Homosexuality and Christianity: Part 1

Image: Homosexuality and Christianity: Part 1

Part 1: Clearing the air

Whether it’s the Mardi Gras, politicians arguing about gay marriage, or the token ‘gay’ character in reality TV or a sitcom, there’s no denying that homosexuality is a part of mainstream culture. That’s why it can be hard for Christians to talk about homosexuality because it’s so accepted in modern society. It can also be hard for Christians because they know the Bible says something about homosexuality but are not quite sure exactly what it says or why. I hope over the next 3 weeks that these short articles can bring some clarity.

Who are we listening to?

Firstly, let’s clear the air: love is not the problem. I have no doubt that two men or two women can love one another deeply. The Bible doesn’t argue against that. What I want to try and show is that the Bible’s issue with homosexuality is more to do with our design. You see, when God designed us, he wanted us to listen to him, love him, and obey him. But we didn’t! We decided to listen to ourselves instead. So we exchanged listening to God for listening to ourselves. Paul writes to the Romans about this very issue:

"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25)

Our decision not to listen to God but to ourselves impacted all our subsequent decisions including who and what we would have sex with. Paul continues:



"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural 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 indecent acts with other men". (Romans 1:26-27)



The problem Paul raises is humanity’s failure to operate in accordance with our design and listen to God! It’s a matter of valuing our individual freedom at the expense of living how God designed us.

Everyone has sinned

Let’s not be too fast to pick on homosexuality. What about the areas in your life where you’re failing to listen to God and live in accordance with our design? Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:3?



“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?



God's intention was for none of us to lie, cheat, abuse people, be greedy, or disobey our parents.

However, it’s often easy to condemn sexual sin more severely than all of these other sins. Why? Probably because sexual sin is more obvious than other sins. But remember, when we start following Jesus, he calls us to listen to his word and mould our lives on Jesus’ life.

Let’s pray we live more like Jesus each day!

Coming up: In the next two articles, I will look at 'The gospel & sexuality', and 'Loving the homosexual community'.

Comments (24)

Please register or sign in to leave a comment.

  • user

    James

    I feel this is a promising article in some ways, but an unconvincing one in others. It is good to recognise the importance of respecting people, including gay people, and to treat them like anyone else, but a bad article because either it shows a lack of understanding about what sexuality is, or it demonstrates an unreasonable morality.  This conflict always comes out with homosexuality: because sexuality is outside our control, how can you argue that it is right or wrong? Here homosexuality is lumped with sins like lying and cheating, and said to be the consequence of Original Sin. However, while lying and cheating hurt people and (homo)sexuality does not, it is only the latter which is frequently said to be

    • user

      Witney

      Just want to add that actually homosexuality hurts the one practicing it. Remember the Bible says: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own.” 1 Corinthians 6:18

  • user

    Matt

    Hi James,  Thanks for your thoughts. I have given some thought to what you

  • user

    James

    Thank you very much for your reply, Matt. I express my frustration with views on sexuality like these because I still don

  • user

    Matt

    Hi James,  Thanks for your response.  Firstly, you

  • user

    James

    Well the conflict is theological, logical and intuitive and I don’t know how it has been straightened up in any of your articles yet. Theologically, God appears to say on the one hand: love your neighbour, love your family, love your wife (or perhaps partner?), and by allowing sex in marriage: sex can be good: but on the other hand: having gay sex is wrong. Logically, gay sex does not cause hurt and upset, and homosexuality is involuntary. So are some things which God instills in us (as we don’t choose them) intrinsically bad, when they seem a) to corroborate with loving in general, b) therefore part of God’s designs, and c) intuitively good?  I think there are behaviours that can be amoral, like self-harm, therefore I disagree with your point on that, but i would not go so far as to deny that love itself deals directly with morality, especially considering that love is basically understood as a selfless devotion to another person, in a joint, caring relationship.  So it still remains in my mind that by not acknowledging the difficulties in unequivocally condemning homosexual relationships, we in fact perpetuate a hurtful social stigma.

  • user

    James

    Overall, I basically mean this: God surely cannot empower people to do good by having loving gay relationships, and yet, at the same time, say that the means by which people show and reinforce this good are bad. Especially when no-one actually chooses their sexuality, and no harm necessarily comes of it. What do you think?

  • user

    Matt

    Hi James,  I’m not sure what you mean by this sentence   ‘God surely cannot empower people to do good by having loving gay relationships, and yet, at the same time, say that the means by which people show and reinforce this good are bad.’  Can you re-word it for me?  Thanks.  Matt.

  • user

    James

    Sure thing. It is an unnecessary rewording of my previous comment, but I had new thoughts on the issue which I tried to put down, although not very clearly. I mean God empowers people by creating a capacity for love supported by sex, whether straight or gay. If we didn’t have sexual or romantic attraction to other people, we would lack one thing which can contribute to a loving relationship, therefore something through which we can do good. If love is taken to be a good thing, that is. Clearly, straight sex is condoned within marriage, and I take this to be a recognition of its positive role. Given that I do not see a difference between straight and gay sex in terms of the role it may play in a relationship, and whether it causes suffering or not, plus the fact that the nature of our sexuality is beyond our control, I think gay sex and gay relationships should be accorded equality with straight ones. Gay marriage therefore makes sense. But even if you don’t agree on that, I think sex can be seen as potentially positive, and so I do not see why one way of achieving good can be deemed wrong - the gay way.

  • user

    Emily

    I agree with James on this. I’ve recently done a fair bit of research in this area and I found this site: http://www.soulforce.org/resources/what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-say-about-homosexuality/ I thought it was very helpful as it looks specifically at the Bible verses used (or misused) to condemn homosexuality.

  • user

    James

    This is very interesting Emily, hopefully it will open up debate. I think the most compassionate thing to do is not to feel one should give gay people more than they deserve, but to lay yourself on the line and say ‘I believe that we should accept gay people as much as straight’. Yes there is no unequivocal support for this in the Bible but I think it is a virtuous sacrifice to potentially risk deviation in order to treat your fellow humans as they deserve. This is not moral weakness. The theology is difficult on the issue, so there is no safe position to work from, whatever your stance. However, if you have faith in Jesus, it may be possible and therefore necessary to do this, because his death is about the primacy of belief in him for salvation, as opposed to strict doctrinal adherence. Otherwise, pain and suffering ARE caused to gay people, and the stigmatisation of homosexuality in society IS supported. This position is not to say that people who sin should be treated as morally perfect individuals, but that being gay and having gay sex do not fall into this category. For example, it is clearly different from saying ‘free thieves from prison, they’re just like us really’, however true the latter part is.

  • user

    Emily

    Yes, there is no need to give LGBT people ‘more than they deserve’ as you say, just to give them the same respect which is afforded to everyone else. I agree with that webpage, that the Bible really says nothing about homosexuality as we know it today, and so we have no real grounds on which to condemn it. I worry about the commonly held position that ‘you cannot be gay and a Christian’. I think this is alienating a lot of people from Christ, and I was happy to see that this article advocated love and respect, at least, but I think true acceptance in the Church is a long way off. Although this video (from the same site as the link I posted above) gave me hope: http://www.soulforce.org/resources/mel-white-gay-christian-how-can-i-be-sure-god-loves-me/

  • user

    Matt

    Hi Emily.  Thanks for your comments.  You quote a webpage and then say, ‘I agree with that webpage, that the Bible really says nothing about homosexuality as we know it today, and so we have no real grounds on which to condemn it.’  I have to disagree. For in the bible the Greek word for sexual immorality, which is pornea, literally means ‘any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage’. Have a look at 1 Cor 5:1, 2 Cor 12:21, Gal 5:19, Eph 5:3, Col 3:5, Matt 15:19, Mark 7:21, Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9.  Therefore, whether this is heterosexual or homosexual activity outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage, the bible calls it sexual immorality.  What do you think?  Thanks,  Matt

  • user

    James

    (I’m not Emily, but I have an answer. Very simply, I think it is absurd to close marriage to gays. There wouldn’t be these problems if only that was accepted, as pornea makes sense only if you elaborate on the reasons why extra-marital sex is wrong, like the importance of fidelity and stable relationships. Both of which are found in gay and straight couples. If doctrine doesn’t have to make sense, so be it. But given the links between sex and love, and between sexuality and identity, it seems inadequate to treat homosexuality as simply a behaviour, and given its overall involuntary nature, plain wrong and ineffective to condemn it.  So what can we do? Nether side is 100, clear. I think homosexuality is both demonstrably good (love) and not bad (causes no harm). However, you have not satisfactorily answered the many arguments here which support these claims, and these claims challenge the adequacy of the passages you cite above.  For me, the main ideas from the sermon video are: 1. that homosexuality is a characteristic of human life, less common than heterosexuality, but as inert a fact as left-handedness, 2. while it is not unnatural or bad, gay people are treated as outsiders, 3. Jesus sought to include outsiders, 4. this is what the church should do today. An interesting comparison arose between the denial of scientific evidence on sexuality today, and the denial of the heliocentric model of the solar system in the past. If you read studies yourself which adequately demonstrated to you the involuntary nature of sexuality, and which showed no harm to follow from it, would your thinking be closer to mine? I hope you don’t mind me jumping in before you, Emily)

  • user

    Matt

    Hi James,  I’m enjoying the conversation, thanks for your contributions. Does this whole debate come down to our view of the bible? If you’re willing to trust what it says about who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what he will do, why not trust what it says about human sexuality? Probably because either what is says doesn’t make sense to you, or it’s offensive or possibly another reason. But surely if we believe that God in Jesus died at the hands of his creation, for the benefit of the creation, then we would trust that God is good enough to guide us in our sexual preferences? Not in a cruel way, but in ways that please him and benefit us, even if these are not immediately clear.  Thoughts?

  • user

    James

    How can we accept such little guidance on sexuality, and come to a condemnation of gay people which causes so much harm? Due to the possibility of human error in writing and interpreting the Bible, a duty to protect other people comes higher than following all aspects to the letter. What about stoning adulterers? It is also in the Bible

  • user

    James

    The only reason so far that homosexuality is condemned is that it is outside marriage. Independently of this judgement, homosexuality is both good and comparable to heterosexuality. Science and experience tell us that we don’t choose it, and neither prayer nor effort make a systematic difference to it. Are good Christians to ignore all this? Can you really be satisfied that condemning homosexuality is right? Including gay people within the existing framework is right. Encourage acceptance, encourage fidelity and encourage good relationships by having gay marriage.

  • user

    Matt

    Hi James,  There’s actually plenty in the bible about sexuality in my opinion, a whole book dedicated to the topic (Song of Songs). But you raise an important point about interpreting the Old Testament. There’s a reason why people learn the original languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic) at bible college, so they can interpret the text for themselves. I do this myself.  For centuries, people have categorised the OT law into moral, civil and ceremonial laws. This is because Jesus claimed to fulfil the entire OT law, but then continues to promote the morality contained in the law. Have a look at John 8:1-11. Jesus condemns the stoning of an adulterer, but asks her to leave her life of sin. The sin to which Jesus refers is her sex with someone other than her husband.  You suggest that protecting people comes before obedience to the scriptures. I would counter that by saying it

  • user

    James

    Thank you for the detail on adultery, that does make more sense now. However, adultery can be understood as wrong independently of its involvement of extra-marital sex

  • user

    Emily

    Hi again, sorry for not replying for so long. Matt, in response to my comment you said: For in the bible the Greek word for sexual immorality, which is pornea, literally means “any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage”. As far as I can tell there is actually a lot of dispute about the precise meaning of pornea is there anything you would suggest reading that explains it better? I can’t find anything.

  • user

    Dymond

    I just think that since the author pointed out that love isn’t the issue, then what is? Lust is the sin that the Bible associates with homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27. They say the people gave into their lust. So what if it’s love? God’s greatest act of love was dying for our sins because he loved us. Can’t the homosexual do the same or are they not allowed?

  • user

    Fervr

    Thanks for your comment. The author is saying it’s not wrong for people to love each other. The Bible doesn’t condemn that. But the Bible is clear that sexual activity between members of the same sex is not in God’s will (even if it’s motivated by love).

  • user

    Dymond

    okay so say the don’t have sex, and they don’t get married.are they still allowed to be “partners”?

  • user

    Fervr

    There are some people who would say that is fine, but others disagree. If they are effectively acting as a ‘married couple’, then I would say that biblically, that is not endorsed. We are told to flee from sin, and remove anything that is a temptation. So I would think being in this kind of ‘non-sexual’ long-term partnership wouldn’t really work very well anyway for a Christian who wants to avoid sin and temptation.