Is it a sin for me to be attracted to the same sex even though I never act upon it?Anonymous GodWords Reader
[Editor’s Note] Others have posted this article on Reddit a number of times, and it has been removed each time. The first part of the complaint is that I’m comparing homosexuality with bestiality. Even a quick, surface reading shows that this is true. However, I also compare heterosexuality and bisexuality with bestiality. The rest of the complaint suggests that homosexuality and bestiality are unrelated. They’re not…not when one considers that all kinds of sexuality are sexual in nature. Comparisons are not, by themselves, bad. They’re only bad when they’re incorrect. The strong emotional response to this article suggests that certain people believe any discussion of sexuality in the context of religion or spirituality is offensive. When you read, keep in mind that this article is in response to an actual question, asked by an actual person. While some might not feel such discussions are important, the anonymous man who asked this question is not among them.
Thanks for asking, anonymous GodWords reader! I’m going to give a short answer, and then a pretty long answer.
No, it’s not a sin to be attracted to the same sex. See? Pretty short. Now for the longer answer:
The truth is that, at some point, everybody is attracted to people of the same sex. We all have the capacity to be sexually attracted to almost anyone…and it’s not a matter of simple biology. Here’s what I mean:
- Some people are attracted to the opposite sex
- Some people are attracted to the same sex
- Some people are attracted to both sexes
- Some people are attracted to animals
There are two questions: WHY we’re attracted, and WHAT – if anything – to do about it.
WHY are we attracted?
We aren’t sure why some people are attracted to the opposite sex, and others to the same sex. Did you know that there’s exactly ZERO evidence that anyone is ‘born gay’? That’s right. Most scientists will freely admit that they’ve been looking for a gay gene for a long time, and that there simply isn’t one. Certain rich people are apparently paying scientists to keep looking, so some scientists keep looking…but it doesn’t look like they’ll find one.
If there’s no gay gene, then people aren’t born gay…so we can pretty much rule out simple biology. What then? Are we all to blame for our sexual desires?
Nah. All you have to do to blow that theory out of the water is to talk with homosexuals. Most of my gay and lesbian friends don’t remember NOT being gay…so they clearly didn’t DECIDE to become gay.
Of course, we CAN – clearly – develop and strengthen sexual appetites. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that people are born with sexual desires that include sheep, but some people clearly desire sex with them anyway. For that to happen, a person has to be willing to experiment and get past any awkwardness involving new and obviously strange desires. In other words, we can pervert ourselves if we want to.
So we’re not BORN gay, and we’re not born baasexual. Psychologists suggest that because sexual identity is formed in children between the ages of 3 and 5, certain disturbances during that formative time can lead to gender identity confusion. If that’s correct, it would explain why most homosexuals don’t remember NOT being gay, and show that homosexuality is not something that older children bring on themselves. Some people did NOT choose their sexual orientation, while others clearly have. What should we conclude? Simple: we don’t CREATE sexual desire, but we can AFFECT it. We may not have control over the fact that we desire sex, but we can control our actions.
WHAT should we do about it?
A lot of people believe that all of our desires are natural, and – as a result of that belief – believe that we should follow our desires without restraint. That sounds good until they hear that I’m naturally a selfish person who naturally likes to manipulate people, who naturally loves to lie and shoplift, and who could – if I let myself – be cruel and heartless. Those aren’t “politically correct” natural desires, and most people would say that I should definitely control myself in those areas…but, when it comes to sex, I should just let go and do what comes naturally.
The truth is that we should NOT do what comes naturally. Patience is not natural, but it’s a good thing to have. Kindness is good, but not natural…we learn it from kind people, and become convinced that it’s something we should offer to strangers. Self-control is not natural, either…and self-control is what’s prescribed for all kinds of desires, including sexual desires. We all like food, but everybody agrees that we should control our food intake. Lots of people like alcohol but believe that binge-drinking alcoholics should exercise more restraint. Sex is like any other desire: when we leave it unchecked (or when we purposefully misuse it), we face trouble.
I don’t know how strongly you believe that the Bible is God’s real instructions for all people, so I’m not sure exactly how to write this part. If you aren’t a big Bible person, let me point to what should be obvious: the misuse of sex causes MULTIPLE problems. We don’t like to think about it very much. In fact, we often try to escape the consequences of the misuse of sex, or to pretend that there AREN’T any consequences. Those who “sleep around” find that they bring extra emotional baggage to what otherwise might be a great relationship. Unintended pregnancies result in unwanted babies, or in the killing of unwanted babies. Sexually-transmitted diseases spread like wildfire and can cause illness, sterility, and death. Adultery breaks the trust in a relationship, destroys families, and damages reputations. I could go on and on with non-biblical reasons to see that self-control is the answer to the question “what should we do about our sexual desires?”.
If you ARE a big Bible person, let me point to what should be obvious: God wants to protect us from doing what ‘comes naturally’. The Bible explains what kinds of behaviors are damaging to us as people. Even though the ideas of self-restraint and obedience aren’t popular, they work. Many of my friends were sexually active before marriage, and consider that a factor in their failed marriages. Many of my friends have cheated on their spouses, and have suffered greatly as a result…they’re divorced, or in counseling, or are living in fear of discovery. Some have contracted diseases. Some have been blackmailed. All of them regret what they’ve done.
Not everyone has those same regrets, of course…so I can’t speak for them. I don’t know them. Everybody I know who’s willing to talk about their sex lives has suffered from doing what the Bible speaks against.
So IS homosexuality a sin?
No. Homosexuality is NOT a sin. Being attracted to someone isn’t a sin any more than it’s sinful to WANT to be selfish, to WANT to shoplift, or to WANT to be cruel. The Bible is clear that temptation and sin are two different things. Take a look at Hebrews 4:15…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.
Jesus was tempted JUST AS WE ARE, but successfully resisted His temptation. When we are tempted to do something we should not, we face a decision: to give in, or to restrain ourselves. When we give in to temptation, that’s sin. When we don’t, that’s self-control. Temptation is part of life, and must be dealt with…but it’s NOT wrong to BE tempted.
We need to make a distinction between sexual ATTRACTION and sexual ACTIVITY. Sexual attraction is generally a good thing. God gave us these desires, and – as with hunger – we should fulfill these desires thoughtfully. Sexual activity is either right or wrong, and that depends on what we DO. The Bible describes homosexual activity as something unnatural…in fact, it describes ALL sinful acts as unnatural. Unfortunately, we’re broken people who live in a fallen world and – as a result – we have to deal with difficult situations that are often not our fault.
What should one do when faced with unnatural desires? When asked that way, it seems simple: we should exercise self-control, and ask God to help us do what is right. Unfortunately, not all desires are created equal. Sexual desire is closely tied to being social, and affects virtually all of our relationships with others. When virtually every relationship is affected by a desire we did not choose, our lives can be filled with struggle. I believe that homosexuality is NOT natural, and I believe that homosexuals are generally victims of sinful humanity. I can’t imagine how difficult life as a homosexual would be, even in the best of circumstances…so I’m very sympathetic toward those who struggle over questions of sexuality and godliness.
What SHOULD one do? Really, the answer IS simple…but it’s not easy. Regardless of which desire we’re struggling with, the answer is to seek God in all we do. Ask God to help you be the person you should be, and I believe that He will. That doesn’t necessarily make the struggle go away, of course…but we don’t have to face the struggle alone. God is with us, gives us strength and wisdom to face our problems, and comforts us when we fail. God transforms us from the inside out to become more like He is, if we just allow Him to change us. We cooperate with Him when we exercise self-control and avoid simply doing what comes naturally.
Does that answer your question?