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.

Why I Believe God Doesn’t Want A Gay Lifestyle For Us – #1

I tried to be honest with my readers in this post that I don’t believe God wants a gay lifestyle for anyone, and that I would be willing to say that to anyone. I also related what I am sure God doesn’t want for any of us, and that is judging each other. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know the reasons why I’m certain of that.

But I would like to share the reasons why I believe God doesn’t want us practicing a gay/homosexual lifestyle (choose your preferred term), and by that I mean, engaging in homosexual acts/intercourse. I will stick to scripture in this series of posts, and warn you ahead of time that I am not a biblical languages scholar, have not read widely on the subject, and am not interested in being locked into a preconception that I’ve already held. I just want to know what God says in scripture, what He does not say, and what are reasonable conclusions that can be drawn based on that. I’ve tried to keep an open mind on the question, and what I’m sharing is the conclusions I’ve come to.

You need to come to your own conclusions after your own study and prayer and fasting and desert time. You need to, even if you don’t know, care about, love or hate someone who identifies herself or himself as gay. Because you might, and God still loves them, and their souls are as precious to Him as yours.

So here’s reason number one.

Genesis 19. The cry against Sodom and Gomorrah had reached the ears of the Lord (see the previous chapter) because of its evil. Two angels visit Sodom so that the Lord can see for Himself.

Please don’t ask me to explain that. I don’t have a clue. We think of God as being able to see all from wherever He is — presumably heaven — but in this case, He visits by these proxies while He stays with Abraham. Perhaps it has something to do with the severity of the evil that these cries have charged Sodom with committing, and the reliability of two or three witnesses that we find recommended in scripture. Perhaps it has something to do with God’s personal aversion to evil. Maybe His very presence there would have caused judgment and obliteration … before Abraham’s nephew Lot and his household could be rescued. I’m guessing, and only guessing.

What was that outcry God heard? Scripture doesn’t say. Whom did it come from? The Bible doesn’t tell us.

But when the men/angels come to investigate, Lot is at the gate and tries to turn them aside from entering the city/fortress. (Originally, he had camped outside Sodom; it would seem that he built a house with a door there.) He has to persuade them not to spend the night in the square. Why? I think we’re left to draw the conclusion that if they had been ordinary men, they would have been in danger from the evil within.

Instead, the men from all over the city come to Lot’s house and their idea of hospitality is not the same as his. They surround the house and call out to Lot: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Some have argued that their initial intent was rape. Okay, I’ll grant that as a possibility. But although there is a term for rape in the language of the scripture as originally written, it doesn’t appear here. They’re just asking. Lot goes out, shuts the door behind him. There’s no indication that he was in danger; he shut the door behind him because the men were asking for his guests. Lot tries his powers of persuasion to dissuade them.

Personally, I think the offer of his engaged virgin daughters is made in jest, perhaps in an attempt to lighten the mood of the tense situation. He calls them his friends. Everyone there knows that their interest is not in his engaged daughters. It’s a tasteless joke, agreed — but possibly a desperate one. When they threatened Lot, the men/angels pulled him inside. Their threat against Lot and his guests at this point has the implied violence associated with rape. At any rate, things went south fast. These men are struck blind, and the next day after Lot, his immediate family and his guests escape before sunrise, fire from the sky (burning sulfur) rains down and completely destroys the city. (His future sons-in-law remained behind, thinking he was joking. Apparently Lot didn’t have a real developed sense of humor.) The refugees are instructed by the men/angels to keep moving; not to look back. It was too much to ask. Lot is granted respite closer than the angels preferred. Looking back at the firestorm destroying her home and doubtless her friends, Lot’s wife is transformed into what is described as “a pillar of salt.”

This fire was “from the Lord.” Did He destroy the cities for the attempt at rape, or the idea that hospitality should include homosexual intercourse, or for more? Well, definitely for more than either or both of those things. Isaiah 3 says that Sodom paraded its sins; the prophet is building on a metaphor that Israel has become as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah, and names many other sins, perhaps parallel to those of the doomed cities. Jeremiah takes up that metaphor several times, too, against pagan nations. Ezekiel 16 says the sins of Sodom (exceeded by Israel) were arrogant self-indulgence, neglect of the poor and denial of justice. But these sins do not exclude nor negate those recorded in Genesis; they simply supplement and exacerbate them.

My point is that Lot was, in those patriarchal pre-Mosaic Law times, trying to protect his guests from the intrusion of unwanted attention. That attention included the offer of homosexual intercourse. If the guests/men/angels were traveling alone and Lot considered it culturally/morally/ethically acceptable for people to engage in homosexual intercourse, then he would have had no reason to go out and dissuade his friends from making the offer; if the encounter had started as a threat of rape, he probably wouldn’t have gone outside to reply.

That’s my thinking. You’re free to disagree; but this is only one of several reasons I find in scripture that tell me God doesn’t want a gay lifestyle for anyone; the first that touches on the question directly.

(Why didn’t I begin with Genesis 2? Yes, I believe God created man male and female for procreation to take place through sex — and He put pleasure in the mix so that it was also for recreation. Sex is meant to seal a bond of intimacy between man and wife that is described nowhere in scripture as meant for any other relationship. But I consider the phrase “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” to be so trivializing of something deeply sacred, and so belittling and insulting to the intelligence of anyone who has heard it, that I’ve elected not to go there. Only two people existed in the context of these verses; that it speaks of the single complex relationship between them (later known as marriage) is inevitable. Other people would appear later in scripture, and other relationships. The issue in this context cannot be whether a heterosexual monogamous relationship is the only one in which sex is blessed and permitted by God; there could not have been any other because that was the only kind of sexual relationship possible. So the permissibility or blessing of other sexual relationships cannot possibly be in view here.)

Now, once again, perspective: None of us is sinless. None of us is immune to sexual temptation — to temptation generally. As I’ve said in previous posts, our call is not to judge but to love. If we’re going to discuss matters on which we disagree, it must be in love and humility. If we do not wish to be judged, we must not judge.

There is ample evidence that some people have a predilection to prefer same-sex intercourse, and most don’t. A few have no preference. The evidence about why is inconclusive at this point. To say that people choose their innate sexual taste is simply not realistic. But to say that what people choose to do with that sexual preference and how they act upon it is a matter of choice — that is inarguably accurate. And nothing in scripture persuades me that we are judged by God over what tempts us — but that we are judged when we act selfishly, against His will.

My desire in this series is to discern His will in this matter.

I am convinced that He wants what is best for us — all of us.

Homosexuality: We Don’t Know What We’re Talking About

Wow, He Really Knows What He's Talking AboutGive the word a Google: homosexuality. Look it up in dictionaries. Seek out its etymology.

As a word, it’s not that old; just a little over a century.

And the definitions differ. Some describe attraction or desire as well as activity or intercourse … and others don’t. Plus, in the past few generations, the distinction has been blurred with the addition of the word “orientation,” and the word “gay” as a preferred description.

In short, when we talk about it … we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Not exactly.

And when believers talk about it, and the use of the word in newer translations of the Bible, we especially don’t know what we’re talking about.

Since the word was coined a little over 100 years ago, you won’t find homosexual or any of its daughter-words in English translations older than that.

As an adjective it does, in practice and fact, describe both desires/feelings/attractions and actions/intercourse.

As nearly as I can tell, what the Bible speaks of is — in the original languages Greek and Hebrew — actions between individuals of the same sex, specifically male (as much of scripture is, having been written in eras of patriarchal prejudice), and the wording is “man on man.” This isn’t talking about conversations mano a mano or a type of basketball defense. It’s talking about sexual activity, not desire, and it’s talking about something that does not please God.

Let’s not go crazy about this. There are about four or five times the concept comes up in all of scripture. God just doesn’t like it. He didn’t like it in the era of the Old Testament and He doesn’t like it in the era of the New Testament.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar nor do I play one on TV. That’s why I said, “As nearly as I can tell.” You need to research the matter for yourself; I’m not going to try to condense mine here because it defies abbreviation. Look up the terms used. Look up the scriptures in which they’re used. Look at the parts of speech that are used, and the (no pun intended) conjugations used in the phrasing of the verses. Look at what it means, and if you have to put aside something you have been taught that it means in order to do so, then be brave enough to take God’s word over man’s.

I’ve looked into this as deeply as my brain knows how, for more than the number of years since I wrote The One Where I Just Lose. I’ve come to these conclusions after years of study, prayer, and love for people who are troubled about it. You need to reach your own conclusions, however long it takes and however much it hurts.

I don’t know the reasons why some people feel homosexual attractions or feel them so strongly. I haven’t experienced them, and as much as I would like to be able to sympathize, I simply can’t.

But I can see no evidence in scripture that having those desires or being tempted by them is a sin, or sinful by its nature, or something that causes one to be damned.

It is in acting on tempting desires that displeases God, not in being tempted by them. That’s true of heterosexual desires outside of marriage as surely as it is of homosexual desires. Activity can include choosing to gladly host wholesale lust until acting physically on it is almost inevitable — and in the meantime, the heart meant for God has been turned inward toward self and the conscience almost irrevocably seared.

There are all kinds of sexual behavior and choice that are displeasing to God. Some are more harmful than others; some are downright depraved; a few are even murderous and I don’t even like to think about the fact that they exist.

Probably consensual homosexual activity is one of the socially least harmful of these; and as society sees things currently, consensual homosexuality carries almost no perception of harm.

That doesn’t mean that it’s pleasing to God, or that He wants it for anyone. So there is a harm: it’s in the fact that homosexual activity (and other sins, sexual and otherwise!) will never be something that God wants for us; He wants something better for us. That may be marriage. It may be celibacy.

I hate to be so stark about it, but scripture doesn’t really describe any other good alternatives. Both can be rich gifts from God and powerful lifestyles through which He is served and glorified.

There are alternatives, of course; but they are not good and do not particularly serve Him nor glorify Him. They may serve the desires of self very well, but unfortunately that means that they may very well serve the purposes of the accuser, Satan, too.

God wants better for us. God wants more for us. God wants Himself for us. I have no shame in telling any of my dearly-loved friends this, no matter what they are tempted by or how powerfully their desires draw them. I need to hear it myself, and often, from fellow believers when my will falters and my desire for God withers.

He made us. He knows what is best for us.

All we know is what we want.

Let me reiterate that 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.

Not our purpose. Not the accuser’s purpose.

His purpose.

So what does a believer do to be a part of God’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God?

Stop judging others.

Love others deeply.

Keep oneself unspotted.

Stop trying to legislate others out of sin. Sin is not a matter that law can handle. We spent a whole testament of scripture proving to God how that doesn’t work, just as if He didn’t already know it.

Sin is a matter of the heart.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love that “I think God wants something better for you than what you’ve chosen. I think He wants something better for me than judging other people, and I have a terrible struggle with that. I think He wants better for both of us.”

The One Where I Just Lose

I begin this post neither expecting to influence people nor win friends … or even an argument.

I’ve proposed that passing more restrictive laws regarding items like abortion and gay marriage (can I say “gay”? do I have to use the term “homosexual”?) is pointless if Christians don’t explain why.

I’ve proposed that the issues are complex, and are difficult to articulate.

I’ve explored one or two snowflakes on the tip of the iceberg of the issue of abortion.

There are seven scripture texts that generally fall into the debate about homosexuality: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and Jude 7. Apologists for the Christian gay viewpoint (yes, there are some) refute the traditional interpretations of these with arguments about Greek and Hebrew words, customs during Biblical times, redefining the sins of Sodom as idolatry and inhospitality, and the view that most of these scriptures decry only non-consensual sex – rape and pedophilia, for example – and pagan worship ritual. It’s complicated, I agree. It’s easier to simply condemn than to study out our own views. But if we as Christians want to reach and teach, we have to know what we believe and why … and we have to be willing to listen and learn as well.

Please understand … I’m not an advocate of making “choice” into “God.”

All I’m really asking is:

Should Christians support laws which limit the rights of – let’s call it a “minority by choice” – by defining marriage a certain way? While gay people don’t consider themselves a minority by choice, Christians generally consider them to be such. And in passing restrictive laws, we set a precedent that it is permissible to restrict the rights of a minority by choice.

Christians are still a minority. By choice. Are we aiming at a target that will turn out to be our own feet?

On the other hand …

Are we also setting precedent that it is permissible to further restrict rights to marriage? Will a future, even more conservative voting public define marriage to exclude people who have been divorced?

I’ve been divorced and have married again. (There was a time when church doctrine would have “outed” me. It was not that long ago. There was even a common opinion that to make things right, I would have to divorce my current wife and remarry my first wife – something God views as an abomination in Deuteronomy 24:3-4.)

Should everything that Christians don’t like and consider to be sin be outlawed by vote of the people, even if we cannot document the harm? Is a consensual gay relationship harmful to society? If so, how and to what degree? One supposes that Prohibition was intended to address public drunkenness. Was it the appropriate response? Or did we just need laws against public drunkenness?

Should changing laws be the focus of our efforts as Christians? Or changing hearts?

Should we be passing laws and passing judgment? Or passing the word that Christ loves – and died for – all?

Are we Christians who pass such laws really any different from those whom those laws will most affect?

“… all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23

Last in this series: The Other Foot, The Other Shoe