Monday, May 26, 2014

5. Homosexuality Is Sin (the Action, Not the Attraction)

So far in this series we've established that God loves homosexuals, that we must love homosexuals, and that we all sin every day. Additionally, we must treat homosexuals as individuals as opposed to simply being a part of some group.

In this post we'll look at the fact that homosexuality is sin. Homosexuality misses the mark by transgressing the law of God.

More specifically, the action of homosexuality is sin. This includes not just outright sexual behavior but also lustful thoughts. In other words, acting on homosexual temptations is sin. However, and I want to be clear on this point, homosexual attraction itself is not sinful. Some people struggle with homosexual temptations and attractions, but fight against these every day. When we see homosexuality condemned in the bible it is always those involved in the action who are mentioned.

Let's back up just a bit. We need to lay the groundwork for what God believes about human sexuality. God has made this clear in Genesis chapter 2. Even before the fall of mankind, God says in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." This verse is the basis for not only marriage in general, but also for all human sexuality. We know that this verse still applies in the New Covenant because Jesus himself quotes it in Matthew chapter nineteen when questioned about divorce.

God's design for human sexuality is for it to fall within the confines of a one man-one woman relationship for life. Any deviation from this is sin, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual deviations.

The scriptures are consistent that homosexual activity is condemned by God. Romans 1, I Corinthians 6, and I Timothy 1 illustrate this:

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."

I Cor. 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."

I Timothy 1:8-11, "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

What, then, about homosexual attraction? If it is not sinful, then what is it? I believe it is a reminder that we live in a fallen world. We all struggle with various temptations that, if given in to, will be sinful. However, it actually honors God when we fight against these temptations by not surrendering to them. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we do this. Therefore, when a person is tempted toward homosexuality but resists this urge by turning to God for help, this actually pleases God.

Whenever we discuss this topic, let's make sure that we don't slip into the trap of thinking that homosexuality is some sort of unforgivable sin. God is far more gracious, loving, and forgiving than we are. He is ready and willing to forgive any person who is involved in even the most despicable forms of sexual perversion (if the individual genuinely turns to God in repentance and faith).

Our culture tells us today that we cannot both love homosexuals and believe their behavior is wrong. We're told that we either accept the behavior or we're bigots. Well, culture must never determine what we Christ-followers believe. Since God believes homosexual behavior is sinful, so must we. Let's go out of our way to lovingly serve any homosexuals that God brings into our lives. At the same time, we must never fail to remember that their behavior is sinful.

(Just a quick reminder to keep us humble: we all sin every day).

2 comments:

Nelson Brier said...

Hi Eric

Just a couple of comments:
I don't know how accurate it is to make the statement that "the scriptures are consistent that homosexual activity is condemned by God".

The ambiguity of 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 8 is undisputed. These verses may be referring to the “passive” partner in a homosexual relationship, or to male prostitutes. Some scholars understand them as referring to male slaves. In 1 Cor 6, the word translated as "homosexual offender" is the Greek word "arsenokoites" which means a person who engages in any kind of unnatural sex, but especially homosexual intercourse. Some believe this use of arsenokoites referred specifically to the men who kept catamites (a boy kept for sexual relations with a man). A possible interpretation is to see the “homosexual offenders” as sexual slave traders who would buy young boys and sell them into sexual slavery. From an exegetical perspective it may be best to see these verses as not referring to homosexuality alone, but rather to promiscuity, sex-for-hire, and the abusive (sexual) nature of some master-slave relationships.

Also noteworthy is that Paul does not use the accepted words of the time for homosexuality, opting instead to use very obscure words (some scholars even believe that these were terms that Paul himself coined). Why would Paul do this if he had “normal” homosexual behaviour in mind?

The Romans 1 passage, really, is the only passage in the entire Bible that could possibly provide a biblical basis for arguing that a homosexual relationship is sinful. This passage too, however, is ambiguous. Paul's purpose in writing the book of Romans is to show that Gentiles and Jews are equal before God - in sinfulness, in knowledge of that sinfulness and separation from God. So Paul gives a list of sins to prove his point that all have sinned. He argues that there are 'natural laws' accepted by everyone and some people choose to go against these. He uses homosexual acts (and specifically lists lesbian sexual acts) as an example of Gentiles, even though they don't have God's written Law, nevertheless sinning by going 'against nature'. He goes on to 'Jewish' sins from there and to the conclusion that we have all sinned and need God's forgiveness. And from there to us being equal in Christ.

Paul’s major appeal in Rom. 1:18-27 is that people have abandoned God to chase idols. God then “gave them up” and allowed them to “exchange” what they had for a perversion. There is a strong possibility that this is a reference to the cultic temple practices and idolatry that Leviticus speaks against, and that it is the “inflamed with lust” aspect of the act that is the problem (rather than the simple same sex sexual act itself).

Some scholars argue that Paul’s concern was not those people who were born homosexuals (with a built-in homosexual orientation) but rather for those who were experimenting with “unnatural” sexual behaviour. The way that the passage in Romans 1 builds up, and it’s significance across Paul’s whole argument lend weight to this view. And therefore we could interpret this today as laws against sexual abuse, experimentation and licentiousness.

Paul may very well have been using an example of homosexuality to point out to Jews their own double standards in being repulsed by homosexuality that was rampant in the ancient Greek/Roman world, yet not seeing their own cultural sins (which he gets to in the next chapter).

The point is that upon a critical exegesis of the scripture passages you have quoted, and others used in the homosexuality debate, it becomes apparent that the Bible is not so clear in its condemnation of a life-long, monogamous, loving homosexual relationship and there just isn't any biblical basis for making a statement that "homosexuality is condemned by God".

Eric said...

Nelson,

Thanks for commenting.

I've heard all these arguments before and am very familiar with them. My purpose in this blog series is not to delve deeply into the exegetical side of things. However, I do believe the scriptures are clear. From beginning to end homosexuality is always spoken of in a negative light. Additionally,nothing positive is ever said about it.

As I wrote in this post, God's expectation for human sexual expression is that it occurs within the confines of a one man-one woman relationship for life.

I disagree with you that the scripture writings are ambiguous. They are anything but. Words have straightforward meaning. If you call these passages into question, then you may as well call many other passages into question. What you end up with is a bible that is essentially meaningless because it could mean whatever the reader wants it to mean.

I believe God has spoken clearly on this issue. His plan spoken of in Genesis 2 has not changed.