It is obvious to me when reading the online comments of several professed Christians that culture is having a greater influence upon their thinking than the inspired Scripture. And it is equally obvious by references these people make to the Bible that many don’t really pay attention to what it very plainly says.. Rather, they rely on others who have read key passages to (re)interpret what it says about homosexuality. Additionally, I see increasing instances of people disrespecting the Apostle Paul and discounting what he wrote as irrelevant for a 21st century context. What is even worse is the assertion that Paul is teaching a different Gospel than Jesus! Because if you can dismiss the Apostle Paul, then you’re left with a much depleted New Testament, and a far less defined Gospel.
I’m not going to make the attempt at the moment to defend Paul. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then you dismiss Paul at your own risk. Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul in the road to Damascus, and called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. That means he’s the key communicator for the overwhelming majority of us. Further, Paul started churches and set precedent for how churches should be formed, which arguably continues to bear fruit today. See, I couldn’t leave it alone! I will proceed with the same faith passed down to the saints from the beginning: the Gospel distilled and proclaimed by Paul, Peter, John and at least four other New Testament writers.
But, just to make a point, let’s start with Jesus, whom many make the case never addressed homosexuality. Actually, Jesus taught about something more important than sexual choice, he taught about God’s design for gender and human relationships. Most importantly for this discussion, Jesus affirmed Old Testament teaching about marriage.
“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”
The one flesh relationship that Jesus affirms is part of God’s design in creation. In fact, the Lord quotes from the creation account in Genesis (2:24) in his reply to the Pharisees. I think Jesus might say the same thing to us today regarding the issue of marriage: “Have you not read…?” God intentionally designed and created two different genders, male and female. Sex is part of God’s design and the physical connecting link between the man and woman who commit themselves to each other in marriage. It is also the procreative tool to bring about new life. When a man and a woman join together by covenant and in sexual union, they become one physically, emotionally and even spiritually. The one flesh relationship God designed is impossible between two people of the same gender. This should be anatomically obvious to anyone who considers it.
It has become culturally acceptable for men and women to act like the opposite gender, and even to have themselves surgically and chemically altered to resemble the opposite gender. However, God’s design is deeper than that. We are living in a fallen world and there are some who are born with characteristics of both genders, and others who never feel comfortable living out their genetic gender. “God created them male and female.” Each one of us is created to be either male or female, outside and inside. Perhaps the person born with both characteristics is a good illustration of the “inside” gender idea. That individual must chose to live as a male or a female and will choose what they are inside as opposed to living according to their ambivalent or confusing anatomy.
You are either male or female. God designed you to be that gender. Physically and emotionally and spiritually you will become more and more a man or more and more a woman.
It is not God’s will for everyone to marry. Observe what the Lord taught us about divorce. The disciples were surprised about his strict interpretation.
“The disciples said to him, If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
A eunuch cannot have sexual intercourse with a woman. Some men are born this way, some were conscripted and surgically altered as children, and others may choose to remained celibate.
There is a pattern and a principle here. If you are a man and are not attracted to women, or if you are attracted to other men instead, then it is incumbent upon you to remain celibate, not to presume that God made you to be a homosexual. We are living in a fallen world and I have no doubt but that there are complex factors at work in the lives of those who have same sex attraction. However, sex is not the answer to same sex attraction. You may genuinely love someone of the same gender. Good! But sex is not love. You find yourself in the same position as the eunuchs Jesus taught about above, and the same situation as any unmarried person with heterosexual attraction. You can abstain. Nothing bad will happen if you do not act out on your sexual attraction and desire. However, it will be very bad if you determine to identify with homosexuality and act against God’s design for male and female.
Let’s look at what Paul had to say in his letter to the Romans. This is an important inspired document. It was written to the capital city for the entire Roman empire. Paul distilled the Gospel and presented it very clearly in Romans. The epistle starts with a presentation about the world’s number one problem: sin. This is a longer passage, but read it carefully. I want you to understand the flow of the Apostle’s inspired reasoning.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
I left the verse numbers so that you can find what I comment on.
First, God’s righteous anger is demonstrated against all sin (v. 18), not just sexual sins, and not just certain sexual sins. People who live sinful lifestyles suppress the truth (v. 18)—sin as defined by God in the Bible, and clearly in this Epistle to the Romans. To suppress means they try to hold the truth down, cover it up and keep people from hearing it, or argue against it. People suppress the truth with words and with their actions and lifestyle choices. That describes a variety of ways advocates energetically defend homosexuality and same sex marriage today. It has been cast as a civil right, and same sex marriage is “marriage equality.” Who wants to deny someone equal rights? Do you want to be on the wrong side of history? In one sense we’re all on the wrong side of history, until Christ returns and establishes righteousness and justice on the earth.
Because many Christians oppose homosexuality and support traditional marriage, a number of outspoken LGBT groups express outrage, sometimes even hatred. Apparently Christians don’t have the right to speak or exercise freedom of conscience. Activists shout down and attempt exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinion about homosexuality. Do you need reminding about the Atlanta fire chief who was dismissed for at statement in support of traditional marriage, or of how national Christian speaker Louie Giglio was pressured by the gay lobby to turn down an invitation to pray at Obama’s inauguration because of something he said in a sermon against homosexuality many years earlier. And do you remember the Chik fil’ A brouhaha and boycott? All because the mild mannered founder supported traditional marriage. Suppressers are not supporters of free speech… unless they are the ones speaking.
Everyone is accountable to God because God has revealed himself in some way to everyone, both in their conscience and in creation (vv. 19-20). Suppression of the truth continues: Is it any wonder that many who reject God embrace a worldview that teaches everything came from nothing as the result of pure chance, and “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no good, nothing but pointless indifference” (Dawkins). Every living thing is the product of the blind force of natural selection. This certainly leaves a gaping hole, through which any random idea or set of values can come, and indeed have come. If you begin with the provable assumption that the world is designed, created by an intelligent mind, then the next step is to understand the design and discover how you fit into it.
Even though we have all seen evidence of God in ourselves and in the created order, we all rebel and refuse to acknowledge Him in our thinking (v. 21). There is a biblical Proverb that says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him,and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). No, we put God out of our minds and think and do whatever we please. We think we are so wise! Further, we are ungrateful for all that the good and loving Creator has provided and done. The result is idolatry. We idolize things, people, and most of all, self (vv. 21-24).
Now let’s focus on those last two verses, which clearly describe homosexuality, even though they do not use that term. In fact, that has been an argument used by the pro homosexuals who try to use the Bible to buttress their position, or disabuse it in a continued effort to suppress what it says. The argument goes like this: The word “homosexual” is never actually used, so what we call homosexuality is not wrong. Actually, more descriptive and graphic words are used to describe and define the behavior. We often use the English word “homosexual” to gather these ideas together.
The Apostle Paul observes the ancient world and states (Romans 1:26-27 again),
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Once someone gets to the place where they choose an active lifestyle of sin, rebellion and perversion, it is the because they have stopped responding to God who has been convicting their conscience about right and wrong. Eventually, the person who chooses such a lifestyle hardens their heart to the point that they no longer respond to God’s urging. So, he gives them up to their desires (v. 26). Among these may be a burning desire to do sexual things with the same gender. Women are said to exchange natural sex with a husband for disordered sex with other women. Men are said to burn in their passion for other men. I believe that this is an expression of self-love and selfish idolatry.
I have come to believe that, at it’s root, homosexuality is an attempt to love and worship the self. A gay man sees another like himself, projects himself onto that person and makes love to them, and in so doing loves himself. This is partly what sex is, a means of obtaining acceptance and love. The perversion with homosexuality is the inability or unwillingness to completely love the other. I’m not saying that a lesbian couple cannot love one another (not sex, but compassion), but I am saying that the sexual side of homosexual relationships is very self-involved. The homosexual may project onto someone who is very much like themselves, someone who has similar physical features, and then show affection to that person and try to become physically intimate with them in an attempt to love themselves. In a different case a homosexual may project themselves onto an ideal person, someone they wish they were like, and make them the object of affection, in which case they are compensating for what they feel they lack. Now, this is my theory; you may criticize or jettison it as you’d like. I’m trying to understand homosexuality as it relates to sex itself.
The Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 5:28-29: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it….” It is evident, then, that sex is a means of self-love. The man and woman become one flesh, and when they have intercourse, they are expressing love each for the other and for the self as they identify with the other. The problem with homosexuality is both, that it cannot result in a one flesh relationship, and that it is expressing love for what amounts to an ideal image in the mirror of another just like me or like I want to be.
Whatever the root and reason for homosexuality, it is inherently unfulfilling. The homosexual receives in her/his own body the due penalty for their error (v. 27). Same sex marriage, social acceptance, or pleasurable sexual experiences: none of these will fill the emptiness. Homosexual activity merely exacerbates the loneliness and inevitably results in pain, loss, depression, isolation, despair. Whatever the psychological, emotional and physical consequences of homosexual behavior, it is sin. All sin separates from God, and without God we are all empty and headed for destruction.
There are two other New Testament passages of Scripture about homosexual behavior and relationships. Like the passage above, homosexuality is not treated alone. It is listed alongside other sins.
The Apostle Paul indicates that the Law should be taught or preached to those who are acting lawlessly so that they will be given an opportunity to realize that they are wrong.
1 Timothy 1:8-11
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
The word for immoral is “pornos” in Greek and likely refers to the sexually immoral, of which the next word is an example. In the NASB, the Greek word “arsenokoites” is translated “homosexual.” In the NRSV and the NKJV it is rendered “sodomites.” It is a highly descriptive term that refers to more than mere same sex attraction; rather, it speaks of men actually having anal intercourse with other men. We get the English word “coitus” from one of the two words this Greek term has joined together. “Male” and “intercourse.” Please notice, homosexual conduct is treated no differently than any other sinful lifestyle choice on the list, from murderers and kidnappers to the profane or perjurers (liars).
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
The key teaching in this passage is that all sin separates people from obtaining eternal life with God in His Kingdom. The two terms that refer to those who actively practice homosexuality are very graphic and refer to the active and passive male partners in homosexual sex. Those who are involved in such activity are included in the larger list of people who are living other sinful lifestyles, such as, fornication (heterosexual sex outside of marriage) and adultery.
So, there it is, a concise overview of what the New Testament (and Old Testament as Jesus taught it) teaches about homosexuality. This is why I am opposed to it. I don’t hate professed homosexuals, any more than I hate people caught up in other sinful lifestyle choices. I don’t believe I am any better without Christ. But I am in Christ, and he has given me life. I want everyone to receive what I have, but to do that you’ll have to have a change of heart and mind about many things, not just homosexuality.