Repenting Over a Missed Opportunity

If you have not yet read my preceding post, please do so before reading this one.

Returning to Romans 1, how many preachers have inverted the order of events that is given there, and taught that homosexual activity draws down the wrath of God upon a society? They have failed to see that St Paul says that God’s wrath came first, drawn down by society’s wilful rejection of Him. Widely-prevalent homosexual behaviour and all the other signs of a society gone awry then came about because God, in his wrath, withdrew his restraining hand. (Secularists of course do not believe that there is anything “awry” at all about having an LBGT+ orientation and living accordingly. If you are a secularist, please read on despite that objection – I am taking conservative Christians to task here, not you, and so I am choosing my words accordingly).

“This was not my Choice”

Most LGBT+ people will testify that their orientation is not their choice – that they felt drawn in that direction even before they knew or thought about physical sexual connection.

I say “most” because of course some feminists are on record as having adopted a lesbian lifestyle as a deliberate stand against what they perceived as an oppressively patriarchal society – a stand taken even though they could have, from a merely physical point of view, enjoyed heterosexual relationships had they so wished. And others of both sexes have adopted a queer lifestyle as a deliberate rejection of the orientation that they felt society was trying to impose upon them. However, such stories are well outnumbered by the stories of those who felt they had no choice.

Those conservatives are wrong who see the gay rights movement as an attempt to legitimise and thrust upon society a promiscuous and orgiastic lifestyle which its proponents know to be perverse and wrong. Instead, the movement was quite rightly motivated by the inward knowledge that “This is not my fault; it was not my choice,” and fuelled by anger at the injustice of the treatment of anyone who departed from heterosexuality. Secular society, at least, has not been able to withstand the force of the testimonies and the evidence, and so gay relationships have been decriminalised by most jurisdictions in the western world.

Had the conservative churches been correctly exegeting and applying Romans 1, it should have been easy for them, too, to support this change and largely to rejoice in it.

Collateral Damage

I am not advocating some “revisionist” treatment of the text of Romans 1, just the insight to understand the passage as Calvin did and to apply it accordingly. Paul’s purpose here is not to highlight particular sins of particular individuals and blame them for the sorry state of the world, but to point out the apostate state of the pagan world and blame that for the explosion of individual sin.

A degenerate society exposes its children to far more “stumbling blocks” (temptations to sin – see Luke 17:1) than does a godly one. In the purview of Romans 1, whatever the particular sin to which someone is most vulnerable, that heightened vulnerability is a kind of collateral damage they suffer because of the state of the society into which they were born, and this applies to same-sex-attracted and gender-dysphoric people and to everyone else.

That fact doesn’t take away the responsibility we all have not to sin, regardless of the temptation, but it ought to put a stop to the practice of many conservative churches of singling out LGBT+ people as different and worse than others when weighed on the scale of God’s righteousness. It should also enable conservative Christians to listen with understanding when a same-sex-attracted or gender-dysphoric person says, “This is how I am; it was not my choice.”

A Missed Opportunity

Because of their mishandling of the Romans 1 passage and those others that I discussed in my previous post, conservative churches stridently opposed decriminalisation and have therefore lost the opportunity to be a moderating voice. How much better for the LGBT+ world might it have been if, for the last half-century, conservative churches had been saying, “Yes, we see the injustice you have suffered and support your fight against it. Nevertheless, as servants of Jesus Christ we want to counsel and urge you not to use your freedom to live in sexual promiscuity but for faithfulness and love, and we also want you to consider arguments for living a fulfilled celibate life rather than in a sexual relationship. However, that said, the most important issue for us is to see the injustice removed, and we are with you all the way on that.”

Almighty God has used secular governments and secular courts to undo an injustice that the church of Jesus Christ should have been at the forefront of undoing, but which they obstructed. It is high time for conservative Christians to acknowledge their sin and engage with the LGBT+ world in a way that makes the church’s repentance and compassion palpable and practical.