It’s Thursday, time for some theology.
The same-sex marriage debate continues to be a big one in our society. It would seem that same-sex marriage is a part of our society for the foreseeable future, and we’re now wrestling as a people with who should be impacted by that and what kind of impact it should have. Christian business owners are being confronted with discrimination suits when they don’t provide the same services to gay and lesbian couples as they do to heterosexual couples. Celebrities arouse great furor when they express their beliefs about the issue. Recently a very well known blogger received a scathing email from a college professor for his insistence that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the only correct form of marriage.
It has been said that the progression of sin is that first it asks to be ignored, then to be tolerated, then to be vindicated, then to be promoted. The last few years have seen our country vindicating homosexuality, but of course, that is not enough. It is now incumbent on all to hold up homosexuality as being just as good and valid as heterosexual marriage. This puts pressure on Christians who have both an internal drive and a Biblical mandate to not simply believe and keep that belief to themselves, but to speak about what the Bible actually says. Indeed, some have buckled under the pressure and either keep silent, or even silently acquiesce that same-sex couples should be recognized along with married couples. There are even those making claims that the Bible doesn’t actually speak against homosexuality at all. (<—Note the lack of citations or proofs offered for his claims in that article).
So while any theologian worth his salt should be able to point out that the Bible really does condemn homosexuality, at the encouragement from a friend I’m going to take a stab at talking about why any use of our sexuality outside of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will.
1. In the beginning…
To start, let’s take a look at something Jesus had to say. A lot of liberal theologians like to make the point that Jesus never spoke directly against homosexuality, as though because he did not mention it directly that somehow implies he was okay with it. But it is important to remember, first of all, that Jesus carried out his ministry primarily among Jews who saw the homosexual practices of the Hellenistic world and rejected them. In other words, he would have been preaching to the choir. He was much more concerned with calling people to repentance for their sins, not someone else’s.
However, when some jokers came along and wanted to trap Jesus with a question about marriage and divorce, Jesus’ response was to point back to creation. “Haven’t you read,” Jesus said, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:3-6). Jesus is answering a question about divorce, but as he was wont to do, in his answer he establishes a principle that covers much more than the question.
Jesus could have started by saying, “Haven’t you read that when God created mankind he said, ‘For this reason…'” but he didn’t. He started by pointing specifically to the fact that “the Creator ‘made them male and female.'” It’s as though he is starting by establishing what marriage is. “Hey guys, you want to understand marriage? First, remember that the first two people God made were a man and a woman. He brought the man and woman together and made them one in every way, together until death.” This is Jesus’ definition of marriage, covering all questions and objections that anyone might have as to how he and his Father want us to approach marriage. “I made it,” says Jesus, “and I define it. One man and one woman, united for life.” So even though Jesus didn’t address homosexuality directly, he gives us the principle by starting with God’s design and clearly stating that it always applies.
2. Sexuality is for marriage
One of the accusations leveled against Christians is that they focus on homosexuality and tolerate other sexual sins. While sometimes the critics who use this argument take it too far (no, we don’t stone adulterers, true, but the stoning part was part of the Israelite Civil Law which God used to preserve that nation for the coming of the Savior… whose coming set aside the Civil Law’s prescribed punishments), they are correct to a point – Christians do tend to overlook or excuse or tolerate the divorce and infidelity and fornication and addiction to pornography in their own lives and families while at the same time speaking heatedly against homosexuality.
But to be clear, this does not make any of those things less sinful. Any use of sexuality that is not within and in support of the marriage union is a sinful use of sexuality. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible is in full support of a vibrant sex life – the Song of Songs is full of sexually charged language and paints a very positive and powerful picture of it. It is noted, however, that the couple in the Song is married. They are celebrating the union God has given them in marriage.
Through Malachi God makes a very clear statement as to why he wants the marriage bed pure. “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15). God wants good things for his children, and he knows that his kids want to be like their Dad. Just as he is faithful, he calls us to be faithful.
3. The Bible condemns homosexual acts
I think it is notable that none of the passages about homosexuality say anything about “a homosexual person,” nor does the Bible use the words “gays and lesbians” or anything like them. What the Bible condemns is homosexual activity.
“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22).
“Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men” (Romans 1:26-27).
“Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
“for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10).
These passages all have to do with action. They have to do with actively pursuing a sinful inclination in the heart. They do not cast judgement on the person for having the sinful weakness or inclination, they cast judgement on the person for acting upon it. Like the person with the inclination to steal, he is not condemned because he has the urges, he is condemned if he gives into them and refuses to depart from them.
There is a great deal of rhetoric about how homosexual urges are natural, how a person is born that way, etc., but that doesn’t really say anything about whether or not it is okay. There are a lot of things that we are naturally inclined – you might say born – to do. It doesn’t make them good. But because of this rhetoric, those who strongly feel homosexual urges see their sexual orientation as their identity, as though what defines a person is the sexual urges they feel. Oddly enough, I don’t walk around finding my identity in the fact that I am attracted to women. I find my identity in something much more meaningful – that I am a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
4. Love does not ignore sin
Just as strident an objection is that whatever the Bible might say about homosexuality, the Bible’s main message is one of love – God’s love for us, our love in response. And wouldn’t it be most loving to accept people as they are, to encourage love between two people, no matter who they are?
What does the Bible say about love? 1 Corinthians 13 is that famous chapter where love is explained, and a favorite even of people who don’t look to the Bible for much other than good moral teaching and occasional wisdom. Let’s look at what that section says about love, though.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil…. but…. hm….”
Hm. Here’s where we have a big problem with the “love just accepts people as they are” claim. It says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” If sexuality outside of a God-designed marriage is evil, then what does love do with it?
Well, let’s continue the passage. “It always protects…”
If God says something is sin, then to live in it is spiritually dangerous at best. Protection is to urge someone away from danger. So if love always protects, then it cannot be loving to say, “Continue in your sin.”
Well, I think you get the point. It is not unloving to call someone away from their sin. In fact, quite the opposite. Calling someone away from their sin is a very loving thing to do.
But still, Christians would be wise not too get caught focusing on just one form of sexual sin when calling people to repentance. If you’re going to call out homosexuality, you also ought to be making sure you call out your friends and family when they are making a shambles of their marriages, or avoiding marriage altogether in favor of cohabitation, or steeping themselves in pornography. Yet, because homosexuality is the sin that our world is urging us to accept, it is important that we still be willing to call it what it is.
5. Jesus has forgiveness for all sexual sins
Being a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus is not a special position only open to a select few who meet some special standard. In fact, Scripture is abundantly clear that it is open to all. Above I cited the passage from 1 Corinthians. Here’s the rest:
“Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Paul lays out a laundry list of sinful lifestyles that covers pretty much every commandment, and follows it up by making it clear that whatever they were before, in Jesus they have been made clean.
In his second letter to the Corinthians he says this: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of people and different kinds of sinners. He simply says, “Not counting people’s sins against them.” Doesn’t matter who you are. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Forgiveness is for you. Paul goes on to say, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21). This is grace at its finest – that God took his sinless Son, laid our sin on him, and laid on us the righteousness he requires.
Christ’s righteousness is for you.
Christians, don’t let yourselves be bullied into thinking that you have to be accepting of homosexuality as a lifestyle. Society and its pet sins change over time, but the Bible remains. However, remember two important things: 1) there are other sins that must be addressed, often in the lives of your loved ones, and 2) only the Gospel can change a heart. You can call something a sin all you like, but until you bring the message of forgiveness and redemption through Christ to a person, you have really done nothing.
So speak boldly about what the Bible says about sexual sin, and speak even more boldly about what Jesus has done about it – the redemption he won by the cross.