I have been asked this quite a few times over the years and the issue was brought up again recently. Can homosexuals be Christians? Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”? Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with.

I thank God that this is the case because I know that whatever sinful bent I have, it will get the better of me at some point. It is just the way it goes, living with corruption. I also know that I will not be alleviated of my bents until the restoration of my body at the resurrection. I just have to do whatever I can to master my sinful tendencies until then. As the U2 song goes, “some days are better than others.” I can identify with sinners because I am one. I can identify with those who have a bent, because I have one (many actually). Therefore, when I see someone giving in to the bent of homosexuality, I am saddened. My heart goes out to them because their problem is essentially the same as mine. We have a corrupted nature that causes us to give in to our bents.

Now, back to the question of the hour. Can homosexuals be Christians? This is really a theological question that evidences a lack of understanding about sin and redemption. It reveals a major misconception about the nature of sin, placing homosexuality in its own category because of its depraved nature. While I do believe that homosexuality is a worse sin than many others (that is right, not all sins are equal like some would have us believe), I don’t believe that those who have that bent should be seen differently than others.

We could ask the question this way: Can people who have sinful bents be Christians? Of course. Who else can be? Christ was the only one that did not have a sinful bent. Okay then, how about this: Can people who have really bad sinful bents be Christians? Again, the only biblical answer is yes. People who have really bad sinful bents can be Christians. Really, the question that is being asked is this: Can sinners be Christians? To that, I say, is there any other kind of Christian?

Some would respond and say that while they are willing to concede that homosexuals can be Christians, they must be in the process of overcoming this sinful behavior. In other words, they must have consistent and perpetual victory over this bent. Hold on there. While I agree that homosexuals can and many times do have victory over this bent to the point where they redeem themselves completely from this lifestyle, I don’t necessarily think that this is always going to happen. I would say that in my life there are some bents I have had victory over, and some that remain as a naggingly persistent web. This web is one of deception and destruction that can easily trip us up. Listen to the writer of the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews says that it is “easy” to get entangled in this web. The passage warns of the ten euperistaton hamartian – literally, “the easily ensnaring sin.” I believe the primary referent for “the easily ensnaring sin” is the sin of unbelief (the subject of the book), but this sin of unbelief expresses itself in the sin of the hour. In other words, the sin of unbelief leads to our practicing our particular bent. Most importantly, it is “easy” to fall into this.

Again, while I agree that homosexuals can and should be overcoming this sin, it could be the case that they have become entangled in it. This entanglement may be the very acts of homosexuality, or it may be the plight of struggling with it until redemption. It is no different for those of us who are not bent toward a homosexual lifestyle. Some of our most serious bents may plague us, literally, until Kingdom come.

Many refer to Paul admonishing the Corinthians to look back to their victory over sin, implying that they did not practice such things any longer or were completely delivered from them. One of these sins is homosexuality.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

While this seems straightforward upon a cursory reading, I don’t believe that it supports the case that homosexuals can’t be Christians for two primary reasons. First, the people to whom Paul was writing were sinners and were in the process of being rebuked by Paul. Notice here just three chapters back:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

They were fleshly. The sins described in 6:9-10 are fleshly sins. This means that the Corinthians were not necessarily doing well. Yet Paul says they were washed and sanctified. Now either Paul has a slight case of amnesia, or we have to understand 6:9-11 differently, which brings me to the second reason I believe this passage cannot be used by the person who says homosexuals cannot be Christians. Paul identifies Christians with Christ, not with their sinful disposition. In Pauline thought, people who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness are no longer named according to their sinful bent, even if that bent may continue to entangle them. The Corinthians were entangled in their bents to be sure, but Paul sees them through the righteousness of Christ. This is why Paul could say “such were some of you.” This does not make their sinfulness any less severe, but it does say that Christ’s redemption, in Pauline theology, has redeemed the sinner, though he remain in a sinning state. Those without the covering of Christ’s righteousness are still identified by their sin in the eyes of God. Therefore, in this context, it is true that fornicators, thieves, coveters, homosexuals, and all unrighteous people (those not covered by Christ’s righteousness) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But thankfully, we have been covered by His righteousness and set apart, though we are still sinners.

One more thing. I often hear this concession: While I believe that homosexuals can be saved, they cannot believe that homosexuality is approved by God or attempt to justify their sin. I understand and agree with this to some degree, yet I still say that this is not always the case. We all have ways of justifying our bents, whatever they may be. Sometimes we minimize their seriousness, while other times we outright deny them. It is also often the case that we just do not ever deal with them. For twelve years after the resurrection of Christ, Peter continued in his belief that Jews were better than Gentiles. He lived twelve years after becoming a Christian believing that he, by virtue of being a Jew, was so much better than Gentiles that he would not even set foot in their house. Speaking to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, he said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). What if Peter had died in year eleven? He would have died living his entire Christian life as a prideful racist. Racism is spoken of in the New Testament as a mark of ungodliness even more frequently than homosexuality. Therefore, while I believe that the conviction of the Holy Spirit should be there and it should change our hearts, we have this uncanny tendency to justify our sinfulness to ourselves and to others or to just ignore it.

Having said all this, we all need to recognize the utter sinfulness of sexual perversion. Homosexuality is a sin, and a terribly destructive one at that. But we need to be careful and gracious with those who struggle with this sin, understanding that the struggle against sin is the plight of us all. The solution is not for us to compromise to the politically correct agenda of our culture, which seeks to turn this sin into a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice. But at the same time, we need to be gracious, knowing that the only hope anyone has is to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, not our own.

Can a homosexual be saved? Yes. All sinners can be saved. Indeed, all Christians are sinners. Let us all view this important issue in light of a deep understanding of the plight of sinfulness and may God help us to overcome the resulting bents.

“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    16 replies to "Can Homosexuals Be Saved?"

    • Ben Thorp

      Great article – I am in total agreement 🙂

      However, I would be interested on your thoughts as to how we approach this as church leaders when it comes to discerning the difference between someone persevering through the ongoing struggle of sanctification and someone who has not merely failed to overcome temptation, but is persistently unrepentant? (On the assumption from the above that you would see these as 2 separate states, and that church leadership have a duty to tackle unrepentant sin of any kind)

    • jin

      Great question Ben.

      Let’s not minimize sin just because it is more socially and worldly acceptable. Sin is sin. Whether it be homosexuality or adultery, it is sin. It is interesting to me how we do not let adulterers say, “I am an adulterer and I can’t do anything about it no matter how hard I try”, but we let homosexuals say, “I am a homosexual and I can’t do anything about it, so just accept me because I sin just like you”.

      The acid test is the repentance of our sinfulness AND the fruit that it bears. That is ALSO what Jesus looks for in us. The fruits of our hearts! Jesus specifically told us that He will be looking for our fruits of our hearts. So if repentance is real and genuine there will be change and result in actions that befit someone who has been saved. This is the everyday miracle that we see. Jesus coming into our hearts and CHANGING OUR NATURE!!! Isn’t this what we preach and pray for??

      Jesus told the woman accused of adultery to GO AND SIN NO MORE. He did not say go and sin less.

      Also….We must stress that Jesus not only came to forgive us from sin, but also to save us from our sinfulness. The Bible promises us the POWER to change and sin no more.

    • Brian

      “… discerning the difference between someone persevering through the ongoing struggle of sanctification and someone who has not merely failed to overcome temptation, but is persistently unrepentant?” – Ben

      Your question sets up a very extreme polarity of attitude. Seems like it would be obvious in that situation. You don’t think you could discern the difference?

      Or do you mean to ask how to handle someone who is unrepentant as church leaders? In that context I think there is some common biblical advice to follow.

    • Roger H.

      So, given this way of thinking, what about second marriages? Matthew 19:6-10 makes it pretty clear that Jesus was not big on the whole idea of getting divorced because you fell out of love, then getting remarried. There is one exceptions listed, sexual immorality. CS Lewis had to shop around for a minister because his fiance was divorced. So clearly at some point that was not acceptable, but now it is. This inevitable leads to the argument that eventually same sex marriage should or will become acceptable as well. How is the adultry from a second marriage any different from homosexual relations, or is it?

    • Mike Barlotta

      I agree with CMP that as Christians we are all sinners waging war against the flesh and its desires. We can be quick to point out the sin of homosexuality and ignore others. I think this is partly due to the changes in how the.culture is defining marriage and b/c most of us don’t struggle in this area.

      We need to see it the same way we see other sin – specifically sexual sins. We are told to flee them. And we are also warned against partiality and hypocrisy.
      I don’t think we should expect the desire or temptations to go away – but we should expect a struggle and walk that acknowledges the act as sin the same way we would or should in other sexual sins.

      Church leaders will need to deal with active and unrepentant sinners using the principles in Matt 18 & 1Cor 5. The key is being consistent.

    • Phil Barron.

      Great article Michael. When we become Christ’s there is something else we receive beside forgiveness and His righteousness and that is the Holy Spirit. When we have these “bents” striving for the mastery in us we also have STRUGGLE. I am highly dubious of myself or anyone else who isn’t struggling with their sin. That to me is the difference between those who want to make homosexuality socially acceptable and those who I can come alongside and encourage with the love of Christ.

    • Jeff Ayers

      This question is at the heart of the Gospel and all that we believe about salvation and our approach toward understanding the warning passages of the New Testament.

      Can a homosexual be(come) saved? Of course
      Can a saved person who is a practicing homosexual ACTUALLY BE saved? that is the real question.

      If you read 99% of the books/ commentaries/ blogs and other evangelical/ fundamental writings, the answer is a resounding NO.

      This issue gets to the question of “What must I do to be saved”… if Paul is right, and the answer is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”, then the answer to the previous question is YES.

      Any truly saved person is capable of and may commit ANY sin of the flesh, including homosexuality.

      Then, how do we understand the warning passages in Hebrews, Matthew, 2 peter etc. as well as the 3 times that Paul says that they who _____________ (commit these wicked sins of the flesh listed in 1 Cor 6, Eph 5 and Gal 5) WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM.

      Most will say, if they live a lifestyle of these sins, then they will not go to heaven.
      They then run to 1 John 3:9 and change it from what the TEXT SAYS (WHOSOEVER IS BORN OF GOD DOTH NOT COMMIT SINS) To – whoever is born of God does not habitually commit the same sins on a regular basis without repenting and will not commit them for a long period of time.

      Perhaps Paul meant what he said, when he said “Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” actually meant it.

      The whoremonger (male or female) and covetous person does not have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

      Who are we to change the word inherit to ENTER? And then change the kingdom of God to HEAVEN?

      Is it just possible that Paul is talking to the saved (and he is) about those who commit the works of the flesh (Gal 5) will NOT INHERIT the Kingdom of God?

    • Anonymous

      I realize that we all struggle with particular sins, and that Christ can forgive sin. While I agree that Christians who have homosexual relations as a Christian can be forgiven, I don’t know why this particular group is being singled out for our “understanding.” You say, “we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality,” but I disagree. People who struggle with same-sex attraction are no different than anyone else – it’s just that the object of their attraction is to people of the same sex. Single heterosexuals equally struggle with their sexual attractions, as do many married heterosexuals.

      All sin is chosen. There is no sin that overtakes us. Yes, there is a bent toward sin in all of us that makes it easy for us to sin, but the bottom line is that when we sin, we choose to sin. When we face temptation, we choose whether we want to obey Christ or fulfill our sinful desires. And too often, we choose our sinful desires over Christ. While I recognize that no one can live completely above sin, the more faith we have in Christ the less we should be engaging in sinful behaviors. Someone who is habitually “falling into sin” is habitually failing to exercise their faith in Christ. They are, instead, habitually choosing to be their own lord rather than letting Christ be their Lord.

    • Anonymous

      I was single for a lot of years, and thought about sex all the time. I was tempted to fornicate daily, and had opportunities for sex that I turned down. Why? Because I loved God more than my own desires. And now I am married – very unhappily married. It’s a sexless marriage. Once again I find myself tempted daily to have an affair. And once again, I’ve had opportunities. One woman was begging me to have sex with her. I didn’t have to premediate it. All I had to do is “fall into sin.” And let me say, everything in me wanted to do it. And given my situation, I’m sure there would be understanding brothers like yourself. But I didn’t do it because of my moral convictions and my fear of God.

      So I don’t buy the idea that some people are just going to continue “struggling” (code word for “committing sin”) with some sin all their life. If you’re routinely giving in to your temptation, you are not struggling with sin, but simply submitting to sin rather than Christ. Again, I’m not saying any time we sin we cease being Christians, but I am saying that every time we sin we cease submitting to Christ in that moment. And someone who is regularly “falling into” the same sin is regularly rebelling against Christ. I can’t help but to question the integrity of that person’s faith, if, when they are faced with deciding between Christ and self, they regularly choose self. The way to stop sinning is to choose to stop sinning, and remove the things in your life that tempt you in that area. To give homosexuals a pass is to slap all of us straight people in the face as though we don’t equally struggle with sexual sin. If we can overcome it (the behavior, not the desire per se), so can homosexuals. Can we still sin? Yes? Could someone who had gay sex a few times in their Chrisitan life be saved? Of course, just like the person who commits fornication or adultery. But we ought to expect that Christians will rarely be involved in such sin, if at all.

      • Clint

        Brother, thank you. I am grateful for your understanding of the seriousness of sin and that you have resisted such out of fear of the Lord. I was very dismayed by this post. Unintentionally, I’m sure, it gave a pass on the mortification of sin–which Paul says is essential to life (Rom 8:13). We are saved through sanctification and belief in the Gospel (2Th 2:13). And, if the latter is sincere, it will always lead to the former. Honestly, this was saddening to read. Imagine calling people to repentance that doesn’t really involve repentance (Act 17:30-31) and, comforting those who have yet to be born again (1Jn 3:9).

    • None Given

      Science has proven that homosexuality is a perfectly natural thing. Are you against science

    • None Given

      Being homosexual is not a choice

    • Ben Thorp

      @None Given: Given the shortness of your replies, it’s difficult to tell whether or not you are simply trolling, but I will attempt to answer your points nonetheless.

      Science has “proven” no such thing. All science has been able to do is prove that homosexuality is neither 100% nature *or* 100% nuture. There are likely some genetic indicators, and some indicators within particular environments for growth, but neither has been proven to be conclusive in it’s own right. More to the point, most evolutionary scientists would likely point out that homosexuality would cause a break in the genetic line, making it somewhat “unnatural” from a scientific point of view.

      However, we are not (all) scientists. We are (primarily) theologians. Our question is not to do with “the natural” but rather the “supernatural”. Our primary source material is the Bible, and asking what it says about a particular matter. So our question is not “what is a cultural norm”, but rather “what is the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven”. There are many things in this world that are “natural”, but are not of the Kingdom of Heaven. Death, for instance. Suffering and illness, for another. Included in this are many things that are genetics, and many that are from nurture; even some that are both. For example, in our current culture, we see many that are genetically predisposed to, and through nurture, succumb to alcoholism. But there is none in the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Coming to your final point, and going back to the article in question, having same-sex attraction is not a choice, but choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle is. In the same way that having opposite-sex attraction is not a choice, but choosing to enter a lifestyle of pornographic and/or fornication is. Access to pornography and pre-marital sex has become culturally acceptable (“natural”), but it is not a new problem, nor is it acceptable to God. Likewise homosexual relationships have become culturally acceptable, but it is nothing new, nor is it acceptable to God.

    • A Believer

      I think heterosexuality is responsible for the vast majority of sexual sin within the church. I also *do not* believe homosexuality is sinful–at all.

      And I wait in utter desperation for the One Just Judge to come and set this disordered, sinning, sexist, racist, homophobic church of his in order.

      • Ben Thorp

        > I think heterosexuality is responsible for the vast majority of sexual sin within the church.

        Given that statistically heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by at least 9-to-1, that’s not hard to imagine. I’m not sure that anyone is particularly debating that. I don’t think the article is suggesting anything different.

        > I also *do not* believe homosexuality is sinful–at all.

        Could you justify your position Biblically, and within the context of the article in question?

    • Teleskoïd

      Hi. Well I am having same sex attraction which is indeed agonizing and although some will say there is hope to change, I tend to see my hope as such of a blind person would have to see again. I don’t expect God to change me even if I know He can. So the difference between single hetero men and me is that I cannot even really hope to get married one day and get to have sex and experience human intimacy in that way, which seems very harsh when you are 20.

      But, the hardest thing is that I am compared to pedophiles, murderers and other alcoholic persons. How can you compare a tendency to experience love for people of the same sex to such devastating and destroying sins as pedophilia, murder or alcoholism? It is not so evident what the bad consequence of a faithful monogamous relationship with a person of the same sex would be, because yes, this is possible. Not all gay people are perverted and promiscuous .

      I don’t claim homosexuality has no consequence, only that it is hard to see them clearly when you experience it, and the only thing you want is having someone you love be there when you come back home after a long day at work. It just doesn’t seem so disgusting and terrible.

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