2010 New York City Gay Pride Parade
I know that homosexuality is wrong, but I’m not sure why. Even for me to say that homosexuality is wrong seems wrong to say it. The feelings that gay/lesbian people have between each other seems like the same type of love between a man and a woman.
There’s no way around it, this issue is complicated. It would be very easy for us to simply embrace homosexuality and say that it’s okay, this is happening more and more among Christians. But the easy route is rarely the best route. There is another easy route that some Christians take, the route of rejecting homosexuals, avoiding them, or even hating them. Too many Christians take this route as well. The difficult way to go is the way of Jesus. Jesus didn’t shy away from the issue of sin, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t loving. On the contrary, he loved greater than any of us could ever know how to love. Jesus would lovingly look a sinner right in the face and simply say “…go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). We need to be able to do the same thing.
Unfortunately we don’t deal with sin as well as Jesus, but we must follow his lead if we are to be his ambassadors on this earth. The cross of Christ places on us the difficult demand to call sin ‘sin’, but also to love those who commit the sin. If we don’t call sin ‘sin’, then we belittle God’s grace, and we make a mockery of the cross. But the same is true if we don’t love the sinner. If we fail to love those who sin, then we also belittle God’s grace and make a mockery of the cross.
Those who are not Christians don’t know any better concerning the will of God. So if a homosexual does not know Jesus, then they cannot be held to the same standards. But Christians must be held to the highest standard of obedience. “Be Holy as I am Holy”, that is the call for us. It is an impossible one, but with the Holy Spirit we can do the impossible task of aligning our wills to God’s will.
What Does God Have to Say? – The Biblical Question
There are several places in scripture that specifically address the sin of homosexual practice. In the Old Testament Law there are several verses that clearly prohibit sexuality (see Leviticus 18:22 or Leviticus 20:13). Some proponents of homosexuality may argue that many of the laws of the Old Testament were nullified when Jesus died on the cross. You may hear arguments like “the bible says that eating shellfish is ‘abominable’ but we all eat shellfish, so to say that gay practice is a sin is a double standard”. These argument don’t really hold up too well for a few reasons. First of all Jesus himself reminds us that he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-20). Secondly, these laws concerning homosexuality in Leviticus are morality laws (ethical direction for behavior) not holiness laws (laws for ritual cleanliness). Lastly, the practice of homosexuality is condemned in the New Testament as well (Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
But the scripture that is most compelling is not the scripture that condemns homosexuality, but the verses that affirm heterosexuality, specifically within the context of marriage. The bible affirms sexual relationships within the context of marriage, not outside. And marriage is clearly defined in scripture as the joining of one man and one woman. Genesis establishes this and both Jesus and Paul affirm it (Matt 19:4-6, Ephesians 5:31-33). When Paul addresses the church in Corinth, he acknowledges that there were all kinds of sexual immoralities in the city and in the church. Paul answered this problem by affirming the practice of chastity and the institution of marriage between one man and one woman (1 Corinthians 7:1-2).
Why Does the Bible Say It’s Wrong? – The Theological Question
‘The bible says so” should be a good enough answer for those of us who follow Jesus. But knowing the scriptures that say homosexuality is a sin doesn’t always help us understand why homosexuality is a sin. So I need to shift from the biblical, to the theological. The reason why homosexuality is a sin is because it is outside of God’s perfect design, and it is not the way that God designed sex. When God made this world, he made it perfectly and he called it “good”. That included everything, the plants (good!), the animals (good!), the man and woman (very good!), and yes even human sexuality (good!!). Sex was God’s perfect idea, he made it perfect and as we see in Genesis 2:24-25, the perfect world he made included a man and a woman cleaving their naked bodies together.
If you know the story though, you know what happens next. The man and the woman used their God-given free will and they disobeyed their creator by eating from the tree that was forbidden to them. This disobedience allowed sin to get a foothold in the world, and when that happened everything that God created was cosmically effected by sin. Nature was broken, humans were broken, and sexuality was broken as well. Humans exchanged everything that God had made so perfectly, and they twisted it the way they wanted it to be, including sex. We see the beginning of this in Genesis 4 when Lamech takes two wives instead of one. By Genesis 6 God shows his anger at the men of the earth who take any wives that they want, by Genesis 19:4-5 the people of Sodom had completely broken from the perfection that God had created sex to be, and before the end of that same chapter Lot’s daughters have incestuous sex with their father. The rapid decline from God’s perfection is obvious, and it continues throughout scripture. Sexual sin is sex outside of God’s intent, outside of his perfect design. Our sexuality has been profoundly broken by the fall of creation.
Sex is not the only thing broken by the fall. Our feelings, our desires, and our yearnings are broken too. Nothing was left undamaged by the fall. So while I cannot deny that the feelings of gays and lesbians may be very real feelings, that is not the point. The reality is that those very feelings are the result of sin and the broken world we live in. Homosexuals are not the only ones with broken feelings and yearnings. Heterosexuals struggle with this as well. Many married men and women may have strong feelings of love for people who are not their spouses, but that does not make those feelings right. Many pedophiles have very real feelings of love for children, but that doesn’t not make those feelings right. We are tempted and we seek our own wills because sin has effected us to the very core. As much as we might like to, we cannot justify homosexuality by saying that a gay couple is monogamous, or by saying that they are kind and good people, or by saying that they love each other so much. The very core of that love is a brokenness caused by sin, and acting out on those feelings is willful disobedience to what God established in creation, and what he has revealed to us in his word.
Why Does it Feel Wrong to Say ‘It’s Wrong’? – The Sociological Question
As mentioned above, our feelings, along with everything else, have been corrupted by sin. So we can’t always trust our feelings about what is right and wrong. That is why scripture is so valuable to us. Without scripture our feelings about right and wrong will default to the standards of our culture. Thus, the reason it feels wrong for you to say “homosexuality is wrong” is sociological at the core. In other words, culture has successfully taught us to feel bad when we say homosexuality is wrong.
Few of us want to admit that we are products of our own culture, but we cannot avoid it. 50 years ago it would not have felt wrong for you to say that homosexuality is wrong, but with the advent of the 60’s and the sexual revolution, culture changed in a way that we had not seen for hundreds of years. Today we live in a culture that has thrown out all traditional values, many of which were rooted in scripture, and we have replaced them with our own taboos. For example, if you say that a certain belief or behavior is “wrong” then you are committing a big taboo in our culture; and it is a taboo has been ingrained our brains subconsciously from the day we learned how to think. Furthermore, when it comes to sex, all traditional boundaries have been thrown out the window, especially biblically-defined marriage. The new boundary is simply the boundary of mutual consent. When it comes to sex in our culture as long as the other person (or persons) say it’s okay, anything goes.
Cultures may change, but God’s word is timeless. Today we live in a post-Christian culture that has exchanged many of the foundational sexual values of God and replaced them with an “anything goes” ethic. It feels wrong to say “homosexuality is wrong” because we mistakenly take our ethical cues from culture instead of scripture. But as followers of Jesus we must apply a different set of ethical standards to our lives. Even if it goes against the grain of everything around us.
Check out Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationships Beyond an Age of Individualism by Dale Kuehne