I’m one of those preachers who walks slowly and deliberately through books of the Bible. And I’m fairly stubborn in how I go about that task. Very few things are capable of interrupting the schedule that I set for myself. I generally only take a break from a sermon series for Christmas, Easter, Reformation Sunday, and Right to Life Sunday. That’s right, no Mother’s Day Sermon (or Father’s Day, for that matter). No obligatory sermon on love or marriage around Valentine’s Day. No patriotic interruptions for Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, or Memorial Day. We do recognize mothers, fathers and veterans during our prayer time, but these holidays don’t provide an exit off the preaching path I’m on at the time.
You might think that contemporary events and issues go unnoticed or without mention in my sermons because of this approach, but nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t get to pick and choose which topics I want to talk about. I don’t get to return to my favorite soap boxes. No, if God’s Word addresses it, we’ll get to it. And as so often happens to be the case, this past Sunday the my preaching plan clashed with the culture.
We are walking through the book of Romans, and this week we came to Romans 1:26-27, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” I noted the rapidly changing attitudes toward homosexuality and so-called “gay marriage.” In fact, it is the rate at which attitudes have and continue to change that made this sermon so timely (in the best, providential sense of the word).
Now, to be sure, my sermon was primarily focused on the text, which means that I didn’t attempt to address every argument or touch upon every passage of Scripture related to homosexuality. One objection that I didn’t spend a great deal of time addressing is one of the most common. It is the “God made me this way,” argument.
Many people experience same-sex attraction from a very early age. A great deal of people who share in this experience would get rid of these desires if they could, and many have prayed that God would remove them, only to continue to struggle. At a certain point, many of those who identify as “gay” or “homosexual” simply give up, admitting to themselves and others that they were “born this way” and that “God made me this way.”
I don’t think that it is helpful for us to respond by calling those who make these claims “liars” or accusing them of exaggerating or hiding the truth. No, I assume that many people really have had these desires from very early in their lives and really would change their desires if they were able. This, however, does not lead me to conclude that God made them this way. I will admit that they may have been born this way, but not that God made them this way. You see, none of us comes into this world fully conforming to God’s original pattern form human life and flourishing. We are all children of Adam, and as Adam’s children, we inherit his fallen sinful nature (Romans 5:12-21). We are all, by birth, “children of wrath,” – that is, we are sinners with sinful hearts, minds, and desires (Ephesians 2:1-4). ALL OF US.
For many people, this means that their hearts will be inclined to pride, or lust, or lying, or any number of sinful behaviors. Some people are born with a propensity toward substance abuse. Some people are born with a bent toward plain old meanness. And some people will be born with same-sex attractions. These propensities do not change God’s Word on the behaviors that often result from these desires or propensities. They do not indicate that God made us with these kinds of desires. They simply tell the age-old story of human corruption and falleness. They remind us of original sin and its enslaving consequences.
But here’s the Good News. Christ came to redeem us from our sins. He came to take our fall and God’s wrath due to us. He does not remove all of our sinful desires from the moment of our conversion. Indeed, he does remove some desires, and at times this will include same-sex attractions. But more often than not, we will continue to struggle with the same sinful tendencies after conversion – but with the knowledge that our sins have been paid for by Christ and the power of the Spirit to help us in our resistance. Paul reminds us:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
So, I plead with those who experience same-sex attractions: Don’t equate the presence of innate, sinful desires with God’s will. Don’t conclude that being born in sin (as we all are) means that God made you sinful. Instead, rejoice that the blood of Christ is more than sufficient to cover all your sins. Take up your cross, fight daily against temptation, and give thanks in all things to him who became sin, so that in him you might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).