Same-sex friendship among men is a good thing but it is not a sacrament. Neither is same-sex friendship just another expression of homosexuality. Both nature and Scripture tell us that homosexual attraction is a transgression of nature. Friendship, camaraderie, and fellowship are not sexual. They are a natural bond. Christian fellowship is the fruit of grace and the Lord does use Christian fellowship to encourage (Heb 10:25; 1 Thess 4:18) the body but there is nothing sexual about that fellowship.
Jeffrey Stivason has a helpful interaction with an August 2018 essay by Wesley Hill in which Hill seeks to justify the Revoice Conference, held last July (2018), and in which justifies his conclusion that he has an immutable same-sex attraction. Stivason notes that Hill has become skeptical of “any therapeutic interventions” that seek to alter his same-sex orientation. He observes “Hill also seems to implicate the means of grace as useless instruments in the wreckage of failed attempts.” Like many others in the LGBTQ worlds, Hill seems to have concluded that his homosexuality is not something that God wants to remove. Rather, as Hill explains, sexual orientation is an “intractable thing.” Hill seems to have concluded that his homosexuality is part of God’s design, a “strange providence,” a thorn in the flesh, which drives him back to God in prayer. This realization led him to abandon his “fevered search for some cure for gayness.” At one point he equates “same-sex love” with same-sex attraction, that chaste same-sex friendships “can be an expression of homosexuality.” Stivason summarizes, “according to Hill, homosexual orientation is not sin but in fact actually produces the fruit of godliness called for in Scripture.” Here two themes in Hill’s essay merge:
Homosexuality, I continued to believe, is sinful insofar as it represents a thirst for acts that Scripture forbids, but I came to see that it is at the same time—like St. Paul’s thorn—an occasion for grace to become manifest.
Exploring that grace was the point of the Revoice conference. It was the first theologically conservative event I’ve attended in which I felt no shame in owning up to my sexual orientation and no hesitation in declaring my sexual abstinence. At Revoice there was no pressure to obfuscate the probable fixity and exclusivity of my homosexuality through clunky euphemisms. Nor was there any stigma attached to celibacy, as though my embracing it were simply, as the ex-gay leader Andy Comiskey once wrote, “a concession to same-sex attraction.” There was, instead, a kind of joyful and creative moving on. “Yes, we’re gay, and yes, we’re committed to historic Christian belief and practice,” everyone seemed to be saying. “But that’s just the boring preamble. What we really want to talk about is where we go from here.”
There are two great problems that produce a third, perhaps even greater problem: First, Hill’s resignation to his sexual attraction to other men is problematic on its face. Paul says: “And such were some of you. 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 Cor 6:11; ESV). The context of Paul’s declaration, “such were some of you” is v. 9: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…” (ESV; emphasis added). Some of the Corinthians had been homosexual, they had experienced same-sex attraction, but now, by the grace of God, that was no longer true of them.
In contrast to Paul’s approach, Hill recognizes that same-sex attraction is sin but he has resigned himself to it as part of who he is. Let us test this approach to sin and mortification, i.e., dying to sin. Substitute another sin and let us see if we are satisfied with such an approach. “Theft, I continued to believe, is sinful insofar as it represents a third for other people’s property, which Scripture forbids.” God’s Word says, “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15). Our Lord Jesus quotes this very commandment in Matthew 19:18 as he affirmed the abiding validity of God’s moral law. The Apostle Paul repeats this commandment the same way in Romans 13:9, in his summary of the moral law or the Ten Commandments. The same Ten Commandments also say, “You shall not commit adultery,” which includes all sexual immorality. The tenth commandment forbids coveting what does not belong to us. In other words, it is not at all evident that Hill has set the bar high enough. He concedes that same-sex acts are forbidden but he seems to have accepted the premise that same-sex attraction is permitted. If, however, when we substitute theft (or coveting, or lying etc) for same-sex attraction we get unacceptable results, then Hill’s conclusion would seem to be in serious jeopardy.
One might argue that because sexual sins are unique that we may not use such moral math. It is true that Scripture distinguishes sexual sin from other kinds of sin but Scripture does not regularize or normalize sexual sins because they are distinct from other kinds of sins. Indeed, if anything, Scripture raises the bar. Our Lord Jesus says that if a man even looks at a woman with the intention of lusting after her, he has already committed adultery (Matt 5:28). In this case our Lord was considering heterosexual attraction. If misdirected heterosexual attraction is sin then all homosexual attraction is also sin and sin, in the nature of things, is not normal. It is not natural. It if not a gift. It is not a means of grace.