Romans chapter 1 is one of the harder passages of the Bible to swallow. I remember studying it with my Bible Quiz team in ninth grade. When we got to the part that mentions homosexuality, there were some uncomfortable pauses and throat-clearing before someone said, “Let’s just skip that for now.”
I often felt that homosexuality was almost a forbidden topic among Christians. For that reason, I thought that I could not tell anyone about my own struggle with homosexual temptation. When I finally decided to share my testimony as an adult, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Some people expressed surprise that a follower of Christ could struggle in that area. I understood their confusion due to common misconceptions and misinterpretations of Scripture.
Looking At Romans
Romans 1 explains the underlying problem behind homosexuality, which is mankind’s rebellion against God. “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26, 27 NIV)
Wrestling With The Passage
The ultimate cause of homosexuality is sin. I would like to point out, however, that this passage speaks about the sin of mankind, not the sin of individuals. At one time, I understood the passage to mean that God cursed people with homosexual desires as a form of punishment. Verse 18 provides the necessary context, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” The Greek for “men” in this verse is Anthropos, which refers to men in the general sense of “people” or “mankind.” Romans chapter one is really about God’s judgment on Adam’s race for their rebellion against him.
Responsibility And Hope
Ultimately, homosexual feelings and behaviors come as a result of mankind’s fall and exile. Many in both the Christian and the secular world have tried to understand why certain people are afflicted with homosexual desires and others are not. I believe there may be many causes of same-sex attraction, including: genetic, psychological, experiential, and spiritual. I have learned that I am not responsible for the cause of my feelings but rather my response and reaction to them.
The Bible makes it clear that there is a right response and a wrong response. The chapter closes with, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32) Homosexuality is sin. Plain and simple. But Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
There are days when I feel as if it is impossible to say no to my desires, but the grace of God, as expressed in the Bible, always gives me the hope and strength I need to stand firm.
Thankful For God’s Word
I have had many questions about homosexuality and my personal struggle with it, but the answers I need are all found in the Scripture. I hope that the Church as a whole will also turn to the Scripture to understand how to respond to homosexuality and other sexual issues in our culture today. Without a proper understanding of Scripture, we are left to our own assumptions and prejudices. We cannot afford to “skip” certain passages because they make us feel uncomfortable.
If you may struggle with sexual temptation, know that God accepts you no matter where you are and is beside you. But also know his hope for you. Romans 1:16 tells us, “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation… for in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” The gospel enables us to become the people we were always meant to be, and Jesus is the one that can take us there. Choose to embrace sexual purity rather than immorality, the cross rather than the flesh, and set your life on the path of righteousness.
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Kyle Thorp holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Grove City College. He currently resides in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he is pursuing an MDiv at Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity and working part-time. He plans to enter full-time ministry after completing his degree.