Courageous Christian Sexuality
Popular opinion concerning sexuality is changing rapidly. “It took more than a century for the homosexual movement to win cultural affirmation. Transgenderism’s acceptance happened much more speedily, partly due to the path carved out by the homosexuality movement.” The traditional boundaries defining appropriate sexual activity are nearly obliterated. Of the manifold sins prohibited by the Seventh Commandment only a few are generally considered negative today. Even these—rape, incest, and polygamy—have their advocates. Before we can process what these cultural changes mean we are already being pulled onto the bandwagon.
On top of the ideological pressures placed on us by a changing culture we have our own sexuality to properly steward. We need Scripture’s clear testimony to how God views sex and how we can honor his plan for our sexuality amidst changing sexual mores.
How Does Scripture Address Sex?
Our sexual ethic must be shaped by a standard more settled than shifting human opinions. Both nature and Scripture tell us that there is a God who created the universe and who tells us how his world works best. And he says a lot about sex.
Early in the Bible God assures us that he approves of sex. After crafting Adam and Eve with different but compatible sexual body parts he said, “This is very good” (Gen. 1:31). From the start he urged properly married couples to be sexually active (Gen. 1:28) while providing grace to single people to practice sexual purity (1 Cor. 7:7–8). Appropriate sex is good. But we must “flee sexual immorality” because sexual sin is uniquely destructive (1 Cor. 6:18).
Sexual integrity has always been challenging. But few sexual issues are currently troubling the church more than homosexuality and transgenderism.
How Does Scripture Address Homosexuality?
God recognizes as a legitimate conjugal union the committed, exclusive joining of one man and one woman. “From the beginning of creation,” Jesus said, “God ‘made them male and female … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh’” (Mark 10:7–8).
Homosexuality is a sin that violates God’s design. God judged Sodom because her people had “given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh.” They became an “example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7; Genesis 19). God forbids men to “lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22; cf. 20:13). This is abiding moral law, an expression of the seventh commandment by which God forbids fornication and sodomy (1 Tim. 1:10). Those who express “vile passions” in homosexual acts contrary to nature have “suppress[ed] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18, 26–27). Along with everyone who allows sin to define them, neither “adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).
How Does Scripture Address Transgenderism?
Every human has a biological identity in the possession of one of two genders which are equally precious in God’s sight. With extremely rare exceptions one’s biological identity is obvious because of anatomical features unique to their gender. Anatomy designates our gender which informs our callings. To compromise on gender identity undermines an essential component of our image bearing. Scripture’s clarity on gender identity doesn’t necessarily make it easy for us to flourish in our divinely assigned gender. Christians with a rigorous doctrine of depravity should expect gender confusion and be prepared to minister to such confusion with the gospel of grace.
How Should Christians respond?
Four key words should guide Christians in engaging the new sexual ethic and stewarding their own sexuality.
There has probably never been a better opportunity in American history for Christians to stand out sexually. The cultural bar of sexual decency is shamefully low.
The problem is that Christians often fail to be a contrast community sexually. Professing Christians commit adultery, fornicate, use pornography, and watch sexually charged movies. One survey suggests that eighty percent of young unmarried Christians have had sex. But God’s will is “your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3). Before you judge the world judge yourself. Without holiness we have nothing to say to the world. And without it we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
Jesus once met a woman who was caught in the very act of sexual infidelity (John 8:4). Awkward! But to those who wanted to put her to death Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (v. 7). Jesus didn’t dismiss her sin. He used her sin to urge soul-searching among the self-righteous.
Let those condemn sexual sinners who have never had impure thoughts or expressed their sexuality outside of biblical marriages, whose marriage stunningly reflects intra-trinitarian love. All of us are sexual sinners who desperately need the grace of a loving God. The powerful equalizer of sin should humble us.
Without specifying their sexual orientation or gender identity God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must denounce words and actions that “belittle, insult, [or] hate” others. We must “be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly, … protect [others] from harm as much as we can, and … do good even to our enemies.” Christians must welcome sexual sinners “into our lives and worship services, love them, befriend them, listen to them, teach them, warn them, and serve them … We must show them warmth, respect, and love in order to demonstrate that biblical Christianity is not a club for self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites, but a fellowship of repentant sinners who are growing saints. Church must be safe, not safe for sin, but safe for people who sin.”
Jesus accepted and engaged his neighbors without approving of their lifestyle. He was known as a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matt. 11:19). Those who walk in his shoes will share his reputation. Those struggling with same-sex attraction need courageous Christian friends. “A person who experiences a self-perceived bent toward identification with the opposite gender … should be encouraged to respond to those feelings biblically” and “recognize their gender as a calling to accept out of trust in God’s love.”
Sexual sin—like all sin—attacks God and corrodes human flourishing. But our view of the gospel is deficient if we denounce sexual deviancy without declaring the hope that God extends to all sinners. “God loves sinners, both immoral pagans (Rom. 1:18–32) and self-righteous religious hypocrites.” The gospel is good news for homosexuals and heterosexuals, for transgender and cisgender people. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might life through him” (1 John 4:9). “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect … satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world … this promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to … all persons promiscuously and without distinction.”
All sexual sinners need this encouragement: As many as receive Christ, to them God gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
William Boekestein is pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Podcast: "At the First Puff of Wind"
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
"Identifying Our Identity" by Jared Nelson
Revoiced Spirituality by Jonathan Master
Biblical Personhood & Gender Confusion, with Derek Thomas, Richard Phillips, and Rosaria Butterfield.
 Gender as Calling: The Gospel and Gender Identity (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2017), 1
 Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 105, 107.
 Joel R. Beeke, Paul M. Smalley, One Man and One Woman: Marriage and Same-Sex Relations (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), 72, 65.
 Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 13.
 Gender as Calling, 39, 42.
 Beeke, One Man and One Woman, 56–57.
 Canons of Dort 2:3, 2:5.