So, to the heart of the issue, I turn my attention now to the question of how God can judge people for doing what is natural to them. As I have already pointed out, the question itself is a little flawed in that “natural” or “by nature” is not easily defined. Typically, we call natural what our wills are bent toward doing (that is, what we desire to do, giving no regard to what God or others might say is best for us to do). We trust our own desires and tend to be controlled by them as though there is nothing higher or better than our private appetites.
To put the matter quite plainly, we are slaves of our own appetites (Romans 16:18). This condition is true not just of those with an appetite for homosexuality but also for those who have an appetite for fornication, adultery, thievery, covetousness, bribery, slander, gossip, or murder. The root problem is not the behavior so much as it is the appetite which feeds the behavior. And the appetite is driven by the nature of the creature. Rabbits have no appetite for steak. They prefer the green beans in my garden. Their nature is herbivore, not carnivore.
By nature, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). We are born under the curse of sin—all of us. We are all sinners by nature. We are all “condemned already.” In other words, the root problem is not so much that we prefer this sin or that sin. The root problem is that we are by nature unfit for the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:53). All of us. God does not condemn us simply because we practice homosexuality or covet our neighbor’s wife. Rather, we engage in these sinful behaviors because we are by nature sinners. And no sinner has eternal life in him. He is condemned already to death which came into the world through Adam.
No sinner can be in the presence of a Holy God. As Jesus taught, we must be born again (John 3:3). It is the sinner who is condemned precisely because his nature is sinful. The sinner must be born again. He must be made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). New creatures have new appetites for good works (Ephesians 2:10). And this is what God demands. He demands that all people everywhere repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. He demands that we be made new so we can dwell in His presence. He demands that we have a new heart so that we desire holiness and exercise peace, love, and joy with hope in Christ.
So, really, the issue is not so much that we should say to a homosexual, “Stop doing that, or you will burn in Hell” [that is only a 1/2 truth, or it is true only superficially]. Rather, the issue is that the homosexual is a sinner condemned already who practices sin because it is his nature to do so. He prefers one sin. I once preferred other sins. But we were both condemned precisely because we were sinners and needed to be born again into the righteousness of God. Not one of us is righteous by nature (See Romans 3). But Christ, being rich in mercy, even while we were yet sinners, He died for us—the righteous for the unrighteous—so that through Him we may inherit eternal life.
I understand that this message will be offensive to those who practice homosexuality, but it is no more offensive to them than it was offensive to me. This same gospel offended my own personal desires for the flesh, too. The gospel offends all people equally at the very spot of their most intimate, defining appetites. We have ample appetite for sinfulness with no appetite for godliness. That is the problem. We lust for the flesh but have no love for the Father who created us and is calling us to Himself. Therefore, God rightly condemns us because we worship ourselves. We worship our own sex. We worship our own bodies. We worship and serve the things of creation and give no glory to their creator.
Our problem is our sin nature. Our sin nature separates us from God. God will never allow fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, or swindlers into His eternal presence. These [meaning We] are condemned already. That is the bad news, but the good news is that we can be washed and made right with God. This good news is why Paul—right after he mentions the list of sinners which I just mentioned (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)—also goes on to say, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
The reason God is completely just for condemning people according to their nature is, first, that the nature of God is Holiness, without imperfection or impurity. He owes Himself to no one. He would be just if He left everyone of us to our condemnation. And He would be unjust to look on any one of us with indifference, as though our sin were not a problem. He rightly condemns everyone who does not delight in His holiness. And yet, in His great mercy, he does not leave men to their condemnation. Rather, he sent His only Son, Jesus, to take away the curse of sin. He sent Jesus to transfer the guilt of sin onto Himself and to offer the righteousness of God to those who would believe. He calls all men everywhere to repent, believe, and be born again into the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. So, second, God is just in that He has done everything to correct the problem. He offers to remake our natures so that we are acceptable in His sight.
When God—the offended party—goes to such great lengths to reconcile with sinners that He is even willing to offer His own son, shouldn’t those who caused the offense at least acknowledge His goodness and His mercy toward them? What should God do when those people instead mock, ridicule, and slander His Son? Their condemnation is just (Romans 2:1-11; John 3:18).
My cry to (and for) those who practice homosexuality is the same cry I have for all people: Be reconciled to God. Whether they are born that way or not, my hope is that they will be born again from God. I know what my sin nature was. I know how easily I dismissed other people or used them for my own appetites. Worse, I know how I gladly kept God at bay and would not hear of His mercy out of an ingrained fear of His wrath. Yet, I also know the grace God has offered me in this gospel. That is my hope and my cry for other sinners such as I was (and still am in a certain sense, although now I am a new creature and no longer by nature a child of wrath). God is and always will be just in His judgments. But He is right now offering mercy to those who would believe.
I do hope this conversation helps to clarify what it means to have natural inclinations toward sin and how it is that God is just in condemning sinners. Where there is a lack of clarity, I take full responsibility and will attempt to make amends if asked.