The Orthodox Church presents a view of sin distinct from views found in Roman Catholicism and in Protestantism, that sin is viewed primarily as a terminal spiritual sickness, rather than a state of guilt, a self-perpetuating illness which distorts the whole human being and energies, corrupts the Image of God inherent in those who bear the human nature, diminishes the divine likeness within them, disorients their understanding of the world as it truly is, and distracts a person from fulfilling his natural potential to become deified in communion with God.
The Biblical Greek term for sin, ? (amartia), means "miss": it implies that one's aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one's fullest potential. As in Western Christianity, in Eastern Orthodoxy the goal is union with God. Orthodoxy also understands sin as a disease of the soul, a condition where the soul is lacking in God's grace. Union with God, as made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine. Orthodoxy regards the mysteries of the Church, also known as sacraments in the West, as vehicles leading towards union with God.
From the Orthodox churches point of view, humans are not sexual creatures in terms of their essential identity. To Eastern Orthodoxy, the relationship which people have with God is reflected in the love for one another; the union of two people in marriage is considered to be a reflection of our ultimate union with God. However, as a result of humanity's rebellion against God (the Fall), humanity has tended to adopt a more animalistic view of sexual activity which is not true to the ultimate transfigurable nature of the human race, having been made in the Divine image and likeness.
The Orthodox churches do not hold that sex is inherently sinful, but rather condemn seeing sex as something which can be divorced from the loving act between a married couple. As St. Cesarios said, "copulation and birth of children in accordance with the law is free from any sin and condemnation."
One of the Fathers of the Church, John Chrysostom, in elaborating on the words of Paul of Tarsus states that "because man is prone to strong lustful feelings, and because all men are not strong enough to be celibate, the Church allows the temporary union of marriage as an alternative to sin". This is a commentary on 1 Corinthians 7, which states "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion."
To some Orthodox, sex and marriage are both temporary states experienced in this world only. In Heaven all are equal and our relationship is with God (Gospel of Matthew 22:30, Gospel of Mark 12:25, Gospel of Luke 20:35). Other Orthodox regard marriage as being eternal, that the crowns used in the Orthodox marriage ceremony are received (as the rite states) into Heaven and therefore signify an eternal reality. Thus, while sexuality in its physical sense may not be continued in Heaven, the bond between a husband and wife is permanent, and celibacy, while an honourable and holy state if done for the sake of the Kingdom, is not by any means the most common path for all Orthodox Christians. With virginity, marriage is thus also understood as an ascetical working out of salvation. As the Bible says, the "marriage bed is undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4). As is seen in the sacramental rites themselves, marriage is understood as being forever sanctified by Christ's presence and first miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee (Gospel of John 2:1-11).
The Orthodox view Christian marriage as a primary image in the New Testament of the union of the Church with Christ. The eschatological fulfillment of all things is in terms of the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9), i.e., the Church to Christ. "Thus, marriage is a sacrament—holy, blessed, and everlasting in the sight of God and His Church" (Orthodox Study Bible, p. 448). Or, as Fr. Alciviadis C. Calivas writes:
Fr. John Meyendorff in Byzantine Theology (pp. 196-197) says:
Later Meyendorff also says:
The Orthodox Church has been consistent in condemning acts of homosexuality (also homosexual persons), despite variations in the conditions for homosexual activity and responses from various Church leaders and the State. Continuing a worldview evident from the Old and New Testaments, the Church Fathers consistently condemned homosexual activity, as did the Byzantine state.
Official statements by the Orthodox hierarchy continue to be consistent in terms of the traditional position that homosexual behaviour is sinful and thus damaging to the human person, and that homosexual temptation is a subject for ascetic struggle. While some Orthodox theologians and jurisdictions have championed the traditional view, they have also engaged in scientific conversation and in dialogue with the increasing number of societies that view homosexuality far differently than at the time of the Byzantine Empire. After affirming the import and meaning of the Scriptures that address homosexual activity, calling it sin, the Orthodox Church in America offered the following advice at its 10th All-American Council in 1992:
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, the highest representative body of Orthodox people in America, reaffirmed in a statement on September 2013 that "the Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, two millennia of Church Tradition, and Canon Law, holds that the sacrament of marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage reflects the sacred unity that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church". "Acting upon any sexual attraction outside of sacramental marriage, whether the attraction is heterosexual or homosexual, alienates us from God". Moreover, the Assembly reminded that "persons with homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed on all of humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ".