What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?
What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?
Candice Lucey Contributing Writer
If churches shut their doors to those who defy God’s commands about sexual intimacy, the doors would be shut to everyone. The duty and privilege of Christ’s disciples are to offer all who will listen to the message of salvation and the promise of a love greater than anything.
Few subjects are more controversial today in the church than this: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
If one regards the Bible as God-breathed and authoritative, then one must respect whatever the Lord says about every topic.
What we say and think about the LGBQT+ community should be derived from Scripture, including the ways in which we are to treat one another.
Bible Verses about Homosexuality
Christians must always start with the Bible in order to hear God’s Word on any subject. His commands are not optional, and he states clearly, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
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 Corinthians 6:9-11).
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 (Romans 1:26).
Some Christians suggest that a progressive God would overturn his own commands in a certain social climate, but God does not progress in his thinking; his thoughts and commandments are always right.
We know that God does not change his mind, that he is always the same, and this is foundational to our hope and our faith in his Kingdom purposes.
God was, is, and always will be against sexual sin in all of its forms, which include lust for a person who is not one’s spouse, sexual affairs, and even emotional affairs.
One must not single out someone who identifies as gay or transgender as a “sinner” but instead look inward. Ignoring one’s own sin by way of deflection does not fool God.
Modern Arguments about Etymology
There is an argument that Scripture does not contain the word “homosexuality” and that God is not opposed to men or women having sex with consenting members of the same sex. The word “zakar” in Hebrew can refer to any male, including human and animal, but also to boys.
But Strong’s concordance indicates that “zakar,” as used in Leviticus 18:22 above, refers to sodomy, a term not reserved for acts of child sexual abuse or rape but also consensual acts between adults.
“Arsenokoitai” is Greek for “men having sex with other men. And there is no real other interpretation that makes the best sense of the evidence both in the early Christian literature and especially in the Old Testament.”
Kevin DeYoung explains that Paul, a scholar and former Pharisee, coined the term. If Paul had been referring to men forcing boys to have sex, then he could have used the word “biazó” for “violent force” to denote a difference between consensual and non-consensual sex. He did not.
Positive Commands about Sex
Sex is a gift. “Before the fall — before sin — sex was part of the created order. It was good — VERY GOOD,” wrote Paul Carter. “In fact, contrary to cultural ideas about sex propounded during the first century AD, “Christianity taught that sex within a marriage should be free, generous and reciprocal.”
But God never depicted coital relationships between two men or two women in a positive way. When God made Eve, Adam said “this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman” (Genesis 23).
Marriage is represented frequently in Scripture. We have the examples of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz; Mary and Joseph; and several more. None of these couples was perfect, but each is an example of heterosexual marriage.
When it comes to how society treats individuals who engage in homosexual relationships, Jesus’ attitude is the benchmark. The gospels illustrate how Jesus wants us to treat a person who has been marginalized by society on the basis of gender by highlighting several encounters Jesus had with women.
He called out their sin but offered something better. He allowed Mary Magdalene to serve him by washing his feet with her hair. The Messiah saved an adulterous woman from stoning. The Samaritan woman depicted in John 4 had been married five times and was with a sixth man.
He sat and talked with her when the rest of her community shunned the woman. Each of these women was guilty, but so were the Pharisees and other members of society who scorned or condemned them, and the men who used them.
Instead of judging these women, Jesus invited them to be part of his mission. The Samaritan woman was one of his first apostles. Mary was among his devoted followers.
Jesus gave these women a new identity so that they could freely choose to follow him, relieved of shame, and make him the focus of their lives. Everyone needs God’s mercy, but 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is often taken out of context so that the emphasis lands on homosexuality.
This narrow-mindedness overlooks thievery, greed, drunkenness, abuse, and fraud which are also listed. Paul does not exclude anyone, even classifying himself as the chief of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Intimacy, Identity, and Culture
Sam Allberry, a same-sex pastor from England, confronts the pain of being alone, even by choice, on the grounds of obedience to God. Celibacy is made more difficult by the elevation of marital intimacy to a lofty position above all other forms, including friendship.
Allberry’s fear is that “if someone’s only choice in life seems to be either unbiblical intimacy or no intimacy, they’re going to end up choosing unbiblical intimacy. And if that’s the case, I think the wider church shares responsibility for that.”
As Allberry asserts, people within the LGBQT+ community are being denied access to this kind of intimacy, so even those who are keen to follow God’s commands and to please him by their faithful obedience are drawn to other sources for belonging and acceptance.
Jesus never taught his disciples to deny friendship and familial love to anyone. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).
He also promoted mutually uplifting, godly friendship. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The word friend, philos in the Greek, means “beloved” or “dear.” “I have called you friends,” Jesus said to his disciples (John 15:15).
Not everyone accepts forgiveness through Jesus; but he offers dignity, love, and truth to everyone. When a gospel-believing person highlights sin in a person’s life, the purpose should always be to point that person to Jesus and his saving mercies.
Admitting and repenting of sin, turning to Christ for salvation, restores a person to peace and wholeness with God. Many so-called Christians, however, point fingers and exalt themselves by knocking down anyone whose lifestyle does not line up with their own.
A Merciful Love
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).
A big problem in the church right now is the attitude that because someone identifies as gay, lesbian, transgender, etc., that they should not be welcomed into the church. This is wrong for a few reasons.
1. We are all sinners. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the plank sticking out of one’s eye while examining the speck in someone else’s (Matthew 7:3-5).
2. We are commanded not to judge others. If we treat other people as though they are not as valuable to God as we are, then we risk incurring his judgment on ourselves (Matthew 7:1-2).
3. Jesus hung out with everyone. He ate with sinners. That’s why the Pharisees were so scandalized. He offered the gift of his presence and the offer of salvation without prejudice.
4. Jesus says, “come to me all you who are weary.” This is not an invitation to particular individuals who qualify on the basis of their behavior or lifestyle but to anyone who is tired (Matthew 11:28).
Given the obstacles and even dangers the LGBQT+ community faces, added to the ordinary strains of life in general, one might imagine they are very weary, indeed.
What’s Next for the Church
Everyone was made in God’s image, but not all people embrace Christ’s message of hope, peace, love, mercy, and justice. One reason for this is religious arrogance — Christians who act as though they are in a position to condemn or pardon.
But if churches shut their doors to those who defy God’s commands about sexual intimacy, the doors would be shut to everyone. The duty and privilege of Christ’s disciples are to offer all who will listen to the message of salvation and the promise of a love greater than anything.
His love and justice go together, but all who call on Christ’s name for salvation are covered by his blood. Each of us is a work in progress. We can teach his inerrant Word but must always do so without judging or persecuting anyone.
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Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Markus Spiske
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.