Some Christians who oppose homosexuality have for the longest used 2 Tim 3:1-3 as a passage to condemn homosexuality. In the interest of rightly dividing the word of truth, we should know that it does not apply. Of course, that in no way makes homosexuality any more acceptable, but we need to clear this up.
Specifically, the phrase in question is “without natural affections”. The Apostle Paul used it in his list of latter day transgressions mankind will exhibit. Dr. Henry Morris, Ph.D. of the Institute for Creation Research explains why natural affection in this passage doesn’t apply to homosexuality:
This phrase “without natural affection” is the translation of one Greek word, astergeo. It was a characteristic of many pagans of the ancient world. Significantly, it is also prophesied to be a characteristic of the humanistic pagans of the end-times. “In the last days . . . men shall be . . . without natural affection” (II Timothy 3:1–3). These are the only two occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
The word stergeo (“natural affection”) is one of four Greek words for “love,” but it is never used at all in the New Testament. It refers to the natural love that members of the same family have for each other. It is such a common characteristic of all peoples that there was apparently no occasion to refer to it at all—except when it is not present, when people lose their instinctive love for their own parents and children, and thus are “without natural affection.” One thinks of the widespread abortionism of these last days, as well as the modern breakdown of the family in general.
Another Greek word for “love” is eros, referring to romantic love, or passion. Like stergeo, eros also is never used in the New Testament. The other two words, however, are used frequently. Phileo, referring to “brotherly love,” occurs over thirty times. It indicates fondness, based on a community of interest with the person or persons so “loved.”
Thus, the phrase “without natural affection” more accurately describes abortion and a host of familiar/relational sins, not homosexuality.
That being said, in Romans 1:31 , it does apply. Homosexuality is a result of unnatural affections, with the “nature” being understood as what the Creator’s intent is for each person’s sexual expression.