From Chuck Colson:
I assume you’re talking about homosexual behavior. However, I’m very glad you didn’t specify what kind of “immorality” you mean. Why? Because your question could just as easily apply to any sin. Let me give you an example by rewording your email:
“Should we criticize a man and a woman if they have sex outside of marriage, but they do not have a choice whether or not they do it?”The answer immediately becomes obvious, because we see the question in the right context. People do have a choice whether or not to have sex outside of marriage, just as they have a choice whether to worship false gods, steal, murder, lie, etc. In fact, this is the only reason God can hold us accountable for our actions. No one forces us to commit them—we choose them freely.
In the same way, the Bible condemns homosexual behavior because it is a choice, one which falls grievously short of God’s design for human sexuality.
Notice that I call homosexual behavior—not orientation—a choice. I believe based on my years of prison ministry and coverage of this issue that many men and women who call themselves “gay” never made a conscious decision to feel drawn to the same sex. They simply experience the attractions as part of who they are.
But those who submit themselves to God’s rules for sex as revealed in the Bible understand that the only legitimate expression of sexuality is the lifelong covenant of marriage between a man and woman. Indulging any desires outside of this—whether heterosexual or homosexual—has always been condemned by scripture and orthodox Christians.
Jesus Himself asks in Matthew 19, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’”
Not too long ago, I addressed this issue on BreakPoint by looking at the case of freelance writer Eve Tushnet, about whom Mark Openheimer wrote a New York Times piece entitled “A Gay Catholic Voice against Same Sex Marriage.” Eve is a lifelong lesbian who, upon joining the Church in college, embraced celibacy.
Her story, she writes, “is the story of how love of Christ and His Bride the Church became more central to my life than lesbian love...and how, therefore, I began to interpret the latter kind of love in light of the former.”
Christians like Tushnet, who desire to live by God’s design for sexuality but cannot force themselves to feel attracted to the opposite sex, can rejoice in the example of the Apostle Paul, who both taught and lived Christian celibacy as a blessed calling.
So you ask, “Should we criticize people who do not choose who they are?” My answer is no. We are all born sinners who fall to temptation and desperately need God’s grace to overcome our weaknesses and lusts—whether gay or straight. Feeling tempted is not a sin, and we should never judge those who experience same-sex attractions.
But yielding to temptation is a sin. Unlike our need to breathe, though, (which you mentioned) our urges to sin are not irresistible. With God’s grace it is possible for anyone (even a homosexual) to resist and overcome them. That is why Paul lists homosexuals among the sinners transformed by the gospel at the very beginning of Christianity:
“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
I know what it means to be redeemed from my sins. Now I live to help others find that redemption behind bars and in the culture. My prayer is that those who feel bound to homosexual behavior or any other sin will realize they don’t have to live in defeat. Freedom awaits them if they forsake their ways and follow Christ—no matter how strong their temptations.