For the month of June, we are going to be talking about some Hot Topics. Some things are hard to talk about because we know people, we love people who struggle and we don’t know how, or even if we should help them. Tonight our topic is Homosexuality. I have to admit that when I was in Bible College learning to preach, I never thought that I would be speaking on this topic. Homosexuality wasn’t a hot topic 10 years ago when I was in college, it wasn’t something you heard about on the news or something you were questioned about where you stood. It just wasn’t.
Fast forward 10 years and it seems to be a political agenda, a favorite topic in the news, a debate every time you look at Facebook. I’ve done some pretty extensive research and spent quite some time in prayer over this topic in the last few months. The main reason I became so interested in studying and praying about homosexuality is that our teens here at church and the youth pastors I work with would bring up the topic quite frequently. I came to realize two things; First, I didn’t have a solid theological answer to most of their questions that were being asked. I knew that the Bible said homosexuality was wrong but I had never taken the time to study the Scriptures myself. Second, teenagers are constantly talking about, discussing and forming an opinion about homosexuality.
Our teenagers and some adults for that matter are forming opinions based on what they hear at from friends at school or work, celebrities and on the news. It’s much easier to say it’s wrong, the end or you’re interpreting the Bible wrong, the end. We try to avoid the topic because someone might disagree with us. I wonder how many politicians, news reporters, teachers, friends on Facebook have stepped back, erased their minds of the constant bombardment of people telling them what they should think and looked at both sides before telling us and our teenagers how we should think?
I don’t know about you, but most all topics are too important to allow celebrities and the media dictate our opinion and stance. I want my opinions to be based on something solid, something that doesn’t change, and something with no political agenda. Because I’m a Christian, I want my opinions to be based on the Word of God. I don’t want my opinions to be swayed by what the media says Christians think. The only way to do this is to study the Bible, pray about it and discuss the topic with people who have been proven wise in their own opinions.
Sometimes it’s hard to ask hard questions because it requires work on our part. But, I’ve come to love bringing hard questions to Jesus. I’ve found that no matter the issue I bring to Jesus, He has the answers. Tonight, I want to look at what the Bible says, look at the reasons for homosexuality and finally, look at what the church can practically do. We can talk and talk but until we do something, we’re just a bunch of blabber mouths. I want us to form opinions tonight based on the Bible. The Bible is either all true or all false, if you can convince yourself that one thing in the Bible is false, then how can you believe any of it?
First, I need you to erase every preconceived idea you have about homosexuality. That’s hard, I know. But, do your best. Let’s go into this with an open mind ready to allow God to form opinions in us that will help us grow as a person and help us grow the Kingdom of God. Everything erased? Ok, good, let’s get started!
Let’s look at what the Bible says, we’re going to start in Genesis and hop around so stick with me. I’m going to highlight just a few examples but there’s an exhaustive list of everywhere the Bible talks about Homosexuality in the packet you got when you came in.
Let’s look at the Bible and see if we can come to a conclusion that not only makes sense to us but sits well in our spirits too. Let’s start in the beginning, well almost in the beginning of Genesis 2:18. This is the Creation story:
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still, there was no helper just right for him.
I’ve always read this passage and didn’t take notice of the order of events. In verse 18, God says that it isn’t good for man to be alone. Notice, He doesn’t just immediately make women. First, he makes every animal from the dust of the earth? Do you know how many animals are on earth? I didn’t either so I Googled it, there are about one and a half million species of animals currently identified and about 10,000 new species are identified each year. All the animals we’ve identified and all that we are still finding were created between man and women. Why is this important? Look at verse 20, Adam named all the animals but there was no helper just right for him. Adam had the opportunity to review the kingdom in its entirety but found no suitable mate. He saw and named every animal, at the same time looking for a companion. He was unsuccessful, so in verse 21:
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. 23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh of my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”
Notice, Adam didn’t decide he needed a helper. God declared that Adam needed a helper and a companion. When Eve was created, humanity was completed. Gender is a part of the goodness of God’s creation. The distinction between male and female is not a matter of evolutionary difference, but an essential component of God’s purpose in creation. It is not good that we should be alone. We might recognize this on our own but our need was first declared by God. It was God who provided that companionship, not only in the gift of gender but in the covenant of marriage.
JESUS AND THE PHARISEES
The Bible has quite a bit to say about homosexuality. Some, who argue that we are interpreting the Bible incorrectly also argue that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality so He must not have had an opinion on the topic. God inspired the whole Bible. If we can’t believe that the Bible is all true, we can’t believe any of it is true. The Bible mentions homosexuality specifically four in the Old Testament, three in the New Testament. During Jesus’ ministry, He never specifically mentioned homosexuality but he did have lots to say about marriage. Let’s look in Matthew 19.
Some Pharisees asked him a tricky question about divorce. His answer is very revealing. He first quoted Genesis 1:27, “At the beginning, the Creator ’made them male and female.’” Then he quoted Genesis 2:24, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” He concludes in Matthew 19:6 that “they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
From this, we see that Jesus looked upon human sexuality just as it is revealed in Genesis 1-2. He recognized that we were created both male and female and the union of one male and one female is God’s plan for humanity.
It’s so important to have that base before we look at the scriptures that directly talk about homosexuality. I want to look at some scripture in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament. There are some things in the Old Testament that were laws for the Israelites that we no longer follow because they were a matter of hygiene or a way to separate them from pagan culture of the day. There are other laws, like sacrificing animals that we don’t follow because Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. So, when you’re reading the Bible how do you know what we still follow and what we don’t? Well, if something was mentioned in the Old Testament and then taught or instructed again in the New Testament, we know that it’s a command for today. So, I want to look at an example in both.
OLD TESTAMENT – SODOM AND GOMORRAH
The first passage is the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Just a few chapters after creation, the Bible mentions homosexuality. Friends, this isn’t something new that we are dealing with. Genesis tells the story of a man named Lot. One night all the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” That their interest was corrupt and is made clear by Lot’s response in verse 8: “Look, I have two daughters here who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
Whatever you may think of Lot’s morals, it is clear that he understands the men were asking something that Lot felt was wrong, otherwise, he wouldn’t have offered his daughters. The citizens of Sodom were not satisfied with Lot’s answer and were reaching out to knock him out of the way when the Lord struck the crowd with blindness. The city was eventually destroyed because of its great wickedness.
The New Testament provides confirmation of this judgment in Jude 7: “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.”
Sodomy is a word used to describe many unnatural sexual acts, including homosexuality. The root of Sodomy comes from the city of Sodom in the Bible. You can argue all you want that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of whatever reason but Sodom had to have a reputation of sexual sin to forever have a word describing sexual immorality and homosexuality named after it!
There are other verses in the Old Testament like Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a female. It is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 is similar: “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.”
The crucial point to notice is that all of these scriptures agree and back the purpose of sexuality revealed back in Genesis 1-2. The Bible is consistent.
NEW TESTAMENT – PAUL AND THE CORINTHIANS
Now let’s move to the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians Paul is stressing the ethical difference between Christians and non-Christians. Evidently, there was a tremendous lack of morals among the believers at Corinth. Some were even visiting prostitutes and attempting to justify it theologically (6:12-20). I Corinthians 6:9-10 is a passage which speaks directly to the issue of homosexuality “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Again in Romans 1:26-28 Paul describes, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
Please remember as we read these scriptures that Paul is discussing the difference between believers and unbelievers. Through a study of other consistent themes in the Bible, we see that God is a God of grace and forgiveness! We all sin, no one is perfect but Jesus died so we can live a life free from the bondages of all sin!
So, we get to a point where we can agree theologically that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. I suspect society and the church would have an easier time with this if we didn’t have relatives, friends, kids or co-workers who struggle with homosexuality. Sin is easy to condemn when there isn’t a face attached. It’s easier to make excuses than it is to look at what the Bible says. As I was researching I came across this quote and it really just stopped me in my tracks. It said, “Those who deny the sin of homosexual behavior are actually denying people God’s forgiveness, grace, and salvation.” If we make excuses for homosexuality, if we bend on our stance because the world (in which God instructs us to separate ourselves from) preaches intolerance, we are denying people the freedom, forgiveness, and salvation only God can provide when we ask forgiveness and accept Jesus.
Where does that leave us? Why does God allow homosexuality then? What are we suppose to do? I recently attended a conference that focused on homosexuality and the Christian response. Mark Yarhouse was the speaker. He is the leading Christian researcher and counselor in the area of sexual identity. He wrote two books, both referenced in your packet. If you are looking to dig deeper into this topic, I would recommend his books.
Let’s look at three practical ways the church can respond.
1. We must Take the Time to Understand
Mark was talking about his research and the causation of same sex attraction. He noted that most people say that the cause is either willful disobedience, bad parent/ child relationship, abuse or genetics. Research does not back up any of these. We are oversimplifying by assuming abuse or parent/child relationship is a cause of sexual orientation. Most people who are abused or have a bad parent/child relationship do not end up gay. Also, it’s a mistake to assume that if these issues are resolved the person will become straight. Bad relationships and abuse are good things to treat but not a cure for homosexuality. Genetics can’t be determined as the pin point cause either. You could be more of less likely predisposed to have same sex attractions at birth just like you can be predisposed to be anxious or predisposed to be outgoing or shy. However, homosexuality isn’t something like eye color that you’re born with.
In our society, language is confusing to us as Christians and to many who are using language to identify themselves. Some identify as Gay, engage in behavior and accept and celebrate the Gay Community. Others identify as gay but see it as a result of the fall. Something that needs to be given to Jesus every day. Something that’s dealt with but recognized as something that needs to be kept in check.
It’s much like Karen (a gay/ deaf individual) explains:
In the world of hearing loss, you have those who are Deaf and those who are deaf. These two groups are well-distinguished and identified. Anyone who uses a capital “D” Deaf knows she is referring to something more than small “d” deaf. People who are Deaf comprise a culture; they do not see themselves as having a disability. Instead, they see themselves as a people group with their own language and culture. On the other hand those who are deaf do not see their hearing loss as an identity; instead, they see it as a disability or medical condition. This group is more likely to be “oral”. That is, they often undergo intensive training to lip-read and use their voice to communicate instead of using sign language. Some might also seek a cochlear implant. When they say “I am deaf” they are not saying “I am Deaf.” At times there is contention between the groups because of a conflict in how each group understands its experience of hearing loss. For example, those who are Deaf see cochlear implants as threatening and an extreme offense. They don’t believe anything needs to be “fixed”. They celebrate their identity as Deaf.
We have to be so careful that we don’t group capital G Gay individuals with lower case g gay individuals. Some struggle but are looking for the hope Jesus has to offer. Others are content living in the sin our world has come to accept.
2. We must Genuinely Care about all People
We can help people by asking how they can be good stewards and grow in all areas including sexuality. Being heterosexual doesn’t by virtue make you more Christ like. There are many heterosexuals who are not Christ like. We need to be careful not to assume a label dictates a behavior. We wouldn’t assume someone who tells us they are straight are sexually promiscuous; in the same way, we shouldn’t assume someone who tells us they are gay are participating in sexual behaviors with the same sex. They may just have feelings that attract them to the opposite sex but don’t act on those feelings.
We have to have genuine relationships and sincerely care about all people. We must also be consistent in how we handle sin in the church. Do we handle same sex behaviors in the church the same way we would handle two heterosexual individuals having sex before marriage? Or living together before marriage?
People have to fall in love with Jesus for their behavior to align with God’s revealed will.
Behavior aligns (however imperfectly) when people trust God as a good father who knows best how we can thrive
People do not trust God like that until they experience God relationally
People do not experience God relationally until they are loved by and connected to His people.
It is not fair that we push sexual ethics on a person who has not known God to be good and loving and trustworthy and spiritually present (through His people) – Rodgers & Yarhouse
People who are trying to live Biblically with same sex orientations are often very isolated because they are not accepted in the Gay community and labeled as homophobic. But, they are not accepted in the Christian community either unless they are able to come up with a testimony of radical change.
3. We must provide Community in the Church
As heterosexuals, we have examples of what a future would look like for us in the church. Homosexual students have few or no role models in the church. The gay community tends to be family to one another, showing greater hospitality than most. A place for friendship and belonging, the community provides role models where Christian communities are often silent. We fail to recognize how compelling the gay community is to someone with same sex attractions. The church is so afraid of and closed, not necessarily intentionally, that we are eliminating an entire group of people who desperately need Jesus. What is the church offering in terms of identity and community? We have to provide relationships and friendships, there is still a need for community and affection regardless of sexual identity.
Like Paul, our concern must be to see all sinners come to terms with the awful reality of their sin and then turn in repentance to embrace the grace of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen to the urgency of Paul’s warning: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Could there be a more direct warning than this? Can we doubt Paul’s urgent concern for those trapped in these sins? We must model his courage in declaring this truth without compromise or evasion.
Paul was as candid as the language of his day would allow. Paul was not telling the Corinthians what they wanted to hear. His message was as politically incorrect in the context of first-century Roman culture as our Biblical Worldview is politically incorrect today.
We must love so well that we don’t steer anyone astray because we are afraid to offend. We must speak in love, we must be compassionate, we must provide an opportunity for everyone to be involved and included in the family of God!