ISSUE: 2008, Volume 5, Issue 2
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‘Friends stand shoulder to shoulder; lovers stand face to face’. Since a close, yet non-sexual, friendship with someone of the same sex, a friendship which is ‘shoulder to shoulder’, can be a blessing, what about a relationship with someone of the same sex which is ‘face to face’? If a close non-sexual friendship between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, is acceptable to God, is a sexual relationship between a man and aman,or a woman and a woman, equally acceptable? Moral standards in our modern world have changed; it is now acceptable to live a gay lifestyle and for a man to enter into a ‘marriage’ in all but name with another man, or a woman with another woman. It is also no longer acceptable to speak out against such relationships. If the majority view has changed its opinion, and if the Christian is now in a minority in his or her opposition to that view, should the Christian change his or her view?
The Bible certainly does have something to say about homosexual activity. Part of the Old Testament law given by God to Moses specifically condemns homosexual activity and examples of homosexual lifestyles in the time before God gave His law to Moses are detailed and condemned. Although the Lord Jesus did not explicitly condemn homosexual behaviour, elsewhere in the NewTestament it ismentioned and forbidden. Both Old and NewTestaments therefore have something to say about it. The pro-gay Christian lobby is aware of these passages, and re-interprets the classic position of most denominations on homosexuality. How can they do that, and are they right to do so?
When God created man in the very beginning of the history of this world, He saw immediately that ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’,Gen. 2. 18 NKJV. This helper, comparable to him in stature, intellect and soul, was a woman, whom God also created in His own image, Gen. 2. 20. God intended this man and woman to have the closest possible relationship, and He brought the woman to the man. The result of this meeting was a marriage in which God, as Eve’s guardian in place of her father (for she obviously had no father) actually gave the woman away. ‘Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ signifying the sexual union between the two, is obviously, therefore approved of God between a man and a woman when it is accompanied by a public leaving of father and mother and a public commitment to life-long union, physical and emotional, with one another. This interpretation is the correct one, because the Lord Jesus Himself referred to this as Godapproved marriage in Matthew chapter 19 verses 3 to 5. Paul sees it in the same way, as a marriage, not just a business partnership, Eph. 5. 31. We should notice, therefore that marriage, right from the very beginning, was intended by God to be be-tween a man and a woman, not a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. God’s ideal is marriage between Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!
Human nature being what it is, sinful and with a pre-programmed drive to disobey God in any way possible with which we are all born since the fall of Adam, people fall short of God’s ideal. It wasn’t long before men began to sin against God both ethically and morally. It was in the time of Noah that homosexual sin was first mentioned and it brought with it a curse, Gen. 9. 20-27. God punished the men of Sodom and Gomorrah for their homosexual lifestyle, Gen. 13. 13; Gen. 19. 28. Abimelech, a heathen king, was warned by God not to commit adultery with Abraham’s wife, Gen. 20. 1-9. Prostitution is mentioned in Genesis 38. Joseph refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, saying, ‘How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Gen. 39. 9. All these examples, and many more, show that God’s purpose from the beginning for sex to be between husband and wife alone was known by the whole of mankind, even the heathen and that man’s failure to keep sex within marriage brought down God’s judgement long before the law was given to the Israelites through Moses.
When God chose a nation to be His own people, He gave them laws by which they should live. These laws were to make them different to other nations. They included laws which regulated how they were to worship (the ceremonial law), how they were to function as a nation (the civil law) and how they were to treat one another and God (the moral law). Morality, and the moral law, forbids stealing from others, murdering others, lying about others and having sex with anyone other than your partner in marriage. God’s moral law, which unlike the ceremonial law and the civil law for the Jews, has not been abolished and remains the same for both believer and unbeliever alike. The act of sexual union is an act which is acceptable to God within the bounds of marriage and any sexual activity outside marriage is always condemned by God, whether it is between people who are not yet married (fornication, 1 Cor. 6. 18; 1 Cor. 7. 2; Gal. 5. 19); between people who are already married (adultery, Lev. 20. 10; Ezek. 16. 32; Matt. 5. 27-28); between people of the same sex (homosexuality, Lev. 20. 13; Rom 1. 26-27; 1 Cor. 6. 9); or between people and animals (bestiality, Exod. 22. 19; Lev. 20. 15-16). Sex is a God-given drive and is good and acceptable, but only when it is between a husband and his wife, Heb. 13. 4; 1 Cor. 7. 4-5.
A number of years ago a group of prominent evangelicals in Britain sent a letter to several newspapers in which they quoted, verbatim, the passage in Romans chapter 1 where Paul says that 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, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion, see Romans 1. 26-32. At the close of the extract, they signed their names but did not say they were quoting the Bible. Some newspapers refused to publish the letter. Those that did received a torrent of objections, complaining about the unacceptable homophobia of such prominent preachers, and how un-Christian they were. Several days later, the same men sent in another letter in which they said the words of their first letter were taken directly from the Bible and that those who complained of them being un-Christian were actually being un- Christian themselves in refusing to accept Christian teaching! Though the Lord Jesus did not mention homosexuality, He most clearly affirmed that marriage in the eyes of God is between a man and a woman, Matt. 19. 3-5. The marriage of male and female is presented to us as a picture of Christ and His church, Eph. 5. 22-33. Adultery, fornication and homosexuality are condemned in the New Testament, 1 Cor. 6. 9-11.
Modernizers try to re-interpret the biblical prohibition on homosexual behaviour. ‘God was not judging the men of Sodom for their homosexuality’, they say, ‘He was judging them for their refusal to show hospitality to strangers’. Yet Lot knew the men of Sodom wanted to have sexual relations with his male visitors, not show them hospitality, for he even offered them his own daughters for sex instead. He was hardly offering his daughters to be shown hospitality! ‘The passages in Leviticus that condemn homosexuality only doso in cultic terms’, we are told, ‘God did not want the Israelites using male prostitutes in worship, as the other nations did. Otherwise, away from the context of worship, homosexual behaviour was alright’. But the same passage (Leviticus 20. 12-21) condemns bestiality and incest. Are they telling us that bestiality and incest is alright, provided it isn’t associated with the worship of God? What nonsense! ‘Paul’s comment, (1 Cor. 6 9- 10), that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God is merely in the context of promiscuous homosexual activity. Loving same-sex relationships are different’, they argue. So idolatry, adultery, theft, drunkenness and swindling, which are all condemned in the same passage, are alright provided they are done in a loving context, are they? Of course not. The biblical teaching on same-sex sexual relationships, however loving they may be, is quite clear. They, and all sexual relationships outside a marriage between a husband and a wife, are unacceptable to God, are sinful, and must be avoided.
One important point to notice is that homosexual activity is listed in the Levitical passage, Leviticus 20, as one of several acts God considers immoral, but it is no more immoral than the others. The sentence on each of these sins was death, as it was for disobedient and disrespectful children, Deut. 21. 19-21! It is true that homosexual behaviour is elsewhere referred to as an abomination, Lev. 18. 20. But so also is human (child) sacrifice, Deut. 12. 31, transvestism, Deut. 22. 5 and adultery, Ezek. 22. 11. We have no grounds, therefore, for treating a homosexual as being any more immoral than an adulterer or a transvestite. This does not, however, excuse a man, or a woman, from being homosexual. It merely reminds us that we must not have an arbitrary list of sins we think are worse than others. God’s assessment is the right one, and it will be ‘more tolerable’ for the homosexual sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah to stand before God in a time of judgement to come than those, presumably, outwardly upright and moral citizens of Bethsaida and Chorazin because the sin of wilful rejection of God’s Son is worse than immoral behaviour, Matt. 11. 23-24.
Every human being, with the exception or our Lord Jesus Christ, inherits a sinful nature at conception. We are all sinners by nature and sinners by behaviour. Human nature will manifest its sinfulness in different ways. Some people tell lies more easily than others, some have problems with anger that others do not; some are more deceitful, some more proud. Some find it easy to be pure in thought, others have major problems with lust. Some struggle with sexual temptation, some are never bothered by it. Some are ‘straight’ and some are ‘gay’. It is not right, however, to excuse a homosexual tendency by saying, ‘I was born like this, therefore I cannot help it and I must do what is according to my nature. It is in my genes’. A man may be born with a disposition to rob and steal, but that does not mean he is allowed to do so. Yet being homosexual by nature is no more sinful than being an inveterate adulterer. All human natures are equally sinful before God. But though this may not excuse homosexual behaviour, it does not allow us arbitrarily to discriminate against and turn from those who are homosexual by nature.
The only unforgivable sin in scripture is sin against the Holy Spirit. Homosexual sin is forgivable. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, clearly states, that the ‘effeminate’ and ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ (‘men who practise homosexuality’ ESV), will not inherit the kingdom of God.He goes on to say, however, ‘And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’, 1 Cor. 6. 9-11. The mercy and grace of God and His forgiveness are clearly extended to active homosexuals, as well as they are to those who indulge in heterosexual extra-marital sex provided these things are confessed, repented of and avoided.
There is no doubt that someone who finds himself/herself sexually attracted to others of the same sex must never give in to that attraction and engage in sex with them. This will necessarily involve a life of celibacy, of self-control and perhaps of loneliness. But then someone who is heterosexual, and never marries, is also expected to live a life of celibacy, self-control, and endure the inevitable loneliness. A gay man or woman would rightly condemn a single, straight, girl or boy, man or woman, for sleeping around. Why should it be wrong for them, but right for a gay to do so? Whilst we may urge all believers to show compassion upon those who are homosexual by nature, we cannot condone homosexual behaviour. Yet surely it is also right that those believers who are so inclined, yet keep themselves pure, live lonely celibate lives, repent of past failures and struggle to please God, should be honoured and respected amongst us. They should be loved, supported and prayed for. We all struggle to live as disciples of God in a fallen world. We must all support, love and forgive one another, whilst never excusing failure. So, let any that is without moral sin among us cast the first stone.