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Can you be Christian and homosexual? Most people say, "No." Many Christian people are very conscientious about this belief. And they are very vocal and insistent about it. As a result, many sincere homosexuals have lived in agony, sincerely trying to reconcile their commitment to God in Christ to their homosexual orientation. They tried to hide, suppress, even overcome their homosexuality. But they found they were helpless to change it. Nevertheless, they were determined to be faithful to the Lord, even though the fellowship's rejection often led them to question their legitimacy as Christians. So, some, in order to remain in their fellowship, lived double lives, knowing privately that they were homosexual but living publicly as though they were heterosexual. Others have simply left that fellowship to search for another more welcoming fellowship. In some extreme cases a homosexual has felt so forsaken by God and Jesus because of the harsh judgments received by the people of the fellowship that suicide ended their life. It seemed like the only sweet release from the unrelenting and harsh condemnation.
I too have walked in this path. Now in my later fifties, recognizing that I was a homosexual since my mid teens, with over thirty five years as a committed Christian, twenty eight as a pastor and foreign missionary, father of seven children (one now dead, the other six fully grown and committed to the Lord too) and fighting blood and bone cancer for about twenty years, I have been blest by the Lord beyond my wildest dreams. Though my homosexuality did not change to be heterosexual, my Christian commitment and God given privileges increased with the years. God proved His love for me regardless of my sexuality. And now, as some members of the fellowship come to me for help with their Christian commitment and their sexuality, I see the same agonies repeated in their lives. They have been sorely rejected by their congregations or treated badly by many who claim to be loving Christians. They have come to me as a compassionate Christian friend and pastor for help. Their questions demonstrate their commitment to Christ and their hopelessness in changing or suppressing their sexuality. In considering the significance of these questions I realized the answers are important to homosexuals, and also to their families and their friends, in fact to every Christian who wants to understand and follow the Lord's way.
Searching for the answers has taken years of research meditation, prayer, and waiting for the Lord's answers. Many of the sessions ended in unanswered agonizing prayer, pleading for greater insight into the Lord's Word and His character. But He answered my prayers, in His own time. And now I see the Scriptures disclose a God of so much greater compassion and understanding of each of our needs than I knew before the search for the answers began. As a result of my discussing my understanding of God's answers to my prayers, I too have been rejected by Christian friends of over 35 years, friends who have sought me as their pastor. I know the sense of exclusion imposed on the homosexual or one who supports the homosexual. This booklet is an effort to put down on paper the answers I feel God has revealed from His Word. I do NOT claim to have any special revelation. These answers come from His Word through His Holy Spirit, the same avenue available to every other Christian. I hope this booklet will help you understand God better, and His position toward homosexuality. It is vitally important for each of us to be very sure we base our attitudes and actions on the whole Scriptural message. We must understand the specific Scriptures which deal with homosexuality. And we must fit them properly into the total context of the Scriptural theme of salvation.
This booklet will consider some of the questions Christians have about homosexuality. We will also try to examine honestly, and without prejudice, the subject of homosexuality in the total context of the Scriptures. We have asked for God's grace and wisdom as our guide in our study and presenting these thoughts. We therefore dedicate this booklet to God's glory and the healing ministry He gives to each of us. We pray that the booklet may be a blessing to you and to the ministry to which God calls you.
Some of what you read in this booklet may be contrary to your present opinion of homosexuality. It is surely contrary to what I had believed before I made a study of the subject. Therefore I ask that you try to rid yourself of your previous prejudices, and try to read the booklet as objectively as you can. We will consider the subject in the following major categories: definitions, images of homosexuals, prejudices, our attitudes toward Scripture, the Scriptures concerning sin, salvation, homosexuality, and Christian attitudes. Then we will consider the homosexuals' journeys, and finally, our proper attitude.
First, the definition of the term homosexual. According to the literature (see Suggested Reading List ) the term homosexual is used in various ways. For this discussion we will use the definition that identifies the fundamental characteristic. Homosexuality is that sexual orientation in a person which develops romantic attachments with another person of the same gender. That sexual orientation is a natural or constitutional condition for a homosexual. On the other hand, heterosexuality is that sexual orientation in a person which develops romantic attachments with another person of the opposite gender. No one knows how a person develops a sexual orientation. It is not a matter of a person's choice. Also, research studies have shown that once a person's sexual orientation is established, early in childhood, the sexual orientation in a person does not change after maturing to adulthood. It is vitally important to realize that this definition is confined to a person's sexual orientation, NOT to sexual behavior. The sexual orientation is not a matter of a person's choice. The behavior, or life style, is. The difference between a person's sexual orientation and a person's life style must be clearly understood. To fail to make this separation is to confuse and misunderstand the entire subject of homosexuality.
From a report by Kinsey, et al, a human being's sexual interest can
be placed on a seven point scale. One end of the scale is for
people with absolute orientation to the heterosexual side. The
other end of the scale identifies people who are absolutely oriented
to homosexuality. The percentage of the population at the
homosexual end is set by various studies as at least 5%; some say as
high as 16%. Assuming the lower number is the one to which all
researchers will agree as a bare minimum, it means that out of every
100 people you know, at least 5 are absolutely oriented toward
romantic relations with someone of their own gender. For these
people, the idea of developing a sexual interest in anyone of the
opposite gender could be unnatural, may even be repulsive and
disgusting. In some homosexuals, that feeling of revulsion is just
as powerful and innate as the feeling of revulsion which absolute
heterosexuals have toward sexual relations with someone of the same
gender. Our liking or disliking this attitude has no bearing on
that feeling in the mind and heart of a homosexual person. A person
who is oriented toward romantic involvement with someone of either
gender would be placed in the middle of the Kinsey scale. This
person's sexual orientation is sometimes called bisexual. A
conclusion from the Kinsey study is that many people's sexual
orientation is not absolute, but rather confusing because it is
composed of varying degrees of homosexual and heterosexual
tendencies. According to the report on males, about one in four men
have some tendency to develop romantic attachments toward other men
(Figure 1). In the Kinsey report about women, as many as one in
five ummarried women between ages 20 to 55 have some tendency to
develop romantic attachments toward other women. In fact, a
significant portion of the human population is found somewhere
between the extreme ends of the scale. We may not even know where
we ourselves fit on this scale.
This booklet addresses the question of orientation, not life style. The way a person chooses to live his or her sexuality is another point entirely. Though the definitions of homosexuality and heterosexuality are simple, in the complex area of sexuality they are accurate definitions for the study of homosexuality in the Scriptures.
When we look at the Kinsey scale, and consider where we fit on it, and are fully honest about our feelings, we may recognize that we don't fit at either end, but actually somewhere between the extremes. As this becomes an issue for us we must go to the Lord in prayer about it.
Only God can untangle the very complex and often confusing problems of our sexuality. We did not select our sexuality any more than we select our skin color or our gender. God accepts us just as we are. God will show us how we can use our sexuality for Divine glory rather than just for our own gratification. As we search for God's direction and try to maintain the holy standard in our sex lives, we will make many mistakes. Our fantasies and perhaps our actions will overstep God's standard of righteousness. (This is true for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.) But God will not give up on us as long as we try to obey. God accepts us just as we are. From the Scriptures we learn how to glorify God's name and cause without denying our sexual orientation. Sometimes we learn from life's circumstances. Sometimes we learn from conflicts. Sometimes from Scripture directly. But by whatever method, God will show us what our sexuality is, what part it is to have in our lives, and how we can use it to Divine glory (1 Corinthians 7:7; Matthew 19:11-12).
Jesus asked us, as disciples, to commit our lives to God and Holy service. If we are busy about serving God first as Jesus taught (Matthew 6:33-34) our needs will be provided. And that means an understanding of our sexuality as well as every other aspect of our desire to know and serve God. It is especially difficult to wait on the Lord when we are young and want everything in life to happen in a hurry. But life confirms that as we run ahead of the Lord we usually take a wrong path and make some bad mistakes. It often means we make mistakes we learn to regret later. Nevertheless, from these we learn more of God's mercy and forgiveness. And we learn to trust and lean on God for our salvation. We learn how to pray, and then watch for Divine answers, though they seem delayed. Such a committed discipleship leads to a warm and tender relationship with God. And that relationship will bring both answers to our questions and the warmth and tenderness of a spiritual bonding with God.
In our day of 1986 the popular press has characterized homosexuality as a way of life, rather than a sexual orientation as we have defined it. Separating one's sexual orientation from the way he/she lives is vitally important if we want to understand the issue and the Scriptures' instruction on the subject. An example may help to distinguish the difference. We say a heterosexual person develops romantic attachments to someone of the opposite gender. But life styles differ in extremes, all the way from the Las Vegas image to the American suburban family image to the celibate monk. So we recognize the separation in the heterosexual between orientation and life style. A homosexual has alternatives of life style too. He/she can live the celibate life, a life of fidelity to a partner, even enter a heterosexual marriage, or live a promiscuous life style. (By promiscuous we mean a life style of multiple partners in an effort to satisfy physical lust rather than a life style of commitment to a loving relationship.) So we must also recognize the difference in the homosexual between the orientation and the life style. We will have more to say about life styles later.
First of all, and most importantly, we believe that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God. And as such, they are to be studied and followed as God's instruction in righteousness to us (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The multiple proofs of its Divine inspiration are well documented. We will not attempt to include them here. Secondly, the message of the Scriptures is harmonious when properly understood. We will consider the Scriptural instruction from these two starting points. Both of these aspects of the Scriptures are important in this study.
Now let's consider what the Scriptures say and don't say about homosexuality. This is a very difficult subject to get clearly in our minds for several reasons. Traditional negative attitudes against homosexuals have invaded everyone's mind, often without any thoughtful consideration or questioning. In addition, most popular religious organizations, both Hebrew and Christian, condemn homosexual orientation and conduct in official statements on the subject. (Some such organizations have dissenting minorities which recognize homosexuals as valid Christians.) Social tolerance toward homosexuals has been very limited or entirely absent in many historical societies. And our Western society has inherited these attitudes. The radio, TV, printed page all bombard us with constant negative attitudes toward homosexual people. Often these messages are cloaked with religion. This seems to authenticate their messages of homophobia. (Using Webster's Dictionary, homophobia is a persistent, exaggerated, and usually illogical fear or dread of the homosexual.) Though these all are very forceful reasons to adopt an automatic rejection of the homosexual, we must put these aside if we really want to understand the Scriptures on the subject.
The thoughtful Bible student has distinguished him/herself from the causal or emotion based believer by examining the Scriptures thoughtfully and prayerfully to find in them truth and beauty hidden from the popular religious mind. It is a grave responsibility for both the writer and the reader of Scriptural commentary to be faithful to the Truth. Now it is time we must apply these principles to our consideration of the Scriptures and the subject of homosexuality. We MUST put aside our preconceived ideas. We MUST look objectively at what the Scriptures do and do not say about homosexuality. And we MUST recognize that,when the Scriptures are not absolutely clear on a subject, we MUST ask the Lord to give us wisdom (James 1:5-8). If we claim to espouse the Lord's Word, yet misrepresent it because of prejudiced, careless or superficial examination of the Scriptures or failure to seek His wisdom in prayer and meditation, we must assume the responsibility of being unfaithful to Him in that part of our discipleship. Matthew 12:36; Titus 1:9-11; Philippians 2:15-16; 1 Timothy 2:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:1-4. We will also find ourselves adopting attitudes of which the Lord disapproves. Depending on our degree of meekness and honesty He forgives us and will give us experiences to correct us (Psalm 25:9; Matthew 11:28-30). So we must rid our minds of prejudices, and ask the Lord to guide our study of His Word and give us His wisdom.
Before we go any further, we must consider an important fact. It helps us to see the breadth of the Scriptural message rather than limit ourselves to a narrow, self-righteous view of our Lord's Word. That important fact is the profoundness of God's mercy! God didn't just ignore sin. Nor does God ignore sin in us simply because we think something feels good even though The Word forbids it. God is a realist, both just and loving, showing us our sins realistically. Redemption is ours from God and Jesus through their love for us. Christ, as God's only son, the well beloved son, died for our redemption from sin. God knows each of us so well, understanding our weaknesses and our tendencies far better than we do. God loves us anyway and forgives us, helping us to learn to overcome our sins. The gospel is one of compassion, restoration and mercy. (God's love to us when we deserve just the opposite.) God accepts us all, just as we are. God knows what our sexual orientation is, heterosexual, homosexual or a confusing mixture of the two. The Lord knows our differing sexual appetites, fantasies, and weaknesses associated with our orientations and is merciful and redemptive when dealing with these characteristics in each of us. God is not changing our constitutional make-up now, our genders, our race, our sexuality, our social position, etc. Using what we are in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, God is transforming us into a New Creature by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Our change of nature will occur at our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:37-44). But for now, when we as Christians fail to live up to God's will for us and the Divine standard of righteousness, God forgives us and corrects us regardless of our weaknesses or natural characteristics. We are not excluded from the Divine fellowship. Since God forgives our failures, that means we also must develop the attitude of mercy, compassion and restoration toward others. They don't have any worse characteristics than we. Our zeal must be directed toward copying God in restoring our brethren, not condemning and excluding them because they may differ from us. Romans 10:4-12; James 5:11; Matthew 23:23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; Hebrews 3:6-14; 10:18-25; 1 Peter 3:8-9; 1 John 3:11-18; 4:20-21.
Another point we must remember is to examine Scripture for the definition of sin. 1 John 3:4 says sin is disobedience to God's law. Or more literally, sin is to miss the target when we strive to obey God's Law of Righteousness. So, in order to label homosexual orientation and/or conduct as sin we must find Scripture which say either or both are sin. Our examination of the Scriptures must be careful and prayerful if we expect to have God direct our study and conclusions. If we do not find God defining something as a sin-in this study, homosexual orientation and/or conduct-then we must not define it as a sin either. This is very difficult if we allow our prejudices to influence our study. Our prejudices will play tricks with our reason. They will lead us to condemn as sinful something which may be different from us, even though it is not a sin Scripturally. Or they will allow us to read into the Scriptures concepts which are not part of the Lord's Word in order to justify our belief. Or they will let us ignore Scriptures which contradict our preconceived definition of sin. Or they will allow us to discount valid Scriptural scholarship with which we don't want to agree. Or they will do just the opposite, allow us to justify something about ourselves which the Scriptures say is sinful. So we must rid ourselves of the handicap of prejudice when we seek God's view of homosexual orientation and/or conduct When we deal with God's Word, we must deal honestly and without prejudice. Otherwise we must remember God's warnings about dealing with The Word deceitfully; Jeremiah 9:7-9; Psalm 52:1-9; Proverbs 11:18-19.
Now let's consider what the Scriptures say about homosexual orientation and conduct. It will be difficult to be totally exhaustive and thorough without making this booklet a tome. So Appendix A references other writings for a more exhaustive examination. There are four Old Testament references generally considered opposed to homosexuality: Genesis 19; Leviticus 18 and 20; and Deuteronomy 23. The New Testament references are in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. Notice in each of these Scriptures, the Bible does not mention the homosexual orientation. Neither does it refer to all kinds of homosexual conduct. It only mentions certain homosexual acts in specific situations. (Remember the definition separating the orientation from the life style.)
In Genesis 19, the story of Sodom is often thought to be a story of destruction due to homosexuality. But such an idea is not Scriptural. The primary reason for Sodom's destruction was its indiscriminate indulgence in general wickedness, adultery, lying, its lack of appropriate hospitality to strangers, its pride, plenty, laziness, lack of caring for poor and needy, haughtiness, and committing abominations (false religious practices) before God (Isaiah 1:9, 10 and 3:9; Jeremiah 23:14; and Ezekiel 16:48-50). Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all omit any specific suggestion that homosexuality was one of Sodom's sins which caused her destruction. So we must learn from them not to claim that it was a cause of Sodom's destruction either.
Many religious commentators insist that homosexual rape is the primary sin which caused Sodom's destruction. The word "sodomy" has derived from this assumption. But the Scriptures do not specify it. At best it is a deduction based on the expression, "that we may know them" in verse 5. From the context of this Scripture, it is evident that the men of Sodom wanted to rape the angels. The Scriptures tell us that rape of any kind, heterosexual, homosexual, or any other kind, is a violation of each victim. If rape were part of Sodom's sins it could certainly be one of the kinds of iniquity Isaiah and Ezekiel had in mind. But since homosexuality, as distinguished from homosexual rape, is not specifically mentioned as one of Sodom's sins, we must not insist that it was. (Again we must remember to keep the orientation and practice separate in our minds.) In Lot's time, homosexual rape was a way of showing oneself to be superior to the victim. So the attempt by the men of Sodom to rape the angels, who they thought were men, could have been their effort to prove their own superiority to the visitors. Such an effort would be consistent with the picture the prophets give us of the Sodomites. Today, rape is being recognized as a crime of sexualized violence, heterosexual or homosexual. No one considers it proper.
We must remember that God had decided to destroy Sodom and thus sent the angels to warn Lot. God's decision therefore was not based on anything the men of Sodom wanted to do to the angels.
Lev. 18:3, 22, 30 indicate that God is giving Israel laws to keep them from the corruption in the religious laws or ordinances of their previous captors, Egypt, and of their new neighbors, the Canaanites. Both of these nations included pagan worship in their societies. And in these pagan worship services many corrupt rituals were practiced. One of these practices was prostitution, both male and female, both heterosexual and homosexual. These practices, as sacrifices to a deity, were abominable to God. He warned Israel against such prostitution. The word "abomination" is from the Hebrew word toebah. Originally it simply distinguished Israel from pagan people. Later, its meaning expanded to include the thought of being ritualistically unclean. Wilson  defines this word, "to do abominably, chiefly in things connected with idolatry." In verse 30, the expression, "abominable customs," come from the Hebrew words meaning ritualistically unclean laws or ordinances. These are important points because they establish the fact that God is protesting against pagan religious laws in these chapters. Although chapters 18 and 20 prohibit personal conduct which seems morally wrong also, verses 3 and 30 make it clear that God is talking about rituals of worship, not personal behavior, in these two chapters. The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament reinforces the understanding that chapters 18 and 20 are ceremonial law, NOT ethical or moral law. Virtually all Biblical commentators classify these chapters in Leviticus as ceremonial law, NOT moral or ethical law for Israel's general daily behavior. What the Lord warns Israel against here in chapters 18 and 20 is conduct which must not be part of their religious worship. So we see from the whole chapter that prostitution as a form of religious worship was unacceptable to God. These Scriptures say nothing about an average person, whether of heterosexual or homosexual orientation, or about his or her daily life and relationships aside from religious worship.
Leviticus 20 provides for the penalties of violating God's holy ordinances for Israel's worship of Him. Verse 13 indicates that homosexual relations between two men is again ritualistically unclean (as in Lev. 18:20). (Nothing is said about female homosexual activity.) The penalty for such conduct as a religious ritual is death. Again, most Biblical scholars tell us that Leviticus chapters 18 through 20 describe ceremonial laws and their penalties. They do not believe that these laws apply to the daily life of Israel. Unfortunately, some Biblical commentators will pick and choose from these prohibitions. They insist that a select few of these laws apply to cultish worship and the rest of these laws apply to everybody. Such a separation is not consistent with the Scriptures which say that all these laws are against ritualistically unclean worship. We must acknowledge, in an effort to be fair, that some scholars believe these requirements of Lev. 18 and 20 are not just for Israel's forms of worship but apply to Israel's daily life. But we believe the weight of evidence from the Scriptures and scholars support the belief that these two chapters apply to Israel's forms of worship, not to moral absolutes for personal daily behavior. We believe that we deal wrongly with the Scriptures and unfairly with those who listen to us when we insist that Leviticus 18 and 20 apply to the constitutional homosexual or a person's daily life.
Deut. 23:17 is a reference to cult (religious) prostitution. The King James translation distorts the Hebrew meaning of the original. The New American Standard (NAS) translation is much more accurate. It says, "None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute." Verse 18 in the NAS reads, "You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog (foot note: male prostitute, Sodomite) into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God." (Abomination here, as before, means ritualistically unclean.) The Hebrew words for male and female in these verses specify a cult prostitute. They are not talking about any sexual orientation or practice other than practices connected with religious services.
These Scriptures cover the Old Testament references to homosexual acts. We can see in each of them that they refer to a specific circumstance. In Sodom's story, the most we can properly read from the Scriptures is that God destroyed Sodom for her listed sins, which do not include any reference to homosexual orientation. It refers to the act of homosexual rape. In the other references, Lev. and Deut., the Lord is rejecting pagan practices in Israel's worship of Him. Cult prostitution, as practiced in Egypt and Canaan, was not acceptable as service to Him. None of these Scriptures refers to the sexual orientation or practice of the Hebrews in their own personal lives. So, no matter how we may feel personally about homosexual orientation, or how a homosexual expresses his/her sexuality in daily life, these Old Testament Scriptures do not support our condemning them as abominations before God or our rejection of the homosexual.
It is important, also, to recognize and apply to ourselves and others the freedom from the Mosaic Law which we have in Christ (Galatians 2:14-20; 3:10-13, 24-29). Any Christian who condemns another Christian based on one aspect of the Mosaic Law (no matter how he/she understands that aspect) fails to recognize the liberty in Christ. Such a Christian is also very inconsistent in applying Scripture if he/she doesn't also personally insist on and observe all the other aspects of the Law, including food, holidays, clothing, etc. Do we eat ham or bacon? Do we use the Sabbath for anything other than rest and worship? Do we wear clothing of mixed fibers, such as wool and linen? If we do, then we are violating God's law for Israel's daily life. If we say that part of the law is a requirement for someone, but, at our discretion, another part of the law does not apply to us, regardless of the reasons we may use, we deceive ourselves. Once we insist on our interpretations in applying the law, in order to be consistent and avoid hypocrisy, we must allow the same latitude to others. When we use these Scriptures to support our hatred, or even our dislike of homosexuals, we show that we love our own views above our love of God's word. Christ condemned the Pharisees over and over again for interpreting the law as they pleased. And he warns us against being guilty of the same sin, the leaven of hypocrisy (Matthew 16:1-12). Truly Christ has released those who believe in him from the bondage of the law.
Matthew 5:19 has been said to teach us as Jesus' disciples to keep the law, or at least try to. And though all of us know that we are unable to keep it perfectly, the moral and ethical aspects of the law do offer a good guide to personal conduct for us all. When we consider what the law tells us to do we must recognize the division in the law. Part of the law applies to Israel's worship of God, the ritual or ceremonial law. A second part applies to Israel's personal social behavior, its moral or ethical law. The verses we have discussed apply to Israel's worship of God, the ceremonial law. These and numerous other Scriptures specify proper and improper forms of worship for Israel. It is interesting that almost none of these requirements are followed in today's Christian churches or religious services. As an example see Leviticus chapters 8 and 16. The second part of the law, applying to Israel's daily behavior, begins with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1 and continues through Exodus 24:8. These laws also continue through Exodus and Deuteronomy 4 and 10. But we do not find in these moral or ethical laws for personal behavior any prohibition against being homosexual any more than being heterosexual. Nor do we find any laws requiring homosexuals, male or female, to deny their sexuality and to become celibate. So when we try to live up to the law, let's be sure we use the law as God intended it. Let's not insist that ceremonial laws are guides for our personal behavior. It is difficult enough to try to live up to God's standards as they were intended, let alone try to live up to portions of the law that were never intended for daily moral or ethical behavior.
In considering the New Testament references about homosexuality, three Scriptures are cited as condemning homosexual orientation or practice. The first of these is found in Romans 1:26-27. A fast reading of the King James Version of the Bible seems to condemn all general homosexual orientation and conduct. However, upon closer scrutiny, we discover some points which help us understand accurately what the apostle really said. Verse 26 starts out with, "For this cause." This tells us that the preceding verses of the first chapter are part of Paul's discussion, and must be included as part of the thoughts of verses 26 and 27. The whole chapter is dealing with corrupt religious worship, pagan idolatry. This included cult prostitution, in which the priests and priestesses of the pagan temples would submit to sexual acts as requested by the worshipers who went to the temple with gifts. The worshiper could request the favors of one of the same or the opposite gender. This was much the same condition that existed in Egypt and Canaan, against which Moses warned the Israelites. Rome was flooded with such worship. And Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, had to help the Roman Christian brethren see the distinction between their old habits and customs of pagan worship of false gods and the new requirements of the proper worship of the One True God. The people who were trying to worship a god in the old pagan way were also those, earlier in Chapter 1, who degraded the worship of the true God in other ways. The path of their degradation led them to temple prostitution (verses 25 - 27). The corruption led them to the step of changing their natural affections into unnatural acts. The Scripture does not say just what the unnatural acts were. In verse 26 it talks about the women who were led to become obsessed with sexual activity, beyond the natural inclination. Verse 27 refers to men with men.
First, let us consider what Paul means when the King James Version translates his words to "against nature." "Against nature," from the Greek para phusis means "something beside, or in excess of, the natural powers of an individual or thing."   The emphasis is on what is natural or normal for that individual about whom Paul is writing. Paul is not discussing a question of universal law or truth. He is not insisting that what is natural for one person is universally natural for everyone else. Some people feel that Paul is referring to the arrangement of Adam and Eve as what is natural. Therefore, they insist that any homosexuality is God's condemnation for their corruption. But this argument does not apply to a person who is homosexual constitutionally because that sexual orientation is not the result of that person's lack of love for God, as we have noted earlier. Neither is Paul discussing a moral issue. Paul is not stating that what is natural for a person is automatically right and what is unnatural is automatically wrong. (God Himself commits an unnatural, para phusis, act in Romans 11:24 which is right!) Romans 1:26, 27 refer to sexual activities relative to religious worship and unnatural to the individual persons involved. So verses 26 and 27 are not talking about the people who are homosexual by nature or their sexual activity apart from religious worship. Paul is only discussing homosexual acts committed by heterosexual people as being against the nature of the individuals involved. Paul is condemning such acts by these people in connection with religious worship as being cult or temple prostitution. Such prostitution is prohibited in the worship of the One True God.
It is important to recognize, when considering these verses, that the natural homosexual has not chosen to be homosexual. Nor has his/her homosexual orientation resulted from a disrespect for God or from moral degeneracy. Often a person's sexuality is obvious to him/her before he/she turns serious attention to the worship of God. Sometimes it becomes obvious only after years of devout service to God. (We will consider this subject further in a following section.) Paul is talking about the sexual practices of the pagan religions as pagan, neither natural to the participants nor acceptable to God as part of the new Christian worship. Therefore it is important to recognize that Paul is not talking about the natural homosexual's orientation or daily way of life in Romans 1.
The second reference in the New Testament is found in 1 Cor. 6:9. Again the Bible student will examine the words of this text in order to get the correct meaning of the Apostle Paul's instruction. We will consider two expressions, since they seem to be the ones people generally use to condemn all homosexuals as being unfit for the Kingdom. The first of these expressions is the word effeminate. This is translated from the Greek word malakos. Malakos and its other form malakoi mean soft. When it refers to people it means someone who will not stand up for what he/she believes, i.e. "spineless" in our modern language. Malakos is translated "soft" in Matthew 11:8 (twice) and in Luke 7:25. Therefore, "effeminate" in 1 Cor. 6:9 does not refer to a person's sexuality. This Scripture would apply equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals who are spineless. Many heterosexual people are spineless in this context, and therefore would not be fit for the Kingdom.
The other reference in 1 Cor. 6:9 (KJV) is "abusers of themselves with mankind." This whole expression is translated from one word. That word is arsenokoites. The Young and Strong concordances define it as "lying with a male" and "Sodomite." Vine's Expository Dictionary does not define the word, simply noting that it occurs also in 1 Tim. 1:10. Thayers and Arndt-Gingrich don't help much beyond suggesting that the word refers to male homosexual acts. Liddel and Scott also analyze the word from its components to mean "male coitus," again suggesting the male sex act. But none of these define the word precisely. Boswell says that "arsenokoites is quite rare... The best evidence, however, suggests very strongly that it did not connote homosexuality to Paul or his contemporaries but meant "male prostitute" until well into the fourth century, after which it became confused with a variety of words for disapproved sexual activity and was often equated with homosexuality."  The basis for Boswell's statement is the use of arsenokoites in secular literature of that era. Again Boswell explains that arsenokoites was used to refer to "one who serves a pagan diety." The reference is again to the temple prostitute, in this case a prostitute for homosexual acts. It's important to recognize in the definitions given by all our authorities that they believed the word refers to homosexual religious conduct by heterosexual people, not to the natural sexual orientation of a homosexual. Secular Greek literature of Paul's time clarifies the definition of arsenokoites as relating to an act in connection with religious worship. The early church in Corinth was having the same problem with pagan temple worship rituals that the church in Rome had. So Paul was trying to show them that the pagan practices for religious worship in Corinth were not acceptable in the new Christian forms of worship.
Boswell also points out that there was another word used in the Greek language of Paul's time for a person naturally oriented toward homosexuality. That word is arrenokoites. It differs from arsenokoites only in its third letter. But arrenokoites is never used in the Scriptures. Liddel and Scott say that the two words are just different dialectic forms from the same root word, and therefore mean the same thing. But Boswell points out that, though the words are very close in spelling, and derive from the same root word, literature of the Apostle Paul's time uses them for distinctly different meanings. An example of English words will help to demonstrate the importance of current word usage, and not just root word derivation, to distinguish the meanings of two very closely related words. In today's English language there are plane and plain. These two words come from the same root word, the Latin word planus. And their spelling is very similar. But plain refers to simplicity or smoothness. Plane does not. Plane refers to a flat surface, an airplane or a carpenter's tool. The way the two words are used in our time makes the difference, not the root word derivation. The same is true of arsenokoites and arrenokoites in Paul's time. So it is important to understand the way the two words, arsenokoites and arrenokoites, were used in Paul's time to distinguish their real difference. Arrenokoites refers to the natural homosexual, and is not used anywhere in Scripture. Arsenokoites refers to the temple prostitute, and is used in Scripture.
So 1 Cor. 6:9 is not talking about the natural homosexual. Paul, in 1 Cor. 6:9, condemns spinelessness, and homosexual prostitution by heterosexual people as a form of religious worship. 1 Cor. 6:9 does not condemn homosexuality as a part of a person's nature. It neither condemns nor approves homosexual acts outside of religious services.
The last New Testament reference used by some people to condemn homosexuals is 1 Tim. 1:10. The reference here is "for them that defile themselves with mankind." This whole expression in English comes from the one word arsenokoites. As discussed in the previous paragraph on 1 Cor. 6:9, here again Paul refers to the male temple prostitute committing homosexual acts in connection with the worship of God. Paul says that such religious prostitution is not acceptable to God. Such prostitution is condemned along with other lawless acts as being against the Gospel which he preaches. The Apostle is not talking about the natural homosexual or the way he/she lives daily life.
Paul condemns the unnatural sexual practices of pagan religions. He is not condemning the natural homosexual in any of his writings to the church at Rome, Corinth or to Timothy.
As an aside, it is interesting, for self examination, to read the list of other corrupt practices, in addition to temple prostitution, resulting from degrading the true worship of God. See Romans 1:28-32. Sadly, it has been a common practice among many who claim to worship God to resort to some of these listed practices in defaming others who worshiped and served the One True God, but who were suspected of being or known to be homosexuals, or who were willing to take the Scriptural position of defending the homosexual. Paul says that such people who resort to the listed practices, such as evil speaking, inventors of evil, unmercifulness, have severe judgments in store for them.
When we examine what our Lord Jesus said about homosexuality we discover that he said absolutely nothing on the subject. He surely was familiar with everything going on in people's lives, including homosexual relationships. Among all the things that he did condemn as being unrighteous, he did not condemn people who were homosexuals. Nor did Jesus condemn as sinners two homosexuals who lived together in a committed relationship and who might be involved with each other sexually. He encouraged all people, independent of their sexual orientation, to live up to the standards of righteousness.
But we cannot let the fact that our Lord said nothing about a subject justify anything we may want to do in a particular area. Jesus left us some very wise counsel which we must take to heart if we want to please him. Before he left the disciples at his crucifixion he told them that there were many things he had not told them, because they were not able, or spiritually mature enough, to receive them. But he did tell them that he would send them the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide them into truths which he, Jesus, left untold. In doing this, Jesus made our relationship to him and to the Heavenly Father a very personal one. We must use our Lord's standards carefully as guides for the standards of all our behavior. And in the unspecified areas of personal conduct, we must go to the Lord in prayer for personal instruction about how we must live our lives. God has promised to show Jesus' disciples the holy way. We must go to God in full confidence and prayer. And then we must watch and wait for God's answer. The lack of specific Scriptural prohibitions for homosexual life styles is not liberty for casual, carnal relationships for homosexuals any more than it is for heterosexuals. It is important to recognize that the same standard of virtue, commitment and loyalty to the Lord are expected of everyone of Jesus' disciples regardless of their sexual orientation. Promiscuity (as defined in the section "Orientation Versus Life Style" ) and fornication (sexual activity outside of a committed relationship) are just as unacceptable in a homosexual as they are in a heterosexual.
So, what does the New Testament say about homosexuality? The New Testament references to homosexuality only condemn homosexual prostitution in connection with the worship of God. It does NOT condemn a person who is homosexually oriented any more than it condemns a person who is heterosexually oriented. It does NOT condemn a person practicing his/her sexuality within a committed relationship. God's standard of virtue and righteousness outlined in the Scriptures should be a part of our personal standards. When an aspect of our life is not covered specifically in the Scriptures, we should seek God's wisdom in watchfulness and prayer. Then we must wait for God's direction. God shows us the truth. One of the problems of our society today is the disregard of God's standards directing our lives.
Nowhere in Scripture is a natural homosexual condemned as a sinner because of his/her sexual orientation. Nor do the Scriptures indicate that a natural homosexual's circumspect life style is a sin anymore than the circumspect life style of a heterosexual is a sin. The Scriptures do not condemn two homosexuals for living together in a responsible relationship. But before two homosexual Christians consider becoming partners and living together they should go to the Lord for His guidance in their lives just as two heterosexual people should before they marry. And then they should watch for God's answer to their prayer (Colossians 4:2). God calls all of us to perfection in our hearts and in our conduct (Matthew 5:48). All of us fail to meet God's standards in our conduct. God has provided salvation through Jesus for these failures. So we must watch our hearts. We can, and must, reject willing assent to unrighteousness (Matthew 5:8).
A person's sexual orientation is not a matter of that person's choice. Nor is the sex drive an inconsequential part of a person's nature. No valid study has established how or when a person's sexual orientation is determined. Many well intentioned people have offered some wise sounding but ill informed opinions, such as having a weak father and strong mother. This is sad. There is specific scientific evidence that no such influence applies to homosexuals any more than to heterosexuals. There is much evidence that homosexuals cannot change their natural sexual orientations. (Remember to distinguish orientation from life style.) Many natural homosexuals wanted to be, and still would prefer to be heterosexual or "normal" by society's standard. But more than that they wanted to walk honorably with God. They had been convinced by a surface reading of Scriptures as well as by some very determined people that they were an abomination to God and unfit for the kingdom because they were naturally homosexual. They did not want to be an abomination to God for being something over which they had no choice. They did not want to be rejected, because of their orientation, from the privileges of Christian fellowship and service open to others and the hope of being with God in the kingdom. And so, often unknowingly, they set out on a journey to find the reality of who and what they were, and how they really could be part of God's loyal family.
The journey many Christian homosexuals have travelled, and many are still traveling, starts with the effort to be accepted as a homosexual and as a Christian. Their efforts to find and remain loyal to God within their Christian denominations, sects and independent fellowships are almost always met with rejection. Unfortunately, this rejection is due to prejudice and an incorrect understanding of Scripture. So the journey continues. It may include compulsive stops at pornographic bookstores, gay/lesbian bars, baths, public restrooms, street pick-ups, one night stands. These all add shame, confusion and deep feelings of guilt and frustration and helplessness before God to the traveler. The journey may also include calls to gay/lesbian hotlines for help, meeting with other gay Christians in support groups, discovering and seeking Christian fellowships which willingly accept homosexuals in their fellowship. There are well documented cases, as well as many undocumented but known personally to this author, in which homosexuals who were Christians desperately wanted to know they were acceptable to God. They thought they had to change their sexuality to become heterosexuals. They also have spent many thousands of dollars, some more than $40,000, and years with Christian ministers and qualified Christian counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and in agonizing prayer and fasting to try to change their homosexual orientation to heterosexual. In many cases the person married a Christian partner hoping that the marriage would change the orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. But only outward appearances changed. One or both of the partners prayed and pleaded with God to change the sexual orientation. But the sexuality did not change. Often the added burden of trying to keep a marriage together when it is so unnatural for the homosexual (husband or wife) is too much. And the marriages break up with special reasons for acrimony and hatred. So the journey continues, searching for God, and God's affirmation of wholeness and solace. It includes rejection (by friends, family, and church), frustration, disappointments and a sense of total helplessness.
Most of these travelers have lived double lives. They sought, and are seeking still, to realize their acceptance with God while protecting a spouse and children they love, to protect jobs, to avoid rejection of friends they treasure. No one but the people involved has any idea of the depth of pain and agony and frustration in the hearts of these sincere people. The personal disciplines, punishments and heart floggings these travelers apply to themselves are only a small key to their agony. Their river of tears with God, behind closed doors or with personal confidants, are uncontainable. Without an appreciation of these efforts a person can believe that homosexual orientation can be changed by such methods as fasting and prayer and a spiritual rebirth. But such a belief is innocent and naive. It is also dangerous because of the false hopes it offers to the sincere parties of the journey.
In addition to these personal efforts, some homosexuals become involved in one or more of the numerous movements which claim to be able to change homosexuals into heterosexuals. These movements are sometimes referred to as "Ex-Gay" movements. But none of these movements can produce a list of successful transformations. Some of their clients have married, and produced children. But the orientation did not change, just the life style. Most honest people who have gone through the programs acknowledge that their romantic desires and fantasies are still toward members of the same gender. One of the tragic results of these efforts is to leave the untransformed homosexual with a sense of condemnation because he/she did not become a heterosexual in orientation. And what is even more tragic is that some of these have left the Christian faith, believing that because they could not change God didn't love them anymore. Another excruciating result of harsh condemnation of a homosexual who can not change his/ her orientation is suicide. Well documented cases of people resorting to suicide stand as witnesses against the unchristian persecution of the natural homosexual in the Divine Court of Justice. The journey leads many homosexuals to realize that the Scriptures do not condemn them for their sexual orientation. God does accept them as Christian,even though much of Christendom does not. God wants and helps them to live up to every requirement of holiness required of all Jesus' disciples, be they homosexual, heterosexual or the confusing mixture of the two orientations. But the persecutions of the journey can draw a meek and submissive Christian closer in fellowship with Jesus and God if that Christian relies on God for daily strength and peace. You are not alone, even with the painful rejection of family and friends. The joy of sweet acceptance in God's love is approval enough to outweigh the rejections of others. But that does not excuse other Christians for rejecting a sincere believer. Learning the expansiveness and inclusiveness of God's love is very difficult for all of us, regardless of what our attitudes, our orientation, or of what minority we are. But the journey can lead to the Lord.
So what is the proper attitude for us toward homosexuality in the light of the Scriptures? May we reject, persecute, slander or exclude a homosexual, or one who supports the Scriptural position toward homosexuality? According to the Scriptures, we must not condemn a person who is a homosexual for his/her sexual orientation. Scripturally, we believe, to be oriented toward homosexuality is not a sin. The Scriptures do prohibit promiscuous sexual relations, straight or gay/lesbian. But the Scriptures do not prohibit two homosexual people from developing a committed relationship (for life) in which they support each other, in their discipleship before the Lord. This kind of a relationship is an individual matter and must be settled before the Lord. God will direct their conscientious search for wisdom in that relationship. God has not authorized us or any other group of people to define what that relationship should be. Therefore, as we want to copy God, we should not judge or condemn them. We should encourage them to live by every standard of virtue which the Scriptures give us and leave the judgment to God's wisdom.
It is no one's business to inquire what goes on in the privacy of any home, whether the occupants are homosexual or heterosexual. The partners in a home are accountable to the Lord, and only to the Lord, for their conduct. God has said, "Be ye holy for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16). That is an instruction for all of God's people, to consult God directly when the Scriptures do not specify certain conduct. It is not for us to dictate to others how they should live their lives when the Lord doesn't give us specific direction for them or grant us the authority to judge them. And so we should leave the matter where the Lord leaves it, in God's capable hands.
Let us consider three hypothetical situations which might confront us. What would your reaction be in the light of what you have learned from this booklet so far? The first of these concerns a father in our fellowship, his son and his son's friend. The father complains about his rebellious son. He also complains that the two boy's love for each other goes beyond what a man would have for a woman. As a result of what the son felt was an unjust attitude in the father, the son has both rebelled against his father and betrayed him. How would you feel about that son's and his friend's relationship?
The second situation regards two women. They are bound by a very strong love for each other, even though one is a generation older than the other. The older woman decides to leave her home and move hundreds of miles away to be near other family members. The younger woman loves her friend so much that she decides to move with her, even though she knows no one in the new city. She leaves her family, friends, and the security of her past just to be with her friend. They come to your fellowship as a pair. Would you feel their love for each other was right? How would you feel about accepting them?
The third situation involves two men who love each other very much. They attend church together. Their close bonding love is obvious in their conduct. One evening your church has a very special holy service. As part of the service you all have dinner together. At the dinner the pair demonstrate their affection for each other, even to the point of the younger man leaning his head on the older man's shoulder. How would you feel about these men and their conduct? Would you accept them and their love for each other as right? Or would you be offended, feeling that such love and its expression was indiscrete, or more than that, against Scripture and therefore sinful?
Based on what we find in the Scriptures, we can accept these three situations, and others like them, as appropriate relationships of love. God did. And what's more God sanctified similar situations. Our first situation parallels the 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:1-42; 2 Samuel 1:26 account of King Saul, possessed by an evil spirit which rejected Jonathan's and David's love for each other. God apparently accepted and sanctified that loving relationship. He did not reject it as sinful. As a result of it David's life was spared, and he became Israel's most beloved king. He also received promises from God that the Messiah would be born from his family line, and that God's mercies to all people would derive from promises God made to David. Our second situation parallels Naomi's and Ruth's relationship recorded in Ruth 1:1-18. God sanctified this beautiful bond between the women. Ruth was a Moabitess by birth, and therefore prohibited from enjoying any of the blessings for Israel. But God made her the grandmother of Israel's King David and one of the grandmother progenitors of our Lord and savior, Jesus! The third situation parallels the relationship of Jesus and the Apostle John. John 13:1-25. Both God and Jesus approved of this intense and unusual love between these two men. And they approved of the public display. God sanctified it by approving it in the Scriptures, for our instruction, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. God again sanctified it by giving John a position as an apostle of the Lord, and by making him one of the twelve foundations of the church. In your response to the three hypothetical situations, were you as wise as God? How will you react if these or similar situations confront you tomorrow or some day afterward?
Our hearts and hands should be open to all who confess the name of Christ and are trying to live up to that commitment regardless of their sexuality. If we exclude any person from equal membership and office of service in the Church because that person is a homosexual, we take on our own shoulders the responsibility for the exclusion. The Scriptures do not give us such a right. They warn us against such unfair exclusion. The Scriptures direct us to include all Christians in our fellowship without any consideration of their sexual orientation. Romans 15:1-3, Galatians 3:27-29; 5:4-15; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 12:12-13. The qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon are very specific. They do not include a requirement that a man be heterosexual and not homosexual. If a man is married, the Scripture requires that he have only one wife. This emphasizes the importance of commitment and fidelity in this personal relationship. But it does not insist that an elder or a deacon must be married. The author himself, Paul, was not married. Therefore we must not insert a sexual orientation qualification either. 1 Timothy 3:1-3; Titus 1:5-9. Every right and privilege of communion and office of service in the Christian church afforded to a heterosexual person should be open equally to a committed homosexual person trying to live up to the same standard of holiness.
We have considered several aspects of being a Christian and a homosexual in this booklet. We have covered the definitions and today's image of the homosexual. We have considered how to fit any message in the Scripture into the context of the whole. We have examined how God deals with sin. Then we considered how we must deal with our prejudices and preconceived notions about homosexuality. We searched the Scriptures for their discussion about homosexual conduct and orientation both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then we considered some very practical experiences of Christians who were also homosexuals, and their journey to wholeness. Finally we considered our proper attitude as a result of the foregoing considerations.
I hope this helps you understand what we believe is the correct, the Scriptural position on homosexuality. Homosexuals in today's society are thought of as ill or perverse. This is partly due to their negative image in tradition. It is also partly due to bad public press, from indiscretion by a very small percentage of their number, rather than due to any fault of the majority of them. Thus they are a handicapped group of people. The idea that they are a sick or perverse group of people does NOT derive from the Scriptures. They need love and compassion and understanding and acceptance as much as the rest of humanity, or perhaps more. And they receive it much less than others. Their wounds are deep. They are an opportunity for love and acceptance and a healing ministry by those of us who truly appreciate the message of salvation, and who have experienced its need and blessing in our own lives.
May God give us wisdom in our attitude toward homosexuals as well as toward all people. We all need help. Only God sets the standard and direction for wisdom about Christian homosexuality. The Divine attitude and practice is one of compassion, redemption, and nurturing in righteousness. And ours can be too!
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