Article

Why Christians can’t compromise on human sexuality

April 30, 2020

This summer will mark five years since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. Ahead of that decision, Christians were facing mounting cultural pressure to embrace the aims of the sexual revolution. Specifically, Christians were being challenged to jettison the traditional sexual ethic that has been a marker of orthodoxy throughout the church’s history, which spans two millenia. But if anything, in the years since the Supreme Court found its way to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the pressure upon the church to compromise its views of human sexuality has only increased.

Some Christians have, in fact, evolved on the issue. One of the more shocking things to me personally was watching author and pastor, Josh Harris, take up the mantle of the LGBT movement. Growing up, I was profoundly shaped by Harris’ ministry, particularly his works on relationships and sexuality, so seeing his marriage come to an end and his subsequent overtures toward pro-LGBT causes has been both painful and disillusioning. Others, of course, were less shocking. There have always been Christians, even in positions of leadership and influence, who appeared uncomfortable with the Bible’s sexual ethics. Over the last several years, dozens of these men and women have either signaled or publicly announced that they no longer hold such views.

But even as some have forsaken the Bible’s teaching on issues related to sexuality, the majority report is just the opposite. Across the United States, millions of Christians have shown no signs of softening their commitment to the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. And while this is surely puzzling to some observers, there are at least three reasons that we should expect this to remain the case — not simply in the short term, but forever.

1. A Christian view of sexuality isn’t subjective

The first reason that Christians won’t opt for a different view of sexuality is because this isn’t actually an area where choice is a significant factor. Those who are committed to a high view of Scripture recognize that God’s revealed Word is the only standard for our faith and practice. We are not free to revise or ignore the testimony of Scripture. And in matters related to sexuality, whether speaking of sexual orientation or sex and gender, the Bible sets forth clear and ample instruction. 

The Scriptures declare that God has, from the beginning, made each person male or female (Gen. 1:27). A person does not choose his or her sex; existing as either male or female is a matter of biology. But more than that, it is a matter of design. Human beings are not simply the products of reproduction, but creatures that exist because of a Creator. And we don’t get to choose our sex any more than we choose to be created. 

In the same way, the Bible only has one conception of marriage: the union of man and woman (Gen 2:24). As the Scriptures teach, the marriage bond is reflected in the sexual union. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is the manifestation of the reality the Bible calls the “one flesh” union. And like one’s biological sex, the biblical vision of marriage is not subject to revision. 

2. Compromising on sexuality is unloving

God is our Creator. And the God who created us is benevolent and kind. In his Word, he instructs us about how we are to live our lives. And the instructions we find in the Scriptures teach us how to live according to the “grain” of God’s design. Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing. This is especially true when it comes to issues of sexuality, which have so much to do with our sense of identity and fulfillment. 

Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing.

All around us the culture says that freedom and satisfaction are found in the absence of constraints. In terms of sexuality, the message is even more specific: embrace your impulses, follow your heart, and seek pleasure wherever you believe it to be found. But God’s Word offers a completely different vision. Rather than solemnizing our search for pleasure, the Bible presents an ordered vision of sexual fulfillment. Sexual pleasure is not to be sought with abandon, but reserved for a relationship marked out by a covenant. More than this, seeking pleasure beyond the bounds of God’s design leads to brokenness. 

To sin is to miss the mark, or to deviate from God’s design. And Christians are never free to bless deviations from God’s design. Same-sex marriage will undoubtedly grow familiar to our society, but even so, Christians holding to the ethics of Scripture will not substitute what seems normal with what is true. Whether facing pressure to compromise concerning same-sex marriage, transgenderism, or other issues, Christians must continue to dissent while lovingly pointing back to the goodness of God’s design. To do otherwise is to sow confusion into the hearts and minds of those who are out of step with God’s design.

3. The Judgement Seat is worse than criticism

Given the enormous pressure to accommodate alternate expressions of human sexuality, there will no doubt be more Christians who capitulate to these pressures in the future. But most will not, because to do so is terribly short-sighted. As Russell Moore often remarks, Christians do not live in view of the next 50-100 years, but the “next trillion.” Being on the right side of the culture at any given moment in time may bring temporary relief from one’s burdens, but much more important is the goal of being on the right side of Jesus. And his judgments on these matters have not changed.

Christians must always be cognizant of the fact that they will one day stand before God to give an account, for their lives, their actions, their beliefs (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 14:12). To deny or reject what God says is true in order to satisfy one’s critics or win the applause of men is to fundamentally miss the call of discipleship. Jesus’ words to those who would follow him are well known: deny yourself and take up your cross (Matt. 16:24). No amount of praise is worth embracing the sins for which Christ died.

There is no excuse for calling good that which is evil, and leads to hell. And for this reason, we can have confidence that the people of God, both now and in the future, will continue to stand firm not only with regard to human sexuality, but the entire witness of Scripture. This is because one cannot remain in submission to God’s Word while compromising the truths his Word clearly declares. God forbid we ever try.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester serves as the Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the ERLC. He is also pursuing a Th.M. in Public Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children. Read More by this Author