Christianity and Homosexuality
Recently I have been researching things that I have always accepted as fact and I am quite surprised at the outcome. I decided that I wanted to understand why the things I have always held to be true are considered true. From my research I have discovered that a lot of subjects that I once considered black and white are much more grey than I would have been comfortable admitting before I started searching for truth.
One of the topics I have been studying is homosexuality in the bible and comparing what prominent scholars have said on the subject. I had always read the bible as if it was a magazine or newspaper and so just took it at face value but after doing a little digging I found that to really understand the meaning of the bible you have to understand the context of what is being said. You also have to consider the translation from the original languages. Sometimes looking at the original words will help to understand what was meant.
At first glance it would appear that the bible is clear on homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 says, “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 20:13 goes one step further, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” This is fairly clear that God was commanding the Israelite men not to have sex with each other.
This is indisputably under the law of the Old Testament. So what does the New Testament say about the law? Romans 7:4-6 says, “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
Galatians 2:15-16 Says, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Paul goes on to say that if righteousness could be gained through fulfilling the law then Christ died in vain.
Paul is clearly saying that as Christians we are no longer bound by the law. He also points out that the law caused us to desire sin. When something is made a sin it is human nature to want to do that thing. A good example of that is telling a toddler not to touch something. Before you told him not to touch it he probably had very little interest in it but now his curiosity is killing him.
Another scripture that deals with the Old Testament transitioning to the New is Acts 10. It tells the story of Peter praying on a rooftop. He falls into a trance and, “He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’”
The lesson here should be fairly clear but in case it isn’t Peter later clarifies it, “While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.’”
Peter does not make a distinction here. No one is to be considered unclean anymore! Many Christians seem to pick and choose what part of the law is still in effect and what parts are no longer applicable. Most would think it is silly to refrain from eating pork, shrimp or catfish. Nearly every Christian man trims the corners of his beard. No one would think twice to have a shirt made of two different materials but homosexuality is clearly forbidden. This seems like a case of choosing scriptures to support an existing bias.
So if the law isn’t applicable anymore what is to be done with 1 Timothy 1:9-10, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:24-27? This is where looking into the original language is necessary to truly understand the meaning of these verses and a look at the context helps explain what the author means. The Greek word that Paul uses in both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians that is commonly translated into homosexual is arsenokoitai. This word never appears in any Greek writings before this point and only appears once after the two times Paul used it. Paul made it up but that wasn’t really uncommon. It is a combination of two words, arseno (male) and koitai (beds). The literal interpretation is “male beds”.
For the sake of brevity I will not break this word down in the depth that scholars have but will reference several articles at the end of this writing so the studious readers can search further on their own.
This word is highly debated and the only thing that is certain is that there is no clear definition to it. Many scholars believe that when Paul used this word he was referring to men who frequented male prostitutes. This was a common occurrence in Corinth and most other Roman cities and the prostitutes were usually young male slaves in their early teens.
So where does that leave us with Romans? Romans 1:21-27 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
When you look at this passage as one entire story of a group of people you will see that they are idolaters who worshiped statues and animals. What is actually being described here is an orgy. Orgies were very common as part of worship in the Roman age and even as far back as the time of Moses there were cultures who used orgies as a part of religious ceremonies.
The last place in the bible that is commonly used to condemn homosexuality is the story of Sodom. Genesis 19:1-9 says “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’ But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters 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.’ ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. ‘This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
This story has a lot more going on than homosexuality. It is obvious from Lot’s reaction that he knew these men would not be safe in the city square and so he tried to hide them. The men of the city wanted to rape the two strangers. The conclusion that God destroyed Sodom for homosexuality overlooks the fact that Sodom was a place where strangers were attacked and raped. To use this as an example of why homosexuality is wrong is the same as saying that because the bible condemns adultery then heterosexuality is wrong. They are two separate things.
I would like to end this article with the testimony of a friend of mine, as you read it try to think of how you might be pushing people away from Jesus with a judgmental attitude.
“I do believe there is a god, but I will NEVER accept a religion. A huge part is because I am gay. This is a huge reason why I have struggled with ALL types of churches. It's rare for me to encounter any religion and not feel looked down upon or demonized. (Though Buddhist are generally pretty cool. Haha) I am a very good person. I work hard. I am true to my word. I treat others with respect. I have respect for myself. I do what I can to help other people. Despite all that, most religious people can only see a disgusting queer boy who they assume has no sense of morality.
What they don't understand is that I believe that god made me this way. If it were a choice, I would have chose to not be gay because that is what I tried to do. Back in the day I used to wake up at 5 in the morning to lay on the floor prostrate begging god to take away this "sin" out of my life. I was miserable and I hated myself. I NEVER chose it, and I didn't want it. I finally decided to scrap god completely because I was angry.
Over the past few years though I have learned a lot. I have learned that it does not matter what ANYONE has to say about me. My relationship with god is my own. I truthfully believe that god made me this way. I know that others will probably strongly disagree, but that is what I have found in my searching. I have started praying again because I know that my life is between me and god. It is for NO ONE else to decide whether or not god loves me and accepts me. I know that my motives and intentions have been to thoroughly seek out the truth. What I was led to find is that god loves me.
When people think gay they automatically think half-naked men dancing in the streets of San Francisco waving a rainbow flag. They never really stop to think that is only a fraction of gay people. I am not like that and I have many LGBT friends that are not either. I feel that I am just a normal guy who is different.”
I hope if nothing else this article can help you to look a little differently at the Gay community. “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.