The pressure in favor of affirming homosexuality in the church today is real. I want to try to help with this in my own way. I’ve seen some friends of mine be pulled away by some of these arguments which sound reasonable, but at the end of the day, I can only describe them as smoke and mirrors.
Fair warning about this post, the subject matter here is for mature individuals. It’s not a light topic, but it is an important one. I’d rather shoot straight with you and be honest than pull punches and see more of my friends walk down a dangerous path away from Jesus. It’s also a long post (3,000+ words) so be warned.
I need to make a few things clear up front. First, we (Christians) are called to love everyone, yes everyone! Even our enemies (Matt 5:44, Luke 6:27 et al). This means when a same sex couple shows up to church, they are welcomed to stay and participate. If they’re there to cause a ruckus or be a distraction by acting inappropriately as a kind of “shock protest” then they’ll be shown the door just like anyone else doing the same. Worship services are not a place for confusing distractions, they’re a place for order (1Cor 14:40). Second, I need to make clear, my conviction is homosexual practice, the act itself, as an unrepentant lifestyle, would be evidence in someone’s life that they are, in fact, not a genuine believer in Jesus Christ (that’s 1Cor 6:9). Third, this is not to say that those who struggle with Same Sex Attraction are barred from church membership, quite the opposite, every Christian is a former sinner who’s been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ (1Cor 6:11). We all stumble. Every saint is simply a repentant sinner. The mark of a genuine believer is not that they cease to sin, it’s that they never cease to ask for forgiveness (1John 1:9). Finally, homosexuality isn’t wrong because it’s worse than any other form of sexual immorality or because anyone finds it icky. It’s wrong because God says it is wrong. It has to do with the nature of who we are and how we are made as image-bearers of God (Gen 1:27). It’s not about “love” or “happiness” or any of that, it’s about right and wrong as revealed by the creator of you and me.
So, to the issue at hand…
It is a bit disconcerting to see the same (now) old arguments circulating over and over as though the idea of accepting homosexuality as normative in the life of a Christian, as long as you’re in a committed same sex relationship, is a newly discovered truth. As though Jesus would welcome practicing homosexuals into his inner circle. After all, God is love, right?
You can read a great article by David Wright “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The meaning of ἀρσενοχοῖται (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10)” in Vigilae Christian 38 (1984), 125-153. In this article he shows the incorrect nature of the views of those, such as Robin Scroggs, who would assert that “Biblical judgments against homosexuality are not relevant to today’s debate” (“The New Testament and Homosexuality,” 1983, 101 & 127). There is a desperate desire on the part of some today to bet everything on the idea that the Bible doesn’t address the modern version of homosexuality, and thus it is simply silent on the subject. That the Old Testament standard for sexual ethics would not even have occurred to most early Christians in a Roman context and thus New Testament prohibitions are not due to sexuality as an orientation but to the common practice of the day (see: J. Boswell, “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality” 1980, 105). This kind of argument is like taking a leap into the darkness from a ledge covered in marbles. It is moving the boundary markers for salvation on the basis of a gamble predicated upon a faulty assumption. That’s why this issue matters.
So let me just, as quickly as I can, sketch for you (Christian who is searching for the truth) a few salient points you can hold on to from the Bible. For those who are for the Church affirming same sex unions within the church, if you’ve not been convinced by the last 30 years of truth on this subject, I doubt this blog post will make much difference to you.
God made us male and female. That’s how he created people. Our creation as both male and female reflects the image of God. Men do not carry this irrespective of women, and visa versa:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
This speaks directly to the “trans” issue as well as homosexuality. The pairing is intended to be, by design, a man and a woman. Jesus says as much in Matthew 19 regarding divorce.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
Most people are aware of the cities which God destroyed by sending down fiery destruction which now, most likely, reside at the bottom of the dead sea. One of these cities, Sodom, is even used in verb form to describe typical behavior within the context of homosexual acts because it is so well known that God does not accept this kind of behavior. This has been challenged of late to say the burning wrath that God sent to destroy every man woman boy and girl in Sodom is because no one in the city was willing to allow two men (angels actually) to spend the night on their couch, that is to say, practice hospitality.
First of all, the disproportionate nature of the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Those wishing to affirm homosexual practice are hoping against hope that this first major episode of God’s reaction to homosexual practice is actually something else. In Genesis 19:5 what the men of the city ask is for the men to come out “that we may know them.” This is the same kind of “know” where Adam knew his wife and then children came along (Gen 4:1). Genesis 13:13 tells us that the men of Sodom were “sinning greatly against the Lord.” That is quite severe for neglecting to feed and give shelter to two travelers. Genesis 19:8 even tells us Lot is willing to give these men of the city his two daughters to help satisfy their wicked desires. Did you catch that? As horrible as it would be to give your own daughters over to the lustful impulses of an impassioned mob, whatever the men of Sodom wanted to do with the two men in Lot’s house was worse. So, it stretches any kind of credulity to suggest this is only about hospitality. It’s about what Jude 7 and 2Peter 2:7 says it was about “sexual immorality,” “perversions,” and “the unrestrained behavior of the immoral.”
Homosexual practice is and has always been against God’s created order.
It is popular to ask Christians if they eat shellfish or wear polyester cotton blends (both prohibited in the Old Covenant Law) if they are going to condemn Homosexual practice. This is to suggest that the Law of the Old Testament has no bearing on New Testament believers, especially believers in such an enlightened age as the 21st century (see the old 1980s argument made by Boswell mentioned above). This is a misunderstanding of the Law and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. There’s not enough time to cover all of this here, the present topic is big enough, but you can watch my video on The OT Law and Jesus or read The End of the Law by Jason Meyer. Leviticus 18:22 says not to “lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” An abomination is taking a “God thing” and twisting it into a “man thing.” Taking sex, which God created to create the “one flesh” union of man and woman to reflect the image of God, and making it a self-centered exercise of “sameness” is an abomination. Leviticus 20:13 also makes the same claim. It is not simply a “social taboo” or a perversion for mere cleanliness which could be rectified with the proper sacrifices, it is against God’s created order. If you touch a dead body, or eat a pig, you would be unclean and you needed the sacrifice of blood to make you clean. Sexual immorality is a base order sin, not simply a social construct for the people of Israel to establish cleanliness standards. Sexual ethics run to the core of who we are. To suggest that a first century Jew, like Jesus and 100% of his initial followers, would simply disregard or not even think of Jesus’ teaching on sexual immorality within the context of the Old Testament holiness code is unthinkable. This is not simply an argument from silence, it is an argument from meaning. That’s what sexual immorality meant. Jesus never mentioned beastiality either (Leviticus 18:23), yet it was included in what he meant when he universally condemned sexual immorality.
NOT JUST MEN
The descending spiral of depravity is described in Romans 1:26-27 when God is described as giving people up to “dishonorable passions.” Women are specifically mentioned as trading “natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.” It is a clear indication that both male and female homosexual acts are outside of God’s plan for human sexuality. “Men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men.” It is the acts themselves which are condemned. It is described as a mutual situation, “passion for one another, men committing… with men.” This is not a description of power or slavery, it’s simply sin. Mutually agreed upon acts committed by consenting adults. It is also significant to note that it is their desires which lead to their actions. The idea that the idea of “orientation” was an unknown concept in the ancient world does not remove the difficulty homosexual affirming Christians have with this text. It is their desire (what they are oriented to be attracted to) which leads them to sin. These desires are contrary to God’s design and lead to this spiral of depravity which is a punishment in and of itself. This cannot be described as normative for the Christian life.
HE JUST SAID IT
The Apostle Paul, also a first century Jew par excellence, flat-out condemns homosexual acts along with many other sinful behaviors. In 1Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul lists the kinds of people who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He mentioned, among other things, “men who practice homosexuality” (English Standard Version). This is in the midst of people like the sexually immoral, idolators, adulterers et al. These kinds of people, that is to say, people who live in these lifestyles, are not Christians. There is no way to be a follower of Jesus Christ and be involved in an unrepentant lifestyle that is here described with no conviction of your wrongdoing. The Holy Spirit would be doing a number on you, and your church family is expected to confront you should you slide (or backslide) into living this way.
In 1Tim 1:9-11 Paul also mentions “the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality” etc. In 1Corinthians, all the sins Paul lists are to be found in Leviticus 18-20 (except for drunkenness). He is clearly drawing upon the Old Testament holiness code to highlight the fact that holiness doesn’t go out of style in heaven. The word used in both passages is ἀρσενοχοῖται (as is explained in detail in Wright’s article referenced above). Paul either picked up this word from it’s use in earlier rabbinic writings or perhaps he made a new compound word from the Greek words found in the Old Testament meaning “male” and “to have intercourse.” Paul is describing a kind of sexual activity without qualification of context. He is not saying this kind of action is sinful only when it is forced upon someone, he is simply saying it is wrong. It is not something that happens within a group of those who have Jesus as their Lord.
To make matters more clear in 1Cor 6:9 not only does Paul use the word ἀρσενοκοῖται but also μαλακοὶ. Most English translations seek to make these words less shocking by glossing over them a bit to make a more “PG-13” text, and perhaps rightly so. These two Greek words together describe the dominant male and passive male in the context of homosexual acts. I can understand the desire to move past this quickly, it is quite descriptive, especially for a book we read on Sundays. The fact remains, though, both parties are condemned by Paul. This is not the condemnation of one person forcing themselves on another, both sides of the equation are committing sinful acts.
The nature of the relationship of the two men is immaterial to the argument Paul has made. He is simply stating the revealed word of God, confirming what God had previously stated, Homosexual acts are always sinful. The idea of monogamous committed “marriage” like relationships between men absolutely was known in the Roman world at the time when Paul was writing. Paul was deffinately aware of this as an educated Roman citizen. Nero, the emperor while Paul was writing, even married a man. Let us dispense with the idea that maybe Paul just didn’t understand how much love homosexual partners can have for each other. That doesn’t change the fact that the Bible condemns it as sinful, always. A great book on this is “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” by Robert Gagnon and a bit shorter (less technical) book is “What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality” by Kevin DeYoung.
It is important to note that at the end of this passage in 1Cor 6 describing the kinds of unrepentant lifestyles Christians cannot live, Paul says “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” An individual act in your past does not define who you are in Christ. A desire to do something that is wrong does not have the power to label you. The fact that you may stumble from time to time does not negate the forgiveness that is always available to you if you simply ask. If you are a Christian, you are no longer who you were, you are a “new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2Cor 5:17). All are welcome through the power of the cross.
BORN THIS WAY
“But surely people would not be born with a desire to do something that is wrong…?” Does this argument even need to be refuted? Of course we are born with a desire to do wrong, that’s our sinful nature. News flash, we know death has spread to all people because we all sin (Rom 5:12). I have a tendency to anger. It’s not godly. It’s not good. It’s who I am naturally. Living a life of holiness means getting my flesh under control by the power of the Holy Spirit.
People who are enslaved by their base desires, whatever they may be, are described this way by Paul: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Phil 3:19). I can’t think of a better description of the modern Homosexual industrial complex imposing their agenda on the Church today. Make no mistake about it, just as the Bible clearly teaches from beginning to end, the end of their road is not eternal life but destruction. They worship the idea of being able to do whatever they feel like regardless of what is said to be right or wrong. Desire is deified, the only god in their life is themselves, and they are proud of it. They shout it from the mountain tops and want to make a flamboyant display of their wickedness. What should bring shame upon them leading to repentance is celebrated as a kind of perverse liberty. They are thinking of nothing but the here and now and have given no thought to the future in this life or the next. How incredibly sad.
The Bible doesn’t need to command us to not do things people don’t want to do. Every injunction and prohibition in the Bible is because we desire to do what is wicked. Our lives are corrupted by sin and our natural instincts lead us to death, every single time. The idea that something might not be wrong because people want to do it, is so upside down in terms of a biblical worldview I don’t honestly think a rational debate can be held with someone who thinks that makes any kind of sense.
All this to say. We need to love every single sinner and welcome them with open arms into the family of God through the power of the cross and the forgiveness of their trespasses through the incredible redemption available by the grace of Jesus Christ through faith in him by repentance. “Such were some of you…”
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying either way. I am absolutely convinced that the Bible universally condemns homosexual acts and also clearly tells us that kind of unrepentant lifestyle cannot coexist within someone who is genuinely saved. But I’m also absolutely convinced that anyone willing to repent and turn to Jesus will be forgiven to the uttermost. Someone caught-up and lost inside a sinful lifestyle so celebrated by our world today needs the love of Christ from the church more than most. Let us be there to offer forgiveness and life to people who are headed down the road of personal destruction. Love them like Jesus would… “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”