1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
There is a freedom I found the day I realized that my same-sex temptations were not in and of themselves “sin”. In my previous post, I wrote how hopeless it is to think yourself condemned for something you feel you have no control over. I know of many fellow believers that have wrestled with the feelings of condemnation that can come by merely being tempted to engage in a struggle that they were trying to overcome. We can understand that by simply being human, we will be tempted to sin. That comes with the fall. We are all bent toward sin. I remember seeing it in my oldest daughter… as cute as she was, the little stinker was not even two years old when she started learning how to manipulate… ladies and gentlemen, a fallen nature at work. Even so, there is a distinction that needs to be made in this. James 1:14-16 puts it this way:
No, a man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death—make no mistake about that, brothers of mine! ( J.B. Phillips New Testament)
Scripturally, temptation itself is not sin, but when “desire takes hold” produces sin and death.
This is so important to understand for every believer… I would go so far as to say that for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, it is absolutely essential to understand this distinction. To believe that temptation itself condemns you leaves you in a constant state of defeat and despair. In my own struggle, interpreting every temptation with same-sex attraction as sin, left me feeling demoralized, condemned, and robbed me of the opportunity to exert my will and to battle effectively.
Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. (2 Cor 10:5 Phillips)
A proper understanding of temptation leaves believers with a choice of what to do in response to it. Temptation is not sin, but a common experience that God is able to give grace to endure and overcome. That is so hopeful! Believing this helps us move from a victim mindset to a place of encouraged strength. A believer who rests in this handles temptation differently than one who feels defeated the second an enticing thought assaults his / her mind.
Maybe you feel as though I am preaching to the choir here. Many in the church would agree with this seemingly self-evident biblical truth concerning temptation, yet there is a disparity when it comes to the issues of same-sex attraction. Over and over again, the object of temptation (someone of the same sex) automatically defined the temptation as a sin to be repented of. That is not biblical. The scriptures state that sin is produced when “a man’s desires take hold of him”. This is where some empathy and understanding can make the difference between hope and despair.
I know that it is not popular to hold this view, but I believe, and have experienced, that same-sex attraction is partially a symptom of unmet need. There is nothing to repent of in needing love. There is nothing sinful about wanting to experience affection or companionship. God unapologetically created humanity with relationship in mind. When our desire to connect with the same sex is in a way that is out of order, even this is not sin, but rather is symptomatic of a life impacted by sin and brokenness. But it is absolutely NOT sin in and of itself. However, if not taken captive and submitted to the Lordship of Christ, this desire for connection and love can easily “take hold” of our hearts and minds, and lead us into sin.
There have been a number of articles I have read this month that have specifically dealt with the concept of sexual orientation. In those articles, many of which were from very well respected Christian leaders, the disparity of viewing same-sex temptation as inherently sinful, while heterosexual temptation was viewed more graciously, that I mentioned came up frequently. The authors clearly stated that as believers, we have the responsibility to submit our desires and inclinations to His Lordship. Godly stewardship of our sexuality demands that. As one who has walked this journey for two decades, and who has walked alongside those struggling with same –sex attraction for over a decade, I can say with authority just how very un-helpful it is to our discipleship process when we are judged as failures because of the nature of the struggle we are contending with.
In order to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction, there has to be a shift in how we speak about same-sex temptation. Can we speak in such a way that doesn’t defeat those dealing with this issue before they even have a chance to obey in the midst of temptation? Can we speak the scriptures back to them, not our own opinions? Can we focus on our common condition, that we are all drawn into sin when we decide to take the place of God, trusting in ourselves to meet our needs, and not submitting those needs back to our God who cares for us?
It is not that same-sex attraction is exactly the same as any other sexual temptation, it is not. It reveals a different state of brokenness. It has vastly different implications for what surrendering to Christ might mean long term. It has the capacity to alter our understanding of our identity. It is very weighty, and very different. But the nature of the temptation does not make it sin simply because it is different.