Holiness and Homosexuality

Homosexuality is all the rage … at least in the news these days.  My thoughts are grounded in Isaiah 6:1-7:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 

————————————————————————————————-

The purpose of this post (and therefore the foundation for any comments you might make):

  • is NOT to give a biblical theology of sexuality
  • is NOT to make a political statement about sexuality

Rather, my intent is to speak to people on both sides of the issue thru the lens of God’s holiness.  In short, I believe what all of us need is solid dose of the holiness of God, and I’m using Isaiah 6:1-7 to administer it.

————————————————————————————————-

First, the text establishes the fact that God is holy.  He is the “thrice holy,” transcendent, righteous and sovereign Lord of the Universe.  Verses 1-3 make this abundantly clear, and we agree with the seraphim:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 

Second, the text establishes that all people are NOT holy.  We are all finite, filthy, mortal, unrighteous people.  Regardless of our sexual orientation, political views, etc., we are ALL definitively UNCLEAN.  We are, in this sense, THE SAME.  This is very clear in Isaiah 6:5 — Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Third, recognizing we are unclean takes place when we look honestly at ourselves in light of our HOLY GOD, not anyone else.  In view of God’s holiness, Isaiah isn’t primarily concerned with anyone else’s standing before God (“I am lost, I am unclean”), but he is at least aware that those he dwells in the midst of are equally unclean (“I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”).  As God’s chosen prophet of judgment, Isaiah never points the finger and declares himself less sinful, but he doesn’t compromise the truth of the nation’s sin either.  It’s also fascinating that, in view of God’s holiness, Isaiah does not compare himself to the standard of fellow Israelites.  People aware of God’s holiness and, therefore, their sin, are not given to consider themselves as better than others who are also sinful.  As D. A. Carson states, “The holiness of God discloses our rebellion and dirty nature to us in a way that mutual comparisons among the members of the rebel race never can.”

Fourth, the text establishes that only a gracious and merciful act of God can cleanse unholy people.  In Isaiah’s case, a burning coal in the hand of a seraphim placed on his lips cleanses him and atones for his sin (vv. 6-7).  In the case of all believers, it is by grace through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are made new creations who are declared righteous before God and empowered with the Spirit to wage war on sin.

————————————————————————————————-

In light of these four truths, I offer the following points of application for all of us, specifically towards how we think and talk about homosexuality.

First, all must seek to know and understand the holiness of God.  Start with your Bible, yet R. C. Sproul’s “Holiness of God” is an excellent text to start with outside of the Bible.

Second, pray for humility in light of your increased understanding of God’s holiness.  This will lead heterosexuals to see their sin, homosexuals to see their sin, cultural warriors to see theirs, etc.  We cannot see God and not see our sin.  We cannot see our sin if we are making mutual comparisons between ourselves.  Making those mutual comparisons breeds pride, when what we need is humility.  Pray for it as you seek to develop it by seeking the holiness of God.

Third, in this humility, speak the truth in love.  Isaiah was deeply conscious of his personal sinfulness, yet also aware that others were sinful as well.  In this humble state, he was able to speak authoritative truth to a sinful people in an identifiable way.  He, too, would bear the judgment of God he was preaching about.  In light of this, I offer two suggestions for those on both sides of this issue.

  • To my fellow conservative evangelical Christians, this means that the most loving people in this discussion should be the conservative evangelical Christians.  Also, the most stalwart defenders of biblical truth in this discussion should be the conservative evangelical Christians.  The reason is simple:  “The fundamental explanation of our conversion was not that we were wiser or morally superior to others in choosing God, but that God chose to have mercy on us and intervened in our lives, revealing our need for His provision of the gospel. Our salvation is owed completely to the sovereign grace of God” (C. J. Mahaney).  The nature of our salvation dictates the nature of our lives … that we lovingly communicate truth.  Therefore, while Christians are to be grateful that, in many states, the definition of marriage has been constitutionally defined, the manner in which we have gone about publicly debating it has been hurtful in many cases.  Granted, we cannot ultimately control the perceptions others have of us, but who among us would say that the world clearly understands we love homosexuals?  Both love and truth are required in light of the Gospel, and we must learn how to do this better not only in person, but on the web as well.
  • To homosexuals or others sympathetic to their cause, I ask you to speak openly and honestly about the real goals of the movement to legally recognize homosexual marriages.  I’ve been around long enough to know that if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk.  It’s not as if the homosexual movement would end should homosexual marriages be officially recognized.  Kevin DeYoung is right: ” It will keep mounting until all accept and finally celebrate that homosexuality is one of Diversity’s great gifts. The goal is not for different expressions of marriage, but for the elimination of definitions altogether.”  And even if this isn’t the “goal” per se, it certainly is the final result, whether it is the intention of this movement or not.  This is just one example of how homosexuals or those sympathetic to their cause could be more forthcoming about the motives and/or inevitable outcomes of their desires.

Finally, let all Christians concern themselves first with the war with sin before the war for the culture.

  • The Christian life by the Spirit is a personal struggle first and foremost … it is a war against the sin of the flesh.  If it’s not a struggle against sin, it’s not a Christian life we are living.  “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
  • Practicing homosexuals who would call themselves Christians must come to terms with the fact that homosexuality is a deviant, sinful behavior.  No legitimate, biblical hermeneutic allows one to say with integrity that practicing homosexuality is not sinful.  Kevin DeYoung is right:  “We do not help each other in the fight for holiness when we allow for righteousness to look increasingly strange and sin to look increasingly normal.”  Therefore, while a Christian may certainly fight against homosexuality by the power of the Spirit, he or she may not redefine it so that it’s not seen as sin.  Practicing homosexuals who call themselves Christian should listen more to the Spirit and less to President Obama who shamefully called upon Jesus and the Christian faith to inflame this culture war and lend support to sexually deviant behavior and redefine biblical terms and institutions.
  • Christians who recognize the truth of homosexuality and have a zeal for protecting the sanctity of marriage in our culture must first and foremost have a zeal for putting their personal sin to death in their flesh.  If the zeal for the sanctity of marriage in our nation were as strong as the zeal for personal holiness before God, brought about by life in the Spirit, I dare say that any culture wars would take care of themselves.  Such a commitment to slay sin would lead to more church signs that said, “We love homosexuals” and to churches with members who, of course, vote to support marriage amendments in their state.  It is possible … NECESSARY … that we love our enemies and defend the truth.
  • It’s disingenuous for either side to lament that the other side is fighting a culture war when neither side is fighting the personal sin war.  Rachel Evans can lament this war all she wants, but until BOTH SIDES are fighting the war against sin, it’s disingenuous to lament that one side or the other is fighting it.

————————————————————————————————-

If the holiness of God is first and foremost in our minds and hearts, the entire discussion regarding homosexuality in our culture is flipped on its head.  It becomes infinitely more honest and loving, and could actually give glory to God rather than seemingly take away from it.

Maybe the conversations would, indeed, look more like this and this.