This is the second part of my transcript of my talk on the Bible and Homosexuality – you can find the audio and the other parts here.
The Bible tells us that in the beginning God created everything, and He created it “good”. Hebrew scholars often refer to God’s design for creation with the word shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word that means “peace”, but “peace” really falls short of the weight of what the word means. Shalom means wholeness, soundness, fullness and goodness – many scholars have pointed to the word “harmony” as being illustrative of the real meaning. When God created, He wove into the creation His design, and the design harmonized together in this magnificent symphony.
Now, when we saw that God created everything, this included every facet of creation, including our sexuality. God designed our sexuality to just as much function within the confines of His harmony as everything else. In Gen. 1:27 we see the first hint at this, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God creates humanity as male and female, sexually distinct from one another, but makes them both within the image of God, therefore equal in dignity and worth.
But God’s sexual design does not end in Him merely creating these two distinct, and similar beings, but in bringing them together as one within the covenant of marriage. As soon as God creates both Adam and Eve, he weds them together, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Here God provides for us His design for humans to love and give themselves over to one another: a man pursuing and wooing the woman he loves, and pledging his whole life to her in marriage. And when this happens, again we see the pattern of God bringing together what is distinct, and similar, now uniting them together as “one flesh” in marital, covenantal, and sexual union. This is God’s design for our sexuality.
Now, those are sadly only the first two chapters of the Bible. In the third chapter of the Bible, sin breaks into the picture, and spoils the shalom. Imagine you were listening to a beautiful symphony, when suddenly, someone barged onto the stage, clashing together two pots. That’s what sin has done to all of us, and ever since then, we have been feeling sins effects. Scripture tells us that sin now infects and holds sway over every part of us, including our sexuality.
The Roman Judgment
We see this most clearly in the first chapter of the book of Romans. We won’t have the time to walk through all of the passages, but we see in verses 18-23 the Apostle Paul’s diagnosis of the sinfulness of mankind. Paul explains that God has clearly revealed Himself to all people, but they have suppressed the truth, refusing to worship Him, and worshipping the creation instead. It’s like, to return to our dancing illustration earlier, we all have put our headphones in and ignored the bandleader. Paul says that in all of this, in rejecting God, in choosing to live for what we want, we claim to be wise, when really we have become colossal fools.
Romans 1 highlights something called God’s “passive wrath” – where God renders His judgment by simply allowing sinful humans to have what they want, and therefore continue to sink deeper and deeper into their sin. In response to man’s rejection of God, Paul says, “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” (Rom. 1:24-25). “Lusts of their hearts to impurity” is vital for us to understand here. “Impurity” is the Greek word akatharsia, which pastor and author Kevin DeYoung points out is always used by Paul to refer to sexual sin. This is very important for us to understand: Paul is saying that all sexual sin is merely a symptom, not the problem itself. The root problem is a refusal to worship God supremely, and the fruit of the problem is sexual sin.
Paul continues saying, “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” (Rom. 1:26-27). Again, Paul shows us here that homosexual sin for both men and women is the symptom of the deeper problem of refusing to worship God alone. Paul is calling us to harken back to God’s design for sexuality when he tells us that men and women are exchanging “natural relations”, literally the natural function, or design. Paul assumes that it is evident that sexual activity between like genders is not natural because we are simply not designed that way.
Now, one caveat here, Paul is not saying that if you continue on in sexual sin, you will necessarily end up committing homosexual sin. Paul is using homosexual sin to illustrate what, to Paul, was an obvious and flagrant rejection of God’s design. Paul is also not saying that homosexual sin is the apex, the worst, of all sin – we know this because the next segment of God “giving people over” to their sin leads to other sins that we most likely wouldn’t consider that drastic; sins like, “gossip, slander, haughtiness, boasting, and disobedience to parents” (Rom. 1:30).
Kevin DeYoung is extremely helpful here, “Paul’s burden is not to rank the relative heinousness of homosexual sin. His point is more illustrative than evaluative. In Paul’s mind, same-sex sexual intimacy is an especially clear illustration of the idolatrous human impulse to turn away from God’s order and design…In one sense, we should not make too much of homosexual sin, given the long list of sins mentioned in verses 29-31. And yet the fact that Paul singles out homosexual relations as a conspicuous example of the human heart suppressing the truth and turning from God suggests that we must not soft-pedal as no big deal what the Bible underlines as particularly egregious rebellion.” (What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? pg. 52, 56).
There are some who try and defend that Bible doesn’t speak negatively about committed, monogamous same-sex relationships, but this is simply not a possible position to hold and still maintain the integrity of the clear teaching of God’s Word. We do not have time to address all of these arguments, but every single place that Scripture references homosexuality, it always speaks about it as sinful and a violation of God’s design. What ultimately finalizes Christianity’s view on sexuality, and locks it in place from being twisted or maligned, is Christ’s clear teaching on sexuality. In the Gospels, Jesus clearly reiterates God’s initial design, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4-6). Jesus clearly and unequivocally reaffirms that marriage, and therefore sexual union, is reserved for one man and one woman, pledged together under a covenant before God, for the rest of their lives.
The Bible is explicitly clear – but the question you may be asking is: How is that loving?