Many passages in the Bible deal with issues of gender and sexuality, but none better than the story of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus on the issue of divorce in Matthew 19. The response Jesus gave answers many questions currently being debated about LGBTQ issues and how we can respond to them as He did.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had said that divorce was wrong, with the exception of adultery committed by one’s spouse, but Moses had allowed for divorce for several other reasons – this was the trap laid by the Pharisees. Deuteronomy 18:17-20 says that if anyone claimed to speak for God, but contradicted what Moses said, they were to be put to death as a false prophet. So, if Jesus responded that Moses was wrong, or that his take on divorce should be believed over Moses’, he would be stoned to death as a false prophet.
But if he had given in, saying, “Okay, Moses was right. I said the wrong thing in my Sermon on the Mount,” he would be branded a liar or compromiser. No matter how he answered, the Pharisees were sure they had Jesus trapped. However, instead of choosing one of two ways, Jesus takes them back to the Garden of Eden and God’s created order in Genesis 2. And that is exactly where we should go to find the biblical basis for almost every gender and sexual issue today.
The Reality of a Post-Genesis 3 World
Having heard Jesus’ view of God’s unalterable design for gender, sexuality, marriage and family, the Pharisees re-double their questioning saying, “Why then did Moses command a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” In Jesus’ answer, we find something the evangelical church of our day has missed. He said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not that way from the beginning.”
Notice the words, “But it was not that way from the beginning.” What is he saying? There was no divorce in Paradise. Before Adam and Eve fell into sin, there was no hardness of heart. Had Adam and Eve not eaten the forbidden fruit and taken us down with them, sexuality, gender, marriage and family would have stayed healthy, as God designed them to be.
A Genesis 2 Life is Never Easy in a Post-Genesis 3 World
Foiled, the Pharisees slink away. But Jesus goes on to make another observation about our post-Genesis 3 world. He says something strange and hard to understand, but critical for responding to LGBTQ issues today. Matthew 19:12 says, “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice these two phrases – “Some are born eunuchs” and “some are made eunuchs by others.” Common in biblical times, eunuchs were emasculated men who guarded the harems of kings. They are, by every definition, sexually dysfunctional or could more broadly be considered asexual. For those who cannot find it in themselves to function sexually or gender-wise, according to Genesis 2, we can consider them something like a eunuch. Jesus defines the cause of their sexual dysfunction in three categories:
1. “Some are born that way.” The fall of humankind into sin has corrupted everything. That’s why some people are born with genetic imperfections, mutations or deformities including Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, or being born a hermaphrodite. So, why do we find it hard to believe someone who says, “From the time I was a child, I felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body.” Or, “As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself be attracted to the opposite sex.”
Sexual dysfunctionality can be a result of genetics stemming from our fallen and imperfect world. So, is it possible for a gay person to say with truth, “I was born that way”? Maybe it is. Although Jesus adds two other reasons for sexual dysfunction.
2. “Some are made that way by others.” In the most graphic reality, ancient kings had boys or grown men castrated in order to guard their harems without sampling the wares. But there are many ways that people’s sexual and gender identities are shaped by others.
A Cambridge University study discovered 80% of homosexual men had either a non-existent or bad relationship with their father. A high percentage of them had their first homosexual relationship with an older man, and most had engaged in more than a hundred different sexual relationships. Many of these men were looking for the fatherly love they never had.
Studies in the lesbian community reveal that many of these women were sexually abused, molested, or even physically or emotionally abused by men when they were girls or coeds. The number of women who were previously married to men coming out as lesbians after negative or unfulfilled experiences with their male partners is rapidly growing.
How many children will experiment with alternative sexual and gender lifestyles because of what they are being taught about LGBTQ issues in the classroom or by those who glamorize alternative lifestyles? How many kids have grown up believing they were gay, lesbian or the wrong person in the wrong body because parents or peers have bullied them into thinking so with remarks like, “You’re so gay,” or, “You’re a little sissy girl.” How many children have been sexually molested by a same sex person, so that they mistakenly think they are gay or lesbian?
3. “Some make themselves that way.” Jesus says, for some, becoming a eunuch is a choice. Similarly, I believe that many young people today choose to make themselves sexually dysfunctional (not conforming to God’s design). How else can we explain that 15% of Gen Z’s now identify as LGBTQ, or that 48% of U.S. teens do not identify as fully heterosexual? Was there suddenly a gay, bi-sexual, or transgender virus that struck our young? More likely it is the new “cool.”
People used to say, “Why would anyone choose to be gay, and set themselves up for so much pain?” Not so anymore. There are increasing stories of teen girls engaging in lesbian sex because it is “fun,” “pleasurable,” and “safe sex, without the danger of pregnancy or STDs.” As long as LGBTQ lifestyles are glamorized, we should expect to see more people choose to make themselves sexually dysfunctional.
Jesus gives us two facts to hold in tension. We must embrace the Genesis 2 teaching about God’s design for sexuality, which gives us our convictions. But we must realize that we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. That should give us a deeper understanding, empathy, and compassion for those who are mired in sexual dysfunction. Like Jesus with the woman taken in adultery, we must be able to say at the same time, “…neither do I condemn you…” and “…go, and sin no more.”