Rev. Thomas H. Trapp
Many mainline Christian churches are defending the homosexual lifestyle, but God’s Word clearly calls homosexuality a sin.
Never in the history of the Christian Church have avowed Christian congregations affirmed homosexuality as a God-pleasing lifestyle – until the late 20th century.
Today, more and more mainline Christian churches embrace homosexuality as an alternate way of living. A few years ago in Ohio, a sermon titled “Homosexuality is not a sin” was preached in a major Protestant church. The minister asked, “What does the Bible say [about homosexuality]?” “Not much,” he answered and continued, “Jesus says nothing about homosexual acts, nor do the four Gospels. Perhaps, in all Scripture there are only six passages that in any way deal with it. Yet, nowhere in Scripture does the Bible condemn homosexuality as it is understood or practiced today.”
Recently, in a Midwestern city, more than 60 church leaders (mostly Christian clergy) signed a document and publicly announced their support of gays and lesbians: “As Christian clergy we embrace gay and lesbian persons as our neighbors. From our reading of Scripture and from our pastoral experience, we believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that homosexuality is neither sickness nor sin.”
How can theologians defend and affirm the homosexual lifestyle? Two major reasons are given. First, people are genetically predisposed or sexually-oriented to be homosexuals; they can’t change. Second, theologians claim that Scripture never condemns the practice of homosexuality if it’s a “loving, committed, caring relationship.” The real reason for these changed beliefs is a shift in this century away from reliance on God’s Word to reliance in scientific findings and personal experience.
This article will speak to the theological reinterpretation of Scripture.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Theologians who support the homosexual lifestyles say the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not the sin of “homosexuality” but “inhospitality.” They claim that the Hebrew word yada in Genesis 19:5 (KJV “know,” NIV “have sex with”) should be translated “get acquainted.” “Bring them [Lot’s guests] out to us so that we can get acquainted with them” – that is, find out if they are a danger to our community. The sin of Sodom, pro-homosexual theologians say, was that the men of Sodom broke the ancient code of hospitality and started pounding Lot’s door down. True, yada can mean “get acquainted with,” but it can also mean “have sex with.” Context determines the meaning. If the men of Sodom only wanted to check out whether Lot’s male guests were intruders, then why would Lot offer these men the right to have sexual relations with his two daughters? This makes no sense. Lot’s terrible offer of his daughters was to satisfy their lust, not their concern for community safety (Genesis 19:5-8).
The context is clear that the men of Sodom wanted to sodomize Lot’s male visitors. While the men were undeniably inhospitable, they were also immoral. Jude 7 speaks of Sodom’s sins as “sexual immorality and perversion.” Such words are not used for sins of inhospitality, but homosexuality.
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22). Some pro-homosexual theologians claim that this Old Testament prohibition, along with all the other Levitical prohibitions against homosexuality, are only cultural-ceremonial laws that apply only to the Old Testament Jews and are not applicable today. But the sexual relations laws listed in Leviticus 18 are not just cultural and limited to Israel. They are moral laws (rooted in the Ten Commandments) that apply to everybody at all times.
God even holds the heathen accountable for such immoral practices because they have God’s natural law written in their hearts (Romans 2:14,15) and should know better. Moses warns: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways [including homosexuality], because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24,25). “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman . . .” still applies today. It’s part of the moral law, which Jesus came to fulfill.
Natural and Unnatural
Romans 1 states that “even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (v. 26,27). Theologians who support homosexuality state that Paul is describing here an “unnatural, reckless, careless type of homosexuality.” They insist these verses do not condemn a loving, committed, caring homosexual relationship.
This interpretation misses the whole point Paul is making. Whether the homosexual acts are “reckless” or “caring” has nothing to do with Paul’s message. Paul is talking about natural verses unnatural sexual relations. The reference to “natural” in Romans 1 does not refer to homosexual relations, but to the male and female relationship God created and established in Eden before the fall into sin. Paul is condemning any human behavior that goes against “nature,” that is, against God’s created order in Eden. He warns that even if it “feels natural” to desire a same-sex relationship, one’s feelings can be wrong.
Romans 1:18 asserts that we can “suppress the truth” and make sin feel natural. God’s Word alone can guide our feelings to a godly path.
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? . . . Neither . . . male prostitutes [Greek: malakoi] nor homosexual offenders [Greek: arsenokoitai] . . . will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). Pro-homosexual theologians contend that the Greek word arsenokoitai means “a lustful, uncommitted relationship.” That’s not true. The Greek word simply means “a homosexual; a male who lies [sexually] with a male.” Malakoi means “soft, effeminate” and is used to describe the female counterpart in a gay relationship.
A so-called “committed or uncommitted” relationship is not in the text. Just being homosexual, like being any kind of sinner, withholds one from the kingdom of God.
Jesus and Homosexuals
What does Jesus say about homosexuals? “Nothing,” pro-homosexual theologians respond. It’s true. Jesus never spoke against homosexual relations. Neither did Jesus speak against rape, incest, or bestiality. Silence does not mean Jesus approves of those activities. What speaks loudly, however, is Jesus’ statement on the only legitimate sexual union between two people — marriage between a male and a female. Celibacy, Jesus teaches, is the only godly alternative to marriage (Genesis 2:20-25; Matthew 19:1-12).
According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. “So is it unforgivable?” some ask. Homosexuality, along with robbery, drunkenness, animosity, and all sins, are destructive to one’s soul and one’s relationship with God. But they are also all forgivable.
They’re forgivable in Jesus Christ. “Repent,” Jesus calls to all of us, and he invites us to believe in him for forgiveness. He shed his holy blood in death on the cross for all our sins. That blood and only that blood washes us clean of any sin (including homosexuality) and brings us into God’s kingdom.
Pastor Trapp is a full-time campus pastor for Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel & Student Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.