Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Homosexuality: How do we respond? Part 1

Recently, I was asked if there is a place for Homosexual lifestyle to be affirmed within Christianity. Wouldn’t Jesus have accepted gays? Aren't they too God's children, do we need to assume they are sinners rather than variations of God's great creation, did God really need everyone to reproduce, and at the heart of the issue, can't there be a place in Christian ideals for gays to flourish, should these people really be repressed and ashamed? Do Christians believe they really aren't gay and just need to be saved

It’s a big question. One that all of us will face, because homosexuality is gaining ground, and exerting more and more pressure to be accepted, and yet the bible clearly declares that homosexuality is a sin (as is any sex outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage). This is, in many ways, one of the tests of gospel faithfulness in our day. are you willing to stand on the word of God, and lovingly say "NO"? We love you, but it's not healthy or God ordained?

This week, I will be sharing some of my thoughts on this issue. Today I will look at the subject in relationship to our identity as people of the book and God’s design for sexuality. Tomorrow, I will look at love and repentance. And Thursday, I will look at sexual brokenness, identity, and witness.

First, people of the book. As Christians, we believe that the bible is the inspired word of God. It’s not just a group of people telling about what they think God is like, but that God directed and shaped the content of Scripture. In doing so, we are following Jesus example and belief. Jesus, looking at the Old Testament, make clear that he saw scripture as the word of God time and again. Let me give you one example, because it comes in the context of marriage. “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "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. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  (Matthew19:3-6). When you go back and look, you see that this is a footnote added by the writer of Genesis. But Jesus makes clear that ultimately, it’s there because God put it there. Jesus had an incredibly high view of scripture, and so all the time we see him saying, it is written, and how will scripture be fulfilled?” He was shaped and molded by scripture. He viewed it as the word of God. Later, when you get the epistles, you see that Paul says, “all scripture is God breathed”, and Peter says “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Pe 1:19-21).

Now, the issue before Christians is this. If we take Jesus view of scripture, we cannot affirm homosexuality. Scripture tells us that a man should not lay with a man. Leviticus 18:23 say “do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 20:13 say “if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads”. Notice that what’s condemned is the action, not the inclination. Furthermore, scripture makes clear that those who practice homosexuality (and many other sins) are under the condemnation of God. Romans lays out  famously that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 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 mortal man 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 of 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 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:18-32). 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also jumps in, and says, “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Now here’s the question. What does the bible say about sexuality in general? It condemns homosexuality, but what else does it say about sexuality? It tells us that God designed marriage, one man, one woman, in lifelong union. We’re told God designed the woman to be the perfect complement to the man (quite literally). He created woman to be the equal and complimentary partner to the man. In genesis we read that “The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. 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 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." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Gen 2:16-25)

The bible does not just condemn one thing, it holds up something else, an ideal. It shows that  God designed marriage, a man and a woman together for life, and the woman to be the perfect compliment to the man (quite literally). She’s not his underling, not from his feet; or over him, from his head, but from his side. His equal, one to support him, encourage him, be with him for life. When you read through the bible, time and again, it makes clear, that’s the only context for sexuality. All sexuality. What did Jesus say directly about homosexuality? Nothing. But when he’s asked about things in the wheelhouse of sexuality, divorce, what does he say? He takes the questioners right back to genesis. He grounds all human sexuality in terms of marriage, and makes clear that there is only one confine for sex; lifelong marriage. In other places, he says things that are incredible. He says looking with lust at a woman is as adultery in the heart (You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mat 5:27-28). He condemns adultery in other passages. And he affirms the scriptures. He makes clear that all the passages in the old testament that tell us, sex before marriage is sin, sex with someone other than your wife is sin, and on and on, (think the law in Exodus –Deuteronomy), are still valid. And while he fulfills the clean laws (he lived sinlessly- doing what Israel failed to do- he kept the law), and makes clear that the clean laws are abrogated, they no longer apply (see mark 7), he affirms the creation mandate of sexuality, and affirms the law. And think about the implications of that for divorce. Divorce and remarriage, is not in line with God’s design. In Matthew, he makes clear that the only grounds for divorce and remarriage, is adultery.

The bible, from beginning to end, says that there is only one acceptable confine for sex; marriage between a man and a woman. It says everything outside that boundary, is sin. Here’s the thing. We Christians wear egg on our face, because we sit here and say, homosexuals. Sinners. But, the bible says, sexual sin is sexual sin. Period and end of discussion. It says divorce without cause (adultery or abandonment by a non-believeing spouse) is sin. It lays out an incredibly high sexual ethic.

Now. We Christians fail to live up to this ideal? Yes. Absolutely.

But here’s what makes our sin even more grievous. The bible says that marriage is a God designed picture of Christ and the church. It shows us that way before creation, God planned on the great work of salvation, and he created marriage to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. Ephesians tells us “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--  for we are members of his body1 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:21-33)

So  here’s the issue. With the fact that we follow our master in being people of the book, with the fact that there are passages that say homosexuality is sin, and with the fact that heterosexual marriage is God design for sexuality, and with the fact that Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, how can we possibly we affirm it?

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