God's Big Story: The Bible on Homosexuality
God's Big Story: The Bible on Homosexuality
Editor's Note: This sermon was originally part of a three-sermon series given by Jim Nicodem. (That's why you'll notice that this sermon ends rather abruptly.) Part 1 focused on how to view homosexuality within the context of God's larger biblical narrative. In the series' second message, Nicodem's sermon was a lengthy and honest interview with a Christian young man who deals with same-sex attraction as he strives to remain faithful to that larger biblical narrative. Nicodem wanted to put a very human, personal face on a controversial issue. In Part 3 Nicodem gave practical suggestions for how Christians can respond to the biblical narrative outlined in the first sermon. We are featuring only Part 1 to Nicodem's original series. Make sure you also check out our interview with Nicodem to learn more about why and how he preached this entire series.
I've always wanted to learn how to play Mexican Train Dominoes (MTD). I watched some people playing it at a party. It looked fun and relatively mindless—which is what I like in a game—so I bought myself a set. I'm not a guy who likes to read the rules—so the game sat on the shelf for several months, because I didn't know how to play it.
Recently, however, my sister announced to me that she'd played MTD before, so we broke out the game with some other people. Well, I quickly learned that my sister was pretty foggy about some of the rules. Whenever I asked her if a certain move was legal—she would just shrug her shoulders, and we would do whatever. That was not a fun experience. It's hard to enjoy a game when there's so much ambiguity and confusion. So, the game has gone back on my shelf. It will probably sit there until somebody can clearly explain the rules to me.
God has given us clear rules for living, and they're found in his book, the Bible. Now, when I say rules for living—that may be an immediate turn-off to you. Rules sound so restrictive, legalistic, demanding, and joy-killing. But I want to assure you that the God who gave us these rules loves us deeply; he knows what's best for us; and he wants us to experience life-to-the-full.
G.K. Chesterton, a famous British author at the beginning of the last century put it this way: "The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it has established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild." I love that! The chief end of God's rules is to give room for good things to run wild in our lives.
Please keep that in mind as we take a look at God's rules for sexual behavior, specifically what the Bible says about homosexuality. It's so important that we not forget the reason behind God's rules for sexual behavior. He wants good things to run wild in our lives.
Four reasons for a series on homosexuality
Now, some of you might be wondering why we would do a series on homosexuality. You may be thinking, Isn't this risky business? Think of the dangers involved. It's going to make some people feel uncomfortable—maybe even prompt them to stay away until the series is over. It's going to make other people mad—especially if they're extremely liberal on this topic or extremely conservative. It might give us a bad reputation in the community—I mean, any church that does a 3-week series on this must be homophobic, right? It's going to raise more questions than I have time to answer. Why not leave this topic alone? Let me give you four compelling reasons to do this series.
First, we're big on the Bible. The Bible is God's handbook for life. Anyone who wants to be a Christ follower must hold God's Word in high esteem, and make every effort to follow it. Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount said this about the Bible (which was only the Old Testament at the time), "Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:19).
I regularly hear people say, "It's not important to obey all the Bible's commands—it's important to love God and love people. That's all!" That doesn't sound like what I just quoted from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Besides that—we can't love God and love people, unless we know what real love looks like. Well, God's commands teach us what real love looks like—especially God's commands about sexual behavior. That's the first reason for doing this series, the Bible clearly addresses this topic. As genuine Christ followers we want to know and obey what the Bible teaches.
Second, this is a hot topic in our culture at large. We can't get away from it. Ignoring it would leave us naïve and unequipped to face life in the real world. Homosexuality pops up constantly in movies, new laws, school curriculum, news stories, celebrity gossip, sports, and family squabbles. Christ followers must not stick their heads in the sand, hoping this issue goes away. It's not going away. So we need to deal with it—and teach our kids how to deal with it.
Third, for some of us this is a very relevant and personal topic. Maybe you're the parent of a son or daughter who has recently come out as homosexual. Maybe you're struggling with same sex attraction, or confused about your sexual identity. Maybe you've been discriminated against because you're homosexual—or because you hold a traditional view of homosexuality. You want some clarity—some biblical clarity on this issues.
Fourth, the mission of the church is to lead people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We want the church to have a huge welcome mat. If this series doesn't help us do a better job of understanding, loving, and reaching out to homosexuals (personally and church-wise), then I didn't do a good job of teaching God's Word.
Now, that doesn't mean that those of you who may be pro-homosexuals are going to like everything I teach from the Bible. For that matter—those of you who may be anti-homosexual will probably not like everything in this series either.
So, let me just state a few ground rules before we open up God's Word together. Number one: Don't nit-pick. Don't argue with every single illustration or point that I make. Take them as a whole. Number two: Don't check out before the end of each sermon. If you get mad—and you mentally (or even physically) leave the room—you won't be giving the Bible a fair hearing. We live in an angry culture—just look at the comments people leave on blogs. Friends, we don't listen well when we're angry. Please don't get mad and check out. Number three: Compare what I say with the Bible. If it doesn't match up—then it's just my opinion and you're free to ignore it. If it does match up with the Bible—then you're disagreement is with God.
Four common objections to the Bible
Now—that raises one more introductory issue: four common objections to the Bible. My guess is that some of you may have misgivings about the reliability of the Bible as a textbook for a series on homosexuality. So let's put those objections out on the table. It's also possible that you personally trust the Bible on this topic—but you don't know how to answer people who don't.
Objection #1: The Bible was written by fallible authors, in ancient times. So why should we listen to their mistaken and outdated view of homosexuality? The Bible claims to be the Word of God—and there are good reasons to believe that it is. I don't have the time to give you those reasons, but if you're interested in the evidences that this is a supernatural book I'd encourage you to do some study and research. This is God's book. God gets homosexuality right!
Objection #2: Rightness and wrongness are a social construct—they're not determined by the Bible. What do I mean by a social construct? Well, a lot of people believe (whether they're aware of this or not) that a lot of factors need to be considered when determining whether something is right or wrong. Take homosexuality, for example. What shapes our understanding of whether it's right or wrong? The experiences of your friends? (Maybe you think homosexuality is wrong—because you don't have any homosexual friends. Or, maybe you think homosexuality is right—because you know a really nice guy who's homosexual.) Sociological studies? Laws that say homosexual marriage is legal? Tradition? The arguments of LGBT activists?
Many people arrive at their conclusion of right and wrong based upon the input of these kinds of sources, but Christ followers believe that the final authority on every moral issue is God—as he has spoken to us in his Word. The trouble with believing that morality is a social construct—is that you run into huge problems when the society in which you live condones sinful behavior. An extreme example of that is Nazi Germany—where it became the cultural norm to exterminate Jews. Was that wrong? The social construct said it was right.
You see, we need a moral authority that stands outside of ourselves and our society; a moral authority that objectively says what's right and wrong. If that's not God's Word for you—how do you know that you aren't viewing some wrong things as if they're right, or some right things as if they're wrong?
Objection #3: The Bible is wrong about slavery—how can we trust what it says about homosexuality? Whenever people want to diss the Bible—this is one of the more popular arguments that they'll use. The Bible endorses slavery—so it obviously can't be trusted about other issues. It would take me too long to give you a detailed response to this objection—but let me say a few things in defense of the Bible's stance on slavery. First, the slavery mentioned in the Bible was extremely different from the slavery that we experienced in the U.S. prior to the Civil War. A slave in Old Testament times was not a slave because of the color of his skin, or because he'd been kidnapped, or because he'd been sold at a slave market. An Old Testament slave was more like an indentured servant. He was paying off a debt by serving for a set number of years.
Second, the Bible never endorses or promotes slavery. The Old Testament regulated slavery—so that it wouldn't become abusive among God's people like it was in other nations. Slaves were given a weekly day off; they were periodically liberated; if they were harmed by their master, the law required that they immediately be given their freedom.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul encouraged slaves to seek their freedom if at all possible. He couldn't overturn the entire Roman slavery culture of his day (he wasn't living in a democracy)—but he told Christ followers that they needed to treat slaves like brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul changed the culture from the inside out—he changed people's hearts. Which is why historians tell us that slave-owning was virtually extinct among Christ followers by the second century.
If you know anything about the abolition of slavery—you know that Christ followers were at the forefront of the movement. The reason that slavery was abolished by the British—half a century before that happened in our country—was because a young politician by the name of William Wilberforce became a Christ follower. When he started to study the Bible he immediately saw that modern-day slavery was incompatible with God's Word.
So, when somebody tells you that you can't trust the Bible on homosexuality, or some other moral issue, because the Bible got slavery wrong, that person doesn't understand the Bible's view on slavery, or the role that the Bible played in the anti-slavery movement.
Objection #4: The Bible can be twisted to make it say anything you want it to say. In other words: if you're against homosexuality, you can interpret certain Scripture texts as if the Bible is against homosexuality—when it's really not. This argument was used recently by the front-man for the popular Christian rock band Jars of Clay. Dan Haseltine announced on Twitter his support for same-sex marriage. Did Haseltine consider what the Bible says about marriage before he voiced his opinion? Yes, Dan says he considered the Bible. "But I never liked the phrase," he wrote, "'the Scripture clearly says …' because most people read and interpret Scripture wrong."
Does that mean that the Bible is not clear about anything? Is the Bible clear about salvation? Jesus being the only Savior and King? Adultery being wrong? I could list 100 other items that are abundantly clear in Scripture. Yes, people will sometimes twist the Bible to make it say what they want it to say. The solution is not to conclude that it's impossible to arrive at a clear and correct interpretation for a particular issue. The solution is to apply basic literary ground rules for interpreting the Bible—Bible scholars refer to these ground rules as hermeneutics.
So, I'm now finished with my sermon's introduction—and it's time to look at what the Bible says about homosexuality using good hermeneutics. I've arranged my presentation along the lines of the Bible's overarching story. God's big story—which unfolds in the Bible—is the story of how God can save us from the penalty of our sin (which is a separation from a holy God—the giver of life—leading to eternal death), and how God can save us from the power of our sin (sin's control of our daily lives).
This story is good news. The Bible word for good news is gospel. The gospel is for everybody—but today we're going to see how homosexuality fits into the gospel story.
There are four parts to this story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. We will cover the first two parts in this sermon. Let me warn you about something—God's big story gets bad before it gets good. I'm going to leave you hanging at the end of the bad part. But I don't want you to walk out thinking that God's story is all bad. It's very, very good.
(Read Genesis 1:27-28; 2:20-24)
As God creates Adam and Eve there is an emphasis in this story on their complementary nature. What do I mean by complementary? Well, if you look up that word in a thesaurus—you'll find synonyms like "balancing" or "harmonizing."
In some ways Adam and Eve were like each other. They were both human beings. They didn't resemble any of the animals that Adam names. But in other ways they were different. God did not give Adam a mirror-image companion. He was given a she. The he and the she together formed a perfect pair. That's how God designed them—to be complementary in nature. Why is their complementarity so important? Let me give you three reasons.
Complementarity reflects God's image.
The second half of Genesis 1:27 says, "In the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them." Now, why does it take two different genders to reflect the image of God? Why won't one gender do? Well, God reveals himself to us in the Bible as a 3-in-1 God. There's diversity in God: he's Father, Son, and Spirit. However, there's also unity in God. There's a oneness about him. Interestingly, Genesis 2:24 says that Adam and Eve became one flesh. In order for their one-fleshness to be a reflection of God's image—it had to demonstrate both diversity and unity. A man and a man can't become one-flesh—not in a God's-image reflecting way. A woman and a woman can't become one-flesh. It takes complementarity to reflect God's image.
Complementarity allows for sexual intimacy.
Let's just start with basic anatomy: Adam and Eve were designed by God with corresponding body parts that fit together. When I was a young boy, my dad would frequently ask me to assist him with some household chore. I can remember the first time he asked me to hand him the male end of an extension cord. I quickly learned that there is a male end and a female end—which allows them to be plugged into other cords and outlets.
God designed sexual intimacy for a man and a woman, which is obvious from the fit of their corresponding body parts. Now, I've read—and this is where my sexually frank language may make you a bit uncomfortable—some same-sex advocates point out that a woman's vagina is not the only human body part that will receive a man's penis. A man is capable, for example, of having sex with another man—anally. The two body parts fit together.
Yes, but if you talk to any doctor—they'll warn you that these two body parts weren't designed to be used that way. While a woman's vagina is designed to receive a man's penis—another man's anus is designed to expel feces. Besides that—a vagina is sturdy, but an anus can be easily ruptured.
On a more positive note, God's design for sexual intimacy to be between complementary partners can also be seen in the fact that when their two body parts fit together, the man and woman are most often face-to-face. They're looking into each other's eyes. You see, sexual intimacy is much more than sexual gratification.
One final thought about sexual intimacy. Please note, in Genesis, that this special relationship is reserved for a man and a woman—who have been united in marriage. Genesis 2:24 says that a man becomes one flesh with his wife. God designed sex for marriage. Michael Brown says, "Heterosexual unions (martially and sexually) are the only unions throughout the entire Bible blessed by God, sanctioned by God, or referenced in any explicit or positive way by any author in the entire Bible."
Complementarity makes procreation possible.
Take another look at Genesis 1:27-28. Right after God creates Adam and Eve in his image, he blesses their relationship, and then God gives them some instructions. What are those instructions? "Be fruitful and increase in number."
One of the reasons that God designed the sexual relationship to be between a man and a woman—was for procreation. That's not the only reason, but it's one of the reasons for complementarity. Two men can't make a baby. Two women can't make a baby.
Now, some same-sex advocates object—Well what does that say about a heterosexual couple (man and woman) who's infertile, or they're too old to have kids when they get married, or they don't want children? Does that make their marriage invalid?
No! The issue here is God's design. God designed the sexual union of a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, with the potential to produce children. Whether or not they do produce children is not the issue. We're talking about God's design.
Someone has made this point with the analogy of snowplows. A snowplow in Florida is no less of a snowplow than a snowplow in Alaska. The snowplow in Florida may never be used to move a bunch of snow, but it still bears the design of a snowplow. Marriage is designed by God to be a sexual union between a man and a woman because complementarity makes procreation possible, even if procreation never happens.
That's the Creation part of God's big story. There is no mention of homosexuality—in fact, just the opposite. The emphasis is on heterosexuality—complementarity.
Adam and Eve—if you know the story—are tempted to disobey the God who made them. They give in. They sin. Their moral fall brings disastrous consequences. The Bible says that every one of us has followed in the footsteps of Adam and Eve. We're all sinners. We do, say, and think things every day that offend a holy God and violate his standard or righteousness.
In fact, the Bible says, we have a sinful nature. In other words—sin comes quite naturally to us. Sin is our bent; it's our ongoing tendency; it's our regular disposition. I have two 10-month old granddaughters and they're adorable. But nobody will ever have to teach them how to sin—they'll do it instinctively.
Now, what does this part of the story—the Fall—have to do with homosexuality? Well, we've got to figure out: if a person is same-sex attracted, does that same-sex attraction originate from the first part of the story—Creation? Or does same-sex attraction originate from the second part of God's big story—the Fall?
Pro-homosexual advocates say same-sex attraction is definitely part of Creation. God makes people that way—and we ought to celebrate that fact. Gary Hall, the pastor of the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., preached a sermon in which he said, "It is not only okay to be gay, bisexual, or transgendered; it is good to be that way because that is the way God has made you."
Wait a minute. Where did Pastor Hall get that idea? It doesn't come from the Bible—go ahead and look for it. Remember what we just learned about God's creation of people? God designed us—sexually speaking—for heterosexual relationships. Homosexuality is not part of God's creation design—even though you will hear that fallacy repeated again and again in conversations about homosexuality—God made people that way. There's nothing in God's Word to substantiate that position.
I wish we had more time—because I'd love to show you from science, as well as from the Bible, that homosexuality is not hard-wired into certain people. For years, scientists have looked for a homosexuality gene—but they've never found one. They've done tests on identical twins—hoping to show that if one twin is homosexual, the other twin is likely to be homosexual—thus proving that homosexuality is part of a person's genetic make-up. But you know what they discovered? They looked at 71 pairs in which one of them was homosexual, and in only seven of those pairs was the other twin also homosexual—10 percent. Maybe that sounds like a high percentage to you, but let me point out that identical twins come from the same egg, share the same genes, and are essentially clones of each other. So, if homosexuality were a genetic trait the percentage in the twins' study should have been 100 percent!
One last scientific fact to demonstrate that homosexuality is not part of a person's creation design. People's sexual orientation can change! But that change would never be possible if homosexuality were part of a person's creation design. Think about it. Have you ever met a former African-American? Have you ever met somebody who used to be Hispanic? Of course not! A person's race or ethnicity never changes because that's how God made them. That's not the way it is with homosexuality. It can change.
So, if homosexuality doesn't come from the Creation part of God's big story—it must come from the Fall part of the story. That explains something. I've had many same sex attracted friends tell me—I didn't choose this. I've been oriented this way ever since I was a child. I understand. Remember what I said about us all having a sinful nature—thanks to the Fall? That means: sin feels quite natural to us.
Let me just speak for myself here. Lust comes naturally to me. Impatience and anger come naturally to me. Self-centeredness comes naturally to me. This is embarrassing to admit, but you're in the same boat as me. Whatever your sin (or sins) of choice they come quite naturally to you. Could it be that homosexuality originates—not from a person's creation design, but—from a person's sinful nature? Is that why it feels so natural? If this were the case, then we'd expect to see the Bible calling homosexual practices sinful. And that's exactly what we see.
Let me say a couple of things about the texts that we're going to take a look at. First, there are six to nine passages in the Bible that speak quite strongly against homosexual practices. We'll only be looking at two or three of these texts. Now, it used to be that everybody who read these passages understood them to clearly prohibit homosexuality. So, if you wanted to engage in homosexual practices, you'd have to throw out the Bible. But recently, there have been a growing number of so-called Christian leaders and authors who claim that these passages don't prohibit loving, monogamous homosexual relationships—they only prohibit homosexual abuses, rape, child-exploitation, idolatrous practices, and so on. But these new interpretations are misinterpretations. I'll be pointing out some of these misinterpretations too because I don't want you to be fooled by them.
Please note that these passages don't condemn a person's homosexual orientation. Because of the Fall you may have experienced a shift from God's creation design of heterosexuality to an orientation of homosexuality. But that orientation doesn't become a sin until you act on it. My heterosexual orientation, I'm attracted to women—even those I'm not married to, doesn't become a sin until I engage in lust, pornography, or adultery. These passages deal with homosexual practices—not homosexual orientation.
(Read Lev 18:22; 20:13)
Don't those verses seem pretty straightforward to you? Homosexual relations are sinful. My good friend, Christopher Yuan, lived a flamboyantly gay lifestyle before he ended up in prison for selling drugs. While Christopher was in jail, he pulled a Bible out of a trash can, read it and surrendered his life to Christ.
When Christopher announced his conversion to the prison chaplain the chaplain assured him that he didn't have to give up his homosexuality to become a Christ follower. In fact, the chaplain gave Christopher a book on the subject that explained away passages like the ones we just read in Leviticus. Well, Christopher got out his Bible and looked at the passages and they seemed pretty straightforward to him. The reinterpretations in the chaplain's book didn't wash, so Christopher threw it out and stuck with the Bible.
How do pro-gay interpreters explain away these verses in Leviticus? I'll give you the most common argument. It goes like this: There are a lot of Old Testament laws that don't apply to our lives today. What about the Old Testament laws that say we shouldn't eat shellfish, or we shouldn't wear clothes that are made from two different kinds of material. The prohibition against homosexuality is just another outdated Old Testament law. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
Well, what this argument fails to understand is that there are different kinds of laws in the Old Testament. Some of these laws were specifically for ancient Israel. They were intended to remind God's Old Testament people that they had been set apart for a special mission—telling the surrounding nations about the one true God. So there were diet laws and clothing laws, laws that prompted God's people to remember that they were different. Those ceremonial laws were only for ancient Israel.
But there are also moral laws in the Old Testament. Laws that apply to everybody across the centuries. Laws that prohibit lying, stealing, and murder. Laws about honoring parents and caring for the poor. Moral laws are timeless laws.
So, is the law in Leviticus that prohibits homosexuality a ceremonial law (for ancient Israel, but not for us) or a moral law (still in force for everybody today)? Bible scholars say that it is a moral law. For one thing, it pops up in the middle of a group of moral laws. Laws that prohibit other kinds of sexual sins—incest, adultery, and bestiality. Also the penalty for violating the prohibition against homosexuality was very severe in ancient Israel—death. That wasn't the sort of penalty typically associated with ceremonial laws. This must be a moral law—that's still applicable. The Old Testament clearly prohibits basic homosexual practices.
Let's look at the New Testament.
Let me point out that we're skipping over the New Testament Gospels. Some pro-gay advocates are quick to point out that Jesus never condemned homosexuality. In fact, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. So Jesus must be cool with it, right? Jesus doesn't make a big deal about homosexuality, so why should we make a big deal about it?
Three problems with that argument: First, Jesus affirmed God's creation design that a sexual relationship be reserved for a man and a woman, who are united in marriage. You can read Jesus' words for yourself in Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus quotes the same Genesis passages that we looked at earlier.
Second, Jesus didn't have to condemn homosexual practices because he was a Jewish rabbi who fully supported what the Old Testament taught on the subject. The prohibition against homosexual practices would have been a given for Jesus. Let me add that Jesus was not shy about disagreeing with the religious traditions of his day if he thought they were wrong. He didn't disagree with the homosexual prohibition.
Third, there are other sins which we don't have a written record of Jesus condemning—rape, drunkenness, incest. We're certain that Jesus believed these things were terribly wrong because they're condemned in the Old Testament, but there's no teaching of Jesus on these subjects recorded in the Gospels.
(Read Romans 1:21-27)
Once again, this passage seems like a pretty straightforward condemnation of homosexual practices. How can pro-gay interpreters explain it away? First, some say that Paul is dealing with an abusive form of homosexuality in this passage—probably man-boy relationships. In other words, exploitive sex. That kind of homosexuality was fairly common in Paul's day, but that's not what Paul is talking about in Romans one. For one thing, Paul mentions lesbianism in verse 26 (that's not man-boy sex). The homosexual relationships he condemns here are between mutually consenting men, verse 27, "men who were inflamed with lust for one another." This is not homosexual men taking advantage of boys. It's generic homosexuality.
Second, some say that when Paul condemns men and women who give up natural sexual relations for unnatural ones (vv. 26, 27) he's warning people to stay true to their personal sexual nature. If you, by nature, are a heterosexual don't engage in homosexual relations. If you, by nature, are a homosexual don't engage in heterosexual relations. Does that sound, to you, like what Paul is saying here? The fact is, the word natural that Paul uses here doesn't refer to someone's personal nature. It refers to God's creation design in nature, which, as we've seen, is heterosexuality. Paul is warning us not to leave God's creation design path for the path of homosexual relations.
Third, some say that Paul is condemning the sort of homosexuality that was associated with idolatry in his day. If you went to a pagan temple for worship you could pay an offering to have sex with a homosexual temple-prostitute. Well, Paul does introduce his discussion of homosexuality with some comments about idolatry. He talks about people who exchange the worship of God for the worship of images that look like people and animals. That's definitely idolatry.
So is the homosexuality that Paul condemns a few verses later having sex with pagan temple prostitutes? Obviously not. As I said a moment ago, Paul talks about lesbianism in this passage and about gay men engaging in mutual passion with each other. This isn't the language of idolatrous homosexuality. It's a description of generic homosexuality.
So, why does Paul use idolatry as an introduction to his discussion of homosexuality? Here's the analogy between the two. In Romans 1:20, Paul says that idolatry is inexcusable. Why? Because anybody who looks at creation ought to conclude that an awesome God made all this—not some stupid idol. The truth is obvious. Well, Paul argues, the same thing could be said about sexual relations. Look at how the body parts fit together. Observe that procreation requires a man and a woman. The truth is obvious. God's creation design for sexual relations is complementarity.
Lastly, some say that Paul's view of homosexuality—as expressed in Romans 1—doesn't take into account the loving, monogamous homosexual relationships that some people engage in today. All Paul knew about was dirty homosexuality; he didn't know about the wholesome version of homosexuality that we are now seeing examples of.
This is probably the argument that I hear most often against the Bible's prohibition of homosexual practices: The Bible condemns bad homosexuality, but the ancient writers didn't know about good homosexuality. Let me give you two pushbacks to that. First, in the words of one Bible scholar: "Are we to believe that nobody with homosexual or lesbian urges in all of antiquity was able to provide a healthy example of same-sex love? In fact, moving statements about the compassionate and beautiful character of same-sex love can be found in Greco-Roman literature." Another Bible scholar writes: "Since Paul was well-educated and well-read, he would have been quite familiar with the vast homosexual literature of the Hellenistic world in which tender, committed, nurturing homoerotic love was celebrated."
Here's the second pushback: What makes a sexual relationship right for the Apostle Paul is not that it takes place in a loving, monogamous context. A sexual relationship is only right if it takes place with a person of the opposite sex in a committed marriage. That means if you're single, a sexual relationship with somebody you're not married to—even if it's loving and monogamous—is wrong. The Bible calls that sexual immorality. The old English word is fornication. A sexual relationship with someone who's married to another person—even if it's loving and monogamous—is wrong. The Bible calls that adultery. A sexual relationship with someone in your own family—even if it's loving and monogamous—is wrong. The Bible calls that incest. A sexual relationship with a naked lady on a porn sight (via masturbation)—even if it's loving and monogamous—is wrong. The Bible calls that lust. A sexual relationship with someone of the same gender—even if it's loving and monogamous is wrong. The Bible calls that homosexuality.
This is where we're going to leave God's big story today. What a bad place to stop!
I watched part two of the three-part Hobbit series with my family this past week: The Desolation of Smaug. After two and half hours of story—the movie ends abruptly. Everybody's in big trouble. The fire-breathing dragon, Smaug, is on the loose. The gruesome Orcs are rampaging. The wicked necromancer, Sauron, is gaining power. And the movie leaves you hanging! Well, fortunately, I've read the book—and I know the story ends well.
I'm leaving you hanging, today—but if you've read God's book, you know that the story ends well. I've only taken you through the first half of "God's Big Story." We've learned—regarding homosexuality—that it's not part of God's creation design, and that the Bible categorizes homosexual practices as sinful.
This means that people who struggle with same sex attraction are candidates for God's grace, just like the rest of us. We'll never discover God's grace to be truly amazing until we recognize how desperately we need it. Every one of us.
Jim Nicodem is founder and pastor of Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.