Showing posts with label On homosexuality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label On homosexuality. Show all posts

What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?

Borrowed from the University Student Council, UP Diliman

What exactly does the Bible teach about homosexuality?

I figured out these past days that so many people continue to ask this question, especially among college students. The issue is, of course, hotly debated even in our very own University of the Philippines, making it a very valid question to answer.

I do concede that my voice on this issue is but one among many. I'm not expecting this post to finally nail the coffin, but I want to provide students a balanced view on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.

In dealing with this subject, we have to begin with God. We have to have at least some understanding of who He is in order to put homosexuality in a proper perspective.

The Holiness of God is Our Standard

I think the most important revelation about God on this topic is His holiness. In 1 John 1:5, we read that God is light and there is not a single hint of darkness in Him. What this tells us is that God's holiness is perfect. He is absolutely set apart from darkness or evil or sin. He cannot commit it, and He does not tolerate it (Habakkuk 1:13).

What does this mean for us? God has set the standard for all human beings. He commands us to be holy and perfect, for He is holy and perfect (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48). Whenever we fail to meet this standard -- and everyone certainly has-- we sin. After all, "sin," from the original Greek, means "to miss the mark." The imagery is like that of an archer missing the bull's eye.

We sin whenever we fail to meet God's standard, but this standard is certainly impossible to reach on our own. Here are a few examples to support my case.

In the 10 Commandments, we read about God's prohibitions against murder and adultery (Exodus 20). I believe that many of us think that these two are among the last that we'll do. Jumping to the New Testament, however, we see that the two commands are actually among the most commonly broken ones. How so?

In 1 John 3:15, murder and hate are treated as equals. That is, whenever we hate anyone, we already murder him or her in our hearts. Similarly, adultery happens not only when a married person develops an illicit affair. By simply looking at a woman or a man with lust in our eyes, Jesus says, we already commit adultery (Matthew 5:28).

And to put the bar even higher, James wrote, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)." When we sin even just once, we fail God's standard. If this is an exam, the only ones who will pass are those who get a perfect score. It's all or nothing. The truth is, on our own, we will never pass.

Such understanding of God's standard for our lives and this view of sin are necessary for us to see that Christians are NOT isolating the practice of homosexuality as a very special sin. Sin is sin. God is displeased with it because sin is an open rebellion against His holiness.

These truths are also necessary to understand that Christians are not perfect people seeking to judge and condemn "sinners." Christians are sinners also, considering God's impossible standard for righteousness. The only difference for them is that they've trusted in the only One who reached God's standard (Hebrews 5:15) and believed in His righteousness (1 Peter 3:18) that can reconcile them back to God-- Jesus Christ.

Thus, when Christianity talks about homosexuality as sin it means that giving in to it is consciously abandoning God's perfect standard and indulging in what He disapproves.

After all, we must look at God as a Father who desires to give us what's best through His righteous standards, and not as a grumpy old man waiting to punish anyone who fails to meet His demands.

Homosexuality and God's Standard

So, how does homosexuality square with God's standard?

Before answering this question, I think it's useful to note that Bible-believing Christians distinguish between people who struggle with homosexuality and those who give in to it. The former group seeks help. They are people who have same-sex attraction, are aware of it but still desire to uphold God's righteous standard in their lives.

The latter group, however, chooses to indulge in the homosexual lifestyle. They turned away from God's standard and chose to follow what they think is right, regardless of what the Bible or their conscience says.

Thus, a Christian condemns not the person but the act. This may sound absurd for some, but by experience, I know that it is possible. By God's grace, Christians are able to genuinely love homosexuals even if they disapprove of their lifestyle. This is the proper attitude because Scripture is clear that God alone is Judge over all.

It is not for me to judge the person struggling or indulging, but I can echo what God's Word says about homosexuality.

God's Disapproval

On plain reading, we can find several passages in the Old  and the New Testament talking about homosexuality. And each and every one disapproves it.

(Leviticus 18:22) Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

(Leviticus 20:13) 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.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:1-11 

The story of the men of Gibeah in Judges 19:16-24

(Romans 1:26-27) 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.

(1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Timothy 1:8-10) We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine...

(Jude 6-7) And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. 

I am aware that there are gay revisionist theologians who proposed alternative readings to the passages cited above. It's not my goal to answer their objections, but the book entitled, "The Bible, the Church and Homosexuality" may be of help.

God's Design for Sexual Relationships

Another way of understanding God's position on the subject is by looking at what He approves as the model and design for sexual relationships. This is found at the very beginning of the Bible, in the first two chapters of Genesis.

In Genesis 1:27-28, we read:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

At the very beginning of time, God designed humankind as male and female. He also commanded them to procreate so as to fill and subdue the earth. Thus, sex is designed only between a male and a female. But more precisely, we read in Genesis 2:20-25 that it is reserved for the marriage bed.

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The most suitable partner and helper for a man is a woman. This is true because by design, they are complementary. They complement each other not only physically but also emotionally.

Using both passages, we read that God's standard for sex is between a man and a woman in a loving and lifelong marriage covenant before God. Whenever we indulge in sex beyond this very limiting parameter, we fail God's standard, and so we sin.

Notice, however, that homosexuality is just one of the many ways this standard is broken. We also have fornication, adultery, orgies, solo-sex or masturbation, pornography, and bestiality among others. This coincides with my earlier point that God looks at sin as sin. There is no special treatment. They all fail His righteous standard.

What Jesus Has to Say

Right up to this point there is one person whom we have not yet heard-- Jesus Christ. Surely He has something to say about homosexuality, hasn't he? The Epistles in the New Testament would have not disapproved of the practice of homosexuality if Jesus Himself did not. But where did He say so?

To be honest, the Scripture does not record Jesus as saying something like, "Woe to those who practice homosexuality  for theirs is the wrath of God!" No. Instead, He opted to affirm God's design for sexual relations at creation. We read this in Matthew 19:4-6 when Jesus was challenged about the issue of divorce.

"Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

He basically joined both passages in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe that Jesus did this because He wanted to be more inclusive. As Apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, there are usually two ways of arguing one's case. The first one is by demolishing all counter-arguments in a the-last-man-standing strategy. The other, is by building a foolproof case that will withstand and prove false all counter-arguments thrown at it.

Jesus chose the second strategy when He re-echoed God's design way back at the beginning of time. This is the best course for the Scripture affirms that the wickedness in people's hearts is so great that they "invent ways of doing evil (Romans 1:30)." 

Pornography would have not been considered sinful because Jesus never once spoke against it. How could He when computers do not even exist during His time? But because He laid out what He approves, whatever comes along that is contrary to this standard, we know that He disapproves.

Reality of Change Through Christ

So we see from the Old Testament to the New, from the Father to the Son, that the Bible is consistent about homosexuality failing God's standard. It is sin.

It is frightening to think that there are people who choose that path still. But our fallen nature-- starting from Adam and Eve-- prevents us from actually choosing righteousness, even if God clearly laid out that He will punish each and every sin with spiritual and physical death (Romans 6:23a) to satisfy His justice.

This is why grace is necessary for a person's salvation. We cannot save ourselves through ourselves. We need the supernatural intervention of God. And in the case of the person struggling or the person indulging, grace from God is also the singular solution to break the chains of homosexuality.

The beauty of the Gospel is this-- grace has been freely given by God when He sent Jesus to die on the cross. Someone may say, "How on earth can He understand the struggles raging inside me? How can Jesus relate when He never struggled with homosexuality?"

2 Corinthians 5:21 proves this person wrong. Here we read that "God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." No one knows sin more than Jesus because on the cross, ALL of humanity's sins-- past, present and future-- were put upon Him. He took them all as our substitute so that when God crushed Him on the cross, He satisfied His justice without annihilating us, the actual sinners.

What did He accomplish with this death? Jesus put away sin once for all so that  He may be able to impute -- that is to credit to another person's account-- His very own perfect and righteous condition to all those who put their faith in Him as Lord and Savior.

We reach God's standard of righteousness not by our own flawed righteousness but by the righteousness of Jesus which we receive when we believe in Him. It is not by our works but by grace through faith in Him alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is also the reason why a Christian can only go as far as delivering the message of the Gospel, including God's righteous standard. Transformation comes from God alone. This is true for struggling homosexuals as well.

Christians are not their judge; we are, instead, their messengers. We come to share Jesus as the answer to their struggles but leave the inner workings and the blossoming of faith to the Holy Spirit. To this end, we labor so that as many as would believe, they will also experience change.

Yes, change is real. This is affirmed by Scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which we read earlier.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Some of the Corinthians believers once indulged in the homosexual lifestyle, but the blood of Christ washed them, cleansed them and gave them the life that is truly life, a life to the fullest. They were able to turn away from it, perhaps slowly and painfully, all by God's grace and enabling. 

After all, God did not call us to be straight. He called us to be holy. So whether struggling or not, our aim must be to please God by offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We can do this first by turning from our sins and turning to Christ for salvation.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 )

Christians on Homosexuality

That the Bible rejects homosexuality is clear, despite all arguments from proponents of gay theology. One can scan the Scriptures and find that God is consistent on this issue. He says no to gay sexual relationship of any kind.

Among the frequently used passages on homosexuality are Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Jude 1:6-7, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. These have been carefully studied and interpreted by scholars on both sides.

Traditional Christian interpretations hold that the passages reject homosexuality altogether. However, "gay or revisionist theologians" offer alternative interpretations to show that these parts of Scripture have been grossly misinterpreted. Their stand, of course, is that the Bible accepts gay relationships.

The book, "The Bible, the Church and Homosexuality," is a good place to start if one wants to get oriented with the Bible debates on the issue.
I wrote this article, however, not primarily to defend the Christian stand on homosexuality. There are more credible scholars who did that already. Instead, I meant for this to be an encouragement and a challenge for Christians to reexamine how they deal with people struggling with homosexuality.

Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias repeatedly stressed that "behind every question is a questioner." And if I may add, "Behind every skepticism is a skeptic." The point here is that in dealing with homosexuality, we must not divorce the reality that we are also relating to human beings with both intellect and emotion.

Sometime ago I ran into a friend who wanted to hear my view on the LGBT topic. It was for a report in one of his social science classes. I quickly gave my standard answer on what the Bible says, but spent much more time discussing how our attitudes and hearts as Christians should be when answering the LGBT community's questions and concerns.  

I will always remember how he thanked me for highlighting the proper Christian response not only on this particular issue but in every controversial issue that stands in stark contrast to what we believe in. It was then that I realized the Christian tendency to take issues on dangerously intellectual realms, forgetting that they were commissioned to win souls not debates.

I am not anti-reason. Afterall, faith and reason have always journeyed together in Christianity. But I feel the need to warn everyone that aiming to answer all questions as an end in itself is counterproductive. We may be able to win the debate with outstanding arguments but lose the person in the process.

The questioner, more often than not, throws a throng of questions to try and mask the real issues and concerns that plague his or her soul. If we are not sensitive and are caught in this intricately woven protective web, we will never be able to deal with the core issues. We will just be left trying to defend and argue our faith in a plainly intellectual level, devoid of any context or human connection.

Ravi adds that there are two key realities in effective apologetics and in my experience even in effective evangelism: "how to relate to the questioner and how to make sure that the answers are couched in a relevant context."

People struggling with homosexuality often feel alienated, condemned even, by several sectors of society. Sadly, even the church is guilty. Thus, trying to put across the Gospel to them is extremely difficult because they sense duplicity and hypocrisy. We say one thing but act out another. We bring a message of God's justice and holiness, but we act as if we are the judge and that we are "holier" than they are. We proclaim a message of love and reconciliation, but we have never reflected on the condemnation and stigma we  have unjustly brought on them.

These are great barriers. Often, approaching them with the intellect alone will only reinforce their negative attitude towards us. Unless we build bridges and connect with them, we will never see past the barrier and the web of questions with the Gospel.

I learned that trust is a key word. When they know that you understand where they come from and do not take their right to ask and feel the way they do, then, doors begin to open. They will let you in and welcome your challenges, even give sincere ear to the hard Bible passages and ultimately to the Gospel of Christ because they trust you. They know that you are there not to force Bible truths but to journey with them without prejudice as they personally discover the Truth through the Holy Spirit.

When I first ministered to a friend with this struggle, I did not understand the process involved. I wanted to hasten things, forgetting that God not I could deliver him. The result was devastating to me and to him. He interpreted my care and concern as intrusion and distrust. I wanted to help, but I did not know that there were decisions that took time to process, and I forgot that these decisions could only be made with the grace and enabling of God.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 is a wonderful passage we must all put to heart. Paul wrote,
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 
God's point here is that we need to begin where they are. We need to deal with the barriers one at a time until by God's grace we are welcomed to deal with the core issues. This works only if we are able to connect to them, gaining their trust with our sincere love, concern and care communicated properly at the right time.

Even if after everything they still remain hard to the Gospel, we must not lose heart, nor should we force Jesus on them. Instead, it is wise to retreat for a while, continue praying and asking God to make the seeds planted and watered in their hearts grow.

I learned these things the hard way. But God is amazing because at just the right time, He allowed me to minister once more to another friend with the same struggle. I was nervous at first because I feared a part two of my past failure. But this time, I learned to wait upon the Lord, to journey with the person and to give God room to work in his heart and my friend the opportunity to genuinely seek the Lord. I am at awe witnessing how God is working in his life now. 

It has nothing to do with me, but everything's because of God. I continue to pray for him as well as for my other friend that the God of Wonders will reveal Himself fully to them in the face of Jesus Christ.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

From this day forth

It takes so much of me to continue to witness homosexual behavior eat into the fellowship. I have prayed about this and I know God will use my blog for His glory.

For almost two years now, I have been immersing myself into the topic. I have been researching, reading, watching and listening. I have heard almost every argument from both sides-- those who say it is okay and those who stand by the Bible and say homosexual lifestyle is sin.

From all my researches, I see a trend which I will not deny bothers me. Proponents and activists of homosexual behavior are getting more and more aggressive. There are now "Christian Churches" saying the Bible perfectly agrees with the behavior. The biggest blow perhaps is in the rift within the Anglican Church on this very topic.

We also have the Metropolitan Churches--gay churches-- preaching that God approves for those with homosexual orientation to live a life of homosexuality. I thought such churches existed only in the United States or in the more industrialized nations. But a quick search through the net revealed that there are already Metropolitan Churches in the country. In fact, they have been administering same-sex unions because Philippine laws neither agree nor disagree with such.

I can feel that in the future, this skirmish will evolve into one of the biggest controversies the Christian Church will have to face. And I wish to lend my blog and my knowledge on those who continuously seek answers on the issue. From this day forth, I will be adding answers on the great debate on Homosexuality.

Some may think I now belong to the throng of bigots condemning homosexuals. I stand my ground and answer, no. We think that those who tolerate the behavior are those who truly love and understand and care for the homosexuals. I dare say this is wrong. Because those who truly love them are men and women who will fearlessly say the Truth about homosexual lifestyle-- those who engage in it will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

My utmost concern is the spiritual well-being of men and women under homosexuality. Take God's Word, it is not the here and now that matters, it is the eternity up ahead. Those who say it is perfectly right and good to indulge in the homosexual lifestyle appear to be guardians of equality, freedom and human dignity. In this world, perhaps, but they unknowingly seal the fate of men and women to eternal separation from God.

You will not tell a child to go and play with a knife when you know it can cut and hurt him. But because many do not know what it entails to surrender to the desires and lusts of homosexuality, they tolerate it and even encourage it. The knife will wound the child but the wounds will heal. Homosexual lifestyle, on the other hand, will bring a person farther away from God, and this, for eternity.

I am here not to add condemnation but to call out, to invite all those who are struggling with homosexuality to consider what God says about it. I am willing to face a barrage of insults because of this decision, but it is out of love for all of those in such disposition that I will continue to blog about homosexuality.

I believe God loves the homosexual and He calls out to them to be free from the lies of the disposition. But God is also clear. He will not tolerate the homosexual lifestyle. He condemns the practice of homosexuality, for it is contrary, in all respects, to the design He has established.

It is my fervent prayer that we Christians will realize that our ministry to the homosexuals, more than anything, means helping them understand what God says of the issue. I disapprove of all those who shout out insults during gay pride marches, or those who wield banners and placards with slurs and offenses.

There are betters ways to address the issue than these. I am firm with my stand against homosexual lifestyle and practice. But as to how we deal with it, I believe God calls us to be compassionate and loving in truth. How do we do that? My share is through this blog. An open forum where views may be raised and opinions shared. A place where the Word of God, the Truth may be preached.


I offer you this ministry. Make of it what pleases and glorifies you. May it be a help to those who are seeking. May it bring understanding to those who are looking for answers.


Ravi Zacharias on Homosexuality

"Now I say to the one who has that disposition (homosexual disposition), yes it has to be tough, it has to be tough...but sometimes we renounce our dispositions for the sake of Christ and just wait and hope and trust for the possibility that He will give us that resistance."