Monday, 12 March 2012
Originally posted March 12, 2012 1:33 AM.
NOTE: I beg you, my readers, to read this article carefully and with deep consideration. You may disagree with my reasonings, and my conclusions, but please know that I have made every effort to offer a thorough and thought-out argument here. In no way am I going to insult or condemn anyone who is gay or who supports LGBT. My goal here is to paint an explanation of what the Bible says about homosexuality and about judging others (which is often claimed just because someone is against homosexuality). If you have any disagreements with me here, please, please ask me questions so I might offer clarification if I can. Please offer your explanations for why you may disagree, too. We might not come to any resolution, but at least this may help keep the peace. If I offer a rebuttal to your comments, know that I'll offer the same respect I ask of you. I'll address what is said and will never make this a personal attack.
PART ONE: MAKING JUDGMENTS
Before I explain just why the Bible is against homosexuality, I need to explain a very important point that both Christians and non-Christians often misinterpret regarding the very tense issue of "judgment". I begin here because so often many pro-gay advocates and/or Bible critics cite the first part of Jesus' instruction, but fail to read the rest of His following message. So, if you wouldn't mind, follow with me.
In Matthew 7, Jesus warns His listeners, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (verse 1, NLT, italics mine). This is where many people stop, concluding that Jesus is saying to never judge. However, Jesus extrapolates His meaning by adding these oft-referenced points: "For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye yet when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?" (verses 2-4, NLT).
Clearly, Jesus is pointing out that if we are going to judge someone else for what they do, we, too, will be judged equally. If we say that pre-marital sex is wrong, then, obviously, we had better not be engaging in it, ourselves! Verse 5 begins with Jesus responding to such behavior with, "Hypocrite!" and rightly so. In other words, the point about judging others is not that we ought not to judge others, but that we ought to judge without a contradicting heart. If we are not living right, how can we rightly address another's problems?
That said, nothing in Scripture says that we are to never judge, ever! What many people miss is that Jesus' message about judgment is about the way we judge others. Let's think about this. We make judgments all the time, and rightfully so. When someone lies, we state that is wrong. When someone gives food to a homeless man, we praise the action. We are, in fact, making judgments. The difference is when we may claim that the liar is a bad person. We may equally state the giver is a good person. These are judgments that may or may not be accurate (for a giver might give for selfish motives, like getting attention), for the reasons for the actions stem from the heart. A matter much more difficult to accurately judge (which is why we are wiser to stay away from making such conclusions about the person).
Paul further reiterates Jesus' message about judging others by, first, pointing out the various evils that the people did (noted in Romans 1). He goes on to say, "They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too" (Romans 1:32, NLT).
Let's back up, though, to the beginning of Paul's letter. Note who he is speaking to, "I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people" (Romans 1:7, NLT). (Paul is setting up an argument here. The letter is to a group of Christians, and he is listing the particular sins of other people. I speculate that previously, this particular group of Christ's church had written to Paul regarding what these other people were doing wrong. Paul appears to know better...)
In Rome, just as in Greece and other cultures, there were fertility gods. That there would be a shrine for..."worship"...to these gods would not be unheard of. Basically, it made male and female prostitution a "holy" ritual. Deeper study into these cultures would yield that men often engaged in sex with other men as if they were women, becoming effeminate (the opposite being just as nearly, if not completely, true). They were literally acting as if they were women despite the obvious fact that they were men. Among other sins, in verses 26 and 27, Paul specifically mentions homosexuality: men and women who give up natural sexual relations with the opposite sex and engaged in sex with each other, lustfully.
Let's remember that the contents of the Bible was not originally written with chapters and verses in mind, so we ought to read the end of Romans 1 straight on through into Romans 2 without a thought-break. Paul is building up to something.
Then Paul begins Romans 2 and hits to the heart of the matter concerning judgment (in general; not about homosexuality, specifically, but not excluding it, either). Paul convicts the Christian Romans he is writing to: "You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" (Romans 2:1-4, NLT, emphasis mine).
Paul is equalizing the playing field here. The Christians he is writing to apparently had a certain attitude of moral superiority, supposedly because they had accepted Christ as Lord. Think of the stereotypical snob with his nose in the air. Paul put a halt to that really quick. He asks them to remember they, too, are guilty, as well, but God's patience and restraint was intended to give them time to repent. (Just read the Old Testament stories of the prophets and how God, for decades, gave the people time to repent.) This did not diminish the severity of the issue - sin was still extremely a sin - but God's understanding of human nature prompted Him to not enact justice immediately. Yet these particular Christians seemed unmoved by God's forgiveness and patience.
So what we see here, again, is not a call to never judge, but to judge righteously, without hypocrisy. Remember, as I just pointed out, Paul lists several various sins (in addition to homosexuality) in Romans 1, and then points out that the people who claim to follow Christ were also practicing the very things that they were condemning others for.
What's worse is that they were condemning others, as if they had the right to say that another person was absolutely going to Hell for their sins. This is no one's right to make a call on but Christ's. Meaning, based on the way a person lives their life, I might make a reasonable guess about a person, judging the fruit of their lives; that he is likely going to find himself in Hell after death, but in no way do I have the right, even as a Christian, to pass judgment on another person, even if it's to send them to Heaven. (Consider Matthew 7:16-18.) For I am just as guilty as any other person: I HAVE BROKEN GOD'S LAW. I can still rightly point out that what another person might be doing is wrong, but 1) I had better not be doing it myself, neglecting my own responsibility, and 2) I must not act in a manner of superiority or authority when God alone holds both.
It has been wisely summarized that the difference between the two types of judgment are discerning and sentencing. The former assesses and makes a conclusion, and the latter is an attitude of superiority. With God, He is superior. He is also perfect and sinless. We cannot say that of ourselves. Further, discernment is not to exclude humility. It does not neglect the fact that we, ourselves, are as guilty of sin as the person whose actions we are judging as right or wrong.
PART TWO: MADE IN GOD'S IMAGE
Now, I know that alone was long...but, again, I felt it is important to explain because of the sensitive and personal nature that the topic of homosexuality holds with so many people here. What I'm about to share next is, in no way, meant to pass judgment on others in a way that suggests they are worthless or not also candidates for Jesus' grace and mercy. What I will illustrate is why homosexuality is wrong according to the authority of God and His Word, the Bible.
The reason why is because of one simple fact: God set the standard in Genesis 1 on the sixth day of Creation.
Genesis 1:26-28b (NLT) reads, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us...' So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply...'"
We often hear that God made us in His image, but I find that many of us don't fully understand what "God's image" actually "looks" like. Let's try to imagine a world without gender for just a moment. Even though the Bible describes God as "Him" and "Father" - clearly masculine descriptions - God isn't actually a “man” or “male”. He is SPIRIT (John 4:24). Before creating Adam and Eve, there is no gender distinction; just God. After creating them, though, we see God makes a very clear distinction between Adam and Eve - male and female - but both are said to be made in His image. So, despite one being male, and the other being female, yet both have God's image, the only possible conclusions to be made are that: 1) God has no gender like we do, 2) God's image is not in reference to a gender, and 3) Our genders embody a portion of God's full image, or qualities of His nature.
That might seem like a lot to take in and process, so I'll try to break it down.
1) As I already referenced, John 4:24 states that God is spirit. Even though Jesus, in the same breath, mentions God as "Father", a masculine term, this isn't to say God is male, but to describe a quality of whom and what God is. A father is the leader of the home. He is the initiator, the protector, and the provider. And much more.
Did you know that most children these days struggle much more in life without a solid father figure to learn from? The father is also the main disciplinarian (not to be confused with abusive, but rather to be understood and loving instructor). Boys learn how to be men from their fathers and girls learn to feel valued and treasured, thus allowing them to find a husband of quality when they are older. God the Father is exactly all of this, and more for all His people.
There is certainly more than just that, but God's use of "Father" is meant to carry much, much weight and value behind it. It is difficult to understand in our culture (nay, the world) where fathers are extremely absent and fail to take responsibility as men, and further fail to teach their boys what true masculinity is all about. Suffice to say, we must learn to view God in terms of character, and not from our own perspective of gender. For gender suggests physical form, which God has none.
2 & 3) Since God is spirit, our image being made to reflect God's image must also be a spiritual image. Further, because we do have male and female people, it would stand to reason that the two different genders must embody different aspects of God's full image. How can we know this?
Let's go to Genesis 2 where the creation of man was explained in detail. As you read through Genesis 2, you'll see where God first creates Adam (man) (verse 7), and shortly later, Eve (woman) (verses 21-22).
Adam rejoices: “'At last!' the man exclaimed. 'This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called "woman," because she was taken from "man"'” (Genesis 2:23, NLT).
God said that is was not good for a man to be alone, and as a result, saw fit to create from the man (as far as Creation goes) a woman. He did not create another man from the man. Nor did He create a woman from a woman. This is extremely important to take note of for anyone who will use the Bible as support for why they are against homosexuality, or even for it.
Moses, the author of Genesis, points out right after Adam's celebration of Eve, "This explains why a man…is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one" (Genesis 2:24, NLT). This is where we get the phrase "one flesh" from. It's not just a physical reference to the fact that a man's penis powerfully fits into a woman's beautiful vagina (the “powerfully” and “beautiful” are reference to what they eachrepresent). There is a deep spiritual context here. When God blessed and commanded Adam and Eve (and all their male and female decedents) to become fruitful and multiply, the only way this could be done is through heterosexual union. Deeper, the only way to recreate the one flesh union is with one man and one woman. (To be clear, child-bearing is not the only intention God had in mind when He told Adam and Eve to have sex. Also, it’s clear that, at least due to the effects of sin, not all couples are able to have children. So sex must hold additional purposes lest God confines people to things they cannot hope to achieve. That just wouldn’t make sense for a logical God.)
We need to understand what this One Flesh union represents, though. One Flesh is when two separate beings come together, each with their inherent qualities embodied in their gender - in their being male or female - and recreate the image of God, who is - you may scratch your head when I say this - neither male nor female...and both male and female.
Here is what I mean. The spiritual qualities of God which He purposed into masculinity and femininity are "fused" together through sexual union for the purpose of glorifying God (because He is the one whom we are created in the image of) and for us to find joy and pleasure in who God is through the re-creative process of sex. It’s very much like experiencing who God is.
The qualities that define a man and that define a woman are all found in God. He is not just a man or just a woman, but He is the One who has all the qualities that we find in one or the other. So when a husband and wife engage in holy, sanctified sex, God blesses them by making sex a very unifying and pleasurable experience. For as God is good, it would naturally make sense that sex, which is the process through which God's image is recreated, is also good.
So when we talk about why homosexuality is a sin, hopefully it begins to make sense why it's such an abomination to Him. Because homosexuality - whether or not we're talking specifically about sexual relations - as a lifestyle practice suggests that two men or two women can recreate God's image...God's full image. That is just not the case.
Let me illustrate. Let's just say for the sake of simplicity that masculinity is strength and femininity is beauty (both of which the Bible describes as qualities of God). If you have two men engaging in a homosexual manner, it is being suggested that God is just strength; just one ugly, strong God. A jerk. (We're talking about ugly or beautiful character, and not looks.) Likewise, two women present the idea that God is just beautiful - a nice guy - but a wimp, lacking any initiative or power.
Do you see now why homosexuality is a farce in the eyes of God? This isn't about spreading hatred when a Christian (who is hopefully presenting the Bible's message with love even as he opposes the topic of homosexuality). To God, homosexuality is an insult to His character. It's an insult to God, Himself! It's literally saying that God is someone and something that He is not. It is a complete misrepresentation of His very being.
So when we present the message of the Bible, it's extremely important for both the anti- and the pro-homosexuality advocates to understand why the Bible is against LGBT lifestyles. You are created male or female for a very specific purpose, and your very gender is a direct representation of who God is. Just as God moves throughout our lives, He moves by using each of us to accomplish His goals. We cannot hope to understand or see those goals realized (in our own lives, at least) if we are busy promoting homosexuality as okay, and even ordained by God.
Let's not forget that the Church is the Bride of Christ. It's more than obvious that the Church is made up of male and female believers. Regarding His humanity, Jesus is obviously male. So when Scripture points out that there will be a union between Jesus and the Church (after the events of Revelation), this union again represents the full glory and image of God. (I would delve more into that topic in detail, but I simply want to point out how the Bible further supports the male and female relationship God intended for sexual unions and marriage.)
Before I bring this to a close, let me be very clear. I understand that there are extreme situations - like someone being born with either physical gender parts, or a man with very high estrogen levels, or a woman with higher-than-normal testosterone - and these present very difficult problems to deal with if we are to try to reconcile this entire ordeal of homosexuality and same-sex attraction, etc. The matter is even more complicated by the fact that so many species in the animal kingdom also engage in homosexual acts. How can we determine that homosexuality among humans is bad when it's found regularly elsewhere in life on this planet?
Let me reiterate that when sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, all of Creation, not just mankind, was affected. And through Adam and Eve, sin was passed down to each new generation, both spiritually, physically (ie: the planet) and genetically. Homosexuality is really no more different than any other sin in terms of ultimate consequences deserved (Hell), but it does carry far more critical impact in terms of our direct relationship with each other and with God. Paul made the impact of sin very clear, "Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse..." (Romans 8:22, NLT). That curse can be found in Genesis 3 when God punished Adam and Eve for disobeying Him and eating of the forbidden Tree (I'll let you read up on that account, yourself).
As has so often been said, let us not confuse addressing and condemning the sin of homosexuality with the right to judge the homosexual (the person). Intolerance of sin must never be delivered as an intolerance of the person. I hope that my (yes, lol, very lengthy) sermon here sheds some light on the matter.
May God bless you with understanding and grace. :)
In Christ, Michael