The Category of Sexual Sins

The conversation continues at Life In Mordor over the “special condition” of sexual sins.  I have written too much in that comment thread already; it’s time for a post.

I contend that homosexuality is one of many sexual sins mentioned in the Bible.  Is a homosexual act any worse of a sin than adultery or fornication?  I’m going to say no.  Are sexual sins in a different category than others sins?  And here I say yes.  But I’m not going there without a firm scriptural basis.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  There is none righteous, and I understand that from the start.  But let’s move past “sin is sin in God’s eyes,” because that is not a verse found in scripture.  The simple fact is that different sins carry different penalties, depending on the severity of the offense.  Even in the Old Testament, the punishment depended on the crime.  If someone accidentally killed their neighbor’s sheep for instance, they merely had to replace a sheep.  The penalty was higher for intentionally killing for slaughtering someone else’s sheep.  The difference was intent, just like today accidental manslaughter does not carry the same penalty as premeditated murder.  All crimes are not of the same level of severity, and punishments are prescribed accordingly.  In both the Old and New Testaments of scripture the same is true of sin.

Sexual relationships are very closely related in scripture to our relationship to God.  Both are a type of covenant.  When describing the Biblical definition of marriage, Jesus quotes from Genesis by saying that “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  Marriage is not a contract; a contract is an if/then relationship.  If one party fails to keep one end of the deal, then the other is freed from the contractual obligation.  If my contractor finishes building my deck, I will pay him $5,000.  If he does not, then I will not.  The marriage vows have that whole unconditional thing going on; for richer or poorer, better or worse, in sickness and health, ’till death do you part.  In a covenant relationship – the kind that God always makes with his people – the promises of the covenant stand regardless of who does the letting down.  It’s always mankind that fails to keep his end, but God’s promises remain.

Hosea’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer symbolize how God just keeps taking back Israel no matter how unfaithful she is as a nation.  The people of Israel go “whoring after other Gods,” and yet time and time again God lets them repent and return to faithful standing.  In the New Testament Paul refers to the church as a bride adorned for her husband.  Just as a bride remains chaste, so must the church be unblemished.  In heaven we will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Sexual sins violate the covenant relationship and thus carry a special weight, both in the legal code and with God.  Adultery bears the same capital punishment as murder.

So where is my scriptural basis for these claims?  Consider Leviticus 18.  Now granted Leviticus is a book giving the Law.  Chapter after chapter list different sins/crimes and what the penalty shall be.  Many of the laws are specific to the Jews of  the Old Testament.  But at the beginning of chapter 18 God warns that His people shall not do the same things the Egyptians did in the land they came from, nor the things the people of Canaan do in the land they are going into.  There is a special warning at the end listing every sexual sins imaginable (and perhaps some they had never thought of) that corrupting the land with these sins will get them “vomited” out the land the way the people of Canaan were being removed.  This ominous warning is unique to these sins.

Look at what had already happened to Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19.  This is the same land even before the Law was given to Moses.  Sexual perversion, namely homosexuality, is what had disgusted God to the point of total destruction even then.  Illegal acts of sexual perversion are still referred to as sodomy in our culture today.   When the men of Sodom wanted to “know” Lot’s visitors, he offered his virgin daughters.  The men of Sodom didn’t want his daughters.  Fire and brimstone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sexual sins.  Many Old Testament laws were meant only for the Jews, and most of the legalism of the day did not carry over into the New Covenant.  Reading Romans 1 however is pretty clear evidence that homosexual relations are still an abomination.  Again, consider what Jesus says about marriage; a man shall cleave unto his wife.  One man + one woman = one flesh.

Sexual sins are of a special type and category to God.  Faithful monogamous relationships are favored by him, and are in fact the only kind that is acceptable.  So then, why the special attention given to homosexuality?  Because to openly declare homosexuality is to accept sexual sin as a lifestyle choice.  It is unrepentant sin.  If I’m caught cheating on my wife, but repent and ask forgiveness, that’s one thing.  If I declare that having a wife and a mistress is not sin, that’s another thing entirely.  If I try to make the argument that sexual relationships with multiple partners is not sin, I would be put out of the church.  When I see an attractive woman, it is my nature to desire her.  The temptation is there.  Being tempted to sin is not sin; committing a sinful act is sinful.  Being attracted to a person of the same gender is not the same as having sex with that person and then declaring that Christians are close minded bigots.  Deciding that openly professing homosexuals are perfectly accepted as Christians is the same as my declaring I can have one wife, one girlfriend, and occasionally sleep with a 15-year-old and be a faithful Christian.

Being tempted by the sin, and even committing the sin, are not the same as accepting the sin.  Being proud of that sin and insisting that we all accept it is a further departure from righteousness.  Gay pride is an arrogance about that sin, and salvation doesn’t come without repentance.  Open homosexuality is unrepentant sin.

6 thoughts on “The Category of Sexual Sins

  1. I agree Leviticus 18 along with other passages do place an extra emphasis on sexual sin, but I don’t think there is any clear from the text that the only explanation is that God hates these sins and punishes them with extra vengeance. I actually do agree that there is something that differentiates sexual sin from other sin, I just don’t agree that that difference is primarily because sexual sins are worse in God’s eyes.

    My opinion is that it because of human nature, and not God’s wrath, that sexual sin is particularly corrosive. Sexuality goes to the absolute core of who we are as God created us. Thus indulging in sexual sin distorts our thinking and our relationship with God in a way that can be deeper than other kinds of sin. Satan uses this to his advantage and exploits our vulnerability. Hence the extra emphasis in the OT and the NT on sexual sins because they may be the most difficult to overcome and the easiest to get sucked into.

    However, I don’t really think that is the heart of the difference between your thinking and mine. I am coming at this from a different direction than you I think. It sounds to me like you are looking at this primarily from a “God will punish us for our sins” and we will be held accountable for every last jot. Where I am coming from the direction that God is loving and merciful, slow to anger and quick in compassion. My thinking is that it isn’t that God will judge us especially harshly and give severe penalties for sexual sins but rather that sexual sins especially can harden our hearts and darken our minds so that we become more and more impervious to God’s love and ultimately may refuse to repent and reject God’s mercy.

    Greed leading to cheating and steeling or love of power leading to violence and murder and ultimately to denial of God have the exact same end result as sexual sin. I think it is just generally easier for most people to not let those temptations rule their hearts. Sexual sin seems to be one that gets weasels its way into even the good hearted. And of course a lot of the steeling and murder might follow on the heals of sexual sin.

    Again, I am not an evangelical. I read a few evangelical blogs and occasionally dabble in the discussion because it helps me learn about the evangelical world and also forces me to think about my own theology.

    I think this question does seem to pose a challenge for some evangelicals whose theology is along the lines of the “say the sinners prayer and you are saved” and a “once saved always saved” model. since pretty much everyone sins repeatedly after “getting saved” but is still assured of going to heaven, why is it different if someone’s most challenging temptation is homosexual acts – or sexual sin in general?

  2. God hates sin, and we are guilty of committing them. I didn’t mean to come off completely focused on God’s judgement; I was using certain scriptures and warnings to indicate the special category of sexual sins. It is a subject that God cares very much about. I don’t walk around mumbling about fire and brimstone; the Gospel is the focus of every sermon I preach.

    God is relational. The Trinity consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the nature of that relationship exists from everylasting to everlasting. God created us to be relational, both to him and to each other. Each manner of relationship we participate in teaching us something about our relation to God: child to parent, child to child (syblings), husband to wife, wife to husband, and then parent to child. Include friendship in that list as well. It is our nature to worship, and if we don’t worship God then we will fulfill that desire by worshiping something else. It could be anything; a boat on the lake, shopping, a person, career. Whatever we place above all else in importance is our God. Adam had perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden, until their communion was disrupted by sin. The rest of the Bible story is about how a holy God relates to a fallen, broken and sinful people. He desires to see the relationship restored.

    God gave us the desire for intimate relationships, and sexual drive is part of that. He gave us the model for what relationships that honor him look like. Diviation form that model is sinful. Their are many sins, and God hates sin while loving the sinner. The good news (Gospel) is that God’s wrath toward sin was poured out on Jesus at the cross. You’re right to say that even the forgiven go on committing sin; but the beleiver is no longer under God’s judgement. Our human relationships reflect our attitude toward our relationship with God. People of faith choose to honor God in the relationships between themselves and family members, between themselves and friends, and between themselves and each person we meet (neighbors). Improper relationships are an offense to God. David says that no matter what person he has done wrong, it is God he has sinned against. A homosexual act is a sin, and it defiles the person; but the greater offense is the one choosing the homosexual lifestyle. By declaring homosexuality equal to heterosexual behavior, by publicly saying that it is just as valid an expression of love, then God is dishonored. That person is in effect telling God that His way is not good enough.

    Stealing is wrong; lying is wrong; talking about people badly behind their back is wrong. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, etc are not only wrong, they replace the truth of God with a lie. The greatest damage is not done by a person tempted to a homosexual act, but by those who take pride in them. Those that teach the masses that homosexuality is a valid expression of love between two people, that teach our children that it is a beutiful thing, that pervert the scripture by reasoning that God is love and therefore all “love” is pure and holy. Like Romans 1, they not only do those acts but take pleasure in persuading others to do them. If our relationships are right between ourselves, we are in a better position to understand God and our relationship to Him. That’s what I’m saying.

  3. A tough subject. Not quite as cut and dried as some would like to believe. Some good thoughts on it are here. At risk of delving into semantics, I think it is worth taking time to define what it means to “be homosexual.”

    1. This is who I am and therefore it justifies what I do.
    2. Right or wrong these are the desires I have. I did not choose them but I do choose what I do with them.

    Under definition 2 I think one can be gay and a Christian. It’s not a fun life, but it’s a short-cut to the reality of one’s depravity.
    Definition 1 ultimately set’s oneself up as God with your own prerogative being the ultimate determination of good and evil.

  4. Pingback: Linkathon 5/5, part 2 » Phoenix Preacher

  5. Please send me whatever you have. I have a boyfriend who has only been a christian for about 4 months, but he is still very carnal and rebellious. He doesn’t EVEN want to go to church, but I told him that if he wants to be the one for me-he HAS to go to church. He has pressed me for sex many times, but I keep telling him that I will not go to hell for anybody, and he shouldn’t either. Please pray for God’s will to be done in Kevin’s life and mine. I know very well that it is NOT God’s will to be unequally yoked. He keeps on insisting that he loves Jesus and me, but his actions and mood swings don’t match up to his word. I don’t want to hurt him. He has been married 5 times. He is very unstable, but he WILL NOT seek help. I don’t think he really loves me, I just think he doesn’t want to be alone. he cannot admitt that he makes mistakes. I pray that he will REALLY get saved someday. If he is NOT going to grow-up in the Lord, i don’t want him around. I’ve been dating him for 1 year. Thank you and God Bless you, Terri Whiteman

  6. Terri, on the one hand I don’t want to get in the habit of giving out advice, especially on dating. Far be it from me to tell you who you should or shouldn’t be with, marry, etc. On the other hand, anyone reading this is probably thinking the same thing, and for some reason or another you can’t see it: you need to pray for this guy and move on with your life. He has been married 5 times, and by your own admission doesn’t love you and simply does not want to end up alone. Rather than try to drag your guy to church, go to church and find a guy there. Hang around the Christian bookstore. Worse case scenario there are Christian dating sites. Find a Christian guy that you are interested in, and quit trying to force a square peg through a round hole.

    Of course we will pray for you both. But if you want to be happy…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s