Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.
A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.
Attitudes of self-righteousness can also come from the false belief that sexual minority people choose their sexual orientation. It is critical to understand that a person’s orientation, by which I mean the mere pattern of attraction he or she experiences, is generally not chosen. Sexual orientation is properly thought of as part of his or her circumstances, not his or her behavior. And while particular behaviors do have moral significance, the fact that gay sex is more tempting to a gay person than a straight person is not an indication of differing righteousness, but only differing circumstances.
I have personally found that I can easily fall into self-righteousness even though I’m not straight, because I have never been sexually active or used pornography. These decisions of mine are often affirmed by other Christians who mean to encourage, but this affirmation can lead me into the trap of thinking of myself as a better person than others with similar circumstances who have outwardly sinned. I have to remind myself that God has been at work in my life, and it is not a matter of my being better than others.
Another important matter of the heart is prejudice. In part as a result of the way that sexual minority issues are often discussed, a lot of people harbor prejudices about sexual minorities that can materially affect how they treat people. This can manifest itself as false beliefs about sexual minorities, or as discomfort around those known to be sexual minority people. We must be especially mindful of the well-documented phenomenon of unconscious bias, where people have prejudices that they don’t necessarily know about. We must do the hard work of examining our hearts and beliefs to make sure that we are truly acting out of truth and love. And we should be willing to apologize and make amends when our prejudices cause us to sin outwardly against others.
A final matter of the heart I want to discuss is fear. A lot of Christians seem very afraid of the advance of what is often called “the gay agenda,” and this can also turn into fear of sexual minority people. God did not come to give us a spirit of fear. We need to keep our trust in God. We also must make sure that our responses to people do not come from fear or discomfort.
Above all, we need to make sure that our responses to sexual minorities come from the desire to share the love of Christ. We need to do the hard work of examining our own motivations, and to seek sanctification and forgiveness through Christ when our hearts are hard or corrupted. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ applied to our own lives, not just a correct doctrine of sexual ethics.
Other posts in this series:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Why I Criticize Christians
- Part 3: Sins of Word and Deed
- Part 4: Sins of Omission
- Part 6: How Doctrine Matters
- Part 7: Of Logs and Specks
Jeremy Erickson is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He previously studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Taylor University in Upland, IN.