This is not a blog that was written with a lot of joy. But, it is necessary. I believe that the issue of homosexuality and the Church’s relationship to that issue is the most controversial topic within Christianity today. There have been hurt feelings, bold defenses of the truth, and a lot of mudslinging from both sides. I agree with Christian counselor and professor Edwin Welch when he said in his book Blame It On The Brain? that:
Has the church been, at times, self-righteous in its attitude toward homosexuals? Is there homophobia in some of our congregations? Do we tend to think of homosexuality as worse than the gossip and private idolatries that are rampant in the church? Has the church been unwelcoming to unbelieving but spiritually searching homosexuals? The answer to these questions is certainly yes. More specifically, the answer is, “Yes, we have sinned.”
We have definitely sinned on this issue. But, affirming things that are false is also a sin. To err on God’s truth concerning this topic is to bear false witness against Him. That is not trivial. It’s treason. This is why discussing this issue is so important. It is important that we get this right because the truth is important.
We will continue to say what the world, by and large, will not believe, namely, that it is possible to describe homosexual behavior as sinful, perverse, abnormal, and destructive to persons and culture while at the same time being willing to lay down our lives in love for homosexual persons. In fact, we say something even more radical and unbelievable to the world, namely, that you must believe homosexual behavior is sin and harmful in order to love homosexual persons. Because God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:6, “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” If you deny the truth that homosexual behavior is sin, but instead approve of it or rejoice in it, what you bring to the homosexual person will not be love – no matter how affirming, kind, or tolerant. Our aim is the biblical combination of conviction in God’s truth and compassion for God’s creation.
To that end this blog was penned. The Bible will not and cannot be gagged as irrelevant on this matter. Revisionist interpretations abound today but so does the truth (however encapsulated in arrogance and folly-full ways of sharing). I’ve heard it said many times that “Jesus did not say one thing about homosexuality. Who are you to judge me when Jesus himself did not condemn homosexuals?” The unfortunate thing for the advocate of this statement is that it more than likely is not true.
Jesus affirmed Creation.
Any discussion of sexuality must begin with the Creation accounts in Genesis 1-2. From the texts, we learn that there is an explicit order and design in the making of humanity. Human beings, both female and male, are not mere animals. As one writer said, “God has created human beings in His image and likeness. Clearly, humankind only as male and female reflects the eternal diversity of the Divine Being. In addition, God made woman from man as a ‘helper suitable for him’ (2:18,20). We are able to recognize her special nature and role from her formation.” There is something about being created in the image and likeness of God that makes our sexuality reflective of the divine being. There is something about being made in his image that defines what it means to be human. Homosexuality is an affront to this Imageo Dei. James B. DeYoung was right in his book Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims examined in Light of the Bible when he said:
God could have made a thousand males for Adam, yet He would not have fully achieved His own image and its internal diversity. Without the full-orbed picture, His own being would have gone unknowable and unknown. Only a woman, not another man, could complete the divine design for humankind. Female and male differ from each other in complementary fashion, and only their union brings about a completion. In contrast, homosexuals do not find partners; they find mirrors. They relate to each other as to one-dimensional sexual clones of themselves. The ontological differences between male and female, reflecting God’s ontology, do not exist in a homosexual relationship. There is no union in “one flesh.” Homosexual practice is an attack against what it means to be human. Reproduction is crucial, for thereby humans enter into the creative divine work of generating further human life, which in turn has the capacity to express love for God and for people. It fulfills God’s plan for the human race.
How does this relate to Jesus? In Matthew 19 some Pharisees come to test Jesus using the issue of divorce. The goal was to get Christ to incriminate himself through misinterpreting the Law. Unfortunately for them, Jesus answered their question without self-incrimination. He answered it with an affirmation of God’s original design and intent in the Creative order (Matt. 19:3-6). Jesus affirmed the Creation as the grounds for any meaningful discussion concerning sexuality. He did not abrogate Genesis’ portrait for God’s blessed-means for human sexuality. Edwin Welch again was correct when he noted:
The biblical position is that there is a creation order for human sexuality. God’s ordained design for sexual relationships is male-female. Homosexual acts and homosexual desires, male and female, violate this creation ordinance and are thus sinful. The church must therefore warn and rebuke those who call themselves Christians but persist in homosexual practice. And the church must actively teach that homosexual affection is sinful. It can never suggest that there is morally neutral, constitutional, homosexual orientation. To urge those struggling with homosexual desire simply to refrain from acting on their desire is to sin against these brothers and sisters.
In Jesus’ affirmation of Creation, he said a lot about homosexuality.
Jesus was Jewish and contextually condemned the sin.
Jesus was religiously, culturally, and socially Jewish. And the Jewish people outrightly condemned homosexuality for what it was- an attack on God’s design in creaturely sexuality (Gen. 19; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Jud. 19-20). Some say that “we just cannot know what the Jewish mindset concerning homosexuality actually was. After all, there are only a handful of texts that even remotely mention homosexuality.” The only problem with this statement is that it is woefully reductionistic and simply false. The Jewish view of homosexuality can be easily seen in the Old Testament, Old Testament Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the works of Philo and Josephus, the Qumran community, and even the New Testament. The contextual evidence can be seen here.
Furthermore, there is strong linguistic support in asserting that Jesus’ use of the word pornea (translated in the English as fornication, sexual immorality, adultery, or lust) included a denunciation of homosexuality (Matt. 5:17-19, 10:15, 15:19-20; Mark 7: 15, 17-23, 15:19-20). In the article “Jewish Texts on Homosexuality” from the jouranl Reveling in Romans, the scholar said:
Jesus may very well have intended to include all unlawful sex, including homosexuality, in the term pornea. It is certainly absurd to say his usage excludes it in light of linguistic evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, given the Jewish antagonism towards homosexuality, it is unlikely that Jesus would even need to address the issue much further. It would be stranger if he opposed it and did not say so given the “homophobic” rhetoric rampant in Jewish literature. Only in lieu of possible acceptance of homosexuality, as in the case of Gentile contacts, would a need arise to condemn these practices outright (Paul). Qumran only mentions it twice and the latter quotation comes from Lev 20:13. Their slight treatment is for the same reason. Jews universally condemned homosexual practices of every kind. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the homosexual interpreter. He must demonstrate Jewish approval of homosexual practices of any kind from the texts available. This has never been done.
Jesus did not speak against homosexuality specifically, but neither did He specifically address many other sexual behaviors, such as incest, bestiality, and rape. That doesn’t mean that they were permissible. Jesus consistently upheld the Old Testament law. He stood against all legalistic attempts to narrow its intent, and He maintained that the law addressed both behavior and attitude. He consistently spoke for marriage, and He indicated that the only alternative to heterosexual marriage was celibacy (Matt. 19:12). Jesus condemned homosexuality linguistically and implicitly by virtue of his socio-religious identity. If he abrogated the typical Jewish view concerning homosexuality, it would be explicit in the Gospels. It is not.
We do not know 100% that Jesus did not condemn it explicitly.
The Bible does not describe everything Jesus did within his life and ministry. It only describes what is absolutely necessary for our faith in him. The apostle John even admits he doesn’t include everything that he could when writing his gospel. (“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25; see also 20:30-31). If they had included everything, there would just be too much information. It is possible that Jesus explicitly condemned homosexuality but, because of the religious and social presupposition of the day (see the above point), the writers of the Gospels did not include them in their works.
The whole bible is inspired.
Christians believe the whole Bible is inspired by God. In evangelical theology, the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is defined as the Holy Spirit’s superintending over the writers [of Scripture] so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written—authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs The core of the doctrine is the acknowledgement that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) and that the writers of Scripture “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) What that means is that when Paul and others condemn homosexuality, it is just as inspired as the Gospel writers. To be an apostle is to speak with the authority of Jesus Christ himself! The office of apostle in the early church was one with equal authority like the Old Testament prophets. To disobey the apostles was to disobey God (2 Pet. 3:2; Acts 5; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:3; Rom. 2:16; Gal. 1:8-9; 1 Thess. 2:13, 4:8, 15, 5:27; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14). There were various qualifications to be an apostle: having seen Jesus after his resurrection with one’s own eyes (Acts 1:22, 9:5-6, 26:15-18; 1 Cor. 9:1, 15:7-9) and having been specifically commissioned by Christ as an apostle (Matt. 10:1-7; Acts 1:8; 1:24-26; Rom. 1:1, Gal. 1:1, 1 Tim. 1:12; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Paul met both qualifications and was accepted by the other apostles (see the book of Acts).
The Gospel of Matthew may omit a clear denunciation of homosexuality but the epistle to the Romans emphatically does not (Rom. 1:18-32). I’ve defended that passage before from revisionist readings (here). What this means is that it makes the assertion that “Jesus did not explicitly condemn homosexuality” superfluous.
From these four streams of arguments, the statement that “Jesus did not condemn homosexuality” seems to be a failed attempt to get around what Scripture teaches concerning the topic. The solution to the problem of homosexuality is not to deny biblical truth but to provide biblical truth concerning the solution to all sin including the sin of homosexuality. Again Piper remarked:
As with every other sin, the Bible’s solution to homosexuality is trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, the imputation of righteousness, and the power to change. After talking about the “sexually immoral” and “adulterers” and “men who practice homosexuality” and “thieves” and “drunkards” (1 Cor. 6:9–10), Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Then he tells them, “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 Cor. 6:11; cf. Rom. 6:23; Phil. 2:13; 1 John 1:9). This implies that some former homosexuals in the church at Corinth had left their previous homosexual lifestyle and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, were seeking to live lives of sexual purity, whether in celibacy or in faithful, heterosexual marriages.
May the Church be both passionately devoted to the truth and compassionately committed to loving homosexuals and those afflicted with the desire in our day for the glory of Jesus and the joy of all peoples on the earth!