Monday, April 29, 2013


"For though I am free from all, I have enslaved myself to all, that I might win the more.  And to the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews.  To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law -- though not myself being under the Law-- that I might win those under the Law.  To the lawless I became as lawless -- though not being lawless toward God, but under the Law of Christ -- that I might win the lawless.  To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all, that by all means I might save some.  And I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I might become a fellow partner of it" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Paul was not a hypocrite.  Because he was moved by a genuine love for Jesus Christ and for his fellow human beings, he did everything he could to bring the two together.  He did not fake it; he attempted to put himself in the place of the other in order to introduce that person to Christ.

And this is important -- he sought to become like them, not to make them become like him.

In my previous post I wrote a rather cursory review of the book Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin.  I mentioned the fact that the book convicted me in a number of areas.  I also said that I plan to write more on these and related questions from both a personal and a biblical view.  I am attempting to do so on this post.  (I am also keeping in mind the comments on that post.)  The dashed quotes are from that post.

-- "First I need to ask myself what I have done to erect barriers that would prevent me from relating to GLBT people, and to attempt to remove those barriers."

I confess that I have at times erected barriers, although sometimes unwittingly.  Though I long ago dropped any perceived derogatory labels, I'm told that though gay people don't mine the word homosexuality, they do not like to be called homosexuals.  Sorry, I didn't know that.  Labels change; we've seen it with racial labels.  I try not to use labels of any kind unless necessary for understanding.

I also confess that while I have tried to avoid being political about these issues, I did vote on the definition of marriage amendment when I lived in Texas.  I saw it at the time as a defense of the definition of marriage.  I suppose I also was seeking a point of agreement with my right-leaning Christian friends.  I see now that it is perceived as a denial of rights to gays.  I have evolved and would vote otherwise today.

-- "Many of the principles that Marin presents for relating to this one group of people are applicable across the board for relating to any group.  I need to adopt many of these in all of my relationships and ministries."

Again, I have to confess that while I have sought to apply many of these principles and methods across racial, ethnic and religious lines, I have failed in doing this across the line of sexual orientation  Perhaps one reason may be that I don't have many gay acquaintances; or perhaps I do, but my perceived lack of compassion has prevented them from letting me know.

-- "I need to rethink the whole theological and biblical basis for my position on homosexuality.  Am I interpreting and applying correctly the Scriptures that deal with these issues?"

Marin in his book has a whole long chapter (chapter 7) entitled, "The Big 5" in which he brings up five passages of Scripture that are perceived as barriers between Bible believing Christians and the GLBT community.  As I said previously, "His principles of interpretation leave one wondering what they (the Scripture passages) do say."

I believe these passages cannot be avoided; nor can they be interpreted away.  They must be dealt with, though not to erect or remove barriers but as expressions of God's thoughts on the subject.  I will not attempt here to thoroughly exegete entire passages, but to place them in what I perceive as their biblical and cultural context.  Nor will I, in this post attempt to deal thoroughly with all five of the passages referred to.

The Scriptures referred to in the book are:

Genesis 19 -- the Sodom and Gomorrah story.  The traditional understanding -- both Christian and Jewish, is that Sodom's sin that warranted its destruction was homosexual behavior (the origin of our English word "sodomy").  I now recognize that there's much more to the story than that.  I will need to devote a whole post to this at a later time.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 -- the part of the Holiness Code prohibiting same sex behavior and prescribing its punishments.  This is part of a much larger code dealing with various sexual behaviors.  These laws are only a few of the 600+ laws enumerated in the Mosaic Law (Exodus through Deuteronomy).  While I believe many of the prohibitions are valid today, not all are.  We must remember that the Law was given, not as a perfect expression of God's will, but as a system of regulating the behavior of a redeemed but very sinful people.  And it was given to one nation only, the nation of Israel.  So I believe its regulations must be interpreted from a New Testament perspective.

The remaining three passages are in the New Testament and do have a direct bearing on our understanding of the issues.  I'd like to deal first with the one that seems to be the greatest barrier:  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 --  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the  covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

As Marin says, "Gays and lesbians read this passage and feel that Paul is telling them that all hope to inherit the kingdom of God is lost" (page 130).  But does it really say that?

A look at the context shows that Paul was dealing with his readers' behavioral problems.  It is clear that he assumes that they are "saved" people.  In the first chapter he refers to them as "saints" (verse 2), "the called" (2, 9, 24), "brothers" (10) -- "blameless" (8).  So he is not in this passage referring to their final destiny, but to their present behavior. 

He is telling them that this list describes what they were before they came to Christ.  And he reassures them that these nouns no longer describe what they are at present.  They have been "washed," "sanctified" and "justified."

All of us can find ourselves on this list, not just those called homosexuals, and if we're honest, we still behave in these same ways, even after conversion.  But God sees us as new creatures in Christ.  This passage is not a threat, but a plea -- a plea to bring our behavior into conformity with who we are.

Do we fail?  Of course.  Paul's whole letter to these saints was written to deal with their failures, based on who they -- we -- are, not on labels that we or others may place on ourselves.

Romans 1:26, 27 is another passage that must be read in its entire context, verses 18-32.  As Marin points out, "God did not give them over because they had same-sex attraction" (page 128).
Paul in Romans 1, begins his argument for the necessity of justification by faith, by pointing out that God’s wrath “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (verse 18). The reason for this is given as the fact that man has rebelled against the knowledge of God which man has in natural revelation and has suppressed what truth of God he has. This led to a downward spiral in man beginning with idolatry and ending with “a mind incapable of correct judgment” (adokimos, verse 28). This is a historical picture of the human race, though this same movement can be seen in nations and cultural groups and even in individuals. The downward trend is punctuated by the use of the phrase “God gave them over,” three times (verses 24, 26, 28). This phrase may indicate three steps in the process, or three views of the same judicial action of God. If I may restate the process:

-- Man had a knowledge of God through natural revelation (1:18b-21a).
-- Man rejected this knowledge of God and designed his own religion (1:21b-23).
-- God, in judgment of man, handed him over to total depravity. This is described as “impurity” (verse 24a), “degrading passions” (verse 26a), “a mind incapable of judgment” (verse 28b).
-- This depravity resulted in all sorts of perverse activities, described as: the dishonoring of their bodies among them (verse 24b);  “things which are not proper” (verse 28c).
-- The final result is a character described as “being filled with all unrighteousness” (verses 29-32).

While it seems clear that homosexual behavior is condemned here, there are enough sins listed to include us all.  Paul's aim is not to make us hopeless of salvation, but to show us that our only hope is in Christ and His work on the cross -- NOT in our own "righteous" behavior.

As we're told in 3:23 and 24 "... all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."  It is "to all who believe for there is no distinction" (3:22).

1 Timothy 1:9-11, like the previous passages, gives a list of sins, including homosexual behavior.  And I believe that like the 1 Corinthians passage above, it describes what we were, not what we are.  As Paul saw the Law's use, it was not given as a way of life or those who are in Christ, but to point out to people their need of Christ.

-- "I need as always to ask, what would Jesus do?"

This has been my goal for many years, and I have attempted to ask this question in most relational and ethical situations.  I must again confess though that it hasn't always been the first question I asked, and I haven't always lived up to it.  I've written on this frequently elsewhere.  (See:  A STEP IN FAITH 10/9/09)

Every one who knows Christ comes to Him as a sinner  The list of condemned behaviors given in these passages includes all of us.  The person who comes to Christ by faith, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is completely forgiven, justified, saved.  And every one who knows Christ still struggles with behavior and temptation.  And we all fall back occasionally.

Our evangelistic efforts toward gays or lesbians, should not be to convert them to straightness, but to bring them to faith in Christ.


Bill Ball said...

I received the following comment by e-mail:

bill, i think you are coming very close to calling evil,good and visa versa.
the problem with wearing two hats,one as a teacher of the scriptures is that you might becomming dangerously close to one described in jude. this book is seldom taught today however it is written to true christians in times of apostasy.
i don't ever remember you talking this way before.
even lot was tormented in his soul by these things.
w w j d? the scriptures are clear, he will return for those who have believed and he will return with a sword.

Bill Ball said...

I also received this comment by e-mail. She told me to sign it from a fellow apostate."

I loved your articles on homosexuals and look forward to more. This subject is so important to address since the pulpit preaches so much on this one sin (and I’m not one, so I can check it off my list and consider myself a good little Christian, tongue in cheek). I just read another good book on the subject “God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door” by Alan Chambers who used to be in that camp but got out. And I have a friend at my former church who was in that lifestyle for many years (though already a believer). But God was working with her and she eventually wanted His will more than her own. I was also out of the will of God for several years with other sins. But, like my friend, fell in love with Jesus again and got back into the Word of God. So I would like for you to think about this on future posts: Is there anything that we could say to those believers who are in that lifestyle? Loving as Jesus loves us and prayer is the only thing I can think of. Should I send my gay friends/acquaintances your post?

Thanks to both of you (I know Uni is helping) for posting some subjects that cause me at times to want to disengage from the church since I often don’t think like they do.

Bob McCollum said...

Hi Bill,

Have a friend who believes we're so concerned with the sins of the world because we want to make it a bit more palatable and eat our share. Hmmm.

Seems clear we're supposed to live as becomes citizens of heaven, but I can't see where we're to demand reform of those around us--except by example and prayer.

Saw a cartoon the other day where Snoopy and Charlie Brown are holding hands, jumping up and down, and screaming, "What if today, we were just grateful for everything?"

Sounds right to me.

Best always,

Trent said...

I agree with your statement that our priority should be evangelizing Homosexuals, not trying to make them straight. As believers, if we are going to fellowship with them, then we can discuss their sin, but that is a separate issue of them being believers. THAT said, I think marriage is between a man and woman. IF we are discussing something they consider equivelant, i.e a monogamous relationship between 2 men or 2 women, they should call it something else and give it equivalent protection under the law.. though it would be easier to get the government out of the business of marriage and such all together. The problem I see with calling homosexual relationships marriage, comes when the lawsuits follow against churches who are convinced they should not marry in their church. (already cases around the nation) And when it is taught in school as an equally valid lifestyle. (its not healthy {look at average life expectancy's}) and then infringes upon parents rights who believe it is not. Then you have the issue of adoption. No parents are perfect, but study after study have shown the most healthy families are those with a Father and Mother. Its a difficult issue and more so because the government is involved. I believe in the freedom adults have to do things I, and the Bible disagree with, with other consenting adults, including smoking, drugs (not driving) getting drunk, homosexuality and more as long as it is not affecting people who don't want to be involved.