Homosexuality (part 2)
The Bible is very clear about this issue
Why do so many young people question what the Bible teaches about homosexuality? Because they face the mega-challenges of a de-christianized world. The opposition to the Biblical standards of sexual morality is often not only blatant in the secular media, but even in the secular education system. For example, during its annual meeting August 15, 2001, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, which represents Ontario's 65,000 elementary public school teachers and other education workers, approved by 96 per cent a mandate to set aside funds for materials "that reflect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender realities." No wonder this anti-Biblical stance is hard to resist. But resist we must lest we become morally desensitized and unfaithful to the Gospel. It does not take long for a society to revise its view on sexuality. Remember that within a comparatively short period of time homosexuality practices between consenting adults have not only become legal but acceptable. In No No Calcutta Dr. John Court the psychologist uses an illustration of what he calls a classical psychological experiment. A frog was placed in cold water. Then the temperature was slowly and imperceptibly increased. Eventually the temperature reached the boiling point, yet the frog made no attempt to escape. Because the change occurred so slowly, there was no recognition of danger and the frog died, making no attempt at self-preservation. So, it is suggested by analogy, there can be what might be called a moral desensitization which happens so gradually that one day unexpectedly we wake up and find moral standards destroyed and the damage done. And this is precisely the reason why we must openly discuss this anti-biblical homosexual ideology.
Let me clearly state what today's debate on sexuality is all about. It is not a debate about what we should feel, or about our rights, or our self-esteem. So many questions today revolve around what people demand God should do or say or permit if He is to be considered a loving and just God. We make these demands instead of accepting God's standards for our behavior.
But the boundaries around sexuality are drawn by a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of the living God. We cannot decide on our own what is right or wrong. God does and God alone. His Word, the Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) is our final authority. In the words of The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter I, Section IV), "The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God."
Did God Create People With Homosexual Tendencies?
A frequently asked question is, "Did God create people with homosexual tendencies? If so, why do Christians make such a big deal about homosexuality?" We do make a big deal about it because a proper understanding of the creation account shows that human beings are created in God's image. God didn't create "gay" people. He created Adam and Eve, male and female. He could have created Adam only or Eve only, but He didn't. As God's image bearers men and women reflect the eternal diversity of the divine Being (Gen.1:26-27). The creation of human beings as male and female is foundational for a Biblical approach to sexuality.
Marriage the Norm
The Bible has a high view of marriage. Although there may be reasons, even good ones, why some people don't marry. The creation of Adam and Eve affirms that males and females are different from one another. Yet they complement one another. When a man and a woman marry, they become one. Their union becomes a completion; it is described in physical terms, "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh"(Gen. 2:24). Consequently, homosexuality is a distortion of the creation order. There is no union in one flesh. A homosexual experience will always lack the essential ingredient which reveals the difference between male and female - the fulfillment of our personal incompleteness which is an essential ingredient of a heterosexual marriage.
Both our Lord and the apostle Paul held an exalted view of marriage. Our Lord taught that monogamous, permanent, heterosexual marriage is the norm for society. Only two people, one man and one woman can make the one-flesh marriage (Matt. 19:3-12). The apostle Paul compared the relationship between husband and wife with the glorious, permanent, relationship between Christ, the bridegroom and the Church, the bride (Eph. 5:21-33).
Sin Against the Body
In our society with its emphasis on "self-esteem," and "self-realization," there is a loss of accountability. But God holds us accountable for what we do with our bodies. He is the Maker of heaven and earth. He is sole Lord. He has ownership rights. In the long prayer of David we hear, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours" (l Chron. 29:11). Is homosexual practice a sin? Does the creature have the right to violate the laws of his Creator? No! In terms of sexual conduct, a person can sin against the body of another or against his or her own body. The apostle Paul declared, "he who sins sexually sins against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:12). The body of each human being is precious in God's sight. But for Christians the body has special significance. The apostle Paul wrote, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body"(1 Cor. 6:19,20). When we have given our lives to the Lord, we are no longer our own. We are under new management. On January 12, 1722, Jonathan Edwards, whose powerful preaching brought about the first Great Awakening in America, wrote in his diary, "I have been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own. .... Neither have I any right to this body or any of its members - no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away and have not retained any thing as my own." Edwards wrote these words when he was a nineteen-year old student. He was giving his life to the Lord because he had settled the question of ownership.
Because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, it must be kept pure and holy. Therefore, comments the Heidelberg Catechism, God "forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires (Q&A 109). Although it is not politically correct to mention the consequences of homosexual practices, it should be stated that a host of sexually transmitted diseases affect the homosexual population. In his book Straight & Narrow? Compassion & Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate Thomas E. Schmidt argues that no honest look at current scientific research allows us to view homosexual practices as peaceable and harmless. He observes, "For the vast majority of homosexual men, and for a significant number of homosexual women - even apart from the deadly plague of AIDS - sexual behavior is obsessive, psychopathological and destructive to the body. If there were no specific biblical principles to guide sexual behavior, these considerations alone would constitute a compelling argument against homosexual practice. Our bodies must not be martyrs to our desires."
Jesus and homosexuality
One of the claims made by revisionists of sexual ethics is that Jesus neither addressed nor condemned same-gender behavior. However, Jesus' silence does not conclude that He approved of homosexuality. For example, Jesus spoke of Sodom more than any other New Testament teacher. He said of the citizens of Capernaum, "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day"(Matt.11:23). Jesus here is referring to the well-known Genesis 19:1-29 account of the destruction of Sodom, which gives us the other name for homosexuality: sodomy. The Sodomites were guilty of sexual sin. Lot brought into his house two angel visitors. The men of Sodom surrounded the house with threats and even violence, demanding that the two visitors should be handed over to them. "Where are the men who came to you tonight?" they shouted, "Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." Their actions clearly demonstrate the ancient existence of homosexual practices and the Biblical condemnation for it. In time Sodom became a word for sexual perversion. Prof. J. Douma notes that 2 Peter 2:6-8 and Jude 7 explicitly point to the sexual perversion and gross immorality of the Sodomites - the practice of unnatural same-sex relations. Jude 7 comments, "Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion."
When Jesus referred to Sodom, therefore, He said that the people of that city would have repented of their sin had they known His presence. Repentance, of course, assumes guilt. It was the result of their sin of sexual perversion that the city of Sodom was destroyed.
The Apostle Paul and Homosexuality
The apostle Paul did not base his view of right and wrong on public opinion. As a faithful follower of his Lord and Savior, and in obedience to God's revealed will in the Old Testament, the apostle Paul also condemned the practice of homosexuality. The best known passage expounding his position on homosexuality is Romans 1:18ff. It is a stern indictment of pagan immorality. It does not describe individual actions but the state of corporate rebellion of humanity against the holy God, and the kinds of behavior that result on account of it. Paul raises the question why the heathens do not know nor acknowledge their God the Creator. He replies that they can know about God, but they reject the general revelation of God seen everywhere in creation. Instead of turning to God, they turn away from Him. Paul says, "They exchanged truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" (vs.25). Paul characterizes homosexuality as "vile" and "against nature." Homosexuality is contrary to the Creator's intentions for human sexuality. It is a sin which calls for both repentance and conscious change. Because of their sin, Paul says that God gave the heathens over to their "shameful lusts." They were permitted to continue in their sin and reap the consequences. Paul says, they "received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (vs. 24,26).
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 Paul lists homosexuality in the catalogue of sins, which includes such forms of disobedience as idolatry, fornication, adultery, greed, drunkenness, and thievery. There is no doubt, therefore, that Paul recognizes homosexuality as a sin, an act of rebellion against God, a perversion of God's creation order for sexuality. Consequently, a homosexual is called upon not to affirm his status as a normal condition or to idealize it.
Can a homosexual be changed? Let me begin by stating that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Consciousness of sin before God leads to repentance. Standing out on virtually every page in the New Testament is the need of and demand for repentance. It is important to note that in Scripture all departures from the norm of marital union or chastity for singles are sinful. Homosexuals should repent of their sin and so should all whose acts and lifestyles are condemned as an offence before the holy God. Thomas E. Schmidt rightly observes that every heterosexual, who reacts with disgust at a broadcast of a gay rights demonstration and then turns the channel to stare uncritically at adultery in a drama, trivialization of sex in a sitcom or fornication in a music video, is a hypocrite and without excuse according to Jesus in Matt. 7:1-5. God knows our innermost thoughts and sees all our deeds (Ps.139). We all need forgiveness, also in the area of sexuality.
Change is possible. The Gospel is all about the power to change. If it were not so, the preaching of the transforming power of Jesus Christ would be in vain. Homosexuals must be helped to see that their condition is abnormal. Our Lord, while taking a strong stand against sin, reached out to sinners with understanding and compassion. The church can ill afford to do less. The Christian attempt to "love the sinner and hate the sin," as the church father Augustine put it, is often rebuffed because for our postmodern society there is no sin. Nevertheless, we must call it a sin and keep on loving the sinner. The Gospel of grace offers forgiveness (1 John 1:5-2:2) and the power to change. It also exercises redemptive discipline in cases of sexual disobedience, including homosexual acts.
Homosexuals should be told there is forgiveness, liberation, and deliverance in Christ. Because of Christ our sin no longer defines who and what we are. As a forgiven sinner a homosexual belongs to a new community and has a new identity. "If anyone is in Christ," says Paul," he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ we can no longer see each other as people who are either idolaters or adulterers or homosexual offenders or thieves or drunkards. Paul says to the Corinthian church, this is "what some of you were. But now you are washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 6:11). As a Christian community, therefore, we should reach out to a homosexual with sympathy and understanding, encouraging him to seek a cure. This Christian community is not an abstraction. We associate with one another. We need one another. We are called to be an effective, loving, supportive, and caring communion of saints, where no one is left alone with his struggles. In such a community, we should be able to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed (Jam. 5:16). There are also Christian organizations specializing in ministering to homosexuals. One of the better-known ones is Exodus International. This organization teaches that "freedom from homosexuality is possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ." None of these organizations promise a quick fix; they recognize that there is the possibility of ongoing temptation. It may well be a lifelong struggle, but God is faithful; He will not let His people be tempted beyond what they can bear. But when temptation comes, He will provide a way out that they can stand up under it (l Cor.10:13).