Can You Be Gay and Christian?
The state of California is considering a bill to prohibit all counseling by anyone for any LGBT person who wants help changing his or her sexual orientation or identity. In that light, it’s worth asking a basic question: Can a person be gay and Christian?
I’ve written an answer to that question, now contained in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. (edited by Sean McDowell, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers). What follows is that article, quoted by permission from the publisher, with links and subheadings added for your convenience:
Easy Questions and Harder Ones
This is understandably a troubling question for many, and a troublesome one for others. It actually has more than one answer because there’s more than one question contained in it. One of those questions is, Can a person be same-sex attracted and Christian in the sense of “destined for eternal salvation”? Yes, certainly, just as someone with a lifelong desire for alcohol can be saved. Or someone might ask, Can a gay or lesbian be “Christian” in lifestyle, fully seeking to live in Christ, while at the same time ignoring the Bible’s moral standards? Of course not. Nobody can!
Those answers were easy. The questions that really matter aren’t so simple: “What does the Bible really say about same-sex physical intimacy?” “My brother/sister/friend is gay or lesbian, but they still go to church. Are you sure they can’t be Christians?” “I’m gay or lesbian and I believe in Christ. What about me?”
The Bible’s Message
The Bible’s message on same-sex physical intimacy is clear and consistent throughout. Sex is strictly for the marriage relationship, and marriage is only for a man and a woman. Paul, and the writer of Hebrews (Matt. 19:3-9; 1 Cor. 7:25-40; Eph. 5:22-6:4; Heb. 13:4). Sex belongs within a marriage (between a man and a woman only), and nowhere else.
Furthermore, homosexual practice is forbidden in every biblical passage that addresses it (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). Some have asked why we think Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 apply today when other commands clearly do not (e.g, Lev. 19:19). The answer is that some of Leviticus was intended for Israel at just that time and place, to mark it out as a separate nation, to guide its civil and criminal law, and to direct the nation in its worship of God. Since then, Jesus Christ has founded the church as the new people of God (1 Pet. 2:5-10), and provided a new way to approach God in worship (Heb. 10:1-22).
The Old Testament moral code, in contrast, was meant for more than just Israel — the Canaanite nations were accountable to God’s sexual standards, too (Leviticus 18:24-30) — and for more than just that time, which we know because its moral commands were reaffirmed in the New Testament.
God is Just, God is Gracious
Does that mean a practicing gay or lesbian can’t be a Christian? There is no simple answer to this question. If by “Christian” we mean someone who is in right standing with God, that answer is way above the pay grade of humans (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Cor. 4:1-4). We can’t know who is in that relationship with God and who isn’t. We do know, though, that the one who is truly in Christ is marked by a growing desire to follow God’s commands (1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-4). Together we must seek the whole counsel of God rather than measuring ourselves against fluctuating cultural standards. God is holy. Neither pride nor lust nor greed nor sloth is pleasing to God.
God is just. If God paid us what we deserve, none of us could stand in His presence. But the good news is God is paid an enormous price to restore us to himself. Those who trust Christ’s provision receive the Spirit, who enables them to live lives pleasing to God. For most, this is a journey, a process. But be sure that God is not through with us until his image in us is restored and we bear the image of his Son.
That ends the article as it reads in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students.
Pursue Him With All That You Are
Yet I would add another question today for those who want to know, “Can I be gay or lesbian and Christian?” That question is, Where is your question coming from? Does it come out of a deep desire to love and follow Christ with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, regardless of your sexual makeup? If so, then pursue Him with all that you are, and let Him direct your paths. In a very real sense it’s the same answer we’d give everyone; for we all have challenges and hard places for God to work on in us.
But if your question comes by way of wondering, Just how much of a gay or lesbian life can I manage to live without losing my connection to Christ?, then I would remind you — as I would remind anyone who wanted to hold on to their old way of living — “No one can serve two masters,” according to Jesus Himself (Matt. 6:24). We might say, no car can have two drivers trying to steer it at the same time. If you’re trying to let your old way of life share the driver’s seat with Jesus, you’re heading toward a spiritual crash.
So I would urge you to turn your attention around. Jesus Christ is better than your old way of life — better than anyone’s old ways. He is worthy of your wholehearted pursuit.
So don’t ask how gay or lesbian a life you can live and still be a Christian. Ask how you can pursue Him wholeheartedly. Period. He’ll be honored by that, and He’ll surely guide and empower you to draw close to Him and His ways.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.