God did not make people sinners. The Fall of man in the garden made us this way. God designed sexuality and called it “good.” God gave clear directions about how it is to be handled as well as a list of things to steadfastly avoid in its usage. Like all other areas of human life, it has been corrupted by sin. We have free will, and we – ALL OF US – made the choice to stray from God’s thoroughly outlined laws. Thankfully, God has provided the way for every person, no matter what they have done, to escape the penalty of sin and inherit salvation and eternal life – as a free gift, by His grace, through our faith in His Son Jesus. Someday soon, we will be finally delivered of even the temptation to sin. That is something to look forward to.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25 ESV)
With an interesting turn of phrase, the author of the heroes of the faith chapter in Hebrews 11 communicates two important aspects of sin. They do so with two words, “fleeting,” and “pleasures.” There is an attraction to sin, but any pleasure it offers is short lived. It is “fleeting.” Sin leaves in its wake heartbreak, destruction, and often ruined lives, but the allure of it is so strong that it entraps people. Once firmly in sin’s grip, people, who often do know in their hearts their behavior is wrong, try to justify their involvement, to others as well as to themselves.
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day, who strongly disdained “sinners” while having quite a high view of themselves, had fooled themselves into believing they were not sexual sinners if they had not physically consummated the act, though they certainly consummated the act in their minds. They supposed that their motivations and evil thought life were not subject to judgment. In their thinking, they didn’t DO anything wrong. Jesus issued a shocking correction to their self-righteous attitude:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)
It was not the temptation to commit adultery that made them sinners subject to judgment, as temptation itself is not sin. It was their refusal to turn away. They intentionally dwelled on these thoughts – their “lustful intent,” which was the issue. James picks up on this,
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
The draw and lure of sin is powerful. We may recognize something as temptation, but if we refuse to turn away, but keep nursing and rehearsing the possibilities in our mind, the desire only grows and of course becomes sin in and of itself. We may rationalize that indulging in a bit of sexual fantasy is just not that big a deal. If we watch TV, we may easily convince ourselves that “everyone is doing it.” Next, the sin may move into the physical realm, where it is fully embraced, and found to be enjoyable. What was once recognized as “wrong” becomes merely a “meeting of one’s basic needs.” Perhaps we tell ourselves no harm was done. No one got hurt, right? And it felt so right, how could it be wrong? Then it might become, “If loving him or her is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” OK, full circle. At this point one’s faith has essentially been put aside because the person is fully aware they are willfully choosing wrong over right. In course of time, the sin is often exposed, and destroys marriages, breaks the hearts of any children, and hurts other people as well. It heaps destruction all around. The ripple effect does not stop there. If one is a Christian, one’s church may be in turmoil, people are disillusioned, and unbelievers use the whole sordid story to show that all Christians are hypocrites (a subject for another day). So, as the Bible makes clear, the “pleasures” of sin were only for a “season,” but the price is very high, and the rules are generally pay to play. Even if one’s sin is not exposed, it is not without consequences.
Last week in “Freedom from Morality” we looked at the near full-throated cry to abandon biblical morality by vocal activists not only in our nation but in all of Western culture. Over the past 50 years or so, free-sex activists started out by declaring that no one has the right to intrude into anyone’s bedroom. In a Constitutional Republic, all citizens have a right to try to persuade government to enact or change laws to reflect their views. And many laws were changed, along with public attitudes.
Through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, gay activists continually assured everyone that all they wanted was their right to engage in whatever sexual practices they wished without government interference. In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell_v._Hodges that same gender marriage is a constitutional right no different from opposite gender marriage. By 2015, 60% of culture was in support of the change.
Along the way, many high-sounding rationalizations surfaced to justify behavior once seen as wrong, “God made me this way” being one of the earliest.
The simplistic defense, “I was born this way/God made me this way,” tends to relieve those who are practicing homosexuals of a sense of guilt. After all, if your sexual preference is not your choice, but stamped on your psyche at birth, whose fault could it be but God’s? And who is going to take God to task over the way He created someone? On top of that, “God’s choice” makes it impossible to change one’s “orientation.”
The churches’ response to all this was not and is not uniform.