The words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” are English words introduced within the last two centuries, however, the behaviors those words refer to are addressed in the Bible. So what DOES it say that deals with those behaviors?
The first reference is in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels have come to warn Lot and his family they need to leave Sodom because God’s judgment is about to happen because of the sins of Sodom. (And, by the way, “to know” someone is the Genesis way of saying two people became intimate and had sexual relations with each other.)
- GENESIS 19:4-5 “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”
Many now-a-days argue that the sin of Sodom was being inhospitable. But Jesus’ brother, Jude, writes of their sin as “sexual immorality” and “unnatural lust.”
- JUDE 7 [speaking of the Lord destroying those Israelites in the wilderness who did not believe…] “Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Likewise, in Second Peter, chapter 2, the apostle Peter writes about the way God judged various ones in the days of Genesis, including Sodom and Gomorrah, then the Lord knows how…
- 2 PETER 2:9b-10 “… to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment — especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.”
In giving the Israelites the laws concerning proper sexual behavior, sex with relatives and with animals are prohibited along with…
- LEVITICUS 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
- LEVITICUS 20:13 “If man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
The apostle Paul shares the same standard in the First Century…
- ROMANS 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 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.”
- 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
- 1 TIMOTHY 1:8-9 “…the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”
Many now-a-days argue that the rules back then also say we are not to wear clothing of two different materials, or eat pork, and even include a requirement to stone to death a disrespectful child, along with a whole host of other “laws” that we don’t feel it necessary to follow today.
And that’s true. Here’s the difference… In Acts 15, in the very first ecumenical council, Christians from all over gathered together and sought God and asked if someone becoming a Christian had to follow all of the Old Testament laws. After discussion and prayer, they unanimously agreed there were four things from the Old Testament Jewish laws that would still be required of Christians:
- ACTS 15:28-29 “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”
Notice, the requirement includes ALL of the laws about sexual immorality from the Old Testament. One of the frustrating parts of our conflict in this day and age is that the Christian standard is to be: “NO sexual immorality,” but many just want to focus on the homosexual sins. It was never supposed to be about homosexuality, but rather about faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman.
And while we’re at it… that ruling in Acts releases us from all the killing and stoning of sinners, too.
One other thing that’s important in this context is the objection some raise that ‘Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, so why should we care?’
In Matthew 19 (and also Mark 10), Jesus is given the chance to clarify and describe what marriage is supposed to be like, when he’s asked by the Pharisees about divorce. He does not talk about any two individuals (or one man and many wives or two same gender people), but rather speaks of God’s plan for marriage being one man and one woman.
- MATTHEW 19:4-5 “ ‘Haven’t you read.’ he replied, ‘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’?’ ”
The final consideration, in my understanding thus far, is this: Since the Bible clearly identifies homosexual behavior as sin, what should we do about it? After all, there are other sins and people with those sins can be ordained and get married and more. Why do we pick on this one sin?
The difference is that in all of those other examples, as well as with homosexual sin, the difference is whether or not the sinner repents of their sin.
- 1 JOHN 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
(This originally appeared in The Circuit Rider, the bimonthly newsletter of the First United Methodist Church of Carmichaels, PA, as a sidebar story to an article about General Conference 2019 describing a bit of the history and background of that historic meeting. The contents of that article appear as a separate post here.)