Same-sex relationships and Scripture
A talk prepared for a meeting of Changing Attitude
at St. Saviour’s Church, Guildford, 13th July 2005
Fifty years ago, in the unlikely event that such a title as "Same-sex relationships and Scripture" would ever have been considered for a talk, no doubt listeners would have thought at once of the noble and, it would not need to be stated, platonic love between Ruth & Naomi, or David & Jonathan, Jesus & his beloved disciple John, or Paul & Timothy. For generations these Bible stories were seen to be of noble relationships that were, if anything, perhaps of a higher order than marriage—unsullied by anything so base, even dirty, as eroticism or sex.
So when, in 2 Samuel 1:26 we read King David’s words, "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women", the ‘nobility’ of such words was appreciated in an age where sexual intercourse of any kind was only sanctified by marriage between a man and a woman. In any other context, sex was seen as inherently sinful by the Christian church. So whilst sexual intercourse was an obligation for married couples, to validate the marriage and ensure the continuance of the human race, in all other circumstances sex was something to be shunned. In such a prudish society people would instinctively censor David’s words of the remotest hint of erotic implications. Thus his feelings about Jonathan could be defined as ‘noble’ and ‘fine’, the assumption being that any hint of eroticism would make it something quite different and altogether unacceptable.
In his book ‘David’, published in 1909, the author F.B. Meyer saw the knitting together of Jonathan’s soul with David’s (1 Samuel 18:1) as ‘love at first sight’ and proceeded to eulogise about their love for one another in extravagant terms, quite unabashed, in a way that would cause derision today and prompt assertions of ‘homo-eroticism’. 1909 was a deeply conservative age, when views about sexual morality were such that most ordinary people simply did not think in terms where they might suspect erotic innuendo in such a close friendship (if my Grandmother’s memories are to be believed). Having said that, even as late as 1965 (in my lifetime), J. Oswald-Sanders described David & Jonathan's friendship as ‘love at first sight’ in his book ‘Bible Men of Faith’ (p.20), re-published by H.E. Walter in 1982. This publication appeared just two years before the Sexual Offences Act was passed decriminalising homosexual acts (in the UK).
For the today’s gay Christian man who has come to terms with his orientation and is unashamed of being gay, however, there is no awkwardness or embarrassment in considering the possibility that there may have been a homo-erotic element in David & Jonathan’s relationship. On the contrary, it becomes quite natural to recognise the potential affirmation of same-sex relationships in Scripture. But, be that as it may, such a thought remains highly offensive to many conservative Christians in the Church even today, in the early twenty-first century. Their view of homosexuality would no doubt be echoed in the words of one Bishop, as he put it to me some years ago, "If homosexuality is not immoral, then however do you define immorality?"
I am old enough to remember the days when homosexuality was spoken of only in hushed tones, most likely with reference to the kind of incident where ‘some pervert’ had been reported as soliciting for deviant sex in dark places where ‘decent people’ never go. Such people were to be despised and whisked off to prison, for the protection of society and as due penalty for their indecency. Perhaps there were some who would have pitied such people. As King George V, I believe it was, commented on hearing about a man arrested for importuning, ‘I thought men like that went out and shot themselves.’
Fifty years ago, in most people’s minds due to their almost complete ignorance about homosexuality, there was absolutely no connection whatsoever in people’s minds between gay sex and mutual love, tenderness, faithfulness, commitment and belonging. Homosexuality was all about buggery—believed to be the unmentionable sin of Sodom which courted the wrath of God. The notion of same-sex partnerships—that is to say partnerships characterised by mutual love and attraction, consummated by erotic intimacy, validated under the law as has happened with the legalisation of Civil Partnerships in 2004, would have been utterly unthinkable. Society has moved on tremendously in understanding these issues—and generally there is a more understanding and tolerant attitude today. On July 12th 2005, The Times (2) newspaper published a major article insisting that sexual orientation is fixed at birth, prompted by publication of the new book, "Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation", by Dr Glenn Wilson and Dr Qazi Rahman (published by Peter Owen). See www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article542811.ece
Forty years have passed since the change in the law decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults. Yet even now, in many evangelical circles, to associate the stories of same-sex relationships in scripture with homosexuality is a totally blasphemous proposition. It has to be said that some Christians grow in their understanding of life much more slowly than the society around us. Instead of being ahead in understanding and leading the way in changing attitudes, the Church lags behind society; in the words of a good friend of mine, ‘Yet again the Church has to be dragged backwards into the future, kicking and screaming all the way.’
Fascinating though it would be to study the lives and relationships between David & Jonathan, Ruth & Naomi, Jesus & John, the possibility of any of these relationships having a homosexual element can only ever be the subject of speculation—because the Bible does not tell us. My guess is, that it was not important because the issues of great significance in society then (where relationships were concerned) were to do with property ownership (women being no more than a man’s property) and the protection of vulnerable people—the most vulnerable being women and children. Therefore the primary lessons that could be learned from such a study are not going to inform us significantly about the Bible and ‘gay’ relationships—for that is really the subject of our study tonight.
Homosexuality and the Bible
Whilst, in the minds of many evangelical Christians, the Bible ‘clearly teaches’ that homosexuality is sinful and contrary to God’s created order, there are some who would argue that the Bible actually says nothing at all about homosexuality; the word was not even coined until about 1868—a term invented by Karoly Maria Benkert a psychologist who studied the phenomenon of same-sex attractions (the word "heterosexual" emerging 12 years later). So the biblical writers would not have known the word nor been aware of the concept of same-sex sexual orientation in the terms we recognise today, with the modern developments in understanding human psychology. However, during the 20th century, some Bible translators have used the word ‘homosexual’ as an interpretation of the Greek word ‘arsenokoitai’, in 1 Corinthians 6:9. However, the word used by Paul is not clearly understood, so use of the word ‘homosexual’ is speculative; it is not a translation.
This is not to say that the biblical writers would have been ignorant of the existence of same-sex love, which was often held in high regard in the Roman and Greek cultures of the day. However, the context of those times was that women had no rights and were regarded as lesser creatures to men—created by God for the purpose of giving birth to children (enabling the growth of the population) but not for relationships of equality with men. Whereas same-sex relationships, for instance in military societies where men bond closely together in situations of great danger and lay their lives down for one another in battle, could be regarded as profoundly honourable in their own right, being characterised by love and attraction, and not entered into to satisfy the need for descendants—sons especially— who would continue the family line. Besides, how could one have any sense of nobility or equality in love in a heterosexual relationship if women were believed to be inferior creatures to men? So there is nothing new about same-sex love relationships. But we owe our understanding of the concept of same-sex orientation to modern psychology.
Popular in the Church’s thinking before modern times was the use of the words ‘sodomy’ or ‘sodomite’ derived of course from the shocking story of the aborted attempt at gang rape in the city of Sodom just before God’s destruction of the city, as recorded in Genesis 19. From this context the Christian church has mostly held an extremely negative and condemning view of same-sex sexual activity, regarding all such acts to be subject to the judgement of God, and therefore criminally offensive in society.
The Transformation of Understanding in Modern Society
The idea of any potential validity in same-sex sexual relationships, indeed the very concept of committed same-sex partnerships (consummated by erotic love) is really very new in societies founded on a traditional Christian framework and ethos. As we consider the subject of same-sex relationships and Scripture, therefore, we need to recognise the context. First we must recognise that there have been staggering changes and new developments in society in the past century. To touch on just a few relevant changes let us remember that . . .
The status of women has dramatically changed, moving towards equality with men in almost every area of life today—even heralding the possibility of women bishops in the Church of England within the next few years. Yet the widespread availability and acceptance of education for women in schools only began just over a century ago. Prior to that only a privileged minority of women, whose parents could afford private tutoring, were given any education. Quite how, in past generations, a woman could be Queen and Head of State—one thinks for example of Queen Victoria who reigned for 50 years—whilst under-privileged women were not even considered worth educating—is a conundrum that I find difficult to get my head around. Yet this seemed to be a normal way of thinking to previous generations.
The change in status of women has dramatically affected our understanding of the nature and basis of marriage. No longer is a woman merely the property of her husband, entirely dependent on him and expected to produce children, with no rights over her own life. Today marriage is the union of equals, in which children are an optional extra. And in spite of the ongoing tradition in some Church weddings where a Father ‘gives away’ his daughter in marriage, most modern women make up their own minds who they’ll marry—whether Dad likes it or not. It is rare today to hear a woman vow to submit to her husband. Even if she did, I would be interested to know how this works out in practice?
The understanding of sex in marriage has shifted a long way in the twentieth century from being a function of marriage to enable conception and the birth of children, and therefore a duty to society that people had an obligation to fulfil in the days when the infant mortality rate was very high. Today, sex is seen as a means of bringing a man and a woman together in intimate relationship—a view which, as it developed in popularity, has enabled Christian people to accept the idea of birth control. We have completely forgotten what a staggering shift in understanding of the right place of sex in marriage had to take place before birth control could be accepted. After all, birth control is against nature.
The concept of sexual orientation, and with that the idea of taking a person’s sexual orientation seriously—as though it is something which matters—is very modern. Today, the ideal of a marriage, in which husbands and wives mutually desire one another, has become a defining issue as to whether a marriage is worth entering into. Few if any people in today’s Western society would marry purely for social reasons. There has to be a profound mutual attraction for a man and a woman to want to come together and stay together. So if someone is predominantly attracted to the same sex, it is better that this fact is known from the outset, so that men and women can enjoy friendship without romantic expectations.
Thus from our modern understanding of sexual orientation has come the logical development of wanting to publicly affirm committed same-sex partnerships.
And from this social development, has come the greatest likelihood of schism in the Church between those who hold to traditional interpretation of the Bible and modernists who have no difficulty in seeing that perhaps earlier assumptions as to what Moses and Paul meant in the Scriptures are not appropriate to what we understand today.
What is Homosexuality?
Though statistics vary considerably, at a fairly conservative estimate, it is probable that something like 96% of the population are naturally heterosexual, with 1-2% of men identifying as gay and another couple of percent as bi-sexual or at least admitting to having experienced some same-sex sexual activity in their lives. With the popular emphasis in some Churches today on ‘Family values’, in a society where promiscuity and increasing divorce rates seem to be threatening marriage and stable family life, homosexuality still appears, to some Christians, to be profoundly threatening.
No doubt this ideal of ‘family values’ being so threatened by homosexuality comes from the mistaken notion that the orientation is some kind of chosen deviance, that needs to be repented of, or something infectious that can be ‘caught’ like a disease, or contagious that may be ‘acquired’ from the unhealthy influence of others—like some kind of a bad habit.
If that were so, then perhaps homosexuality would be a threat. However, in my experience, both personal and more than 20 years of ministry, if homosexuality could be ‘acquired’ in any of these ways, then one must assume that heterosexuality might be similarly acquired, if one keeps company with the heterosexual people for long enough. Yet the assumption is not borne out in reality. In my own case, as a man who knew I was gay from about the age of 13, if there had been any way that I could find that would have relieved me of the crushing burden of being different and socially disapproved of—any means at all that would have enabled me to ‘change’ and become normal, according to the heterosexual model—then I would gladly have put my homosexual feelings behind me like a bad dream. But more than 40 years later, my sexual orientation has not changed at all, in spite of years of involvement in ‘ex-gay’ ministry, in spite of being married to a good woman, and in spite of having endeavoured to ‘do things the right way’ according to traditional Christian teaching. So I have had to seek God earnestly in prayer to better understand God’s perspective on the subject and study the scriptures for myself—again.
We still don’t really know how a homosexual orientation develops. Nor does anyone quite understand what electricity is, but we accept its place in our world as an essential source of power for modern life. But whether or not we ever fully understand the nature of homosexuality, the experience of a significant minority of people across all societies is that we are attracted to the same sex—as lesbian, gay or bi-sexual people—and whether we like it or not, those feelings do not go away.
If we share Jesus’ regard for human beings, made in the image of God, it is unacceptable for Christians to continue to maintain a prejudiced view against lesbian and gay people, preventing us from accepting and properly honouring commitment between two people who love one another and want to share their lives together.
But how can we go against 2000 years of Christian traditional understanding of the subject and the teaching of scripture that apparently prohibits the practice of homosexuality?
There was a time, before the ancient Greeks discovered otherwise, when men believed the earth was flat—but now we know it is not so. For centuries after Jesus ascended, many believed that the Bible taught that Earth is the centre of the Universe—so when Copernicus discovered that the earth was one of a number of planets which were centred on the sun, he was opposed by the Church, Luther and Melancthon among others, on Biblical grounds.
For much of the Church’s history, lending money and charging interest was believed to be an evil ungodly practice, based on the teaching of Scripture, yet it was Calvin, no less, who began to question this assumption. (See Andrew Goddard’s article on the Fulcrum website www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2006/20060205goddard.cfm?doc=84 ) Had he not done so, for all the evident evils of the practice of usury today, the development of modern industry would have been impossible, without investment of money—with interest being charged.
Homosexuality and the Bible Texts
So although, for many people, the idea of challenging traditional assumptions from Scripture goes against the grain, for those of us who truly love God and want to live our lives with integrity as committed Christians, who find ourselves to be lesbian or gay, we have to seek God for ourselves and look at the scriptures again. Here is a brief overview:
There are possibly five or six ‘proof-texts’ often quoted in arguments against homosexual relationships. To my mind, the most powerful yet least-quoted anti-gay argument of all comes from the book of Genesis, where it is clear that in the beginning God made us male and female and gave us the task of populating the earth. As even a child knows, without the union of man and woman, none of us would be here. So on the face of it, homosexuality must surely be contrary to God’s order of Creation.
Created male and female
‘The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."’
However, if they are at all like me, at some point in our life’s journey to understand ourselves, I believe that many gay Christian men and women are likely to have questioned the validity of their same-sex orientation and the pursuit of erotic same-sex activity. If we are made in God’s image—male and female—we have to honestly ask ourselves the question, "What can have happened to us that we should experience such a strong desire for intimate relationship with the same sex when we are born from the union of a man and woman?" When we have been brought up with traditional Christian teaching on the subject, the viewpoint we have imbibed is that this orientation flies in the face of God’s creation. But when we begin to study the Scriptures for ourselves, and allow God’s Word to speak to our hearts, we start to recognise that God’s first concern was for man to have a suitable companion (Genesis 2:18). Pro-creation was important of course, a factor necessitating an appropriately complimentary partner to make it possible, but clearly man’s need for companionship was God’s first priority.
Then Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19, which makes explicit reference to the Creation story, brings in some other fascinating considerations. When the Pharisees came to test Jesus out by questioning him on issues of divorce and remarriage, Jesus’ reply began by reminding them of the Creation account, asking "Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
At first it would appear that Jesus is simply confirming that heterosexual marriage is God’s created norm—no argument. But this passage becomes particularly interesting when you consider the context: because first of all Jesus uses the Genesis story to expose the Pharisees’ ignorance of the significance of God’s creation of a one-flesh union. He then goes on to expose their hardness of heart when they try to pull rank on Jesus by protesting that Moses allowed divorce. Furthermore, Jesus then makes adulterers of all those who have remarried, according to their understanding of the law, with the startling comment that remarriage is adultery. (And we’ll all remember the Pharisees insistence on applying the penalty for adultery. See John 8:3-11) Having momentarily silenced them, Jesus goes on to make this extraordinary observation (Matthew 19:11,12):
‘11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
Here Jesus gives dignity to eunuchs—men who were often despised because they were unable to marry for one of several possible reasons. In this passage, Jesus reveals that the importance of marriage and making a success of it is of secondary importance to seeking first the kingdom of God. Whilst the Pharisees’ over-riding concern appeared to be about ‘right teaching’, Jesus’ concern was about considering the well-being of people less fortunate than others, who can also be assured of a place in the Kingdom of Heaven when they seek it. Moreover, if one looks at the context of the whole chapter, you will see that immediately following this teaching (and also in the chapter before), Jesus welcomes little children saying that, (Matthew 18:3-4)
‘3 And Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."’
So we see from the words of Jesus that the most important thing for us is not that we marry heterosexually and support the modern notion of ‘family values’, but that we seek first the Kingdom of God. Our spiritual journey begins when we turn away from a life lived by our wits and ruled by our own agenda that demands personal autonomy, and put our whole trust and confidence in Jesus Christ as Lord. The logical deduction for the lesbian or gay person seeking God is that the direction of our sexual orientation and our choice of partner is not the defining issue for God, whereas our faith and trust in Him definitely is. The Church that splits over the gay issue has lost its way, but those whose concern is to make the Gospel known and to embrace within the Church all who put their trust in God, gay or straight, are those who fulfil the Great Commission. Having established that point, let us now go back over the Scriptures traditionally used to judge same-sex partnerships as wrong.
Sodom and Gomorrah
First of all, in the story of Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19), we see a deeply shocking account in which the men of the city wanted to rape two strangers who were visiting Lot. The fact that Lot regarded this as a wicked thing may credit him with godliness in some people’s eyes, though we conveniently forget that he offered his two virgin daughters to the mob, before the strangers (who turn out to be angels) took evasive action by striking their protagonists blind. It is often assumed, from a rather superficial reading, that God’s destruction of the City was a sign of divine wrath against homosexuality. However, not so many ‘Bible-believing’ Christians seem to remember Ezekiel’s explanation for the destruction of the cities, which makes no mention of homosexuality. In Ezekiel Chapter 16, 49,50 we read:
‘49 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.’
Perhaps there is a real warning in those words for us today, not so much because of the sexual immorality of our times, as for the greed of western nations and relative indifference to the suffering of men, women and children across the world who are hungry, sick and oppressed. The ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, began in 2005, is indeed a timely reminder to us of true biblical values that reflect the heart of God.
It is easy to recognise that if God’s wrath were being expressed against homosexual immorality in Sodom and Gomorrah, it was the result of a social decline that had lost all sense of respect for others or for any kind of personal boundaries, so that anybody vulnerable was fair game for gang rape, including a righteous man’s virgin daughters. But God’s wrath was clearly not aroused by the fact of this crime being homosexual as such.
The prohibitions in Leviticus
Then we have two references from Leviticus, chapters 18:22 & 20:13 that describe the practice of a man lying with another man as with a woman to be an abomination, or detestable. Most readers assume this to be referring to the practice of buggery. Here we have a specific law of prohibition for men. Some gay men might take the view that anal intercourse is therefore unacceptable, simply on the grounds that it is contrary to biblical law, maybe prohibited for all sorts of reasons; in modern times one may first think of health considerations, given the fact that unprotected anal intercourse is an easy way for serious diseases (such as HIV) to be passed on. However, few proponents of this law who are opposed to all same-sex sexual relationships on ‘biblical grounds’ would take the view that the practice of anal intercourse is wrong but be happy to accept, for instance, the practice of mutual masturbation. Because, in the view of many traditionalists, a relationship expressing commitment in intimate erotic terms is wrong by association with the idea of ‘natural’ male/female intercourse—whether anal intercourse is practised or not. Ironically, when anal intercourse is practised between men and women, this seems not to be considered so immoral—in poorer societies around the world for instance, where buggery in heterosexual form is commonly used as a means of birth control. Presumably the fact of it involving male/female participation makes it ‘acceptable’?
Here we have a classic problem: do we take the law at face value and feel exonerated if we keep to the letter of the law? So that gay men who stop short of practising anal intercourse can feel they are keeping on the right side of the law? Or do we interpret this more widely and teach that all acts that are homosexual in any way at all must be forbidden also? This is a big subject and the conscience of the reader who seeks God for himself will inform him. But suffice to say that this passage hardly speaks to the God-fearing gay man in terms that forbid sincere committed loving relationship even though it may, for some, prohibit one sexual act, that may be deemed undesirable or maybe unhealthy on medical grounds.
I have also noted, from many years of giving talks like this, that those who would insist that the law of Leviticus truly reflects divine wrath against gay men who have a loving sexual partner, often seem entirely ignorant of what else Leviticus might have to teach us all about living a godly life. For instance, we do well to note the law in Leviticus 19:33-34, which teaches:
‘33When an alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’
Clearly lesbian and gay people are regarded as the modern aliens in the Church today, judging by the staggering scale of controversy our presence seems to foment. So if the gay sex prohibition is that important, we cannot then ignore the fact that Leviticus has something at least of equal importance to say to us all today, about our treatment of aliens.
The most important argument for the Christian must surely to read the teachings of the Old Testament law in the light of the Gospel, which St Paul exalts in Romans 1:16,17 (ANIV)
"16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’"
For me, any argument over interpretation of the law has to take second place to the teaching of the Gospel—which is that salvation is by faith in God and made possible by what Christ has done for us, and can never be achieved through keeping the OT law. So the key issue (for me) is whether or not a lesbian or gay Christian’s conscience before God allows them to pursue a same-sex relationship.
In a debate I took part in a few years ago with a leading evangelical leader in the UK, I found so much common ground with him in arguing for the Gospel, that although we disagreed about the gay issue, I could not resist asking him afterwards, "So we are agreed then, that the Gospel is the most important issue here?", to which he replied, "Oh dear, did I really say that?" —knowing full well that if we are agreed on this point, then really nothing else matters. The gay debate is over.
One more point I must make, with regard to the teaching of Leviticus, which finally convinced me that gay relationships are not the subject of Moses teaching here is this: From Leviticus 18:6 onwards, note that Moses begins by forbidding a man to have sexual relationships with his mother, or his father’s wife (presumably another of his father’s wives in a polygamous society), or his sister, or any other close relation; nor must a man have sexual relationship with a woman during her menstrual period, or his neighbour’s wife, or with another man or with an animal.
There is a very great deal more that could be said here, but in the end, arguments over specific texts rarely convince people to change their minds over something they feel strongly about because of some personal antipathy or sense of disgust. The sense of ‘unnaturalness’ of homosexuality to heterosexual people is often the stumbling block. Yet few find any problem with the unnatural practice of chemical birth control. Fear and ignorance are surely the issue, not biblical texts.
New Testament prohibitions
Now we must turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter one. In the famous verses 26 & 27, Paul writes:
"26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
Here apparently, for the first and only time in the Bible, lesbian women get a mention. But looking at the context, we see that the whole thrust of the passage is Paul’s triumphant proclamation of the gospel—Romans 1:14-17
‘ 14I am bound both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."’
Then in verse 18 onwards, Paul goes on to describe the tragedy of what happens to those who refuse to trust in God or give him thanks, and turn to worship the creature rather than the Creator. Here we see that people have a choice which defines their destiny—that choice lies in whether or not we accept the true and living God, the Sovereignty of Christ—and put our trust in Him—or whether we live life according to our own agendas in defiance of God our Creator. This is where the confusion often arises—heterosexual people, men especially, simply cannot imagine why anybody in their right minds would want to have a sexual relationship with a man, when God created women. They therefore assume that anybody who does so must be perverse and deviant. The whole point here is that these people cannot imagine why someone would want a homosexual relationship. But when someone is prepared to listen to the real life experience of one who genuinely finds themselves attracted to the same sex rather than the opposite sex, and therefore desires companionship with the same, they may come to realise a different perspective. It is just a fact that some of us find ourselves wired differently; that does not come out of personal choice or perverse rebellious inclination—it is just the way it is.
When I was a boy and discovered ‘the facts of life’, I simply could not imagine why any man would want to put his penis into a woman’s vagina, or how any woman could allow such an extraordinary act to be perpetrated against her. It seemed to me to be so peculiar and so disgusting that for years I felt deeply ashamed to have to believe that I could have been conceived that way. Only when I began to discover love could I begin to understand why people might want to do such things with one another. Sooner or later, we all have to get over our hangups about the facts of life and accept reality in its real, less sanitised form.
Paul concludes his argument from Romans Chapter 1 (separated out into a second Chapter for some strange reason) by commanding us not to judge one another. I believe that the real issue here is not whether we are gay or straight or what exactly we get up to in bed with the one we love, but whether or not we are putting our trust and confidence in Christ and walking in His ways. And the way of Christ is to treat our neighbour with love and respect—as we would like to be treated ourselves. That is the defining issue. That is what distinguishes a Christian from someone who does not believe. And of course true Christians, who learn from Christ to love God above all and to love and respect their neighbour as themselves, do not allow themselves to become consumed with lust for someone of either sex—because that is dishonouring and abusive.
Most lesbian and gay people that I know, who have come to terms with their orientation, believe they were born that way—therefore in a sense created by God to be that way. There may not be abundant scientific evidence to prove that as a fact, but what ‘proof’ does one need when one’s whole life experience has been an innate attraction to the same sex?
The next relevant Scripture comes in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 6:9-11
‘9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’
Here we see Paul speak of a list of lifestyle choices depicting what some of the Corinthians believers used to be. The important thing to recognise here is that the common factor between all the sins listed is that they describe actions motivated by selfish self-interest at the expense of others. Whether it be adultery, theft, slander, drunkenness and whatever the Greek terms arsenokoitai and malakoi mean—translated in the NIV as male prostitutes and homosexual offenders. Clearly Paul believes that the lives of true believers are no longer be characterised by these acts of self-interest. Rather, true believers will experience a fundamental change to their values in life, as they seek to follow Christ. There is a similar passage in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Chapter 1.
Finally, what about those Same-Sex Relationships in the Bible?
Whilst heterosexual Christians who find homosexuality hard to understand, for the lesbian or gay Christian the stories of Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan, Jesus and John bring such inspiration. These were all stories of people who sought first the kingdom of God and lived by its values. From their example we can learn to do the same. (See Ruth 1:16-18; 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 1 Samuel 20; 2 Samuel 1:25,26)
Jeremy Marks, COURAGE
Originally prepared 13th July 2005
Revised and slightly updated, June 2008
Ref to "Born Gay" Times article, seehttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7-1689843_1,00.htmlwww.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article542811.ece