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Is Being Tempted a Sin?

My quick answer to the question, "Is being tempted a sin?" is, I hope not!

You might be asking why I was raising this question at all. As most of you know by now I've been engaged with Dr. Preston Sprinkle and The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender for almost eight years. Our purpose is to assist Christians, Christian pastors, and leaders to learn how to love and understand LGBTQ+ people and their families while still holding to the Bible's historical teaching on marriage and sexuality.

However lately Preston, The Center, and even me personally have been called out by some Christians for teaching "heretical views". Next week I'll post a blog Preston wrote to address some of our critics. But following on my last week's blog I want to address a specific teaching we are being accused of- the teaching of sinless temptation.

In The Center's doctrinal statement we write, "Simply having a same sex attraction is not a morally culpable sin."

By that we mean Jesus will not hold LGBTQ people responsible simply for being born with, or having an unwanted same-sex attraction. Let me be more specific. I meet with LGBTQ Christians all the time who have begged God for years to take away their sexual desire for people of the same sex. They've gone to counseling. They've resisted the temptation and if when they've failed they have called it sin and asked Jesus for forgiveness for their sin. They understand to have lustful thoughts or to have sex with a person of the same sex is a sin.

The Center has never used the term that what they experience is a "sinless temptation". Of course all sinful inclinations, gay, or straight are the result of the Fall and are contrary to God's intention of humans sexually. But is it a sin to merely be tempted? We do not believe it is. Jesus in the desert was tempted by Satan. Three times he was presented with an opportunity to sin. He did not act on it and therefore committed no sin.

So how should Christians think about sexual temptation? I've found it helpful to think in these terms.

Attraction. I'm 75 years old but I still notice beautiful women. I'm married to one of them, but I'd be a liar if I claimed to not notice other beautiful women. But I do not believe simply being attracted to, or noticing another woman is a sin. However it can be a temptation to sin if you take the next step. Lusting. If I move beyond noticing a beautiful woman to imagining her without clothes, or me with her sexually. If that occurs I have sinned. Period. It doesn't matter if it's an actual women I know or pornography. It's sin and if left unconfessed, I will have to answer to Jesus someday for it. Having sex. If my imagination or lust moves to actually having sex with someone I'm not married to, that is a far more serious sexual sin. If that ever happened and I did not call it sin and did not confess it to Jesus and ask forgiveness, I will have to answer to Jesus someday.

James puts escalating tendency to sin in this way; "When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." - James 9:13-15

Paul offers this warning in I Corinthians; "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

- I Corinthians 6:9-10

It's not those simply tempted by sins, or even those who fail morally but confess their sin as sin before God, who will never inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. It is those who call what God has declared to be sin, to not be sinful and have given themselves over to their sinful desires. The Corinthian passage is not condemning alcoholics who struggle to not drink. It’s those who givethemselves over to drunkenness without remorse who should be very afraid. As should a greedy Christian who isn’t the least bit sorry for having more money than they will ever need while others sleep outdoors in Winter, or children in the Congo lick rust off old junked cars for the iron.

In conclusion. No believer who struggles sexually, gay or straight if they fail should ever consider their failure to be the will of God. "because he made me that way". God is not the author of sin. He does not tempt us to sin. He forgives us when we do if we confess it and ask the Holy Spirit to help us resist sin. But, believers who embrace sin as the will of God have every reason to be afraid.

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Thank you again for such a well written blog! Thank you for the time and the effort that you do to write such thoughtful articles


Jun 04

Thank you again for providing a well written and thought provoking article. I must admit to reading it and finding the whole thing very uncomfortable. We are all challenged with temptations I believe but admitting it makes us vulnerable and not in total control. Yet is that not the point ? We’re not! We need to channel that sinful desire and vulnerability to prayer and a greater obedience to GOD because we are not capable or in control.

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