Few topics today receive as much immediate hostility as the biblical teaching on homosexuality. Faithful Christians are instantly branded homophobic, hateful, and intolerant for their devotion to the biblical description of God’s intent for humanity through marriage to fill the earth with offspring (Gen. 1.27-28).
Homosexuality is a topic that God addresses in His Word. Implicitly, homosexuality is contrary to the Divine plan for sexual expression to exist within a heterosexual monogamous marriage (Gen. 2.21-25). Explicitly, sexual activity within a same-gender context is condemned outright as an immoral behavior (Gen. 19.4-7; Lev. 18.22, 20.13).
In brief, homosexuality is immoral because it is contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality, and any violation of God’s law is sin (1 John 3.4).
Homosexuality in Corinth
Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth of the immoral vices which would hinder an individual from inheriting “the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6.9); he further writes: “and such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6.11). This is a significant phrase which Paul pins to the ten sins listed in this paragraph, because it emphasizes the fact that some of the Christians in Corinth had participated in homosexuality.
And yet, this was in the past and now their present is filled with the great treasure of the blessings of God – they are washed, sanctified, and justified in the Lord (1 Cor. 6.11). The Bible is clear that homosexuality can be turned from. In fact, it is a sin of choice, habit, and environmental factors; and there has never been any proof to the contrary. Furthermore, neither nature nor nurture determine morality.
It is often claimed that homosexuality is never discussed in the Bible, not to mention negatively in the New Testament. This is grounded in fiction not reality. Nevertheless, consider the wording of 1 Corinthians 6.9, where the English Standard Version uses the phrase, “men who practice homosexuality” (cf. RSV, NEB, Wuest, Amplified, etc.). This translation here is a combination of the two terms in the original: malakos and arsenokoitai.
This perhaps may be an accurate way to translate the two words, since they “evidently refer to the same type of person”. The two words, however, are used for a reason: they define two types of immoral behavior. Let us explore them here briefly. The first term, malakos, when applied to people, pertains to the passive person in homosexual behavior.
The second term, arsenokoitai, is a compound term from the words “male” and “bed” and it refers to “a man who goes to bed with a male for sexual purposes”. This word refers to “one who assumes the dominant role” in the homosexual behavior. The New English Translation renders these two terms: “passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals” (NET).
Consequently, in the church of Corinth there had been homosexuals who had left this sin in their past and moved forward towards God’s upward call (Phil. 3.12-16). It was not enough that they had been baptized (“washed, sanctified, and justified”), Paul reminds them that repentance from sin must bear its fruit – and in this case, abstinence from homosexual behavior.
That was Then, This is Now?
In just a few decades, it will be about two thousand years exactly from when Paul wrote this letter; consequently the question arises: “how should Christians handle the homosexual topic today?” There is after all, a large scale assault demonstrated by pro-homosexual media bombardments, and an aggressive activism by the LGBT community.
First, Christians have been here before.
We need to remember that the early church was born and thrived in the Roman Empire, a society with a low moral culture that is all but reflected in the United States today. And despite the disconnected association with ancient Greco-Roman religions and morality, and its wide-spread practice and acceptance of homosexuality, the church overcame its cultural challenges.
Perhaps the real struggle is the step by step removal of the Christian faith as the moral foundation of our society. The sense that the foundations have been destroyed (Psa. 11.3), and there is no common morality as a nation except that of a rejection of a biblical one.
Second, Christians must not compromise.
God created the human family, and when He created Adam and Eve, and bound them in marital oneness the foundation for human sexuality was built. Any deviation from this is sin; any compromise on these principles will only set up a false foundation for a relationship with God.
Reworking the biblical position to accommodate homosexuality is to “promise freedom” but in actuality place them in “slavery” (2 Pet. 2.19). Moreover, we must realize that our commitment towards the design and plan of God for the human family does not provide for us grounds for ugliness towards others; of all classes of people, Christians should be the most sensitive to persecution.
Third, Christians must love their neighbor.
Christians are not called to live a life in isolation from the world (1 Cor. 5.9-11). Moreover, the kind of “love” that defines Christianity is that of agape love, and this seeks the best interest of others (John 3.16; Phil. 2.5ff; Gal. 6.10; Rom. 13.8-10). This love does not take homosexuality and recast it as a moral lifestyle, but it shows that we care for the person both body and soul (Luke 10.36-37).
Society may not understand how we may express love, at the same time reject one’s lifestyle; consequently, we must be ever vigilant to live out the words of Paul:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2.24-26 ESV)
We ought to show love to all people, and in this case those who are struggling with their sexuality. This is the non-sugar coated truth for the Christian.
Fourth, Christians must be informed.
Christians must be informed: (1) on the methods used by the aggressive “Gay-Agenda”, (2) that it has not been demonstrated that homosexuality is genetically determined, (3) on the biblical teaching of God’s intended purpose and design for human sexuality, (4) on how to help those who struggle with homosexuality and faith, (5) on the fact that neither “nature” (biology) nor “nurture” (environment) determine true morality, and (6) on humility for our own sins, for such were some of us.
The tragedy of this topic is that it breeds hatred on both sides. Some claim it is because of the Lord’s language “it is an abomination” (Lev. 18.22); but to be honest, all sin is an abomination (cf. Prov. 6.16-19, etc.). Yet, no one is crying hate speech against liars, murderers, those who practice sex before marriage, etc. We may be labelled prudish, traditionalists, and the like, all the while dismissing the real crux of the problem: what is the proper basis to make evaluative judgments (that’s right, that’s wrong) upon the conduct of our neighbors?
Once we settle this matter, which for the Christian is God and His revealed Word, then we are closer to a better dialogue on these moral issues that are the subject of our “Culture Wars”. Yet, as Jean-Paul Satre is famed for saying, there really is no basis for calling anything right or wrong if God does not exist. “All things are permissible” is exhaustive – there is nothing you may have the right to declare wrong if God does not exist.
It is not a matter of hatred or fear, but truly a matter of Divine judgment for a reversal of the creative pattern for human relationships. In this way, as with all sins, it is an abomination. Yet, the powerful thing about God’s love and His desire to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5.19), all sins are forgivable provided we come to God on His terms (Acts 2.38ff).
- Ralph P. Earle, 1974-1986, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson), 226.
- [BDAG] Walter Bauer, Frederick W. Danker, William Ardnt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2001, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3d ed. (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press), 613.
- Bill W. Flatt, Jack P. Lewis, and Dowell E. Flatt, 1982, Counseling Homosexuals (Jonesboro, Ark.: National Christian Press), 37. This is a dispassionate discussion of the Old and New Testament issues concerning this topic, especially as it wrestles with “difficult” texts of Scripture; finally, the chapter by Dr. Bill Flatt is very helpful for the those in ministry.
- BDAG 135.
- Kyle Butt, 2003, “Homosexuality—Sin, or a Cultural Bad Habit?” ApologeticsPress.org. Accessed: 28 Sept. 2011.
- Stephen L. Carter develops this line of thought in his work The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion (New York, N. Y.: 1993). Cf. Wayne Jackson, “America – A Nation Out of Control” (ChristianCourier.com); Jackson likewise highlights the moral decline of the nation.
- Jovan Payes, 2008, “Genesis 2: When Boy Met Girl for the First Time,” BiblicalFaith.wordpress.com. Accessed: 22 Oct. 2011.
- Wayne Jackson, 1997-2011, “The Progressively Aggressive ‘Gay’ Movement,” ChristianCourier.com. Accessed: March 2011. The reader would do well to read chapter 1 in David Kupelian, 2005, The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom (Nashville, Tenn.: WND Books). ChristianBooks.com has a preview of most of this chapter. Also, we call attention to an essay designed to be a manifesto of sorts for the Gay-Agenda and its expanded book form: first the article that starts with “The first order of business is desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights” in Marshall Kirk and Erastes Pill, “The Overhauling of Straight America” at GayHomeland.org, and Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, 1990, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s (New York, N.Y.: Plume).
- Brad Harrub, Bert Thompson, and Dave Miller, 2004, “‘This is the Way God Made Me’: A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the ‘Gay Gene'”, Reason and Revelation 24.8 (Aug.): 73-79. Online at ApologeticsPress.org. Although dated, it provides an excellent critique of various issues concerning the “genetic” origins of homosexuality. Cf. Joe Wells, 2008, “Is America Buying the Gay Gene?” Think (Dec.): 24-25; Mark McWhorter, 2009, “The Great Gay Gene Debate” Think (April).
- Coy Roper, 2010, “The Church – Made Up of Saints (Forgiven Sinners!)” BibleCourses.com. Accessed 28 Sept. 2011.