Tom has a strong sexual attraction to women. He married his high school sweetheart after graduation, but divorced her a couple of years later because he just didn’t want to be married anymore. Now he’s lonely. His hormones are raging, and he’s always on the lookout for female companionship. He’s hoping for intimacy and affection in the future with the person of his dreams.
Jake doesn’t share Tom’s sexual inclination. He has a strong attraction to other men. He didn’t choose to be this way, yet his raging hormones are constantly directing his attention toward those of the same gender. He wonders if there might ever be a future of intimacy and affection with the person of his dreams.
Raymond’s sexual proclivity is different than both his friends. As long as he can remember, he’s felt sensually drawn to young children. He didn’t choose to be this way, yet his raging hormones are constantly directing his attention toward little kids. He’s doubtful there’s a future of intimacy and affection with the person of his dreams.
The Spiritual Journey
In their younger years the three friends committed their lives to the Lord but later strayed from the path of righteousness. Now they’re trying to get back on track and have agreed to help one another on this spiritual journey. Through careful and honest Bible study, they understand that sexual purity is expected of all who profess allegiance to Christ.1
Tom, having divorced for reasons other than infidelity, has learned that in his current situation, intercourse with another woman, even in remarriage, is adultery.2 Jake realizes that sexual activity between two men is contrary to God’s revealed will,3 and Raymond understands intimate relations with a child is wrong.4 Neither Tom, nor Jake, nor Raymond necessarily wants to be celibate for the rest of his life, and each one has sought advice from others to make sure his interpretation of scripture is correct.
Adultery is Not Adultery?
Tom has met some friendly people who insist that the traditional understanding of the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage is incorrect. Surely the Lord wouldn’t deny someone loving companionship and expect one to remain celibate. After all, Tom is a red-blooded male with innate needs and a healthy sexual appetite. The word “adultery,” they contend, doesn’t actually refer to sexual sin but is metaphoric for breaking the marriage covenant. All he needs to do is to be sorry for having divorced, promise not to do it again, and then he’s free to remarry another person with impunity.
All this sounds good to Tom, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads Matthew 19:9, it keeps saying the same thing: “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither … adulterers … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Homosexuality is Not Sinful?
Jake has been befriended by some nice folks who assure him that it’s okay to be openly gay. After all, this is his sexual orientation; it’s how God made him. Yet he wonders about his friend Raymond. Is God responsible for Raymond’s attraction to young children? Is that Raymond’s sexual orientation? Jake is being told that the Bible passages that seem to condemn homosexual behavior have been misinterpreted; they only forbid sexual exploitation and excess, not monogamous, same-sex relationships. Surely God wouldn’t withhold loving companionship from Jake and expect him to remain celibate.
All this sounds good to Jake, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads Romans 1:24-28, it keeps saying the same thing: “God gave them up to dishonorable passions …. 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.” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither … men who practice homosexuality … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Pedophilia is Not Condemned?
Raymond found a group of individuals who are saying it’s perfectly natural and normal to be sexually attracted to kids. Although in the antiquated past it was considered a psychological disorder, now pedophilia is being accepted as a sexual orientation. There is no proof, they claim, that children are harmed by having sex with adults, and nowhere does the Bible explicitly condemn it. Surely the Lord wouldn’t withhold loving companionship from Raymond and expect him to remain celibate. After all, God made him the way he is, and God doesn’t make mistakes!
All this sounds good to Raymond, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, it keeps saying the same thing: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust …” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Seeking First God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness
Tom, Jake, and Raymond have found a lot of folks who are eager to tell them what they want to hear. “Accept who you are,” the well-meaning advisors are saying, “God wants you to be happy, and who knows better than you what it takes to make you happy?” Beyond a self-centered, worldly perspective, all this sounds a little too good to be true – “the best of both worlds” mentality. But the Bible still says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
The three friends have enough sense to know that godly love is not simply telling or giving someone what he wants. It involves saying and doing what’s in the person’s best interest.5 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). Biblical Christianity does not and cannot condone the practice of sin, whether sexual or otherwise, ultimately leading to severance from God.6 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27).
Bear One Another’s Burdens
Tom, Jake, and Raymond would rather surround themselves with devoted Christians who love them enough to speak the truth, hold them accountable, and encourage them to obey God without compromise. They realize that following Christ isn’t easy for anyone and has always demanded self-denial, actions demonstrating repentance, faithfulness, and mutual support.7 They are searching for balance, neither grace at the expense of truth nor truth at the expense of grace (John 1:14, 17), appreciating that God’s love does not cancel out his holiness and vice versa (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 4:8).
Tom, Jake, and Raymond believe in the transformative power of the gospel and the divine promise that no desire or enticement is inescapable (1 Cor. 10:13).8 Sanctification does not mean eliminating temptation; it is the pursuit of holiness in spite of it (1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 4:15-16; 12:14). The apostle Paul, who chose the single life devoted to God like Jesus did, confidently affirms, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content …. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11, 13).
A heterosexual, a homosexual, and a pedophile walk into a church, not to seek unconditional acceptance but to receive loving support to help them become what God intends them to be. The shallowness of the world says a person’s identity is defined by his sexuality, but these three friends know that their true identity is in Christ and the purity of life that’s worthy of him (Col. 1:10).
--Kevin L. Moore
1 See Matt. 5:8, 28; Rom. 6:11-14, 19; 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:13-20; Gal. 5:16-21; Eph. 4:17-20; 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:19-22; Tit. 2:12; Heb. 12:14; 13:4; Jas. 1:14-15; 1 Pet. 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:18-19; 1 John 2:12-17. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the ESV.
2 Matt. 5:32; 19:3-9; Mark 6:17-18; 10:11-12; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11. For a brief exegetical analysis of all the biblical passages on this topic, see Divorce & Remarriage Part 1, Part 2, Part 3; see also Jesus on Divorce & Remarriage.
3 Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 7:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:8-10; Jude 7; cf. Gen. 13:13; 19:4-7; Lev. 18:22; 20:13. For a brief exegetical analysis of these passages, see The Queen James Bible; and Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian Part 2.
4 Mark 9:36-37, 42; 1 Cor. 6:9, 18; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 7:1-3; Heb. 13:4.
5 Matt. 5:29-30; Luke 3:8; 13:3; John 3:16; 14:15; 15:12-14; Rom. 5:8; 12:9; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 13:1-7; 2 Cor. 5:11-15; Gal. 5:13-15; Phil. 2:1-4; 1 John 3:16, 18; et al.
6 Mark 9:43-48; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30-31; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; Gal. 5:16-21; 6:7-8; Col. 3:5-9; Heb. 10:26-30; Rev. 21:8.
7 Matt. 5:11; 7:21; 10:38; 16:24; Luke 5:32; 14:27; Acts 14:22; 26:20; Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:13-14; 4:11; 5:8-9. The circumstances depicted above are not new. Commenting on the issues that sparked the Corinthian correspondence, Lyle D. Vander Broek observes: “Each of the community problems Paul needed to address grew out of the Corinthians’ inability to let the gospel message fully reshape their gentile, Greco-Roman lives, whether because they misunderstood that message or because they rejected it outright …. The Corinthians were simply trying to be Christians with a minimal amount of social and theological disturbance” (Breaking Barriers: 1 Corinthians and Christian Community [Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002]: 27-28).
8 Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11; 9:24-27; 15:1-2, 9-10; Phil. 1:27; Eph. 4:1.
*While the above parable is fictitious, the three main characters are based on real people I know or know of, who have taken up their respective crosses and are wholeheartedly dedicated to pleasing and serving God according to his righteous expectations. My personal experiences as a single Christian have also provided perspective.
Related articles: Ben Giselbach's What Does the Bible Say?, & Stop Trading Holiness for Authenticity; Rosaria Butterfield's Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth