As a word, it’s not that old; just a little over a century.
And the definitions differ. Some describe attraction or desire as well as activity or intercourse … and others don’t. Plus, in the past few generations, the distinction has been blurred with the addition of the word “orientation,” and the word “gay” as a preferred description.
In short, when we talk about it … we don’t know what we’re talking about.
And when believers talk about it, and the use of the word in newer translations of the Bible, we especially don’t know what we’re talking about.
Since the word was coined a little over 100 years ago, you won’t find homosexual or any of its daughter-words in English translations older than that.
As an adjective it does, in practice and fact, describe both desires/feelings/attractions and actions/intercourse.
As nearly as I can tell, what the Bible speaks of is — in the original languages Greek and Hebrew — actions between individuals of the same sex, specifically male (as much of scripture is, having been written in eras of patriarchal prejudice), and the wording is “man on man.” This isn’t talking about conversations mano a mano or a type of basketball defense. It’s talking about sexual activity, not desire, and it’s talking about something that does not please God.
Let’s not go crazy about this. There are about four or five times the concept comes up in all of scripture. God just doesn’t like it. He didn’t like it in the era of the Old Testament and He doesn’t like it in the era of the New Testament.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar nor do I play one on TV. That’s why I said, “As nearly as I can tell.” You need to research the matter for yourself; I’m not going to try to condense mine here because it defies abbreviation. Look up the terms used. Look up the scriptures in which they’re used. Look at the parts of speech that are used, and the (no pun intended) conjugations used in the phrasing of the verses. Look at what it means, and if you have to put aside something you have been taught that it means in order to do so, then be brave enough to take God’s word over man’s.
I’ve looked into this as deeply as my brain knows how, for more than the number of years since I wrote The One Where I Just Lose. I’ve come to these conclusions after years of study, prayer, and love for people who are troubled about it. You need to reach your own conclusions, however long it takes and however much it hurts.
I don’t know the reasons why some people feel homosexual attractions or feel them so strongly. I haven’t experienced them, and as much as I would like to be able to sympathize, I simply can’t.
But I can see no evidence in scripture that having those desires or being tempted by them is a sin, or sinful by its nature, or something that causes one to be damned.
It is in acting on tempting desires that displeases God, not in being tempted by them. That’s true of heterosexual desires outside of marriage as surely as it is of homosexual desires. Activity can include choosing to gladly host wholesale lust until acting physically on it is almost inevitable — and in the meantime, the heart meant for God has been turned inward toward self and the conscience almost irrevocably seared.
There are all kinds of sexual behavior and choice that are displeasing to God. Some are more harmful than others; some are downright depraved; a few are even murderous and I don’t even like to think about the fact that they exist.
Probably consensual homosexual activity is one of the socially least harmful of these; and as society sees things currently, consensual homosexuality carries almost no perception of harm.
That doesn’t mean that it’s pleasing to God, or that He wants it for anyone. So there is a harm: it’s in the fact that homosexual activity (and other sins, sexual and otherwise!) will never be something that God wants for us; He wants something better for us. That may be marriage. It may be celibacy.
I hate to be so stark about it, but scripture doesn’t really describe any other good alternatives. Both can be rich gifts from God and powerful lifestyles through which He is served and glorified.
There are alternatives, of course; but they are not good and do not particularly serve Him nor glorify Him. They may serve the desires of self very well, but unfortunately that means that they may very well serve the purposes of the accuser, Satan, too.
God wants better for us. God wants more for us. God wants Himself for us. I have no shame in telling any of my dearly-loved friends this, no matter what they are tempted by or how powerfully their desires draw them. I need to hear it myself, and often, from fellow believers when my will falters and my desire for God withers.
He made us. He knows what is best for us.
All we know is what we want.
Let me reiterate that I do not know why people have homosexual desires and temptations. Let me add, though, that I also do not know why people have heterosexual desires outside of marriage and temptations of every other kind. I don’t know why some people are born healthy and whole and bright and beautiful — and others are not. I don’t know why some are devastated by disease and accident and divorce and chronic pain and death of dear ones — and others escape some or most of these.
Except that we live in a fallen world, a world broken by sin, and what God asks of each of us is to be part of fixing the breaks and raising the world closer to Him — using the gifts, talents, abilities, time, resources, passion, love, faith and gratitude that He has put into our lives for that purpose.
Not our purpose. Not the accuser’s purpose.
So what does a believer do to be a part of God’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God?
Stop judging others.
Love others deeply.
Keep oneself unspotted.
Stop trying to legislate others out of sin. Sin is not a matter that law can handle. We spent a whole testament of scripture proving to God how that doesn’t work, just as if He didn’t already know it.
Sin is a matter of the heart.
Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love that “I think God wants something better for you than what you’ve chosen. I think He wants something better for me than judging other people, and I have a terrible struggle with that. I think He wants better for both of us.”