Pastor Bob O'Bannon
Below is the eighth post from Pastor Bob in an ongoing blog series designed to help Christians think through the issue of homosexuality in a careful and Biblical way. For more on the reason for this series, click here.
Question 8: Since all sins are basically the same, why do Christians get so bothered about homosexuality?
“Nobody’s perfect.” This is a frequently used axiom to assert something the Bible clearly teaches, which is that everyone is a sinner. And since all sins make us liable to the condemnation of God, it is sometimes asked why we should become more concerned about one particular sin over another. We’re all sinners in need of a savior, right? Enough said. A sin is a sin. Therefore, not only should we not make moral judgments of one another, but we should also regard homosexual activity as a sin just like any other. That’s how the reasoning goes.
Of course this question makes an assumption at the outset that needs to be explored in more detail – are all sins really the same? In terms of our legal guilt before God, the answer is basically yes. It only takes one sin to separate us from God and bring a person under his displeasure. James 2:10-11 says if we fail in just one point of the law, we are guilty of breaking all of it. Adam and Eve simply ate a piece of fruit – seems like a relatively minor sin – and yet it plunged the whole world into sin and misery. So in this sense, “small sins” are just as bad as “big sins.”
But there is another sense that needs to be considered. When it comes to the consequences of sin, and the way our sin affects our relationship with God, we can’t say that all sins are the same. In daily life, we know that while jaywalking and murder are both violations of the law, there will be very different consequences for each.
Biblically speaking, when Jesus was questioned by Pontius Pilate, Jesus said to him, “He who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11). Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12 in which he makes a distinction between a disobedient servant who knew his master’s will, and a similarly disobedient servant who did not know his master’s will. The former will get a “severe beating,” but the latter will get a “light beating” (Luke 12:41-48). Clearly God regards some sins as more serious than others.
This parable highlights an important factor related to this question, which is that our knowledge or ignorance of a sin apparently has some bearing on how serious it is. And this has special significance for the question of homosexuality.
Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is that when God created the world, his existence was plainly revealed to everyone. It was made self-evident and obvious. People have suppressed that truth in their unrighteousness, but God’s attributes are so clearly perceived in the way God created the world that people have no excuse for denying his existence (Rom. 1:18-20).
Paul then goes on in Romans 1 to say that when God created man and woman, his will for how they should relate sexually was also plainly revealed to everyone. It was made self-evident and obvious. That’s why Paul refers to homosexual activity in Rom. 1:26-27 as something “contrary to nature.” In other words, it is opposed to the natural pattern of God’s created order. It is a rejection of what everyone knows to be true – that God designed men for women, and women for men, not men for men or women for women.
So, is homosexuality the worst of all sins? No, I don’t think so. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would seem to have a claim to that distinction (Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10). But I also don’t think it was arbitrary that Paul chose to use homosexuality as Exhibit A in his explanation of how the wrath of God is revealed in Romans 1. There seems to be something particularly egregious about it because it is a denial of what is obvious in God’s created order.
As Robert Gagnon has written: “An absurd exchange of God for idols leads to an absurd exchange of heterosexual intercourse for homosexual intercourse. A dishonoring of God leads to a mutual dishonoring of selves.”
Does this mean that other sins, particularly heterosexual sins, are somehow less serious and deserve a pass? Can a person excuse his/her adultery or pre-marital cohabitation on the grounds that “at least we’re not homosexual”? No. That is hypocrisy of the highest order and should be challenged. See an earlier blog entry for further comment on this question.
The good news is that there is no sin that is too serious, too egregious, or too dishonoring for the grace of God to forgive. All sins, no matter how small, need the blood of Christ, and no sin, no matter how big, is beyond the reach of the blood of Christ. And the more we come to grips with the seriousness of all sin, the more we will rejoice in the good news that, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Rom. 5:20).
Next week’s question: Are all homosexuals going to hell?