What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?

  1. Share
6 1

Can a person live a gay lifestyle and follow Christ? Is it even fair to ask someone with same-sex attraction to live a celibate life? Is Scripture’s teaching on this matter clear? Homosexuality is a divisive topic among Christians and in the broader culture, as evidenced by media coverage surrounding the Supreme Court’s recent decision. But this is not merely an issue to be debated—it is also deeply personal for many people.

As a Christian psychologist, I realize this is an extremely sensitive issue. If you have homosexual or bisexual tendencies, this is not just a cultural or theological debate—it speaks to the core of how you see yourself and how God views you.

This issue impacts not just those who identify themselves as LBGT, but all of us. Regardless of whether you identify with this struggle, you will have to sort through your own views about God, Scripture’s teaching, and homosexuality. You will likely have a good friend or family member who is gay. You’ll have to make decisions about whether or not to attend a gay wedding, whether to have your daughter and her partner over for dinner, or whether to attend a church with a gay pastor. Because of changing laws, you will have to navigate what is legal when it seems to conflict with what is biblical.

Navigating the Changing Tide

Within the last decade, the Christian opinion on homosexuality has gone through a drastic about face as many Christians have changed their minds regarding their beliefs about gender, marriage, and romantic love. Claiming that homosexuality is anything other than an acceptable lifestyle that’s approved by God is now seen by many to be unloving, judgmental, and hateful.

To make matters more confusing, there have been vigorous attempts to reinterpret the Scripture passages that directly address homosexuality (Genesis 19:1–29Leviticus 18:2220:13Romans 1:24–271 Corinthians 6:9–111 Timothy 1:10–11). Because of these efforts, evangelical Christians now disagree about whether the Bible condemns LGBT activity. Some write off the Old Testament passages as obsolete and interpret the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as inhospitality and violence rather than homosexual behavior. They claim that Paul and early church leaders didn’t understand sexual orientation in the sense that we understand it today and that New Testament prohibitions against homosexual behavior speak only to orgies, pedophilia, and homosexual acts committed by heterosexuals rather than to committed, homosexual couples.

Yet while the concept of a homosexual orientation was first suggested in the 1890s, we can safely assume that men and women in biblical times struggled with sexual orientation—even if they didn’t have our modern framework and terminology to label those feelings and desires. Although the classification of LGBT issues has only recently evolved, human nature itself hasn’t changed. Scripture’s clear teaching on sexual morality addressed the same human struggles, temptations, and sin that people experience today.

Whether you experience same-sex attraction or you know someone who does, here are some key truths to consider as you navigate this complex issue.

God Is Compassionate and Righteous

God’s love is limitless and extends to all humankind. His love includes gay men and women; it includes all sinners—including you and me. Let’s make sure we are absolutely clear on this point: Jesus’ life on earth showed us that he extended great love to all of humanity, including those society deemed as “unworthy” of love.

At the same time, in his love God gives us boundaries. God’s compassion never cancels out his truth and holiness. Because he loves us, he knows that we are most fulfilled, as he intends us to be fulfilled, when we live according to his design.

The truth about God is that he is both absolutely holy and unconditionally loving. We can never understand God’s love if we don’t also embrace his holiness. Oswald Chambers wrote in Love: A Holy Command, “Anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God is untrue to the revelation given by Jesus Christ.”

Yes, God is so full of mercy and compassion. However, his love has never canceled out his call for all of us to yield our lives—including our sexuality—to his holiness, no matter the cost. We completely miss the character of God if we ignore his call to obedience and holiness because of his love. This loving God judges sin and tells his people to “be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Every single one of us can identify with a specific temptation that seems to plague us. Perhaps the draw to pornography seems too strong to resist, or maybe you feel like you just can’t stop sleeping with your boyfriend. Or perhaps you tend to lie more naturally than telling the truth or you secretly love a juicy morsel of gossip. We all struggle with sin and brokenness; we are all in need of God’s grace.

Because sexuality is so closely tied to our sense of identity, separating same-sex desires from homosexual action is often difficult. Unfortunately, many Christian men and women who experience same-sex attraction feel condemned by the church simply for having the battle. Religious institutions have heaped on shame by wrongly categorizing homosexual urges as more detestable than any other temptation.

There is nothing sinful about the struggle of a person with homosexual attraction. We all struggle with something, be it depression, alcoholism, rage, habitual masturbation, bulimia, or any number of temptation and difficulties. Yet there is a difference between dealing with an ongoing struggle and legitimizing the behaviors the struggle may lead to. While we can’t control what we struggle with, we can control whether we yield that temptation to the Lord.

We Are All Called to Self-Denial

“God would never give someone sexual desires that he doesn’t intend to fulfill. That’s just unfair!” This kind of thinking pervades modern Christianity and not just in regard to homosexuality. A Christian woman who recently contacted me had this to say:

I used to be an advocate for waiting to have sex until marriage, but as the years have gone by I no longer feel this way. I think it’s all well and good for teens and those in their early twenties to strive for such a goal, but as someone who has recently entered her late twenties, it seems like an outdated and irrelevant idea to hold on to. I'm dating a Christian man right now, but who knows if we will have sex outside of marriage. . . . I just know that waiting isn't something I'm personally interested in anymore.

While indeed it may not seem “fair” to deny one’s sexual urges or romantic feelings, God’s call for disciples has never been “fair.” Jesus came to give us a full life (John 10:10), yet his command to us as his disciples is to deny yourself, lose your life, and take up your cross and follow him—even unto death (Matthew 16:24–26)! Scripture’s call to sexual holiness isn’t meant to be easy or even feel fair.

While pursuing our desires may provide a degree of happiness, God doesn’t want us to merely be happy. He longs for his children to discover a deeper joy and contentment that comes through fellowship with him and a grateful heart. Sometimes he doesn’t allow us to have what we desire because he longs to teach us an abiding happiness and joy that the world can never take away.

Jesus calls not just those who identify as LGBT to “deny themselves,” but he also ushers that challenge to every disciple. Deny your pride, your lust, and your self-righteousness. Deny your rights to please yourself for the greater joy of pleasing your Father in heaven.

The call to surrender your sexual desires rather than acting out of them requires great sacrifice. It may, at times be painful, exhausting, and lonely. We only make a choice like this because we love God more than we love ourselves.

There are many godly men and women who make this choice—who continue to struggle with homosexual thoughts and urges throughout their lives but who have committed themselves to saying no to temptation. On the other hand, choosing a lifestyle outside of God’s will expressed in Scripture—whether that’s living with your boyfriend before marriage or sleeping with other women—is choosing a different path than obedience and intimacy with God.

God Redeems and Heals

God’s redemption, grace, and healing are for all of us—those with opposite-sex attraction and those with same-sex attraction. Yet we sometimes make the mistake of dictating what healing in the area of homosexuality ought to look like. For example, if a woman has sexual desire for another woman, we may assume that healing means she becomes attracted to men; gets married to a caring, Christian husband; has a house full of children; and lives happily ever after in her feminine, suburban home. If that doesn’t happen (or a woman superficially embraces these trappings of “normal feminine life” simply to prove that she’s redeemed), it may seem that God’s healing has failed.

We must remember: God is God. How he deals with each of us in our sin and brokenness—whatever that struggle may be—is ultimately God’s business. Healing and redemption for any person usually doesn’t mean his or her messy life is suddenly cleaned up and wrapped in a nice, neat bow. The apostle Paul alluded to the messiness of his own redemption story. Throughout his Christian walk, he lived with a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) that God refused to remove in order to keep Paul dependent upon God’s grace. Paul longed for heaven so he could be free from this fallen world and the struggle of his own flesh.

God’s healing for a person dealing with homosexual feelings may not be to give him or her heterosexual desire. God’s desire for you is not necessarily heterosexuality, but holiness. Ultimately, the greatest healing for any person comes when we learn to submit every desire to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Sometimes God delivers us from our brokenness, and other times he strengthens us through our struggle with it. The bottom line is this: God’s power is sufficient in your weakness, even if that happens to be a pull toward homosexuality. Living a godly life doesn’t mean embracing sin nor does it involve the absence of continual temptation. It means accepting God’s compassionate love while also relying on God’s strength to pursue holiness.

Changing Culture, Unchanging God

One of the most wonderful things about being a Christ-follower is that God doesn’t change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Although human interpretations of biblical teaching on sexuality may change, the Word of God was a solid foundation for Christians living 2,000 years ago and is the same for Christians living today. “The grass withers, and the flowers fall; but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV). I take great comfort in knowing that God’s teachings are true and unchanging—even when it becomes difficult to stand on those truths as the cultural tide turns against them.

While the news may be filled with headlines about our culture’s shifting views of sexuality, remember that God has not changed—and neither have his requirements for us. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.

Topics I'm Interested In


To leave a comment, login or sign up.
  • Ruth Chesley

    Ruth Chesley

    So true, God is God and I am not, and God is not the author of confusion. Confusion is what our human thoughts bring as we try to justify our behaviors instead of God justifying us through the Holy Spirit of Jesus. Once justified we have the opportunity to be made like Jesus (Holy) and glorified now and in eternity. Romans 8:29-30

Related Content

How to Have Tough Conversations
(Presione aquí para leer en español)  If you listen to our podcast, Java with Juli, you know that I don’t like small talk. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been able to acutely sense unspoken tension in a room. I’m anxious when I have a conflict with a friend or family member, and have trouble finding peace until it is addressed. Maybe this is why I chose to become a psychologist: The counseling room is one of the few places where we are allowed—and even expected—to bring up the “elephant in the room.” It’s a counselor’s job to ask about shame, regrets, secrets, and fears. While good counselors will also give advice, he or she only does so after creating a safe space for someone to share without fear of rejection or judgment.  Topics around sexuality are filled with unspoken tension: A wife who suspects her husband is looking at porn. A dad who notices his daughter is hitting puberty and abruptly stops hugging his “little girl.” A woman who had an abortion many years ago that’s she’s kept secret. A good friend or relative who decided to go through a gender change and wants you to use his/her/their new name.  Most often, we simply avoid these situations, pretending as if all is normal and our discomfort doesn’t exist. This strains our relationships and makes them anything but authentic. And when we do attempt to talk about such issues, the dialogue often ends in an argument with both sides communicating from a place of fear, hurt, or anger.  As Christians today, we often spend a lot of time debating what we should believe about sexuality. We may devote some time to ensuring we are personally honoring God with our own sexual choices. However, we often spend little to no time wrestling through how to represent the heart of Jesus as we interact with people with whom there is disagreement or tension. I believe it is imperative, both within the Christian church and outside her walls, to be able to engage in tough conversations about pain and brokenness. We don’t run around looking for those conversations, but we also should not run away from them.  Jesus stated that He Himself was truth and that knowing the truth would set us free. Tough conversations are all about together pursuing truth—truth as a concept and Truth in the person of Jesus Christ. We must learn to effectively talk about difficult things like sexual issues, racial tension, and theological differences.  I’d like to share with you a few tips that can help you to engage gracefully with people in the raw, messy conflicts of human life.    Enter with Grace  I live in Northern Ohio, not far from Lake Erie. This means we get a lot of snow and ice. I’ve had my share of white-knuckle commutes through treacherous winter storms. One of the first lessons you learn about driving through a snowstorm is to give other cars lots of room. You use the brake several feet before a stop sign just in case your car decides it doesn’t want to stop. And no one tailgates on ice! For even the most seasoned driver, winter driving is unpredictable.  These same principles apply in tough conversations: Talking about sensitive issues is unpredictable. You’re not quite sure what will trigger pain or anger as you converse. Give each other a lot of grace and space, not taking every word personally, but appreciating that some things are simply difficult to articulate. You have to give grace to have these conversations imperfectly if you ever want to learn to have them well.    Listen to Learn James gives the advice, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Bestselling author Steven Covey wrote that one of the habits of highly successful people is “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” The principle is clear: Listen before you speak. True listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk, but striving to understand the other person’s experiences, beliefs, and feelings. Being a good listener includes asking insightful questions, allowing for silence instead of always filling it, and responding with caring statements that demonstrate that you have actually heard what the person shared.  Listening is critical for two reasons. First, listening shows respect to the other person. It means that you care and builds an emotional bridge. Secondly, when you listen, you can speak with greater discernment. By listening you will learn how to speak effectively to the heart of the other person.    Share Without an Agenda When we dialogue with people with whom we disagree, we commonly feel the pressure to change their minds. We want to convince them that our perspective is the right one. That’s not all bad! Certainly, we want to be persuasive and compelling as we share what we believe is true. But sometimes our eagerness to share truth (or even our opinions) can come across as aggressive.  Teachers like Paul and Peter were passionate about sharing Jesus, yet they encouraged fellow Christians to share truth winsomely. Paul told his spiritual son, Timothy, that “A servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing. He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive to his will.” Peter wrote, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  As one who teaches on sexual issues, I’ve learned that biblical truth is offensive. The gospel itself offends our autonomy and the belief that we are “good people.” While the truth we share is offensive, we should be careful not to add to that offense with an abrasive or aggressive approach.  Remember that it isn’t your job to change someone’s heart or mind. Your job is to be faithful to share what God has done in your life.    Make a Long-Term Investment Part of what enables us to be good listeners and patient in sharing truth is a long-term perspective. We usually have the greatest impact on people when we invest in them over time. Interacting with someone once a week for years means that you have time to listen, to learn, to affirm, and to share truth when the time is right. A word of truth might be rejected in one season, but even requested in another.  Yes, there are certainly those urgent moments where the Lord prompts you to share right now, but most often, relational investment builds a platform for change. As Solomon wrote, “How good is a timely word!” and “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  As you invest in people, pray that God will give you wisdom to discern when that timely word should be spoken and when it is time to listen and learn.    To learn more, check out these Java with Juli episodes:  Java with Juli #216: Do You Have an Agenda? and Java with Juli #192: Engaging in Restorative Relationships and Java with Juli #182: Your Generation & Your View of Sexuality   (Presione aquí para leer en español)