Apologetics,  Culture,  Ethics

How Can Same-Sex Relationships be Wrong?

How can same-sex relationships be wrong if they don’t hurt anyone? Can’t we all just live and let live? This is a common objection to the biblical view that same-sex relationships are wrong. The argument is often stated this way: if two adults want to engage in a consensual same-sex relationship, if there is no harm done, why disallow them that freedom? The implication of this kind of argumentation is that if something is not harmful, it is good (or at least allowable).

Although this is a common argument, it actually falters on multiple levels. The appeal to allow same-sex relationships since there is no harm done should be challenged for two significant reasons.

First, the issue of harm is distinct from the question of morality.

Whether something is right or wrong does not depend on whether it is harmful to other people or not. Just from a logical standpoint we can see this. If a wife cheats on her husband and the husband never finds out (and is never negatively impacted at all), it is still wrong and sinful for the wife to commit adultery. Similarly, let’s say a child lies (and that lie causes no particular harm to anyone), it is still sinful. Evaluating morality on the basis of harm is an inappropriate standard to use. The only definitive standard of morality is God and His written word.

If you go down the path of defining morality on the basis of harm, what prohibits consensual incest, pedophilia, or bestiality as valid sexual practices? Clearly, harm cannot be the standard for morality, and nowhere does the Bible condone such a standard. To argue for same-sex relationships on this basis is logically naïve.

Second, just because someone thinks something is not harmful, does not mean it is not harmful.

There are a variety of ways this is evident. From a Christian worldview, we understand that when a creature disobeys the Creator and goes his or her own way, there will be a price to pay for that rebellion. In the previous point, a wife who commits adultery may seem to “get away with it” without harming anyone. But she has still broken God’s standard for marriage. Even though there may be no immediate visible harm, there will divine judgment for that specific sin (either in this life or the next—or both!). That definitely falls under the definition of harm. In other words, even if there is no visible harm in the immediate context, we understand that God’s judgment will result in future harm. Harm cannot only be defined within the immediate consequence.

Furthermore, there are often less visible aspects of harm involved. For example, the child who gets away with lying is harming himself in multiple ways. Not the least of which is solidifying habits of lying and thus adding unnecessary stress to his life, as well as hampering his ability to enjoy the fullness of relationships.

In the case of same-sex relationships, those involved are often harming themselves from a physical perspective (e.g., AIDS) to be sure; but they are also more importantly engaging in unnatural relationships which harm them from a human flourishing perspective. Because God intends certain kinds of relationships to be enjoyed by His creatures, when human beings corrupt those relationships, then they do not enjoy the fullness of God’s intent, and thus bring harm upon themselves. Thus, because same-sex relationships go against God’s intent, they are inherently harmful.

In sum, although many will argue for allowing same-sex relationships on the presumed basis that it doesn’t harm anyone else (i.e., “Let consenting adults do whatever they want”), the truth is that this is a terrible argument on more than one level. And we should explain that to inquiring minds.

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.


  • Marc

    Hi Peter.
    I totally agree with your second argument that people’s perception of harm can be very unreliable and distorted by our addiction to pleasure.

    As for the first one, when Jesus said that “God made the Sabath for man and not man for the Sabath”, did he actually mean “God issued all sorts of arbitrary arguments we have to blindly follow. For all we know, God could have forbidden interracial marriage, in which case it would be objectively wrong and a moral abomination for a black man to spouse a white woman. However, the Sabath is the exception, God really made it because it is good for man” ?

    • Peter Goeman

      I’m sure it is my fault, but I’m having trouble following your argument, Marc. I guess the issue could be in how we are interpreting, “God made the Sabath for man and not man for the Sabath.” I don’t see the conflict between that statement and my main point.

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