Is Homosexuality a Sin and Why Does it Matter? — Part 2

Is Homosexuality a Sin and Why Does it Matter? — Part 2 April 11, 2013

Westboro-Baptist-Church

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*There’s a lot to say on this whole subject, and it will take many posts. Whatever question you have, we’ll probably get to and if not, feel free to email me at FreedHearts@gmail.com.

Our family friend Nathanael (name used with permission) messaged me yesterday this summation of where we stand right now.

“The anticipation is pretty thick. I don’t know how easy either resolution can be. It seems to me that you have three options but only one can be true… 1. it’s sin, 2. it’s not sin, or 3. become a relativist. The last of these has far greater repercussions than the former two. Wherever you land, I’m sure God will use it for His glory, and I’m sure your love will come through.”

Great summation, Nathanael, and you got the options almost right. Let me just tweak it: 1. It’s a sin, 2. It’s not a sin, 3. It depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Now, this is not just wordplay but a serious distinction – and you’re right that option 3 has huge repercussions. Much of the church would also have stated option 3 as relativism, to do what is right in our own eyes. This is certainly scary – scary like someone saying, “To me, God is a tree” – and we like to think we must hold tight to black and white to prevent that kind of relativism, and unless we teach rules first and foremost, we are just asking for sin upon sin. But I’m not talking about doing what’s right in our own eyes (the very definition of sin); I’m talking about following the Holy Spirit. Completely different. For instance:

Worshipping false gods in the Bible is very serious. One of the Big Ten. Naturally, eating meat that has been sacrificed and dedicated in worship to idols is a serious breakage of that rule. Yet, Paul says, “If your conscience is not pricked about eating that meat, don’t worry about it.” What?? This is huge! Sounds like relativism, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul says the Holy Spirit will convict you or not, and he talks about these things in the context of disputable issues. That means that these issues are being disputed – not clearcut right or wrong. The issue of homosexuality is being disputed too – by sincere, God-honoring people on both sides. To people who are sure the Bible condemns homosexuality, to even look at it anew seems heretical. But we are talking about a very few verses in the Bible – 6 or 7 depending on the interpretation — which have a context around them of promiscuity, sex with children, and temple prostitution. Those are different from longterm committed same-sex relationships, which are not really listed as a concept in the Bible. On that distinctive the Bible is, in essence, silent.

Sorry, I didn’t make it up. I’m just telling you about it.

Idol worship is mentioned more than 100 times in the bible, compared to the 6 or 7 that mention any type of homosexuality. That is a radical difference. Radical. Yet, few people today stand around with signs saying, “God hates idol worshippers” and “Idol worshippers are going to hell.” You see what I mean?

This attention to hearing God’s leading instead of seeking clearcut rules is throughout the Bible. (More in another post.) Relativism means, “To me God is a tree.” Or, “To me, it’s okay to have an affair on my wife because I really want to.” The leading of the Holy Spirit means, “In this case, Moses, you should hit the rock to get water from it; in this case it’s a sin to hit the rock because I (God) told you only to speak to the rock.” Same God, same Moses, same action – one’s a sin and one’s not. The bible is all about the leading of the Holy Spirit We can hardly fathom the implications of Paul’s words: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.” Titus 1:15. He is vehement about rules being the completely wrong way to go about godliness. “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2:23.

Let’s look again at our three options: 1. It’s a sin. Many gay Christians feel convicted that homosexual behavior is a sin. They’ve read the verses, they’ve prayed, they’ve sought counsel – and they believe that to engage in homosexual activity is wrong. The options they see open to them are celibacy or for God to change their attractions. (Change in attraction is a topic for another post.) For Christians who are convicted that homosexuality is a sin, to them it is a sin. (NOTE: This is individual conviction, not license to “convict” others.) [To try to convince them it is not a sin would be to stumble a brother.]

2. It’s NOT a sin. Many gay Christians believe homosexual behavior is not a sin.  After careful study of relevant verses and prayer, they do not feel convicted about homosexual behavior. For Christians who are convicted that homosexuality is not a sin, to them it is not a sin. (How can we accept the Spirit’s leading on the 100-plus references to idol worship, but not the 6-7 references to homosexuality? In any authentic inquiry, you must go where the evidence leads.) [To tell them it is a sin is to judge another man’s servant.]

3. It depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit. I realize to some Christians this feels like throwing acid in their face. I didn’t make it up; the Bible is replete with this teaching. Also, I don’t apologize, because Jesus’ words felt like acid in the face too. We’ll talk about this more because it’s absolutely huge, but Paul clearly tells us that if our conscience is not pricked, then we are good to do what we believe is right. (Particularly in disputable issues.) “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” Romans 14:14.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3

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  • Thank you for posting this. (I was totally out-of-pocket yesterday.) It is really well done. It shows that this is indeed a disputable issue, it is not the clearcut issue many Christians think it is.

  • Thank you so much. What a great post. I love that it’s not our job to clean up the fish. So well said. Just throw em on-deck and let Him handle it! Blessings.

  • It’s so good to read another loving space on the web! Im struggling with some of the doctrinal points expressed here though.

    EG the claim that St Paul “is vehement about rules being the completely wrong way to go about godliness”, while citing Colossians 2:23. I see validity in the claim to some extent, but not to the extent proposed. Certainly Paul is seen in this chapter as saying that some rules about the supposed sins that he lists, are “based on merely human commands and teachings” (verse 22) and lack some value (verse 23). But elsewhere, St Paul seems to regard some other rules as being solid. For example, in Colossians 3:9-10, where he writes “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Here he seems to me to be saying that not lying, is just part of being a Christian, ie that it’s a rule. My conclusion then, is that some doctrines are up to an individual’s conscience (eg dietary doctrines – as per Romans 14) and some are hard and fast (eg not lying – as per Collosians 3:9). What do you think? I think this is important, because seeking to primarily follow the Holy Spirit, seems hit and miss. There are spiritual people alive today, who believe that God has told them all sorts of things, and the beliefs of many of these people contradict each other. For example, members of Westboro Baptist Church will apparently tell you that their church is the one authentically Christian church, and meanwhile there are others who say the same about their own church and that God has told them so. Im quite happy to accept that God’s Holy Spirit does guide and teach people, but my pastor told me that in order to avoid being led astray (2 Cor. 11:14, 1 Tim. 4:1), you should only trust a leading if it correlates with what the Bible teaches. IE if you feel the Holy Spirit is telling you to lie, then it’s probably not the Holy Spirit that you are hearing. Does that sound sensible?

    Another element I struggle with, is the advice that Christians should not judge or influence another’s behaviour. EG the bit that states “To tell them it is a sin is to judge another man’s servant” and the bit that states “… and it is His job alone to judge, instruct, and intervene” and the bit that states “Let us not add behavior to the mix when Jesus didn’t tell us to”. It seems to me that Jesus did care about behaviour. EG in John 8, he told the woman caught in adultery to leave her “life of sin”. And it seems to me that Jesus did tell his follows to instruct people. In the great commission of Matthew 19, he is quoted saying “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And it seems to me that the Bible does call Christians to judge, although the doctrine of judgement is a tricky one, because on the one hand Jesus said “judge not …” (Mat. 7:1), but on the other hand he said to “judge correctly” (John 7:24). Also Christians are not supposed to judge non-Christians. But various Scriptures tell Christians to encourage other Christians to be holy (Gal 6:1-5, James 5:19-20, Titus 1:13) rather than ignoring the sin. Those who cite Matthew 7:1-4 to claim that Christians should not point out the sins of other Christians, tend to ignore verse 5, which encourages us to help other Christians avoid sin. So it seems to me that the Bible portrays our ‘judging’ as being a bad thing if it’s hypocritical or mean-spirited or directed at the sin of non-Christians, but portrays it as a good thing if it’s a well intended, helpful, loving encouragement of a fellow Christian to improve. What do you think?

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response! I grasp more of your rationale now, and I see wisdom, eg in your parenting illustration, and I think you are spot on correct by writing that Christians “are to influence each other’s behavior, but more as encouragers than policemen.”

    I think there are times when acting as policemen is appropriate, eg following in the footsteps of Jesus throwing the retailers out of the temple (Mat. 21), but I think that policing is the exception and I agree that the church is not supposed to be an uncompassionate police state.

    Im still not entirely comfortable with the interpretation that St Paul is simply “vehement about rules being the completely wrong way to go about godliness”, and that it’s better to just follow to where we feel the Holy Spirit leads us. I do see your point that Jesus is presented (at least at times) as being more enthusiastic about a follower’s faith than about their following of rules (EG your Luke 7 illustration, and in regards to Pharisees), but I suggest that it’s also clear that he still considered rules to be important (Mat. 5). I suggest that Jesus criticism of the rule-following Pharisees was that they took godly principles, put specifics on them and made them legalistic, so that they ended up serving the rules rather than having the rules serve/help the people (Mark 2:27). But it still seems to me that Jesus still proclaimed and affirmed various rules, in the form of principles, which he expected his followers to obey. Would you agree with that?

    Yes we see that Westboro Baptist Church are whacked. But how is it that this is clear to us? I suggest that the reason it is clear to us is because they have broken some Biblical rules/principles (rules of love). The rules are indicative of when we are off track.

    I think you are right that when Peter was told to vary from his Jewish scriptures, that would have been quite challenging for him to know whether it was God speaking to him. But what Jesus said to Peter was simply in line with what Jesus had taught others previously (Mat 15:11), so Peter should have been able to verify the vision against what Jesus had taught in the flesh. Im not aware of reasons to believe that Hosea being told to marry a prostitute was necessarily a contradiction to Jewish doctrines. Certainly Jews were warned that prostitutes were a temptation (Proverbs 23:27-28), and a cause of the squandering of wealth (Proverbs 29:3), but surely that was about the sexual services on sale rather than about the person offering those services? And Hosea effectively married an ex-prostitute, rather than someone who was going to continue to offer those services (Hosea 3).

    We are free to hold our own interpretations of Scripture. But the more I read from you, the less distance I feel between our positions. So having written the above, are we even closer? Do you agree that God does expect Christians to follow the principles outlined in Scripture, and that departures from these, even if attributed to the Holy Spirit, are rather questionable?

  • Nice videos!

    Yep, I think I get you. I think you are saying that the principles behind the rules (eg truly caring for the elderly woman) can be more important than the specifics of the rules (giving her dinner, meds etc), and that if we rest in him, he will help us achieve the intention behind the rules.

    Perhaps I just get confused by the emphasis of some of your phrasing, eg “Rules do not have any power to bring about goodness.” Do you really believe that they have no power to bring about goodness? Or are you exaggerating in order to make your point? I mean, serving the elderly lady dinner surely is an act of goodness. I recognise that as you say, the level of goodness could be much higher, but surely serving her dinner is more of an act of goodness than leaving her hungry?

  • Glad you liked the videos! Thanks.

    I’m glad this is making more sense. I see your question. Yes I said it for effect and no I didn’t exaggerate! Ha. Look at Romans 5:20-21. “20God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (RSV)

    The purpose of the law [rules] is to show us how sinful we are; the law does not make us obey, it just shows us whether we obey. The POWER to obey comes from “God’s wonderful grace” which gives us right standing. So to care for the older lady (in the example) from God’s power in me is much higher motivation — and ability — than to keep some rules.

    Romans 8: 6 says: “For to set the mind on the flesh [human ability] is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

    Wow! A focus on the rules, my ability, cannot please God! But then it continues: “9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Ah! There we go. When I have accepted Christ and now the Spirit of God dwells in me, then I’ve got real power — His power! I can pretty much throw the rules away — really — because His power is life-giving and will accomplish the rules incidentally as it does so much more through me! We like to supplement His power with our power, don’t we? But He says, grab hold of Me, keep your hands and feet inside the car, and get ready for a joyride! It’s better if I don’t stick my foot out and try to help.

    I will continue to write about this — hang in there! I began this journey of understanding “Christ in me the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) (instead of ME in me the hope of glory!) some 13 years ago. It will make more and more sense. :)) If you comment again, please make a new comment, so it will give more room to write. Best to you!

  • Yea some of the critical analysis of that video has been very in-depth http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=5086

  • Susan, youre absolutely right that these things should be considered. God wants us to use our brains, to seek after knowledge (Pr. 18:15) and to reason things through (Is 1:18, 1 Pet. 3:15).

    But the exact opposite of being dismissive of new arguments, is to sit on the fence. Sitting on the fence is of course fine while investigating a matter. But it’s rare for it to be a good long term position for a serious matter. And the Bible suggests that the topic of gay sex is a serious matter. It’s not a matter that the Bible presents as being a controversial doctrine, where there is room to move. If most modern translations of 1 Timothy 1 are correct, then it would seem to state that like a variety of other specified sins, it’s a matter that can cost people salvation itself.

    Sure there is a small element of uncertainty in various relevant Scriptures. But that’s Christianity. There is a small element of uncertainty about whether God would affirm every single thing St Paul says in his epistles. There is a small element of uncertainty about whether the Catholic penchant for religious statues is a violation of the commandment against graven images. There is a small element of uncertainty about whether the average American Christian is too rich and materialistic compared with the majority of the world, to compliant with Jesus’ teachings about wealth. But we take these elements of uncertainty and weigh them up, and go with what’s likely. In terms of the question of whether gay sex is sinful, Id suggest the evidence is far from a murky 50/50. The collective weight of all the relevant scriptures, is quite high.

    PS – Im not claiming that it’s a particularly heinous sin, but rather just one of the many many sins presented in Scripture.

  • Thank you, Lamar!