer that question. Why, you might ask…

Because, it is not the right question to be asking!

As Andrew Marin so skillfully discusses in his book Love is an Orientation, this question and others like it are closed-ended questions used to divide and determine whether or not you are for or against the person asking the question. Answering in a yes/no fashion merely positions you within a particular camp of the debate at large. And immediately the hearer forms judgments about you based on a simple one-word answer—and will hear nothing more that comes from your mouth should you decide to try to elaborate.

But I’m not even going to address that aspect, especially since Andrew has already covered it so well.

I want to give you another reason why this is not even the right question we should be asking: We shouldn’t be asking this question precisely because it uses the word homosexuality.

What on earth does homosexuality mean? The prefix homo- is Greek for same. And, well, sexuality means anything having to do with the sexes, including, but not limited to, the activity of sex.

But in the context of the question—“Is homosexuality a sin?”—does homosexuality mean gay? Or is it about a same-sex romantic relationship? Or being sexually orientated to persons of the same sex? Or what about being married to a person of the same biological sex? Does it mean all same-sex sexual behavior (e.g., intercourse, oral sex, etc.)? Or maybe simply male prostitution? Maybe it just means anything having to do with anyone who has sexual attractions to same-gendered individuals?

I could get even more snarky and go on…but I won’t. I think you get the point.

If we were to replace any one of these possible “definitions” of homosexuality into the question in question, we could come up with very different answers for each one. Let’s take a look:

Is gay a sin?

If you mean gay as in happy, nope…I’m pretty sure it’s not a universal sin to be happy. If so we are all in a lot of trouble!

If by gay, you mean identifying with an oppressed people group who have shared experiences in terms of sexual attractions and being sexual minorities, again, I’d have to say no. It is not a sin to identify yourself with a people group with whom you share experiences. If so then it would be a sin every time someone went to an AA meeting and said, “Hi, my name is …” It would also be a sin to identify with other Christians every Sunday you go to church—that’d be a bummer!

Is a same-sex romantic relationship a sin?

Well, is there sex or sexual activity involved? Is it a dating relationship that is committed to chastity (including celibacy) before marriage like some heterosexual couples? What type of romantic relationship is it?

Let me just put these two general, overarching, umbrella statements out there:

  1. Willingly engaging in sexual activity (defined as intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and whatever else you consider to be sexually stimulating activity) with another person who is not your committed, monogamous, covenanted spouse, regardless of the sex of that person, is outside of the bounds of God’s desire for sexual intimacy and the inherent union therein and, is thus sinful according to any Judeo-Christian tradition. What is debated is the nature of marriage…but we’ll address that below.
  2. Whenever you and I idolize anything or anyone above the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, we are sinning—I’m pretty sure that’s one of the big 10. Therefore, if you or I have a non-sexual, romantic relationship with a person of the same sex (or the opposite sex), and elevate that person to a place in our hearts that only God should occupy, it is sinful. Ouch! We can all be pretty much out of luck. Idolatry is no respecter of orientation.

All of that said, it is possible to have a romantic relationship with a person of the same sex and it would not be sinful. It is also possible that it would be sinful. (Check it: the same is true for opposite-sex relationships!)

Is being sexually oriented to persons of the same sex a sin?

This one is easy: No! It is not a sin to have same-sex attractions. Please hear that. As a matter of fact, let me scream it from a rooftop:

It is NOT a sin to have same-sex attractions!

Just as it is not a sin to be sexually oriented to the opposite sex, it is not sinful to be oriented to the same sex. Attractions are not chosen. They are not an act of the will, they are in fact the product of biological predispositions, environmental influences, social learning, childhood experiences, adult experiences, etc.; therefore, they are not sinful in-and-of themselves. What we do with those attractions is another story! (See general statements 1 & 2 above.)

End of story.

Is being married to a person of the same-sex a sin?

Depends on who you ask. Some folks, very smart folks, would argue that it is indeed sinful for two people of the same sex to be married (see this book). Other, just-as-smart, folks would argue that it is not (see this book).

This is one of those sticky wickets in which parties from both sides of the debate feel that they are absolutely right in their conclusions and tend to end up frustrated, irritated, and feeling slighted should you push their buttons too hard or merely disagree with them. None of which is very helpful for creating a constructive dialogue.

This is the point where I like to put my fingers in my ears, scrunch up my face, close my eyes, and run around in circles repeating over and over again, “La, la, la, la, la… Can’t we all just get along? La, la, la, la, la, la…”

But that’s not helpful either!

What is helpful is for all of us to realize that there are indeed differing opinions to this question that most likely will not get answered this side of eternity. And we have to be ok with that. Otherwise, we will continue to make enemies out of the very people we are to love: one another.

Is all same-sex sexual behavior a sin?

Well, if you have read this far in this post you might have an idea as to how I might approach this question. But first let me remind us all of the overarching statements (1 & 2) I made above.

If this question is referring to all same-sex sexual behavior within the confines of a covenanted same-sex marriage, then see the answer to the question immediately above this one on same-sex marriage.

If this question is referring to anything else… well, then that depends too. What kind of sexual behaviors are we talking about here?

For some heterosexual couples the act of French kissing before marriage is sinful because it “ALWAYS” leads to impure, lustful thoughts and/or more sexual behavior. So if we apply that standard…

For other heterosexual couples doing everything but having penile-vaginal intercourse is free game. (If you read back over general statement #1 above you’ll see I have a different view than this.)

Where do you draw the line? I think you can see that this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of answer.

But here’s the crux of it all: At what point are your actions not honoring to God or not valuing the image of God in your partner? That’s really what we all need to ponder in regards to sexual behaviors.

Let’s move on to the last two variations of our question…

Is male prostitution a sin?

Sorry about this one, I was getting carried away with the snarkiness. Just refer back to the umbrella statements 1 & 2 above and you can answer this one for yourself!  😉

Is anything having to do with anyone who has sexual attractions to same-gendered individuals a sin?

Yeah…not so much.

All snarky comments aside, by now I hope you are getting the idea. When the question, “Is homosexuality a sin?” is asked, there needs to be more clarity as to what the true intentions of the question are before one can give a thoughtful answer.

In my humble opinion, we just need to get rid of the question all together! I’m all for being specific and descriptive. If you want to know my thoughts on same-sex sexual relationships, then ask me that. If you want to know about my views on gay marriage ask me about that. If you want to know if I think having same-sex attractions is sinful, then straight-up ask me.

So let’s all stop asking if homosexuality is a sin, it’s too nebulous and unclear. And, worse yet, it harkens back to the days of hearing preachers yell at the top of their lungs that homosexuality is an abomination, which lead way too many of us to believe that if we had homosexual orientations, then we must be abominations.

My dear one, you are NOT an abomination. And don’t let anyone—anyone, in ignorance, who spouts that homosexuality is a sin—tell you otherwise!

We all have the ability to be descriptive and clearer in our communication. I want to encourage all of us to start working toward the end of this horrible question. We might be surprised at how much less tension is raised when we succeed at being clear.

Keep on keeping on…

In Christ’s love and mine…

A note about comments: I truly want to hear your heart-felt and intellectual critiques (both positive and constructive). However, if your response is mean-spirited, or is not productive to the discussion, or is based on what you heard someone else say but you haven’t actually researched it yourself, then please, pray really hard about whether or not you should even type it. And if you choose to type it, I will say thank you for exercising your free speech, and I will in return exercise my right to not allow it on my blog. I really want to keep this a safe place for everyone to share thoughts, emotions, experiences, and convictions. Thank you for helping to create generous spaciousness.

7 thoughts on “Is Homosexuality a Sin?

  1. Good post Trista. Is homosexuality a sin is the wrong question as no orientation opposite sex, same sex or bi is of itself can ever be a sin as orientations of themselves are amoral. Unfortunately many bible believing Christians have focused on the act of sex instead of the orientation ….which of course is a far more fundamental part of our humanity. Through our orientation we experience love, intimacy, affection, partnering etc. To reduce that down to a sex act is demeaning to the wonderful gift we have been given in life.

  2. A very intriguing post.

    Not only is “homosexuality” a tricky word to define, but the word “sin” is as well. Are we talking about acts of volition, with willful intent to tray from God’s moral law, or are we using sin as a reference the human condition as a result of our inability to reflect God’s glory? Perhaps both even!

    Once we determine that.. then what do we do about it? Sins of willful intent to rebel against God’s moral law seem to be the most egregious. But what do we do with the sin that is symptomatic of being broken, sinful people?

    Are there different expectations for those who have been justified by Christ and are now accountable to the community of faith called the church and those who are not part of church? (Paul’s letter to the Corinthians suggests there are different levels of accountability we hold brothers and sisters to than those outside the church.)

    What are the expectations for compliance to God’s moral will? Is immediate compliance in all things expected or do we acknowledge that the sanctifying work of God takes time as we mature in faith?

    Jesus was not soft on adultery. He and the Pharisees held adultery in contempt, and yet the WAY Jesus engaged the adulter was much different than the pharisees. Even if one determines that homosexual acts are a sin, a simple conclusion on the matter doesn’t do enough to enough to inform how we respond and engage those who do such things.

    • Wonderful insights, Mark! Thank you for chiming in. You ask such wonderful questions that we all need to ponder. Good stuff.

      Keep on keeping on…

  3. Thank you for such a great blog. I hope I am not coming off as argumentative; I ask this in the sincerest manner. How does one reconcile this thought process with verses that appear as straightforward as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11? I am only trying to understand. Thank you!

    • You are not coming off as argumentative, Ingrid. Thank you so much for your sincere question. I think the answer to your question lies in your question: “verses that appear as straightforward”…many verses might seem straightforward but they might not be. For instance, when you look at the different translations and transliterations and paraphrases of this particular text there are very different English words that can be used to try to convey the message that Paul is trying to communicate. As such various theologians have postulated different things about this passage. But the heart of it is that regardless of what you used to be, when you are in Christ your identity is no longer that thing, but it is Christ. So without getting into the various theological debates as to the “exact” meaning of a few words (you can read pithy theological textbooks for that) my stance is one of holding things in tension that I don’t quite understand. I am ok trusting that God, through the Holy Spirit, will reveal to each person what and who that person was created to be. And I let the theologians fight as they may. 🙂

      I know that is not a nice neat answer to your question, but we have to remember that the Bible is interpreted differently by different readers everyday. And we have to put our faith in the Holy Spirit as he guides our reading of the text for our lives.

      Thank you again for your question and keep pressing into Jesus in your life’s journey.

      Keep on keeping on…

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