Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homosexuality and God's Word




Homosexuality is a hot-button in our society and there is a lot of confusion concerning how God's word directs us to handle it. Most of this is due to individuals with various agendas warping, misquoting, and taking Scripture out of context in order to bolster their respective position. I thought it good, therefore, to put together a clear explanation of how homosexuality relates to the Bible as it is not as simple as a one line answer. Do not misunderstand me, the Bible is clear about God's position on this subject, but the arguments and misinterpretations make things complicated and must be addressed. Therefore, this article is a bit lengthy, but the reason being is that I am attempting to be thorough with this topic

The Law

The first thing to look at in the Scripture is the Old Testament Law. Homosexuality is addressed in the Law along with many other areas of life. There are some things that need to be understood about the Law, however, before one can properly apply it to our situation today. People on all sides of the issue of homosexuality have been guilty of misusing the Law and taking it out of its proper context in order to make it say whatever helps strengthen their viewpoint. So we need to obtain an educated understanding of how the Old Testament Law should be applied to us today.

The Law was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai so that the Hebrews could be properly governed, as they were in the process of becoming a sovereign nation. The first thing one must understand about the Jewish government as it relates to the Law is that there was no separation between church and state. Religion and government were not to work independently of one another, but in tandem like the spirit and physical body are intertwined and work as one. God was forming a nation that would have Him as their only God. There were no diversities of religious beliefs. Israel was a nation holy unto God to be set apart from all other nations. They were to function as a light for all other peoples, pointing them to the Lord.

Therefore the Law, for Israel, not only served as a religious creed but also as an actual law for the conduct of the people as a nation. The Law held a three-fold purpose for Israel. It served as their moral, religious, and civil law. Again, there was no separation of church and state here. So the Law gave Israel its moral commandments (what is right and what is wrong), its religious commandments (how to worship God), and its civil commandments (legal issues, crime and punishment).

The moral part of the Law is universal and based on what God declares to be right and wrong. It is His universe and He is the absolute standard for what is right so His morality trumps any other ideas. What God declares to be good is good and what God declares as evil is evil regardless of what we or society says.

The religious part of the Law guided Israel in how they should worship God properly. This involved different rituals, ordinances, special observances, and feasts. Any proselytes to Judaism were expected to follow the religious practices outlined in the Law as each had a meaning and a purpose.

The civil parts of the Law gave the civil code for conduct in the Israelite society which included crime and punishment. Breaking of the moral or religious commandments of the Law involved consequences just as much as breaking the law in any country carries with it certain penalties. If this seems odd, we must remember that this was a different culture than ours, but we should also keep in mind that our civil laws are based on morality as well, namely; what we consider to be right and wrong. The civil law was not universal, in that, while the breaking of a commandment by a non-Jew (like committing adultery) was still a sin, the Jews could not simply waltz into another nation and impose the death sentence on a citizen of that nation for their sin.

So it is with this understanding in mind that we can now look at what the Law says about homosexuality.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It  is  an abomination.  Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It  is  perversion. (Leviticus 18:22, 23 NKJV)

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood  shall be  upon them. (Leviticus 20:13 NKJV)

The two verses listed above give moral and civil commandments. Homosexuality is morally wrong. God declares it to be an abomination. There is no getting around that. It is a sin and therefore universal among all people. The death sentence is obviously the civil part of the Law for any Jew who broke the commandment. A Jew could not go to Egypt, for example, and impose a death sentence on an Egyptian participating in homosexual activity. However, it would still be a sin and God will judge such sin. Furthermore, while a Jew could not impose a death sentence upon a citizen of another nation, he could declare to the offender that his actions are an abomination before God and that he needs to repent in order to escape the Lord's eventual judgment.

This point is solidified in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul who was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach to the Gentiles (non-Jews).

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26, 27 NKJV)

Paul affirms the moral part of the Law. Notice that he speaks of the act of homosexuality being a sin against God and that it is the Lord who will dispense the penalty if they refuse to repent. Paul does not call disciples of Christ to impose the civil part of the Law (the death penalty) upon acts of homosexuality. So although it is still a sin, it is not the place of a Christian to carry out punishment. The Christian is called to tell others that God will carry out punishment if a person refuses to turn to the Lord. (Just like any other sin.)

The point is that one cannot make the argument, for example, that because we no longer put blasphemers to death that homosexual behavior is no longer a sin. Blasphemy is still a sin. It is God, however, who will sit as judge over these universal parts of the Law and it is He who will dispense the consequences for those things. But let it be known that God would much rather have us repent so that He may dispense mercy.

Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord God, and  not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:23 NKJV)

What did Jesus have to say about homosexuality?

The argument some make is that Jesus never condemned homosexuality in any of His teachings so He must have approved of it. Of course, this position could bring one to the conclusion that Jesus approved of rape and kidnapping as well since He never condemned those acts in any of His teachings either. Let's have a look at what Jesus did say and teach.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17, 18 NKJV)

Jesus said He was not going to do away with the Law but that He would fulfill the Law.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God  did  by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,  that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4 NKJV)

Getting back to Matthew 5, Jesus goes on to clarify things written in the Law. Interestingly He does not bring clarification to ease up on commandments, but actually makes the commandments even harder to keep. In part of that discourse Jesus addresses the topic of divorce.

Furthermore it has been said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.  But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31, 32 NKJV)

Notice that Jesus speaks only of a man and a woman being married. He makes no provision for the acceptance of same sex unions though He is in the process of clarifying the heart of God's commandments.

One would think that this would be the perfect time to make any corrections or clarifications concerning any misinterpretations about homosexuality in the Law if Jesus felt there were any. However, Jesus makes no such attempt to justify homosexual behavior as good or okay with God. The fact that Jesus says nothing about it in this context actually works against homosexuality and not for it, in that, the silence of Christ on the matter here serves to confirm what was written in the Law about it being sinful behavior.

Consider Jesus' statement about marriage in Matthew 19.

And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made  them  at the beginning  made them male and female,   and said,  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh  ? (Matthew 19:4, 5 NKJV)

Here again, the silence of Jesus works against the case for homosexuality being acceptable to God. The Lord is speaking of marriage and talks about male and female and a man being joined to his wife. This would be a perfect opportunity to confirm same-sex marriage as a good thing if that were so. However, Jesus says nothing, implying that such an idea has absolutely no part in God's design for marriage. Instead He speaks of marriage between a man and a woman as the plan of the Creator.

What about other parts of the Bible?

There is an interesting passage in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 where the Apostle Paul addresses how to handle a situation where one spouse is a believer and the other is not. This situation would most likely occur when two non-believers get married and then one of them later becomes a Christian since Christians should not to marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). In this passage the marriage is seen as honorable between the believer and non-believer as long as the non-believer desires to stay. There is even the implication that the marriage of the two former non-believers was still, in fact, a good thing. However, there is no mention of a homosexual union.

In fact, nowhere in the Bible is a homosexual union looked at in any kind of positive light. The absence of such positive remarks concerning homosexuality is a huge red flag. When speaking of marriage the Bible always speaks of a man and his wife. Thousands of years of history covered in the Bible and not one attempt to legitimize homosexual behavior. Couple this with the New Testament condemnation of homosexual activity (Romans 1:26-27) and the moral parts of the Law found in Leviticus and you have no basis for truthfully saying God does not consider homosexuality a sin.

How can anyone condemn what someone else feels?

The answer is quite simple. We do this all the time. No society allows people to do whatever they feel like doing. There are things that are wrong and carry punishment regardless of how one feels about them. We don't say it's okay to steal if someone has an irresistible urge to steal. We don't condone the behavior of a pedophile even though that person obviously has very strong attractions to children. And we don't excuse murderers simply because they may be born sociopaths. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone just did what they felt like doing?

Let me be clear before someone feigns offense and accuses me of comparing the act of raping a child to the acts of sexual relations between two consenting adults. I have not done that, but such an argument is often made to deflect attention off of the real point. The point being made was about the feelings a person has and I used examples of acts most people agree are unacceptable to highlight the fact that just because someone feels a certain way doesn't automatically justify it.

However, just so we don't get caught up with those examples let's use one more; adultery. Here are two consenting adults who will almost always say that they are in love. Yet, adultery is a sin! You can't get around that. It's even one of the Ten Commandments. So even though these two consenting adults have intense feelings for one another and are choosing to love one another they are also choosing to sin. One may argue that the spouse who is being cheated on is being hurt so that makes this a different situation then homosexuality where supposedly no one is being hurt. What about "swingers" then? All parties are consenting to have sex with someone they are unmarried to. However, it's still adultery and therefore it is still a sin despite feelings, consenting, and "love".

"Love" is the word being thrown about quite a bit on this issue. The argument is that people should be free to love whomever they want. Love without boundaries. I have already shown the fallacy of this argument with the examples of adultery and "open marriages", but let me also point out that this love without boundaries still has boundaries. The line has simply been moved. One person believes that this type of love should only be between a consenting adult male and a consenting adult female. Another person believes that this type of love should be between any two consenting adults regardless of their gender. Notice, however, that both beliefs have a boundary. This boundary excludes people who believe they should have many spouses or open marriages where they are free to "love" many partners. So where is the equality for these people and their beliefs? Are their feelings somehow not legitimate?

Let's look back at what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans:

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26, 27 NKJV)

As we can see, Paul acknowledges the feelings that are driving men and women into homosexuality. Feelings are not the issue; acting on them is. In these verses it is confirmed that people have these passions, but God says those particular passions are vile. There is certainly plenty of intense feeling present, but that doesn't justify acting on it anymore than intense anger justifies assault or murder.

The whole essence of committing sin is that we feel like doing something that is contrary to God's commands and then act on the feeling rather then obeying the Lord. Adam and Eve sinned by eating a piece of fruit from the one tree they were told not to touch. Why did they do that? Because they felt like it. The Bible tells us that our flesh often opposes the will of God.

Because the carnal mind  is  enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7, 8 NKJV)

In other words, just because we feel a certain way doesn't justify it as good and therefore something to act upon nor does it suggest that God gave us those feelings. Of course, it is taboo in our society to suggest that someone's feelings are wrong when it comes to certain things. But whose standard do we go by to determine what feelings are right and wrong? God's unchanging moral standard or our standard which varies depending on our feelings?

There is a strange psychological disorder known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Individuals suffering from this believe that one or more of their limbs does not belong and therefore they want them amputated. (BIID can also be associated with apotemnophilia which is sexual arousal based on the image of one's self being an amputee.) In each case the sufferer of BIID believes the limb(s) they want amputated are a mistake and that they should have been born without them. So deep rooted is this feeling that it has driven some people with BIID to great lengths to rid themselves of the unwanted limbs. There are various stories of BIID sufferers seeking amputation by finding doctors overseas who will perform operations like this or even attempting to get severe frostbite on purpose requiring amputation.

Now, we understand that the real problem is not with the limbs but with what people with BIID are feeling. We don't rationally conclude that because they passionately feel that their limbs do not belong that they should have them removed. However, political correctness demands that if someone feels a sexual attraction to the same sex this must be right. Furthermore, if a man feels like he should have been born a woman or a woman feels she should have been born a man, political correctness demands they undergo an operation to alter their gender to what they are feeling instead of addressing the issue of their feelings.  

A Last Ditch Attempt

In the face of all this, one final (and desperate) argument might be made suggesting that there are far worse sins than homosexuality in the world and we should be more concerned about those. This argument may even infer that God Himself is probably more concerned with other more heinous acts committed by human beings. This line of thought comes from the man-made idea that there are degrees of sin. However, the Bible teaches that God sees sin in a totally different way then we do.

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10 NKJV)

From the viewpoint of a holy God all sin is despicable. Instead of being separate acts with varying degrees, God reveals that all sin is connected and intertwined.

Isn't This Just a Bunch of Hatred?

Anyone who sticks to the Biblical truth that homosexuality is a sin is usually dismissed as a hateful person. This is the same tactic used by children when their parents or a teacher attempts to bring correction or instruction that the child does not wish to receive. Immediately the parent or teacher is accused by the child of hating them. The child sees the person in question as an individual who is trying to spoil what they want to do and that is interpreted as an act of hatred when in fact it is an act of love and concern. It is an extremely childish defense.

Of course there are hateful people out there who use the word of God as a basis for their hatred. But these people are false prophets and teachers who will, themselves, stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account. The obvious lack of concern for people's eternal souls is evident in their actions and rhetoric and they spew their venom unaware that they are placing themselves in danger of hellfire. However, these people are the exception rather then the rule and above all they are not true disciples of Christ.

The real hatred is coming from Christians who believe the word of God but ignore this issue of homosexuality because they don't want to be called names and persecuted by society and political correctness. They love themselves so much that they put their personal comfort above people's eternal souls. That is true hatred.

A true disciple of Christ will speak the whole council of God in love. They will be willing to risk ridicule and even the loss of friends in order to see them saved. Like family members and friends who may confront a loved one with an intervention, they will compassionately speak the truth and leave the reactions be what they may even if they are in turn hated for what they dared to say. This is actual love; putting oneself at risk for someone else's benefit, not doing what makes one feel good personally.

I have friends who are gay and we have had those conversations. I risked loosing them as friends but I cared for them too much to hide God's word. Thankfully they are still my friends and even though we no longer live near one another I would be by their side if they ever found themselves in trouble. My point is that you can still be compassionate and a friend without compromising the integrity of God's word.

Conclusion

The end of all this is that homosexuality cannot be made okay with God's word. Therefore, the only thing one can do if they are intent on justifying it is throw out the Scripture. However, that isn't going to change it. Like ignoring a diagnosis of cancer because the thought of having it and being treated for it may be unpalatable will lead to death, so ignoring all or parts of God's word simply because we don't like them or they are not politically correct will not change the Day of Judgment.

In confronting this issue I have written it in such a way that it presents the cold hard facts and therefore may seem to be without much compassion. Let me assure you that this is written out of nothing but compassion and not out of some need to have a rebuttal to those who may disagree with me. Therefore, allow me to offer you one more cold hard fact.

God loves you! (I am addressing every person reading this article regardless of your sexual feelings.) There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or less. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for all of our sins. God loves you so much that He provided mercy in order to escape judgment. Now, will you love Him in return? Will you accept His gift of salvation and allow Him to direct your life the way He, your Creator, intended it to be? Will you accept His love and lordship over every part of your life? This is the choice He leaves to each of us because He loves us enough not to leave us in the condition we come to Him in.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook and I'm so glad she did. So much of what I've been reading on Facebook and other blogs is based on personal opinion and feelings. I was seeking a response to the issue based on scripture and done in love. This is just what I needed to read. Thank you!

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to tackle this issue in such a thoughtful and Biblical way. I'm bookmarking it for future reference.

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  3. If only I could send this to every politician in the US....as well as some of my relatives, but I believe most of their hearts are hardened. Thank you for your clear, concise explanation. I particularly found the moral, religious and civil law explanation helpful. Bless you!

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  4. This was very well written and a blessing. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Rebuking is never easy and always comes with consequences but when pleasing God comes before pleasing man it's worth those consequences because in the end God will bless His faithful followers. Thank you for the truth many today refuse to know anything about

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  6. The challenge, exegetically, is that it is not as clear cut as all this. There is significant scholarly dispute over what is being discussed in reference to homosexuality, and there is good Biblically sound reasons to believe that this is speaking of the rejection of sexual worship practices of a pagan fertility culture.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 is what most people refer to in referencing homosexuality, and there are two terms in the Greek that have, in the past, been translated as homosexual or sodomite. These are malakos and arseokoites. Malakos has been shown to refer to male effeminate prostitutes, and most modern translations now translate it "prostitutes". The real contention comes with the second term, arsenokoites, which Paul invents in this passage. He draws it from the Septuagint, combing two Greek terms from Leviticus 18 - arsenos, meaning male, and koites, meaning to lie with sexually.

    So this takes us to Leviticus 18 and 20, as you referenced in the article. The question is around the term 'abomination' which you pointed out as suggesting a moral law. The problem is that it is not consistently translates morally. The term can refer to a moral violation or a cleanness/worshipful violation, and most times we see it translated throughout the Old Testament it is translated "idolatry".

    The Septuagint translates this passage in terms of a worshipful violation as well, and it is the Septuagint that Paul draws from in coining his term.

    Contextually, this makes sense. Leviticus 18 begins with a list of sexual laws, and then transitions to worship laws. It is not until we are in the context of the worship of Molech that homosexuality in Leviticus 18 is addressed. 1 Corinthians was written to a people who lived in Corinth, where the temple of Aphrodite resided and was the center for cultic fertility worship in the empire. In fact, in addition to linking arsenokoites with a prostitute (malakos), Paul then goes into a lengthy discussion of the worshipful implications of connecting one's body to a prostitute just a few verse later.

    As for Romans 1, Paul doesn't even make it questionable. He explicitly links homosexuality with idolatry, describing it as the worship of the creature rather than the creator. So in every passage throughout scripture that we see homosexuality addressed, it is always in the context of cultic fertility practices which were pervasive in the ancient world.

    If this is the case, then the modern proscription against a loving, committed same sex relationship is simply out of place, as the category simply does not apply.

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  7. I have heard these arguments used before to try and legitimize homosexuality as fine with God and they do nothing but provide a run around that attempts to ignore what Scripture is plainly teaching. There are other sins I have seen the same thing done with. These types of arguments are nothing more than lawyer-like maneuvers that try to twist sinful behavior into permissible behavior and they ignore those Scriptures and points that they cannot explain away such as homosexuality never being addressed in Bible as something good. To imply it was only a sin if associated with idolatry is incompatible with the whole of Scripture. We could do the same thing with prostitution since it was almost always associated with idolatry.

    If homosexuality apart from idols was okay then I am quite certain the Lord would have made that clear. The early church had a question about meat being offered to idols and the Apostle Paul points out that its association with the idol worship did not make it unclean. Yet, this argument implies that homosexuality is good and even commended by God, but if it is connected to idolatry it suddenly becomes defiled. That doesn't add up.

    I realize that not everyone will agree with Scripture, nor does this have any bearing upon the civil laws of our country since we do not use the Bible to govern our nation. However, the scope of this blog is to point out that trying to make homosexuality compatible with the Bible is like trying to stick a square peg in a round hole.

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