Author: ET Sundby
A profound book grounded in Scriptural truths set around the story of one woman’s spiritual journey to acceptance and affirmation. Elaine has provided us with a series of articles that highlight many of the books key points. The articles are good, the book is better. “Calling the Rainbow Nation Home” will help you, or someone you love, reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. God does love you – just the way you are!
Is it a sin to be gay? I hear this question over and over again, not only on the discussion board associated with gaychurch.org, but also with many who come to our churches for the first time. For years we’ve heard that homosexuality is a sin, and our sexual orientation is a “choice” we’ve made or a cruel fate of nature that one must overcome.
This issue has harmed the gay community to no end, causing those of us who are Christians to doubt our faith and ourselves, while driving the rest of the gay community away from the very Christ they need! The issue causes artificial schisms within the Christian community and saps our collective energy. Instead of focusing all of our attention reaching the lost for Christ and “building the Body of Christ in love”, we find ourselves instead of having to justify our faith and in some cases, our very right to exist! In this hour and day when the Body of Christ should be preparing herself for the arrival of her King, we instead find ourselves witnessing to the world not a Gospel of peace, unity, and love. But one of discord, fear, and prejudice. It ought not to be like this.
Like many of you, I’m no stranger to this issue. As a gay Christian, I founded and pastored a church for several years that ministered primarily to the gay community. I stepped down from that ministry years later to devote myself to my family and to writing several books pertaining to this issue that God has laid on my heart. In addition, I still preach and teach on occasion back at our ‘home’ church Faith Full Gospel Fellowship. Last but not least is the ongoing work of the web site www.gaychurch.org and its associated bulletin board, both of which are under the auspices of GALIP (God’s Agape Love into Practice). GALIP is a non-profit organization my spouse and I created years ago to further the work of Christ in the gay (GLBT) community.
As you might have guessed this issue is near and dear to my heart. I have devoted my life from the age of thirty on pretty much towards ministering to the gay and lesbian community. I pray for the day when such a specialized ministry is no longer needed! In the meantime I, and ‘we’ must continue on with the work the Lord has placed in our hearts and hands to do (1 Peter 2:9). That being to ‘Build the Body of Christ in Love’ (Ephesians 4:1-16) and to faithfully preach and teach the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19) to our community and abroad.
I have simplified the topic of homosexuality into seven key points as outlined below. Click on the header of each section for more details.
Who are we and why are we here?
While we come from many different backgrounds, cultures and continents we share one common bond. We love God and we’ve sworn our lives to follow and serve His Son Jesus Christ. Because of this unique bond we are truly “one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Many of us found this web site and the bulletin board through our desire to connect with other gay Christians. This search has led us to one another.
Herein lies our first clue. How do we know that we are children of God? Because we desire fellowship with other one another. We are not searching the Internet for pick-up places and brothels. We are searching the Internet to find our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Why would someone who is supposedly living knee deep in sin and being deceived by satan himself be searching for other Christians? If you’ve ever been in a place where you were truly ‘running from God’ you know EXACTLY what I am talking about! The LAST place you wanted to be was in church. The LAST people you wanted to be talking to were other Christians! Why? Because every contact with them reminded you of how far you had strayed from Christ! You didn’t run TO the light! You ran FROM it!
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:20-21 (NIV)
So we start here with the simplest of ideas. Why are we here? We are here because we love God and we desire to fellowship with other Christians. Only a child of the Most High God would be searching for such things as this.
The issue of salvation.
Are all homosexuals destined for hell? Does ones sexual orientation, in and of itself, condemn one to a life apart from Christ? Surprising as it may seem there are many within the Christian community that believe this to be true. Go to any major “gay pride” event and you will see protestors with signs saying such things as “Fags are going to Hell!” So who is right? Are ‘we’ condemned to Hell because of our sexual orientation? Or are these poor people so wrapped up in their fear that they would attack the very Body of Christ (Matthew 25:40)?
When I was “coming out,” most in the church believed that homosexuals were condemned to Hell. Because of this, I too struggled with this concept and wondered if my very salvation was in peril. After all, I had no one else telling me anything different. My heart was telling me that God loved me ‘just as I am’ yet the Church was telling me something entirely different. Which was right?
Not wanting to lose my salvation over my sexual orientation, I started my journey here to find God’s truth and will for my life. Aware that my own biases would probably cloud my judgment, I decided to start my search using the worst possible scenario. That being the premise that the “anti-gay” contingent was correct and that homosexuals were destined for Hell. If I could find any way to Scripturally back this premise, then I had determined in my mind that I would accept this as the truth. After all the weight of the Church stood behind this idea and I surely didn’t want to risk my relationship with God. No matter the personal cost.
After much thought, I came up with only two possible scenarios that would support this notion. The first is that salvation is reserved for a select group of people, and that homosexuals are somehow excluded from this group. The second possibility is that homosexuality is such a terrible and perverse sin that salvation is beyond our grasp. On the flip side, if neither of ideas could stand up to Biblical scrutiny, then there is nothing left to support the notion that salvation hasn’t been extended to everyone – including the gay community!
Could salvation be reserved for a select group of people? It may seem surprising, but this is not a new idea. The early Christians believed that salvation was only offered to those of Jewish heritage and not to the Gentiles (non- Jews) who were seen as an unclean abomination (Acts 10:28). Thankfully, Paul and others wrote extensively on this issue and strongly refuted the notion that salvation is offered only to a select few.
John described best God’s open invitation in John 3:16 when he wrote that “whosoever” (King James translation) believes in Jesus Christ will not perish. “Whosoever” does not exclude anyone, instead it includes everyone! Simply put, it does not matter if you gay or straight, black or white, male or female. What matters is whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not and have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
So if no one is excluded from God’s invitation, that only leaves one scenario left. That being that homosexuality is such an evil and perverse sin that it cannot be forgiven. Of course we have to assume for a moment that homosexuality is a sin to explore this idea! But if true, could any sin be so terrible that Christ’s death is incapable of cleansing us from it?
If we accept this premise, the implications are immense, for it means that there is a limit to salvation’s cleansing power. If true, then Christ did not conquer sin, but rather that a single sin conquered Him! If sin conquered Christ, then satan, not Christ, still rules and we have lost the battle! Is there such a limit to the cleansing blood of Christ that was shed on the cross? No! (Romans 8:37-39; Matthew 28:18) A thousand times no!
How do I know this to be true? I knew firstly because Paul said in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. If there was a sin that could keep us from being saved, the text would have instead read, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus EXCEPT for the homosexuals”. It simply does not say that!
Secondly, I know because of my own personal experience. God has so dramatically changed me since the day I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior some twenty-five years ago. That to tell me God isn’t interested in homosexuals or that God doesn’t accept gay people is absurd! It’s too late to tell me such nonsense! Why? Because I’ve already experienced God’s miraculous touch and power (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)! I’ve already felt God’s overpowering love sweep over me and through me. I’ve experienced first hand the gifts of the Spirit that Peter described as only come from God Himself (Acts 10:44-48)! And finally, I’ve already witnessed the lengths He will go to save ‘others’ like me! Far from convincing me that God “hates gays” I am fully persuaded that God loves us, cherishes us and will go to any length to save us.
Has God ever asked me to change? YES! God has asked me to change LOADS of things about my life. But He has NEVER once asked me to leave my relationship or try and change my sexual orientation!
It’s clear that no one particular group of people has ever been excluded from salvation. Nor is any sin so great that it cannot be cleansed by the power of the blood of Jesus. Salvation has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation, and everything to do with our acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. The anti-gay signs that scream out, “Fags are going to Hell!” should instead be asking us all one simple question. “Have you Accepted Jesus Christ?” For that is the only thing that matters concerning ones Salvation.
Many claim that homosexuality is a sin. Are they right? What is Sin to God anyway?
We love God, and don’t want our lives to be controlled by bad habits and self centered attitudes that can harm our relationship with Him and with others. The plain truth is that sin separates us from God (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 1:5-7) and we don’t want to be separated from God! We want to grow closer to Him and become more like His Son with each passing day!
But what exactly is sin? If we took a poll of every church and denomination out there, we would find a different opinion from every one of them! Everybody seems to have their own idea as to what is right and what is wrong! So if we wanted to rid sin from our lives, where would we start and whose list should we follow?
Perhaps we should take a different approach and forget what everyone else thinks and go right to the source, the Bible itself. What then? Could we find God’s will by cataloging every sin mentioned in the Bible? If so, how do we handle edicts that seem to change over time? If you thumb through the Bible you will find that such things as marriage, personnel hygiene, dietary laws, and diplomatic relationships with neighboring nations all have changed over the years. So what is right for our culture and the day and age in which we live?
More importantly, what would we do with such a list once we had compiled it? Paul told us over and over again that trying to live our lives by a long list of do’s and don’ts was a lost cause. Why? Because no one is good enough to follow such a list day in and day out! Furthermore, Paul said such attempts would only bring heartache and failure for no one except Jesus Christ Himself is capable of living a perfect life (Romans 3:10-23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5)! Worse yet, if we attempt to earn our righteousness through ‘good deeds,’ we are in fact rejecting the very work that Christ did for us on the cross (Galatians 2:19-3:21, 5:1-6)!
So is trying to do ‘the right thing’ a lost cause? Have we come full circle? Yes and no. First and foremost, we must settle in our hearts and minds that our salvation only comes through Jesus Christ and none other. We cannot earn our way to heaven. However that doesn’t change the fact that we still want to please God and find His will for our lives. So how do we do that?
This question used to perplex me until a friends question and the prompting of the Holy Spirit had me researching everything I could concerning God’s love. During that search, I ran across a Scripture that changed my life forever. For in it we find the very heart and soul of God’s will. If you study the issue further, you will find that this same “royal” commandment (James 2:8) lies at the heart of both the Old Covenant (old covenant = Matthew 22:37-40) and the New Covenant (new covenant = John 13:34). God has never changed (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; 1 John 4:8, 16), only His instructions on how we should carry out His will have.
Why is this so? Because we have changed over time and the cultures we live in are different from one another. We don’t face the same problems the early Patriarchs faced. Nor were the Apostles encumbered with some of the things we have to deal with today. Each generation and each culture is different. What may be a loving act in one culture may be cause for war in another! In spite of our differences, we are all given the same basic principle to carry out in our lives. That being that we are to…
“Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
“These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:40 (Amplified)
Simply put, we are to love God first, and then we are to love others, as we love ourselves. If we embrace and follow this belief, we are following God’s will for our lives and we are not living in sin. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“For the whole law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in one precept. You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.” Galatians 5:14 (Amplified)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)
Therefore sin is simply this: if I do not love God and put Him first in my life, this is a sin. If I mistreat others or myself spiritually, emotionally or physically, it is a sin. Love is the basis for all of God’s laws, old and new. Sin is the absence or distortion of this love.
So is homosexuality a sin? “It depends” is my answer. The question is no longer ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ but an issue of love in the relationship. First and foremost, is this relationship encouraging both partners’ spiritual growth and relationship with God?” And second, is this a relationship loving and healthy for both parties? God is not concerned with the superficial things that worry us. He does not care what our sexual orientation, gender, skin color, or church affiliation is. These things have no meaning to God. He goes straight to the heart of the matter and simply asks the question, “Is this relationship based on, and operating in, My love or not?”
Our very lives give testimony to the God we serve.
Here we are, a group of Christians who just happen to be gay. We’ve built churches, fed the hungry, taught Bible study, led worship, preached the sermons, led some to Christ and others back to Christ! We’ve encouraged one another. Comforted one another. Many have experienced spiritual gifts in operation (Acts 10:1-11:18). We’ve witnessed miracles. We’ve participated in miracles. Some of us are here by a miracle!
Yet in spite of all these things, I’ve had some accuse me of being an emissary of satan himself. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same. I used to just shake my head at such nonsense, not knowing how to respond. In time however doubts began to creep in. Was my love and desire to be with Pam clouding my ability to see the truth? Could my life be mired in sin and I was simply unaware of it?
These questions tormented me for months until one day the Holy Spirit asked me a simple question; “can sin be hidden from God?” “No” I answered, sin can never be hidden from God because God knows everything! As soon as I realized this, the answer was clear. God knows everything about me, right down to the exact number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30)! Therefore there was nothing I could do, no matter how hidden it was from myself or others that God does not see (Hebrews 4:12-13). He knows all my motives, intentions, and secret desires. Therefore if I was sinning, God would know it, regardless if I was aware of my sin or not!
Why was this important? Because it is impossible for God, who is the epitome of total goodness and light (1 John 1:5) to have fellowship with sin (1 John 2:9-11). God and sin simply cannot coexist together – it is impossible (2 Corinthians 6:14)!
Therefore, my personal conclusions about what sin was, and was not, really didn’t matter. If being with Pam was a sin, it would cause a separation between God and I. The side effects of such a breach would become obvious over time. Simply put, sin always separates us from God and separation from God always causes side effects. Therefore, the behavioral characteristics, or “fruit” of my life as Jesus described it, would tell me if I was living in sin or not.
“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:18-20 (NKJV)
We have to be careful here on two fronts. First, off I’m not talking about an inadvertent sin here and there for all of us have “sinned and fall(en) short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is little doubt that our lives are lived in a constant battle between our “natural” selves and God’s nature that resides within us (Romans 7:21-25). We fall, and we get up again and again. If we say otherwise, we are only deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:8). Thankfully, if we do sin the Lord has provided us the means to extricate ourselves from our mistakes (1 John 1:9). No, we are not talking about this kind of sin, but about a consistent, willful pattern of sin. Ones sexual orientation would certainly qualify as a “consistent pattern” of living, but is it a sin?
The second issue we must be cognizant of is the fact that many in the homosexual community have run away from God because they feel God and the church have rejected them. Many attempt to bury their pain of rejection in just about every form of substance abuse and self abuse imaginable. We are not talking about folks like this either. Much of the sin these people have entangled themselves in is caused by self-hate. If they could accept themselves and learn that God loves them just as they are many would have never gone down this path. No – these people have not run away from God because of sin in their lives. These people were pushed away by self-condemnation and societal prejudices that have made them feel like outcasts.
What I am talking about are folks such as myself who hadn’t run from God or from myself but were seeking God’s will intently in this matter. By this time. I had for the most part, accepted myself as a gay Christian and had found a wonderful person to share my life with. Now that we were together, I needed to find out if our relationship would cause my life to spiral downward. For if our relationship was a sin, then I could expect such an outcome over time.
So that first year together and for many years thereafter, I carefully monitored my life. Was I growing closer to God or further away? Had coming to terms with my sexuality and reconciling it with my faith brought peace to my life (Matthew 11:28-30; John 8:32) or turmoil? Was I a more whole person now that I had met Pam? Finally, what kind of “fruit” was my life bringing forth?
It didn’t long for me to realize that I was much, much happier now with Pam in my life! I felt like a whole person. I wasn’t hiding from others or from myself anymore, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Guilt and self-condemnation lost their grip and I learned to love myself and others in a fuller, much healthier way. Accepting myself made it easier to fulfill the second great commandment of love, that being that we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). How could I love someone else if I couldn’t even love myself?
As for my relationship with God, I found that strengthened many times over! The bitterness of having to live alone was gone, replaced by an indescribable sense of joy and gratitude that this wonderful woman had come into my life! I found that one and one do make three! We compliment each other, where I am weak she is strong. Her strength and courage enables and encourages me to do things I would not have tried on my own. The happiness and joy I’ve found through our family is beyond anything I thought possible! As barren and desolate as my life was before I met Pam, it is as blessed and full of vitality now! My happiness and joy extends into all aspects of my life – including my relationship with God!
Furthermore, our relationship and the rigors of raising a family together have helped mature me as a Christian. I don’t just live for myself anymore. ‘Us’ requires a level of maturity that ‘me’ never did. It’s easy being ‘nice’ when you live alone! It’s a whole different ‘ball game’ trying to be a good Christian day in and day out when you have a family! It’s hard work and a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice. Through our eighteen years and raising two children together, I’ve learned things I never would have living on my own. My relationship with God has only strengthened and matured with time. The “fruit” of my life bear out my faith (Galatians 5:22-23) and give witness to God’s blessing upon our Union.
So what was the verdict? Was there ‘hidden’ sin in my life due to my relationship with Pam? No. How did I know this? The “fruit” of my life are my witness and testify daily that I am serving the one and only true God. If being gay was some horrific sin, this would not have been so.
Several denominations and para-religious groups accept homosexuals if they are “non practicing” (i.e. celibate). Is this scriptural?
Another issue that some denominations are struggling with is requiring that the homosexuals remain celibate. You could sum up this argument by labeling it a “love the sinner but hate the sin” with the “act” of homosexuality seen as the sin. Therefore the homosexual is ‘ok’ if they simply don’t ‘practice the sin’ – i.e. they must remain celibate.
There are several problems with this doctrine. Starting first with the fact that such a doctrine is unscriptural. Celibacy is discussed in a couple of Bible passages. The most prominent is Paul’s discussion of the topic found in First Corinthians, chapter seven. He states in these passages that it is “good for a man not to marry” (1 Corinthians 7:1), because “one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided.” (1 Corinthians 7:33-34 NAS). While “one who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, (and) how he may please the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32 NAS).
However, Paul clearly states that celibacy is his recommendation, and not a command (1 Corinthians 7:6). More importantly, he says that celibacy is a gift not all are given (1 Corinthians 7:7). He goes on to explain that if a person does not feel comfortable being celibate and the temptation is too great (i.e. they don’t have the gift of celibacy), that person should marry (1 Corinthians 7:2). Even then married people should “not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time”, then they should “come together again so that Satan will not tempt you” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Bringing these thoughts together we can see that Paul is recommending celibacy as a way of life so that a person can devote more of their time and attention to the Lord. However, Paul is not commanding everyone in the ministry to embrace such a lifestyle! Furthermore, he realizes that few are given this predisposition and that forcing celibacy upon someone who hasn’t been given this gift is an open invitation to much misery and temptation. Therefore, only people who feel comfortable with celibacy should do so.
“Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (NIV)
Celibacy and the Ministry
Another important note is that Paul’s admonishment regarding celibacy is primarily targeted towards those who “serve the Lord.” We now refer to such people as those “in the ministry”. The Catholic church takes Paul’s recommendation one-step further, and mandates that all those in the ministry (i.e. priests and nuns) must take vows of celibacy. Most other denominations denounce this policy, believing that such an edict demands celibacy when not all may feel comfortable with such a lifestyle. Paul himself supports this second viewpoint. Clearly stating in His letters that celibacy is a gift not all are given.
Paul recommends marriage for those who are not given this gift. In First Timothy, Paul states that a church leader (or in today’s terms we would say an pastor, bishop, overseer, deacon, priest, or church elder) should be “above reproach, the husband of but one wife.” (1 Timothy 3:2). Notice Paul didn’t say above reproach and single! In another scripture Paul, speaking about the other Apostles, states that several of them took their “believing wife along with (them).” (1 Corinthians 9:5) Nowhere do we hear Paul or others condemning these Apostles because they were married! These married men included James, the brother of Jesus, who is widely believed to have been the overseeing pastor for the mother church in Jerusalem. These passages make it clear that Paul and the other Church leaders accepted and even approved of marriage within their ranks.
So what of us? Is it possible that all homosexuals have been given the gift of celibacy? Are we all called into such a ministry? Doubtful. First the entire gay population isn’t even Christian! Secondly, nowhere in history do we see God commanding an entire nation (“nation” defined as a group of like minded people joined together by some bond that may be physical, political, social or spiritual in nature) of people to be set aside for the ministry. Even the Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, who were set aside for the priesthood, did not represent the entire Jewish population nor were they required to be celibate!
If God truly has set aside the entire homosexual community for this honor then we are witnessing an historic event never before witnessed sense the dawn of creation! Such a deviation from historical patterns is highly unlikely, or believable, for we serve a God that is the “same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
While it is true in one sense that all Christians are called upon to be ‘in the ministry’ as worthy ambassadors of Christ and Christianity (2 Corinthians 3:6, 5:20). Paul makes it clear that this is not the type of ministry he is talking about. If for if it were, then using the churches logic, all Christians should follow a life of celibacy! This is absurd! What Paul does say is that while some are called to full-time ministry others serve the Lord through their families and the community. Its clear we all serve, but we serve in different capacities. Likewise, not all are called to a life of celibacy.
Do I have the Gift of Celibacy?
When it became clear that a relationship with a man was not right for me, the only alternative seemed to be celibacy. I was faithful to this principle until my mid-twenties, but I was miserable. I was serving God to the best of my ability but I didn’t like being alone. The very thought of never having a loving, sexually fulfilling, life-sharing relationship with anyone tore at me. I began to have misgivings about serving such a cruel God. The situation only got worse when my sexual feelings became stronger with denial. It was driving me half-crazy, just as Paul had predicted it would.
This was not consistent with my past experiences with the Lord. In the past God had always blessed me when I did His will to the best of my ability. Now instead of being blessed, I was miserable. How had I missed it? Or was I missing it? Perhaps the church’s doctrine had missed it? I could now see that celibacy was a gift given by God to some but not all people. But how would I know if I had this gift? Scriptures didn’t seem to offer any clues. On one hand the church was telling me and the rest of the gay population that we HAD to have this gift. Yet, my own heart was telling me I was miserable. Someone, be it the church or myself, was not seeing the truth of God’s will.
There was no further help from the Bible, so I started talking about this issue with many of my friends – gay, straight, Christian and non-Christian alike. One day while we were at work, the discussion turned to relationships and the different problems we encountered. We were a pretty close-knit group, and there were few things we wouldn’t discuss with each other. Someone asked why I hadn’t started dating again after my last disaster of a boyfriend. I replied by bringing up the issue of celibacy and the church’s doctrine regarding sex outside of marriage. I was intentionally vague because I hadn’t yet had the guts to tell them I was gay. My problem, I explained, was that I didn’t know if I had this “gift of celibacy” or not, but that I’d been practicing it per the church’s doctrine.
They found this to be an interesting and novel problem as none of them were Christian. These friends thoughtfully, logically, worked the idea through. One of my co-workers, after much deliberation shyly asked; “Well, Elaine, are you happy?” My answer was a quick “no!” “Well then” he replied, quite pleased with having solved my dilemma, “I guess you don’t have the gift!”
His statement shot straight to my heart. How could I have been so dense! I laughed at myself; at all the absurdity, heartache and misery I’d put myself through! It was so blindingly obvious once I heard the words, utterly clear and honest. He was one hundred percent right. My own misery testified daily that I surely didn’t have this gift! God had never destined me to live alone. If He had, I would be at complete peace about it.
If I, as a gay person, didn’t have this gift then the church’s doctrine must be wrong. Worse yet, it was a doctrine that attempted to condemn an entire group of people to a lifestyle few could follow. Paul warned us against such false acts of ‘piety’, saying that without the “gift” of celibacy our lives would be fraught with constant temptation and misery. Perhaps even destroying our very relationship with God in the end.
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2:20-23 (NIV)
Why do many in the Church believe homosexuality is a sin? What does the Bible have to say about this issue?
The more I’ve searched Scripture, the more convinced I am that homosexuality is not a sin. Nor has God relegated us to a life of celibacy! So this begs the question: if it’s so obvious that ones sexual orientation is not in and of itself a ‘sin’, why do so many in the church condemn homosexuality?
I believe two important factors come into play, fear and prejudice. When you fear something, you wish to get away from it. To most people, this means pretend it doesn’t exist, subdue it, change it, or destroy it. Fear is not from the Lord – it operates in satan’s kingdom (1 John 4:8,18). Yet we build complete belief systems around our fears and prejudices, and people fight change. There is no getting around the fact that it’s far easier to understand how one can be gay and Christian when one is gay and Christian.
I have also found it common for those who consider homosexuality an ‘abomination’ to ‘prove’ their cause by quoting every scripture they can find pertaining to sexual sin and promiscuity. It is important to understand that we Christians in the gay community also are a hundred percent against sexual sin. The difference lies in the fact that we do not believe God has singled out any particular community or nation of people as ‘evil’ or ‘sinful’, believing instead that God’s edicts are applied without prejudice to all peoples and communities; homosexual and heterosexual alike. Therefore before calling homosexuality a sin, one should interrogate Scripture to find if this premise is even true. Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians are just repeating what they have heard from the pulpit or attempting to frame God’s will around their prejudices and fears.
For this reason it is important to understand what God does have to say concerning homosexuality. While there is much debate amongst Bible scholars if any scriptures specifically address homosexuality there are eight references that are commonly used by some to condemn gays. These are commonly referred to as “the clobber passages” or the “big eight”. Of these eight, only six are still used with any regularity as two have been accepted by most as not pertaining to homosexuality. Four of these (Genesis 19:1-5, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:17) are found in the Old Testament while the other four (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Romans 1:21-31 and Jude 1:6-7) are located in the New Testament. The two that have been widely discarded are Deuteronomy 23:17 and Jude 1:6-7. While some argue we should simply ignore these debatable references, I believe it is important to understand what the Lord is trying to teach us through these verses as every word in the Bible is meant for our teaching, correction and reproof (2 Timothy 3:16).
When studying these passages, one of the obstacles we face is that the original text was written in Hebrew (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament) and only later translated into English. By later, we do mean much later as the first English version of the Bible that gained a relatively wide distribution was the Tyndale Bible in 1534 AD and later still the King James translation in 1610 AD. Right or wrong, many of our present day doctrines are based on these early translations or offshoots from these works.
Interpreters do not have an enviable task. In many cases, the ‘old’ English word used in the King James and other early translations has little or no meaning to us today (e.g. the word “catamite”) or has totally changed it’s meaning (e.g. “effeminate”). Another problem is that in many cases the original text was meant to be used as an example, or in a figurative rather than in a literal sense. For example, “all eyes on the chalkboard” in the literal sense asks us to physically place our eyes in contact with the chalkboard. In the figurative sense, this phrase means, “look up at the chalkboard and give me your undivided attention”.
However our biggest challenge lies in the fact that the English language is very limited when compared to the Greek dialect. This problem was highlighted with the word “love”. In the Greek language there are at least three different words to describe various forms and attributes of love, while in English we lump all three together with the single word “love”. This is not very descriptive and cannot begin to convey the levels of intensity with which we may love someone or something.
With this in mind, you can see why inadvertently during translation, verses can take on a meaning that was never intended. In other words, God’s perfect word may get muddied when man attempts to give the Lord a hand in translating His book! This is apparent with the scriptures that many attribute to homosexuality.
In our effort to find God’s original intent in these passages we will discuss the literal translation from the Greek and Hebrew texts. In addition, many times two or three translations of the same verse is given. Finally we will use a “common sense” approach as God isn’t going to tell us something ‘out in left field’. Every interpretation must ‘line up’ with other Scriptural truths and commandments (e.g. the law of love). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and “every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1). In short, scripture will interpret scripture and our conclusions should make logical sense. If they don’t then we have missed it and we need to start again.
As we begin our study of these six Scriptures it’s important to note that these versus can be grouped into four basic categories. These four are:
[expand title=”1. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)”]The story of Sodom and Gomorrah takes place primarily in Genesis 19 with God about ready to pass judgment on the evil people of Sodom. But before He does so, He elects to give them one last chance, a test if you will. He agrees to send two of His angels to the city. If they can find ten righteous among the citizens of Sodom, God will spare the city from destruction. However, if they cannot find ten righteous people then His judgment would stand and the city destroyed. We catch the story as the angels are coming into the town.
“The two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth, and said, “My lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the street.” But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Genesis 19:1-5 (RSV)
That evening as the angels bed down for the night, the entire male population of the city encircles Lot’s home and accuses Lot of harboring these uninvited and unapproved strangers. They demand that Lot hand the angels over to them so that they may “know” them (“Yada” Strongs #3045). While there is much debate over the interpretation of this word “Yada”, I believe Moffet’s translation of “violent rape” is probably the closest. I personally don’t think that the citizens of this violent place really intended to sit down and have a nice little chitchat over tea with these strangers!
Whatever the exact translation, I think it’s clear the people of Sodom meant the angels harm. God also seemed to come to the same conclusion since after Lot and his family were a safe distance away, the city was destroyed – just as God had originally planned.
The question that is debated is this: Is God condemning the people because they were homosexual or because they were cruel, selfish and showed no mercy or compassion to others? Ezekiel 16:49-50 answers many of these questions when he states: “Behold, this was the inequity of your sister Sodom: pride, overabundance of food (in Hebrew this phrase literally means eating to the point of retching…), prosperous ease, and idleness were hers and her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominable offenses before Me.”
In other words they were evil and self-centered people who totally ignored God and thought nothing of attacking, raping and killing people. Here is where the interpretations begin to differ. One side believes the sin of the Sodomites was the method of rape they intended to inflict upon the angels (i.e. the act of sodomy), while the other side believes the fact that the Sodomites wanted to attack and harm the strangers at all demonstrated the evil nature of these people and their complete abandonment of the law of Love. In other words it wasn’t the method of rape that was important – but the fact that the Sodomites wanted to rape and kill them at all that is truly the issue!
I personally don’t think God cares so much about our method of intercourse as He does about the attitude and intent behind it. Even today, rape has nothing to do with a loving relationship. Rapists are motivated of power, the need for control, anger, hatred and in some cases even vengeance. Ezekiel’s account substantiates our belief that the sin of the Sodomites was not one of homosexuality, but of a self-centered, unloving attitude that cared little for God or their fellow man.
Further supporting this belief, we know that historically between three to ten percent of any given population is homosexual. Yet here we see the entire male population of Sodom wanting to “know” the strangers. Never in recorded history has an entire population of people been gay and if by some quirk of nature they were, then where did the children of Sodom come from? If all the men were homosexuals why would Lot even bother to offer his daughters to the crowd in exchange for the angels if he knew his bribe would be worthless (Genesis 19:8)? If the act of sodomy was the issue then why did God destroy the women of the city as well? The final nail in the coffin to this argument is that Lot’s daughters were engaged to be married to men of Sodom. Clearly we can see that the entire population of the city were not homosexuals nor was this the reason God destroyed the city.
So why would the men of Sodom want to rape the angels? If you study history, you will find two important clues that may shed light on the issue. First, is that it was relatively common back then for the victorious army to rape high-ranking leaders of the defeated foe. Why? Because women were viewed as second-class citizens and chattel in many regards, items to be bought and sold, or even traded. For instance, in Genesis 19:8 Lot attempts to trade his two virgin daughters to the men of Sodom so they would leave the angels alone. What would we think about such an act today?
Because women were held in such low regard it was the ultimate form of humiliation to treat another man as you would a woman. Most men preferred death to such treatment for now they were viewed as mere ‘women’ in the eyes of their captors.
The other reason all the men of Sodom would want a ‘go’ at these angels was that the religious practices of the day believed that sexual relations with another somehow conveyed a portion of that person’s strength and power to you. This was the whole concept behind the practice of temple prostitution and the fertility cults. They believed that having sex with the temple prostitute (either male or female) conveyed a blessing from the god of that particular temple to the participant.
Can you imagine what the people of Sodom thought when they realized they were entertaining supernatural beings? They probably thought that they had hit the spiritual jackpot (!) and coveted the supernatural powers they hoped to attain through raping these angels. What fools they were! Who can mock God or the messengers sent on His behalf?
I think the Biblical passages pertaining to Sodom (Genesis 19), God’s own explanation of their sins in Ezekiel 16:49-50, historical perspective on why the men of Sodom wanted to rape the strangers (i.e. to humiliate them and the transference of supernatural powers through sex) and antidotal evidence (e.g. the entire male population showed up to “know” the strangers, not the small minority that would be the gay population) all point to only one logical conclusion. God destroyed the people of Sodom not for the sexual act of sodomy but for the wicked and debased spiritual state of these people. A society that had clearly abandoned the Law of Love.
If this conclusion is correct then we can infer that when the Bible refers to the sin of the Sodomites. God is NOT talking about the specific sexual act of sodomy as some translations might imply. But to the overall spiritual state of the person that leads them to embrace a sinful lifestyle that is completely devoid of love.
On one final note concerning this passage. It’s alarming to note that for all the sins of Sodom the Lord told Israel that neither “Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done” (Ezekiel 16:48); for Israel not only chased (whored) after strange gods but she “despised her husband and her children” (Ezekiel 16:45). Because of this, God declares, He will be more forgiving of Sodom on the day of judgment than to Israel.
Why did God condemn Israel in Ezekiel? Because she showed no mercy towards strangers and cast out those she deemed ‘unfit’ from the house of Israel. The same Pharisaical spirit gave approval to Saul’s persecution of the Christians and tried to ban the Gentiles from Jesus’ forgiving grace. The same Pharisaical spirit is still at work today, causing us to draw lines between ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and attempting to define who is righteous and who is not. Such a spirit causes harm to the Body of Christ and limits (in it’s own mind) who can and cannot be part of the kingdom of God. God makes no such divisions or limitations concerning Jesus Christ’s saving grace (see the article titled “Whosoever”). All are welcome, all are His.[/expand]
[expand title=”2. The Levitical Law (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13)”]
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 18:21 (NIV)
“If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)
The “holiness code” is laid out for us throughout the Book of Leviticus and parts of Deuteronomy. The Israelites were to follow these laws until the Messiah came and a new covenant was created. This of course happened with the arrival of Christ who established a new covenant, which was founded upon “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). This new covenant did not rely on a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts but focused instead on the heart of God’s will for us. That being the great commandment of Love in which we are to love God first and foremost and love our neighbor as we love our self (Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 5:14; John 13:34; Romans 13:10).
The problem we have here is that some have called for these Levitical Laws to be enforced upon the homosexual community. I’ve even seen people from time to time call for homosexuals to be stoned to death based on Leviticus 20:13! Luckily such folks only represent a small fringe element within the church. Even so, many good intentioned folks still use these passages today in an effort to demonstrate that homosexuality is a sin.
This is very dangerous for a variety of reasons, the most obvious one being that Paul warned us repeatedly that our salvation can only be achieved through Jesus Christ and nothing else. Any attempt on our part to gain our salvation or purify our lives by following a Levitical list of do’s and don’ts is doomed to fail. Worse yet, if we attempt to follow such a list of rules we are denying the very work that Christ did for us on the cross (Galatians 2:21-3:11; 5:1-6)!
This isn’t a new problem. The early Christian Church didn’t want to let go of their Laws and were especially keen to enforce them on the Gentiles who they considered an abomination (boy this sounds familiar!). Paul fought long and hard against such ideas and pointed out again and again that if any one of us tries to follow the Law or enforce the Law upon others. God will hold us accountable for following each and every one of the Laws – no exceptions (Galatians 5:1-6)! This means of course if we want to enforce Levitical Laws on someone else God will require us (not them!) to uphold ALL the Levitical Laws! This would be no easy task!
These laws require that you can’t go anywhere on the Sabbath so that would rule out going to church, shopping at the mall or going to a ball game. If your kids cursed or disobeyed you, you would be under obligation to put them to death. Same penalty for those who read their horoscopes – yep – death. Know of anybody who had committed adultery? You’ve got it! Death.
While such harsh punishments should reduce our overpopulation problems and traffic jams on the way to work. I’m not sure this is what God has in mind for us today! At least its a little easier for those of us in our menstrual period. Instead of death we would only be sent out beyond the city limits to wait out our “humiliation”. Jewelry, beauty parlors (i.e. hair styles) or tattoos – forget it! No pork or shellfish and touching anything “unclean” is out. At least that one sounds ok – I don’t like unclean things. Of course the rub in this case is that anything with a cloven hoof is considered “unclean” so that means pigskin and the like is out! No bacon in the morning, leather purses, wallets, jackets and the like are out. Footballs and basketballs would have to convert over to synthetics or those sports would be out as well.
Divorces would get pretty interesting too. You see, men were permitted to ‘put away’ their wives just about anytime they wanted to. Not to mention they were allowed to have as many wives as they wanted! Women, on the other hand, were forbidden to initiate the divorce and would be stoned to death if they were caught cheating. I could go on and on, but why – especially since these Laws are no longer applicable to us today?
Philippians 3:9-10 (NIV)
“… not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
Galatians 2:15-16 (NIV)
“ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
Still I come from the school of thought that every single bit of Scripture is important and nothing should be discarded (2 Timothy 3:16). What this means to me is that while we are no longer under the Levitical law today, I still believe the principles we can learn from them are as valid now as they were to the Israelites thousands of years ago. Such principles as:
- Holiness: The Levitical Laws ordered the Israelites to have no other gods and to stay away from the shrine prostitutes, which many believe is the subject of these passages in Leviticus. Likewise the great commandment of love calls upon us to put God first in our lives.
- Respect: The Levitical Law directed the Israelites to treat others with respect and honor. That included providing food and shelter for strangers traveling through their land.
- Family: Many of the Levitical Laws stressed the importance of family and procreation, which was essential for the continuation of the Israelite nation. Now we become members of the family of Christ not through a natural birth but through a spiritual re-birth. However the need to cherish our ‘spiritual’ and physical family is as important now as it was then.
- Health: The Levitical Laws stressed personnel hygiene, proper eating habits and the need to stay away from temple prostitutes and never having sex outside of marriage.
While all of these points are as valid as they were thousands of years ago when the Levitical Laws were written, Jesus Himself stated that these principles are embodied in and completely fulfilled when we carry out the great commandment to love (Matthew 22:37-40). For when we act in love toward one another, we won’t treat others (or ourselves!) with disrespect or do them harm. We will cherish our families – both our physical and our spiritual family members (fellow Christians). And we will love our Lord “God with all (our) heart and with all (our) soul and with all (our) mind.” For “this is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-40) and upon “these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40 NAS)
Note: For a more amusing look at the Levitical Law this gem was posted on the bulletin board awhile back…
Laura Schlessinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a US resident:
Dear Dr. Laura,
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him or her that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them.
- When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
- I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
- I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
- Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
- I have a neighbor who insists on working on Sunday (the Sabbath). In the book of Exodus Lev. 25:35:2 it clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
- A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t know. Can you settle this?
- Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
- Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
- I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
- My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16). Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14).
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging, and we should do what the bible says.
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.[/expand]
[expand title=”3. The interpretation of the Greek word arsenokoitais (1 Timothy 1:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)”]
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NAS)
“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NKJ)
I will group 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 together for discussion purposes because the debate around each centers pretty much around the proper definition of one word – arsenokoitais (Strongs #733). The Greek word arsenokoitais has posed a problem for scholars throughout the years, as it appears to be a ‘slang’ word not commonly used. In fact it only appears twice in Scripture once in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and again in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Because of these translation problems we see these passages interpreted various ways. For instance the King James translates arsenokoitais in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as “abusers of themselves with mankind”, Worrell translates it as “sodomites” while the NIV, NAS and others translate it as “homosexuals”.
Arsenokoitais has the same translation problems in 1 Timothy 1:9-10. With the King James writing “them that defile themselves with mankind”, ASV is “abusers of themselves with mankind, New King James and Worrell say “sodomites”, NIV has “perverts” while the NAS and New Living write “homosexuals”. So who is right?
One thing is clear. That being that this interpretation debate is a relatively new one. For years these passages were always translated as ‘abuser of self” or “sodomite” (e.g. KVJ and Worrell). Because of the ambiguity of the literal meaning behind arsenokoitais the earlier Bible scholars felt an equally ambiguous ‘catch all’ word such as “sodomite” seemed appropriate enough. They and others since then have pointed out that if Paul wanted to specifically say “a homosexual man” there were certainly words in the Greek language to do so as homosexuality was a rather common practice in both the Greek and Roman cultures (Paul wrote his letters in the Greek language). Paul elected NOT to use these words and instead used the more ambiguous word arsenokoitais. So what DOES arsenokoitais mean?
Strongs (#733) doesn’t offer much help saying that the word means “sodomite” and “abuser of (that defiles self) with mankind.” The same translations used by earlier versions of the Bible such as Worrell and King James (Note: these translations came out long before the current homosexual debate was raging and thus the Bible translators felt no compunction to have to ‘side’ with one group or another…).
Another piece to the puzzle can be found by studying what the sins of the Sodomites really were and gaining clues from that (see the article titled “Sodom and Gomorrah”). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and given half a chance, Scripture will interpret Scripture. Furthermore, all Scripture (if properly interpreted) will ‘line up’ with other Scriptural truths, such as the Law of Agape love that is the great commandment and covenant we are now under (Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8-11; John 13:34). If our conclusions don’t line up with these truths or contradict other Scriptural truths, then we’ve missed it and we need to begin again.
So what does make sense with these passages? Does being a homosexual seem to fit into the same ‘line-up’ as the ones Paul describes in these passages? We can easily see how fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, swindlers, murderers and the like break the great commandment of Agape love. But does a loving homosexual relationship? I just don’t see it. Sometimes a good dose of common sense is good when interpreting the Word of God.
What does make sense is the word “sodomite”, for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were one very unloving pack of totally self-absorbed folks. They cared little about God, nor were they concerned about others. In fact,Ezekiel 16:49-50 describes them as cruel, selfish people who thought nothing of raping and killing strangers. Mercy and compassion were hardly in their vocabulary! Now folks like that I CAN see breaking the great commandment of Agape Love! But every homosexual person that’s ever walked the planet earth? No…
So there lay the subject with me until I came across an article written by Paul R. Johnson for “Second Stone” magazine titled “A New Look at Arsenokoitais” (1994 January/February issue). In this article he wrote:
“The Greek compound term arseno-koitais literally means ‘the male who has many beds’. The word arsen means ‘male’, the adjective o means ‘the’, and the term koitais is defined as ‘many beds’. Thus, the entire phrase means a male with multiple bed-partners; a promiscuous man. Everywhere that the word koitais is used in the plural in the Bible denotes promiscuity. However, when the same word is used in the singular form, the Bible gives approval because the singular denotes monogamy.”
Finally a literal description of the word that makes sense! Furthermore we can clearly see the ‘lifestyle’ of the people of Sodom in these passages. Translated in this manner, these verses now fit in with the rest of the Bible (e.g. the Law of Love).
So what is God teaching us through these passages? First, that He is not for or against any particular sexual orientation. What God is against is a lifestyle of casually jumping from one bed partner to the next without regard to the consequences of such a union. Such sexual practices are self serving (read SELFISH), don’t foster long lasting commitments between partners and can spread diseases such as AIDS like wildfire!
Are there homosexuals who practice such a lifestyle? You betcha and God is against it 100%! But God is also against heterosexuals practicing the same kind of ‘lifestyle’ (or “death-style”) as well.[/expand]
[expand title=”4. Defining what is ‘natural‘? (Romans 1:21-31)”]
In Romans, we are introduced to a group of people who knowingly reject God. From this point on their lives begin to spiral downward and they commit all sorts of sins. One of which is turning away or “exchanging” what is “natural” to them for that which is “unnatural.”
Romans 1:21-31 (NAS – bold is my notation)
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”
The problem of course is, what is “natural”? The word “natural” comes from two Greek words phusikos (Strong’s #5446) and phusis (Strong’s #5449). These words literally mean that which is a persons “natural disposition” and something that comes “instinctively” to them. In other words, it is who you are naturally; without reprogramming, counseling, or any other form of behavioral modification that attempts to change your behavior to that which society has deemed acceptable.
It’s not easy accepting yourself as a gay person. Like most everyone else who has come to terms with this issue. I fought the idea for years. This problem was only compounded by the fact that I was a Christian and had been taught that homosexuality was some sinful “choice” that I had made along the way.
For years I fought that “choice”. I had boyfriends and almost got married. I find it ironic that when I was praying about whether I should get married, the Holy Spirit used this very scripture to help me ‘see the light’. I’ll never forget the moment. Bill had just proposed and I had practically bolted from the room in fright! What should I do? I knew that I loved Bill very much but only as a dear, dear friend. As with every other boyfriend before him, I simply wasn’t sexually attracted to Bill! I had always been attracted to women, but not men in that way. But it wasn’t ok to be with a woman! So I had pretty much made up my mind that I would be single and celibate for the rest of my life. I really didn’t see another way out of my quandary. Then Bill proposed. Now what?
After leaving the restaurant, I drove down the road mulling over my options. Bill was a wonderful man and I thought I’d never find a more perfect match. He was everything I had been looking for in a husband. Except… there just wasn’t any sexual attraction. But would I ever be sexually attracted to a man? Highly doubtful. Knowing this should I marry Bill? What was the right thing to do? Was this going to be fair to Bill? Could I handle being married to a man when I wasn’t sexually attracted to him? What would this do to our marriage over time?
Not a mile down the road, I stopped for gas and to wash my car. My mind so absorbed in this question, I hardly paid attention to what I was doing. In the car wash, ‘out-of-the-blue’ the Holy Spirit brings to mind this passage in Romans. I thought about the story and how these people had rejected God and then had turned away from what was “natural” to them. Women going after women and the men after the other men. “OK,” I thought, “God is telling me that being with another woman is not an option. I already knew that!”
But then the Holy Spirit asked me a strange question. “Elaine, what is natural for you? Being with Bill or being with a woman?” Lying to God was futile, so I truthfully answered, “with a woman”. There was simply no comparison between the two!
As I reflected on my answer, half expecting a lightning bolt to strike my car, the Holy Spirit brought up the Romans Scripture again. This time though He emphasized the ORDER in which things occurred in the story. These people weren’t ‘gay’ and then they had turned away from God. No, they had first turned away from God, and then they turned toward that which was unnatural for them.
The Holy Spirit prompted my spirit again asking; “Elaine, have you ever really turned away from God?” I answered truthfully once more. “No I haven’t Lord”. Sure God and I have had our disagreements over the years and I’ve sinned like everyone else. But there had never been a moment since becoming a Christian when I had willfully pushed God out of my life. Even now, with this issue, I was earnestly seeking God’s will in this matter.
The car wash was on the final rinse cycle now as I thought long and hard over these things. I had no idea where God was taking this and His line of questioning didn’t make any sense at all! Frustrated and a little angry that God wasn’t answering my prayer for guidance, I just sat there and waited for the car wash to end. It was then that the Holy Spirit asked the most difficult question of them all. “Elaine, what do you think will happen if you marry Bill?”
I realized instantly that this question was where God was headed all along and in my reply lay God’s answer to my prayer. Clearing my mind, I tried to imagine what life would be like after we got married. There were many good things to look forward to. But what about the nights? As Bill’s wife he had every right to expect a sexual relationship with me. How would this affect me? I knew I wasn’t sexually attracted to him and I also knew that that would not change after we got married. How would forcing myself to have sex affect me? How would I cope?
I was instantly repulsed by what I saw. Making love with someone was perhaps the most intimate thing two people could do. For me to successfully follow through with Bill’s sexual advances meant I’d have to block off all of my feelings and wall off my emotions at the deepest levels of my being. Could I survive this? What would it do to my psyche? Would it only resurrect the wall around my heart that had existed before I had accepted Christ? Yes.
I knew then why the Holy Spirit had taken me through Romans. Making love with Bill would be such an unnatural act for me that I would have to harden my heart in order to survive. I might be able to do this for a while but eventually there would be ramifications. It was inevitable. It would probably start first with growing anger and resentment at my predicament. That anger would most likely be directed first at myself. Somehow I had failed. But it wouldn’t end there. Soon my silent pain and growing resentment would be directed towards Bill. Had he done anything wrong? No! Of course not! But that wouldn’t change anything. If anything, it would only make me hate myself even more!
Invariably, our marriage would suffer. How could it not? Eventually my pain and anger would be directed towards God Himself. After all, He had made me this way! Only a cruel and merciless God would place me in such an impossible predicament! As I pictured the end playing out, I could see what that lay ahead. I would hate myself and my marriage would be a sham. In the end, it would reach all the way to my relationship with God. Did I want this to happen? No.
I knew then that I could not marry Bill. It wouldn’t be a loving act towards him, towards myself or towards God. Marrying Bill would, for me, be as much a sin as it was a sin for these people to turn away from God. Our paths may have been different, but the end result would be the same. If I truly loved Bill, the most loving thing I could do would be to say, “No”.
God was trying to tell me the obvious. What was natural for me was to be with a woman, not a man. Later on in my life I discovered the literal meaning of this word “natural” and realized that what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me that day in the car wash was exactly how the verse was written.
That being that these people had first turned away from God (I had not) and then they had turned away from what was natural for them. If I had turned away from God’s advice that day and accepted Bill’s proposal of marriage. I would have been committing the same sin these people had thousands of years ago.
What was Natural?
After years of studying the Word and talking to people about passages such as this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real problem concerning this text is that people want to take whatever is natural for them and then try and apply to everyone else. This problem is only amplified if the majority of people share your same experience. Making what is natural for you the accepted norm – or “normal,” if you will. The small minority of people who do not share your experience are now seen by the majority as the “ab-normal” ones.
This problem is only compounded when laws and religious doctrines are built around the majorities shared experience. Thus solidifying and codifying this view of the world as not only what is “normal” but also that which is considered “God ordained”.
So what is the truth? What is truly natural for you? Only you can answer that question. One thing that constantly amazes me though is that we have any gay people with us at all! With the intense socialization process we go through from our youth on up, coupled with the fact that society rejects homosexuals in almost every way possible, for someone to come out the other end of the process still desiring a mate of their own sex is truly amazing! We are the proverbial fish swimming upstream. Yet in spite of the obstacles throughout history and across all racial and cultural lines, there has always been a small minority of every population whose sexual orientation is homosexual. How can this be?
It can only ‘be’ because homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature, affecting every species including humans. For some reason, in God’s magnificent plan of creation – He has planned us to be this way.
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NIV)
In addition, we will cover the two scriptures now widely believed to be NOT pertaining to homosexuality. We discuss them because a few still use these versus against homosexuals. These two are:
[expand title=”Shrine Prostitutes (Deuteronomy 23:17)”]
The last remaining passage found in the Old Testament that is used against homosexuality is found in Deuteronomy 23:17.
Deuteronomy 23:17 (NIV)
“No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.”
This verse is rarely used anymore against homosexuality because its now widely understood that the word Hebrew word qadesh (Strong’s #6945) means “a devotee by prostitution” or a “shrine prostitute”. Most versions of the Bible now reflect this translation.
Before this however, the King James version read “sodomite” rather than “temple prostitute”. For those who believed that the sin of the Sodomites was homosexuality, this verse appeared to be condemning homosexuality. You can see from this how errors in translation begin to create a ‘snowball’ affect, compounding an error many times over.
This isn’t to take away from the actual verse itself. Shrine prostitution was a wide spread problem during the time of the Patriarchs. It was widely believed that having sex with the temple prostitute (either male or female) conveyed a blessing from the god of that particular temple to the participant. God was against the Israelites participating in such activities for a variety of reasons.
- The Israelites were to be a people set apart for God. They weren’t to mingle with the nations and their customs, which surrounded them.
- God is a jealous God and doesn’t want us to worship anyone else but Him (Exodus 20:3, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Joshua 24:19-20)! Having sex with the priest/priestess of that temple was paying homage and having intimate relations with the god of that temple.
- The chances of catching a venereal disease would be much higher if you were a prostitute or had sexual relations with temple prostitutes.
It’s easy to see why God forbade such practices because temple prostitution is in direct conflict with the great commandment of Agape love (Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 5:14; John 13:34). Items #1 and #2 were in direct violation of the first commandment of love. That being that we are to have no other god(s) above God Himself. Item #3 violates the second commandment of Agape whereby we are to love ourselves as we love others. Getting (or giving) venereal diseases isn’t a very loving act either to yourself or the one you have relations with!
In conclusion, we can see that this verse does not pertain to homosexuality. I strongly believe the other six verses will eventually be corrected as well.[/expand]
[expand title=”Strange Flesh (Jude 1:6-7)”]
The eighth, and final scripture comes from Jude 1:6-7. This passage recounts the story of the angels who long ago “did not keep their positions” in the spiritual realm, but left that which was natural for them to cohabit with women (Genesis 6:1-4). Their ensuing offspring were considered an abomination to God.
Jude 1:6-7 (ASV)
“And angels that kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.”
Jude 1:6-7 (NIV)
“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
This scripture is rarely used any more against homosexuality because it is understood by most to mean that the angels were leaving what was “natural” for them (i.e. their spiritual plain) to cohabit with humans. This union between “strange flesh” was considered out of God’s intended order of things.
In like manner the entire male population of Sodom (physical beings) wanted to rape these angelic messengers (spiritual beings). This was something that not only was a horrific crime but like Jude, out of the natural order of things. We can only imagine the supernatural power such spiritual beings have. Who is mortal man to stand in their way if God did not restrain them, or us, from such liaisons? We can only speculate that the men of Sodom hoped to receive some sort of supernatural power from these unearthly visitors by raping them. Remember – the primary religions of the day were the fertility cults that believed, as part of their religious rites, that sexual relations with another somehow conveyed a portion of that person’s strength and power to you. In the case of temple prostitutes, having sex with one would convey to the participant a blessing from the god the temple prostitute was a proxy for.
This scripture is mentioned because it is still used on occasion against homosexuality by those who interpret the words “strange flesh” to infer homosexuality. This is a speculative leap at best! Nowhere do we see any reference to homosexuality. Instead these Scriptures, and their related cross-references, make it abundantly clear that the “strange flesh” being discussed here relates to spiritual beings having sexual relations with physical beings. In addition, those of us who are gay would quickly point out that making love with others of our own sex is what is natural for us. Conversely, sexual relations with the opposite sex is the “strange” and “unnatural” act for us.[/expand]
[expand title=”Finally we will cover Jesus’ teaching on the issue.”]
We will conclude our study of the Clobber Passages by looking at the teaching of Jesus on the subject of homosexuality.
Our study is short, because Jesus never taught for or against homosexuality. This raises the question, if homosexuality truly is a sin worthy of eternal damnation, as some believe it is, then why didn’t Jesus discuss it? He certainly preached at length concerning every other sin listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Timothy 1:9-10. Why would He leave this one out?
“God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) therefore I cannot see Him leaving out such a ‘critical’ sin from His discussions. A more plausible explanation is that God has never been concerned about homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter. Each are equally part of God’s plan of creation. It is only mankind’s fears and prejudices that have concocted this monstrous imaginary sin, not God. Jesus talked at great length concerning many other issues such as love, mercy, grace, reaching the lost, the ministry of reconciliation, stewardship, and the healing of body, soul and mind. Yet at times the church seems more preoccupied with a subject He never taught about, than about the matters He did.
Scripture says that when we see Jesus, we have seen the Father (John 14:9; Hebrew 1:3). Since Jesus never talked about the issue we can deduce that neither Jesus nor the Father is concerned about homosexuality. Instead, He preached “the good news to the poor” and proclaimed “freedom for the captives and recovery of sight for the blind”, to “release the oppressed”, and proclaimed the “year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19) to all who would accept Him. Teaching us that we would do well to focus our thoughts upon Jesus and turn away from the prejudices of men.[/expand]
 The first English translation that gained a fairly wide following was the Wycliffe translation in 1380AD. While this version influenced later translations it never gained much of a following with the ‘man-on-the-street’ because the printing press had not yet been invented and copies were extremely rare and expensive to come by.
Unfortunately, fear and prejudice are not new to the church. Jesus suffered at the hands of the Pharisees and the Gentiles at the hands of the Christian Jews. We are not alone.
We are hardly the first group to be ostracized and maligned by the church. Nor is this the first time leaders within the church have missed the truth. Christian history is littered with such stories. The Pharisees rejected Christ and then the Apostles turned around and rejected the Gentiles. The Catholic church tried to crush the reformation and in turn many Lutherans rejected the Anabaptist movement. In the mid 1700’s the Anabaptist (Baptists) returned the favor and persecuted the Methodists. The church splintered again in the 1800’s over the issue of slavery and then again with the advent of the ‘Holiness’ movement and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Azusa street).
The pace of God’s revelations has only quickened over the past hundred years. With each ensuing wave of revelation, the church buckles, bends and stretches. Some invariably accept God’s revelations while others shy away from the unfamiliar and stick close to the known. Change invariably causes strife and contention within the church and schisms within Her leadership ranks. Change is never easy, but in God’s time, it does come.
During such times of tumult and pain, the minority who have caught sight of ‘this new thing’ invariably feel put upon, rejected, and even persecuted by the powers that be. The word “prejudice” comes to mind. It’s an apt definition, for the word simply means to “prejudge” or to have a “preconceived idea, objection or complaint” about someone or something. In essence it means to pass judgment on someone or something without knowing all the facts.
This is a common mistake during difficult times. Take for instance the Pharisees. They had many preconceived ideas concerning the Messiah. One of these notions was that the Messiah would lead a great army and liberate Israel from their Roman oppressors. They believed the Messiah would then install them as the rightful leaders of God’s new kingdom.
They were in for a bit of a surprise however, as Jesus’ grand entrance into Jerusalem was on the back of a donkey, and His ‘army’ consisted of women, children and men of little or no rank. Overthrow the Romans? Jesus told the Jews to pay their taxes, and worse yet, to respect and pray for their Roman governors! As for installing the religious elite into leadership positions? Jesus told them that the “first shall be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31). To top it off, instead of accolades, Jesus saved His harshest criticism for these same religious leaders calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28) and “hypocrites” (Matthew 23:13) who had “neglect(ed) justice” and love (Luke 11:42)!
The religious leaders were not pleased! Nor were they willing to accept a Messiah that didn’t conform to the Messianic image they steadfastly believed in. Accepting Jesus would come at a high price for it meant letting go of the institutions and doctrines that they had spent lifetimes constructing. Bound by pride, fear and greed they didn’t want to question the very Laws and doctrines that legitimized their power and authority. The final error they committed was equating the salvation of Israel, not with obedience to God, but with the preservation and continuation of her institutions.
“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up; “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” John 11:47-50 (NIV)
You would think the Apostles would have learned their lesson from the Pharisees, but not so. Soon after Jesus’ death and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Christian movement began to grow and expand. The problem was that more than just the Jews were getting ‘saved’. Many Gentiles and Samaritans were hearing the message and accepting Jesus Christ as well! What was the church supposed to do with these people?
There was no love loss between the Jews and the Gentiles. Long standing cultural prejudices existed between the two groups. Religious doctrines only deepened this rift. For example, the Jews believed that merely walking into a Gentile’s home or eating a meal with them caused a Jew to be defiled and required the Jew to be ceremonially cleansed. Making the whole idea of conversion even harder to accept was the widely held belief that the Messiah was only coming to save the Jews. So why were the Gentiles being saved? More troubling, what was the church supposed to do with these new converts?
The Apostles were concerned that if they accepted the Gentiles ‘just as they were,’ they ran the risk of alienating their existing congregants. Worse yet, they would be admitting to the world that they had misinterpreted the Lord’s wishes concerning this matter since they had openly declared that Jesus had only come for the Jews! Not only would this cause a great deal of embarrassment but it could raise some serious doubts concerning the validity of their leadership! These were just the first of many issues the Gentiles brought with them. For example, if anyone could be accepted into God’s Kingdom what now was the role for the Jew? Were they still God’s “chosen” people?
Do these questions sound familiar? They should. The story of the Gentiles reads as if someone were documenting the gay Christian movement today. Christian leaders today face many of the same questions and issues the early Apostles did. They wonder what to do with the gay Christian movement (those that are even aware of us!) and question how to reconcile acceptance of homosexuals with their established doctrine. They are asking themselves many of the same type of questions the early Apostles did.
For example, if homosexuals are condemned to hell, then why are they being saved and how can the proliferation of Spiritual gifts in gay congregations be explained? How should they address the homosexual “lifestyle” that seems unnatural and offensive to many? Should they require homosexuals to be celibate or should they be left alone? And finally, if gays were welcomed into their churches, how can this be done without alienating their existing congregants?
I believe this particular period of the Church’s history offers us valuable insights into our own situation today. For instance, how did the Gentiles deal with being rejected by the religious leaders back in Jerusalem? What did they do during those long years before the Apostles finally accepted them? What caused the Jewish Christian community to finally accept them? What did the Gentiles do during this period to help their Jewish counterparts overcome their fears and prejudices?
Conversely, what caused the Apostles to realize their mistake? What gave them the courage to change their doctrine? How did they unify the church during this ordeal? And finally, how did they overcome their prejudices, misconceptions and fears concerning these ‘outsiders’? The path both sides took to reconciliation is an important roadmap for us today and one that gives us great hope for the future of God’s church.
While we don’t have time to discuss all of these issues here (these ideas are discussed in detail in my book “Calling the Rainbow Nation Home”), we can gain much strength from the fact that the Gentile churches did in the end prevail. Not through picket lines and protest marches, but through prayer and dedication to the work God had given them to perform. That being to carry forth the message of reconciliation to their communities and eventually back to the Christian church as a whole.
There is little doubt in my mind that with God’s grace we will prevail in this matter. Scripture speaks of an end-time church without walls and division. A church without strife and contention. A church that is “without spot or wrinkle” standing before the Lord when He comes (Ephesians 5:25-28). Our time will come. But not through division and strife. It will come by relying upon Gods power and grace, love and mercy to see us through. Staying true to the vision and ministry God has set before us. That being, to bring God’s message of love and reconciliation not only to the gay community, but also to the Christian Church as a whole.
 I always find it offensive when people talk about the homosexual “lifestyle”. Our “lifestyles” are as varied as anyone else. My particular families “lifestyle” revolves around God, our 18 year relationship, our children, friends and family, and the great outdoors. I’m not sure what is so “offensive” about that…[/accordion][/accordions]