It seems that mainstream evangelicalism is coming around to the fact that homosexual “tendencies,” or, “same-sex attraction,” might not be so optional. For the longest time, prominent voices in evangelicalism heralded the message that being gay is a choice that people make and could not be the default sexual orientation since birth. From the “gay gene,” battle to the plethora of psychosomatic theories revolving around the presence of the father, sexual abuse, abandonment issues, etc., the war for or against an innate gay “nature” has been waged from both sides of the issue.
I’m not really sure of how this specific battle began or who threw the first punch, but whoever did, they declared war on the wrong idea.
Whether it was evangelicals who let homosexual advocates take the war to the “nature” argument, or it was evangelicals who firmly asserted that it was a “choice” in any and all instances; we got off track in our understanding and assertion of the biblical message on sexuality in general and homosexuality specifically.
 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27 ESV)
Other than passages from Leviticus 18 and 20, these words from Paul are perhaps the “go-to” passages for delineating a traditional Christian argument agains homosexual activity. But any Bible student with sense in their heads will understand the tremendous value of context, putting individual or short sections of verses with the verses around them to determine their general meaning and scope within the larger framework of the passage. So while we sometimes like to point to this passage to refute the normalization or acceptance of homosexual activity in the Church and in the world, we must look at the context.
In this first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, Paul is introducing what will be the most succinct and systematic description of salvation in the entire New Testament. Paul, after a short introduction states that, in the gospel,
[17b] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 ESV)
Paul must establish that faith in the gospel is the only source of righteousness, because, as he says in verse 18,
 …The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV)
Paul will spend nearly two whole chapters elaborating on and warning of the wrath and judgement of God that is coming against, “unrighteousness.” This word of condemnation comes to a climax in the third chapter as Paul quotes from the Prophet Isaiah and a few of the Psalms,
 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
Paul’s ultimate conclusion in Romans 3 is to reveal the glorious salvation of God that comes apart from the Law, through faith in Jesus whose blood makes, “satisfaction,” for our sins and enables us to receive his very righteousness (Rom. 3:21-26).
It is within this larger scheme that we find Paul’s words condemning homosexuality. This condemnation comes, regardless of mankind’s “choice” in the matter of how they feel or are naturally inclined. In fact, Paul specifically states that because of the Fall, because of our darkened hearts and idolatrous nature, God has given mankind up to their “debased” minds (Rom. 1:28b).
It is fairly obvious then that we have been waging the war on the wrong side of the battle. Since when did something being a natural inclination or “tendency,” exclude acting upon those inclination from being sinful? Never. We don’t that do with our tendency toward jealousy, our tendency toward lust, our tendency to steal, our tendency to cheat, our tendency to malign, our tendency to lie, our tendency to hurt… the list could go on and on. The point is, we don’t have to make these sinful feelings and thoughts a matter of choice to determine that acting upon them is sinful. No, I think all Christians would readily agree that we all struggle with one or all of these issues from the seemingly harmless ones like jealousy or covetousness to the larger ones of lust or malice; and we find no need to determine whether or not these inclinations or natural or not in order to call actually stealing or hurting someone a “sin.” So why then has the battle over the sinfulness of homosexuality been waged over the the natural inclination of those involved? Did evangelicals let the world and the media set the battle lines and determine those issues; or did evangelicals make that case themselves? I don’t know; but either way, we must recognize that whether or not someone was, “born this way,” has little to nothing to do with whether or not such acts are sinful.
In fact, I think Paul’s words are very clear here in Romans 1, as are words about sin from all through the Scriptures. Nowhere does the Bible excuse sin on the basis of someone being born with a natural inclination towards a particular sin. On the contrary, one of the central themes of the gospel is to “repent,” to turn away from our natural, sinful desires, and to seek after the things of God through faith in Christ. Christ’s own words, “take up your cross,” insinuate an ongoing struggle with the power of sin and darkness in this life.
Do not let the world dictate the line of battle when the Word of God has spoken otherwise. “Born this way,” or not, the Bible says that homosexual activity is sinful. Of course our natural inclination is to sin (did you miss Paul’s words earlier?), this can in no way excuse that sin; even more so, it condemns us all the more through the revelation of nature and our consciences (Rom. 1:18-25).
The List Doesn’t End There
I began this post quoting from Paul’s words in Romans 1 on the nature of human sinfulness, one such example being homosexuality. However, it would behoove us to note that Paul’s list of sinfulness doesn’t end there; it goes on:
 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Romans 1:29-31 ESV)
Notice that these verses follow the verses that include statements on homosexuality. Now I don’t think that Paul is going in an order of seriousness here, but it should startle us to realize that Paul puts these sins right beside and on par with those sexual sins mentioned earlier. When’s the last time you murdered someone (read Matt. 5:21 before you answer)? When’s the last time you were deceitful (dishonest)? When’s the last time you gossiped? Does it bother you that Paul puts these offenses right beside the sin of homosexuality? It seems to bother many, which is why these verses are so unfamiliar to us while the others are quite familiar and often quoted.
The one in this list that struck me the most is the sin of “heartlessness.” This literally means, “devoid of affection,” or “lacking love.” How often have we railed against the gay community and the normalization of homosexuality in our culture in ways that are often hateful, abrasive, and cold? How often have we dealt with those in our churches and communities who may do constant battle with same-sex attraction with malice, scorn, and mockery? Did it ever occur to us that that makes us just as sinful as those mentioned by Paul in verses 26-27… that it makes us, “heartless”?
To the Believer
Seek out and love those in your congregation who may be doing war with same-sex attraction or who may even be involved in homosexual activity. Yes, in the latter case, church-discipline may be in order, but love them enough to both discipline them and tell them that the gospel invites us to repent and be forgiven. DO NOT engage in public protests or demonstrations that carry an anti-gay or hateful connotation. Understand that the church is a place for sinners; not that they might remain in sin and be “OK,” but that they might be called to turn from sin and believe in the gospel. Jesus came for sinners. Mockery, hate, inappropriate joking, and the like have no place in the Church of God and are also despised by God.
To Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction
God loves you just as you are and he calls you to come to Jesus just as you are. But this does not mean you are sinless. Your natural inclination to lust in the way you do does not excuse your sin anymore than a natural inclination to any other sort of sin. We all are born in sin and as such have a “natural inclination” toward it. This is no excuse. God calls us to repent and turn to Christ. All humans are in the same boat when it comes to sin; be it homosexuality, drunkenness, violence, adultery, hatred, murder, etc., we are all under God’s just condemnation for our sins, this is Paul’s point in Romans 1-3. But the point doesn’t end there. Though we are all equally condemned by God’s holy Law, we can have the righteousness of Christ credited it us by faith! This is the good news, the gospel. Jesus calls you to take up your cross, own your sin, die to it, and choose to follow him. He may never “zap” your feelings away and it may very well be a battle for the rest of your life, but if you’ve turned away from that life, turned toward Christ and trusted in the gospel, that does not define you anymore, you are a new creature in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)!
In all things, let us remember the words of the Apostle Peter:
 …In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)