Why I Believe God Doesn’t Want A Gay Lifestyle For Us – #2

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. ~ Leviticus 20:13

This instruction from God in the law given to Moses (see 19:1) is part of a litany of sexual acts that are forbidden in chapter 20. It’s interdicted right there with adultery, various specifically-described forms of incest, bestiality, sexual relations with a woman during her period — as well as non-sexual proscriptions of child sacrifice, spiritism, and cursing parents.

Some infractions seem to be regarded as worse than others by being associated with words like “dishonor,” “disgrace,” “perversion,” and “detestable.” This last word — rendered “abominable” or “abomination” in some versions — describes homosexual relations.

Yet the punishment is death for disobeying all of the taboos in verses 9 through 13: cursing either parent, adultery, sex with daughter-in-law, homosexual sex, sex with a woman and her daughter, bestiality — this one specifically applying both to men and women.

And this verse simply reiterates and expounds upon what is said two chapters earlier in a similar listing of primarily sexual prohibitions:

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. ~ Leviticus 18:22

I believe God seeks to communicate in the strongest possible terms His disdain for the practice.

I know there are people who believe this is a codification of existing patriarchal mores by Moses. But if that is true, it weakens the case for the incident with Lot and his guests at Sodom as referring solely to rape. It opens the possibility to believe that much more — if not the entire law — was written by Moses rather than given by God and, as the New Testament writers say, put into effect by angels (John 1:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). I can’t go there. It was given by God.

We don’t have to go nuts about this.

It’s simply indicative that homosexual relations are not something that God wants for us. He doesn’t make His reasons explicit in scripture, and He’s not required to — least of all by us.

Yes, we have been released from the old law in order to serve in the Spirit, the way of grace (Romans 7:6; Galatians 5). But that doesn’t mean that the old law has lost all power to inform us about what God approves and disapproves; what has weight in the new covenant and what does not. Some things are specifically revoked (required Sabbath observance, for instance; and animal sacrifice). Other things are specifically emphasized (loving God with heart, soul, mind, strength; loving others as self). Still others are specifically reinforced by comparison (giving way to lust in the heart leading to adultery; being angry with another as judgement-worthy as murder).

But I don’t know of anything labeled “detestable” in the old law that suddenly becomes acceptable in the new covenant, no more than I know of anything that was previously permitted in the old law that suddenly becomes forbidden in the new covenant.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? ~Numbers 23:19

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:9

Nor does He see things the same way we do. We may see some of these prohibitions and wonder why a penalty for transgressing them is so serious — deserving death. (I know I do, especially with regard to cursing parents, sexual relations during a woman’s period, and — yes — homosexual relations.)

But, as I have blogged and defended many times — our understanding is not a prerequisite to faith. God may be able to see harms to us in these things that go deeper than our understanding goes. Do we trust Him to make these restrictions? Or do we demand our own way right now and to be taught the entire knowledge of the universe while standing on one foot?

Of course we’ll have questions. I believe God expects that. But I also believe that he expects us to read His will for us and try to discern His nature from it: meditate, pray, reason, ask for His Spirit’s discernment.

So let’s ask a few:

Does homosexuality threaten the institution of marriage? Probably not at the institutional level, but there are marriages which have ended because one partner chose to end the marriage relationship to pursue the desire for someone of the same sex. The same can be said of heterosexual yearnings for someone besides one’s spouse, and to a much greater percentage. Neither is right, because covenants have been abrogated, commitments trashed, hearts broken, desires for one’s self glorified over God.

Are there lifelong homosexual relationships that put to shame some heterosexual marriages in the quality of commitment and mutual respect? Of course. But that’s not at issue. At issue is the sexual component that seals that relationship. It’s not what God wants for us.

Does God still love someone who experiences homosexual desires? Absolutely.

Can acting on those desires be forgiven? Christ died for all of us, and none of us is free of sin. But to repent of something means giving it up, and God expects us to give up self in order to live a Christlike life.

Is it possible for someone who experiences homosexual yearnings to have a satisfying, God-glorifying life that doesn’t involve sexual relationships at all? I would venture to say that it is just as possible for that person as it is for anyone experiencing heterosexual yearnings. It is as huge a commitment as marriage itself, because it is between a person and his/her God. I think this may be what Jesus is talking about in that enigmatic passage:

For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” ~ Matthew 19:12

It must be their own personal choice; no one can make that choice for them. And it’s a worthy choice.

There’s no indication in scripture that Jesus ever chose to engage in sexual activity with anyone; to have done so outside of a marriage relationship under the law would have been regarded as sin by the society in which He lived because it would have been regarded as sin by God. He made that difficult choice. I don’t believe Jesus had supernatural advantage over us in the area of self-control. I do believe that He was tempted in every way just as we are (Hebrews 4:1).

Let me tell you what that means to me.

I can’t tell you that I’ve ever been tempted by homosexual relations. (Okay, a friend made a pass at me once while extremely intoxicated, but it wasn’t the degree of intoxication that made the offer unattractive. It was his gender: the same as mine. ) I’m just not wired that way.

But the passage I cited in Hebrews tells me that Jesus could be tempted in that way, because He was.

To me, that means that He was wired to experience every temptation known to man.

While you and I get at least some degree of immunity from some of them.

To try to understand the same degree of sexual frustration experienced by someone with homosexual yearnings at this restriction, I have to imagine what it would be like if I read in scripture that God did not want me to have a sexual relationship with a woman. The whole notion of it just floors me.

I don’t think I will ever be “cured” of the attraction I feel toward my wife. I have no reason to believe that homosexual attraction is any less strong or less felt than heterosexual attraction.

At the same time, I survived several years of celibacy between my failed first marriage and the one that I hope will be my last and lasting one. I know it can be done. I know that God can bless the single lifestyle with many, many opportunities to serve Him that would be either impossible or much more difficult for a married person. I think that’s what Paul (a single servant of God) was talking about when he said:

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

The point I’m trying to make is that we need to be about what He wants above what we want.

As I’ve said in an earlier post,

I do not know why people have homosexual desires and temptations. Let me add, though, that I also do not know why people have heterosexual desires outside of marriage and temptations of every other kind. I don’t know why some people are born healthy and whole and bright and beautiful — and others are not. I don’t know why some are devastated by disease and accident and divorce and chronic pain and death of dear ones — and others escape some or most of these.

Except that we live in a fallen world, a world broken by sin, and what God asks of each of us is to be part of fixing the breaks and raising the world closer to Him — using the gifts, talents, abilities, time, resources, passion, love, faith and gratitude that He has put into our lives for that purpose.

That is what God wants for us. Each of us. All of us.

15 thoughts on “Why I Believe God Doesn’t Want A Gay Lifestyle For Us – #2

  1. Keith, I am firmly of the belief that in most, if not almost all cases, that LGBTQI orientation is not a choice. When you were celibate between your marriages, you had the hope of a future relationship. So your celibacy wasn’t lifelong or expected to be. God made us for relationship with one another. Do you believe that God creates a significant percentage of people LGBTQI and expects them to forego intimacy because of the fall?

    • NO ONE is advocating that. There are reliefs from the old law under grace – penalties like this, for one thing.

      Leviticus, as I tried to say above, still has value in telling us what God does and does not approve of.

      What I’m talking about here is not orientation but action taken. I don’t know what causes our tastes and preferences and yearnings — I’m not sure anyone fully does at this point. But each of us is responsible for what we choose to do with what comprises us individually. That includes whom we choose to have sexual relations with (and with their consent).

  2. Scripture teaches that celibacy/singleness is a gift that not all have. Straight Christians concluding that gays should live alone and celibate has no bearing on the emerging reality that more and more gays are openly living and loving as God created humankind to do. The real question for Churches of Christ is not a theoretical one about what other people should do. The real question is a very practical one of how Churches of Christ will welcome (or not) gays. Is the sign on many of our churches that all are welcome really true? Since we practice open communion where all present are free to participate in the most intimate act of Christian fellowship possible how can gays be excluded from Christian fellowship in any meaningful way short of open hostility? Let’s face it. This is a disputable matter on which sincere, knowledgeable Christians are going to disagree. We no longer believe that “drunkards” (alcoholics) are going to Hell no matter what Paul wrote. It is not at all clear that Paul understood the concept of sexual orientation any more than he understood the disease of alcoholism. Let all of us follow our own conscience but we will do well to leave homosexuality as a private matter between the individual and God just as we now leave divorce and remarriage and the sexual activity of our single, young heterosexual adults. There really is no practical alternative. The time is fast approaching when churches perceived to be anti-gay people will be as shunned as racist churches. Is that the way Churches of Christ want to be perceived? No one will hear the gospel from such a church.

    • Yet if an alcoholic friend was on a path to drinking too much, is there anyone who would consider it loving to let her/him go ahead?

      It’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, is it?

      The issue IS one of conscience, and as believers we DO need to love each other deeply and cover a multitude of sins … accepting each other as Christ has accepted us. We need to learn how to stop judging others yet still discern and judge sin for what it is together.

      Each of us has to make our own decisions and discernments about these matters. But we owe it to each other to talk about what we believe and why. Even if it is uncomfortable to do so.

      Hatefulness, judgmentalism, and condemnation have to stop.

      We’re family. God’s family. And nobody’s sins are too small to break His heart.

      • But it is an apples-to-apples comparison. Of course we should express concern and support as we feel moved to do so but it is not up to any of us to let or not let an alcoholic brother or sister drink too much. That is their decision and their life journey and their relationship with God. Their decision does not change our fellowship together in Christ. If we do not disfellowship or exclude from fellowship the nonrecovering alcoholic then consistency demands that we treat the actively homosexual brother or sister the same. In most of the 20th century Churches of Christ tried to enforce a particular interpretation of Scripture’s teaching on marriage and divorce. That did not work out so well by all accounts. Now mainstream Churches of Christ leave matters concerning a Christian’s history of marrying and divorcing between the individual Christian and God. I’m advocating that we do the same regarding homosexuality. No one need surrender their beliefs. We either respect each Christian’s individual conscience and relationship with God or we slog through a wasted generation trying to enforce what we cannot. We already have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding our young, single, sexually active, heterosexual adults. Why treat gay Christians differently?

      • Sorry, but if someone I love who is addicted to alcohol goes into a pub and I see them doing it, I’m following them in to say something about it before they hurt themselves and others who love them. Love demands no less.

  3. That’s commendable but what will you do when a loving committed gay couple starts worshipping regularly with you? And what will you do if they reject your belief that they should be celibate? Can you fellowship them on an ongoing basis as members of the same congregation as you? Would you put any restrictions on their membership as was once formerly done with divorced and remarried Christians?

    • I wrote this 7-1/2 years ago … https://keithbrenton.com/2005/01/19/the-one-where-i-just-lose/ … and while I’m not sure that “minority-by-choice” is an informed term, I still believe it is unhelpful to pass laws that marginalize people. And anyone who believes that Jesus is Lord and Son of God is my sibling in Christ. Anyone who doesn’t because they don’t know about Him is welcome to sit by me in any church that will have us and listen to the Word.

      God is no respecter of persons. I believe He expects us to be no disrespecter of persons.

  4. That’s an honest answer and I appreciate it. I have pressed the point of what churches will practically do because I believe Churches of Christ have an unfortunate history of marginalizing those who are different. We have very little time to get it right this time. I was born in 1956 and grew up in the deep South. I saw a gigantic shift in racial attitudes in a single decade from the early ’60’s to the early ’70s. It was like two different worlds in a single decades time. We are in the midst of a similar seismic shift in our society. Only four years ago even the liberal candidate, Barack Obama, would not publicly back gay marriage. Now he does and it is a political plus for him at least in the states that matter electorally. I love the Churches of Christ and hope they will find a way to keep the faith while treating gay Christians the same as anyone else. It is a fantasy to think gays in any great numbers will embrace celibacy. Promiscuity is destructive and Paul’s advice in this instance is apt. “It is better to marry than to burn.” The church’s most positive and practical help for gays is to encourage them (as well as straights) to form loving, committed exclusive relationships. Proscribing and stigmatizing homosexuality only drives it in the closet and multiplies promiscuity.

  5. The problem that seems to run through all of these aguements is that the church has:
    1. made mistakes in the past by not accepting some Christians of different color (which being of a different color is not sinful). Many here and in our world use that example to justify accepting of those who are claim to be Christians who practice a sinful lifestyle. The two are not the same, and two wrongs don’t equal a right! Where do folks draw the line, will you stand by as someone brings an idol with them to worship service to worship it and God?

    2. backed off the Divorce/Remarrigage issue because of concern for highly emotional issues that I totally understand. However, we do have the example in the Bible of when the Isrealites took wives who they were forbiden to take because of their pagan God worship, being commanded to send them away with the children fathered with them! I’m sure this was a highly emotional time for many who loved their wives and children. The question that really advanced the church’s change was: What constitutes repentance in the case of an adultrous marriage? Is it a vow to never do it again or did it require an action of getting back in line with the Covenant marriage that they were bound to. Today, I think we agree that: repentance in a homosexual relationship, married to each other or not, means disolving the relationship whether children are involved or not! Double standard? Yes, it really is! Expect lawsuits from activists in the future because of it if your church refuses to give full membership opportunities to one group and not the other.

    3. a majority of members who don’t expect repentance of themselves let alone others.

    • Walter Brueggemann, in his book Interpretation and Obedience, characterizes the counsel of Job’s friends as “pre-pain truth.” Other people’s problems are always simple. I guess rehab facilities could all close if they only gave Nancy Reagan’s advice to “Just say no.” Unless you are successfully living out a lifelong commitment to chastity then you really don’t have a clue as to what you would require of gays means in real life. Just as marriage and divorce forced a whole lot of folks in Churches of Christ to reexamine their understanding of Scripture so being gay or having a gay loved one is forcing more and more Christians to reexamine what Scripture actually requires of gays. Again, it is not at all clear that Paul understood the concept of sexual orientation being unchangeably established by puberty any more than he understood the disease of alcoholism when he seems to consign “drunkards” to hell. I don’t believe God is bound by every opinion Paul expressed or every contemporary understanding he reflected. If you believe all nonrecovering alcoholics will be lost then I guess it follows that you believe that all non-chaste gays will be lost as well. But the two groups do stand or fall together. The writer of I Peter observes that “our brother Paul has written some things that are hard to understand.” My faith is based on the Gospel of Jesus who is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – and not on stray statements of Paul that are not at all clear as to their meaning and application two thousand years later.

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