The Eternal Destiny of Many
Her Facebook status proclaims to the world, well at least to those who can read her status, that she is coming out. Another Facebook status proclaims, “I really don’t care what God says, if there is love in the relationship it’s okay to be gay.” The issue of homosexuality is one that is in the forefront of our relational world both personal and political. Too often the world’s perspective is loud and clear, but the Church has been silent in clearly proclaiming God’s Word on this difficult theme. A thorough discussion must include the world view, what Scripture says, a Biblical definition of homosexuality, and a well reasoned Christian response.
The world, and by world we understand a view that is formed apart from a Christian Biblical perspective, is suggesting to us that being gay is an inborn trait and therefore completely acceptable. While there is no scientific evidence that men desiring men and women desiring women is genetic, because those feeling exist in a certain portion of the general population, and because that lobby is very loud and powerful, we are being convinced that it is perfectly natural for men to desire men and for women to desire women. Not only is it natural, we are told, but because the feelings exist it is wrong to deny them. This philosophy, and it must be called a philosophy lacking any scientific or medical evidence, is growing in acceptability and seems to be fostered extensively by the homosexual lobby, by the secular educational community, and by religious organizations that consider themselves to be “Christian.” To be homosexual, they say, is a condition to be accepted and celebrated.
The words of Scripture tell a different story. The social commands God gave to the people of Israel assert “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22 ESV) and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them” (Leviticus 20:13 ESV). There is no round-about way to read the texts. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. The Hebrew word to lie clearly means sexual intercourse. The word for abomination means “a disgusting thing, abomination, or abominable.” These chapters in Leviticus are a list of sexual practices that are outside the boundaries for God’s people; and among them, the only one called an abomination is this one. The New Testament also speaks clearly to the practice of homosexuality. In Romans 1, it is a consequence of rejecting the divinity of God.
“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (1:22-27 ESV).
See the words “lusts of their hearts,” “impurity,” and “dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” These clearly have negative implications about the behavior resulting from exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” and in His place serving and worshiping the self, the creature. Notice also that “God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” Women exchange what God created to be the natural female sexual function (natural relations is an explicitly sexual term) for that which is contrary to nature. Placed into context with the next phrase it is clear that the natural is man to woman which is exchanged for the unnatural woman to woman. The following contextual phrase lists man to woman as natural. Men give up the natural sexual use of the woman’s sexual organs, the pudenda, for an unnatural sexual relationship, that of man to man. The words translated “committing shameless acts with men” might be better translated “doing things naturally done with a woman’s genitalia with men.” It is not that the sexual union of man with a woman is shameful (though it can be if it is outside of marriage), but that it is shameful for that act to be done man to man. The Romans passage continues with, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (32) implicating not only the practitioner but also the one who approves. 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 and 1 Timothy 1:9, 10 also list homosexuality among sins that result in eternal separation from God.
“Or 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” (1 Corinthians ESV).
“…understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (1 Timothy ESV).
In both passages the word homosexual means “one who lies with a male as with a female.” A plain reading of the Christian Bible must conclude with a clear understanding that sexual intercourse man to man or woman to woman is contrary to God’s created order, outside of God’s will for us, and will result in dire consequences, even eternal separation from God.
A plain reading of the Christian Bible will also reveal that the world’s definition of homosexuality is wrong. The world’s lie is that homosexuality is a condition into which the homosexual is born and therefore cannot be avoided and should even be celebrated. According to the world’s definition, a person can be “gay.” According to the world, a person is “gay” when he or she self identifies a desire for another person of the same gender, when he or she feels like he or she would rather be in a sexual relationship with someone of his or her own gender. Nowhere in the Biblical record is any leeway given for these feelings or this condition. According to the Biblical texts, homosexuality is a behavior apart from feelings or perceived condition. Homosexuality is the act in which a man lies in sexual union with a man or a woman lies in sexual union with a woman. God does not condemn our feelings (unless the feelings lead us to lust and lusting is in itself sin [“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Jesus in Matthew 5:28 ESV).]). What is against the nature in which God created us is and what is condemned is the act, and every act in which we willingly engage is a choice. By way of proof, consider the other acts that are condemned for example in 1 Corinthians 9:9, 10. “…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.” Because we are all sinners (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23 ESV]) it could be said that we all have in us the propensity to do any of these things. Does it follow then that we are all fornicators, that we are all idolaters, that we are all adulterers, that we are all thieves, that we are all “greeders,” that we are all drunkards, that we are all revilers, that we are all swindlers? These are not conditions that in themselves condemn us. They are acts of choice which when done deliberately in defiance of God’s will condemn us. How then, from a Biblical perspective, is it reasonable to label, or to self label, someone “gay”? The condemnation is on the act of a man lying with a man as though with a woman and by implication (see again Romans 1: 26) a woman lying with a woman as though with a man. So, it is not a condition that is condemned. It is a chosen behavior, an act, that is condemned. (NOTE: At the core of sinful humanity, it is our sinful condition that condemns us. But exploration of the sinful condition we all have, the condition that separates us all from God and requires His intervention, is not the subject of this discussion.) A homosexual (call it ‘gay’ if you will, but the evidence is that it is not a happy lifestyle), according to the Biblical definition, is not someone who feels a certain way. A homosexual, according to the Biblical definition, is someone who chooses in deliberate defiance to God’s Word to engage in the homosexual act. And note that the same condemnation awaits those who also agree that such an act of defiance against God’s will is acceptable.
A Christian response to homosexuality must then take into consideration the Biblical definition and Biblically proclaimed consequences of homosexuality. The Biblical proclamation is that sin is sin and that there is only one sin that is unforgivable. Because of the Levitical labeling (abomination) and the attention given to the lusting for same gender sexuality in Romans 1, the Church has often placed homosexuality in a special category of evil. The reality is that homosexuality is only one of many manifestations of behaviors contrary to God’s will. Deliberately saved for now in this discussion are the other words from Romans 1: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (28-31 ESV). There is no room for self-righteousness among the people of God. We ought to look carefully first at the log in our own eye before we worry about the splinter in our neighbor’s eye. Having said that, the Church does not love if it is not truly concerned about the eternal consequences of sin. It must stand firm in its prophetic word calling the sinner to repentance. The Church cannot adopt the culture’s definitions and mores nor compromise both law and gospel by being complacent in the face of sin. Love the sinner to repentance; hate sin and the lies that foster it. For those who have believed the world’s lie and have self identified with a perceived condition, it would be naive to suggest that the battle will be easy. No doubt the feelings can be powerful. But the fact remains that we all have feelings against which we must fight, and the fact remains that in essence the battle is the same for us all whether we battle tendencies toward homosexual acts or out of marriage heterosexual acts. The Christian word must be clear, however, that to chose to act against God’s will is sin, and continuing in deliberate unrepentant sin leads only to eternal separation from God. If we accept and believe that the Bible is God’s Word, then we must submit to it regardless of the feelings or perceived condition in which we find ourselves. The right response of us who would hear the world’s lies is to reject those lies. Then we must seek to be Godly people. We must commit to a life of purity, that regardless of the desires of our flesh we would act only in ways that are pleasing to God even if that means a life of celibacy. Apart from a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ it is impossible to act in a way that honors God. But because of the transforming power of forgiveness and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit it is possible to make decisions that honor God and honor His Word. We must come to the place where we either accept God’s Word and live by it or we deliberately reject God’s Word. Even from the world’s view, our integrity is at stake. We cannot be in both the world and in the kingdom of God at the same time. If we reject God’s Word, we do so; but let us do so with integrity, and let us do so firmly rejecting the consequences proclaimed in God’s Word. If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then let us do that with integrity. Regardless of the difficulties, regardless of the world’s message, regardless of our feelings or perceived conditions, let us honor God in lives that are pure and holy. Having confirmed our belief in Scripture and our desire to live in holiness, it may then also be necessary to find a cause for the feelings that deceive us. A part of the difficult journey we must travel may be to discover the source of the feelings and find victory over them. God has given us Godly counselors and support groups for this very purpose. It would be to our great benefit to find them.
The discussions around the nature of homosexuality can be and are very heated and emotional. We who hold true to God’s Word must not shy away from engaging in the discussion speaking the truth in love. We must know what the world believes, we must know what Scripture teaches, we must speak a Biblical definition, and we must respond with a clearly reasoned Biblical approach. How we address the discussion of homosexuality will affect the eternal destiny of many.