HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BIBLICAL WORLD VIEW
© Jack Cottrell – July 17, 2015
[NOTE: I preached this as a sermon at First Church of Christ, Greendale IN, on July 19, 2015. There I gave it the title, “The Sermon I Don’t Want To Preach.” That title was literally true, since I would actually have preferred to preach on something else. But recent events in our country’s history have led me to conclude that we as a church need to know what the Bible says about gay marriage, and about homosexuality as such. That is the rationale for this message.]
It has been 42 years since I preached my first sermon on homosexuality [see my blog essay with that title]. A lot has happened between then and now. Then (in 1973), Christians were the good guys, and the gays were the bad guys. But now, in American culture, these roles have been completely reversed. The event that finalized this reversal was the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage everywhere in the U.S. Now gays are the “good guys,” and Christians are the “bad guys.” At this time we do not know what effect this ruling will have on churches, Christian colleges, and Christian businesses. The church may be in for a rocky future—but that would not be the first time!
One thing we do know: we as a church need to know where we stand on this issue of gay marriage, and on the subject of homosexuality as such. It goes without saying that we stand where the BIBLE stands. So what we need to know now is this: exactly what does the Bible say on these matters? That is what this message is about.
Some may be wondering if homosexuality is a proper subject to be talking about in church. Isn’t the church about religion and the gospel, about Jesus and salvation and stuff like that? So why don’t we just stick with religion and salvation, and keep our nose out of politics and culture and other people’s business? The answer is this: Christianity is NOT just about “the gospel” and salvation and the church. Where does your Bible begin? Not with Matthew, or Acts, or Romans – but with GENESIS! With CREATION! The Bible is a worldview! It presents a comprehensive picture of everything that exists! It includes EVERYTHING, beginning with creation. And this is where we begin.
I. THE WORLD AS CREATED.
The first two chapters of Genesis tell us what God has ordained as the natural order of things. When he created the world, he built certain things into it as the NORMAL, NATURAL state – as the RIGHT WAY things ought to be. As Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” This includes (among other things) God’s plan for the family, which was established as the norm from the beginning. See Genesis 1:27-28a; 2:7; 2:18; 2:21-25.
This divine plan for the family includes three elements: (1) MARRIAGE between a male and a female, as husband and wife; (2) SEX as the bond between husband and wife; and (3) CHILDREN and PARENTHOOD within this marriage bond. Jesus himself affirmed this God-ordained order for the family in Matthew 19:4-6.
But this is just the beginning of the story. See the next step –
II. THE WORLD AS CURSED AND CORRUPTED.
Sin brought a curse upon the physical world, specified in Genesis 3: pain in childbirth, toil and labor for a living, and physical death. Our present world is under this curse; our world is not normal. In the beginning the creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but not now.
This curse has especially affected the human body, from the days of Adam until now. The body of every human being is under the curse of death. (See Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 5:12; 6:23; 8:10; 1 Cor. 15:22; Jas. 1:15.
This death-curse includes all physical abnormalities. It is not limited to the moment of dying, Some of these abnormal conditions may lead to death; some may not. The latter may just subject our bodies to a lot of suffering without inflicting death itself; but they are all part of the general curse on this world. Included here are diseases of all kinds, e.g., cancer, polio, glaucoma, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s, pneumonia, leprosy, infections of all kinds. Also included are the abnormalities many are born with (what we call “birth defects”), e.g., Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, cleft palate, sickle cell anemia. (In the U.S. one in every 33 births involves some kind of congenital problem.)
Are such diseases and deformities normal? NO! Some may be the result of parental misconduct (e.g., fetal alcohol syndrome), but most can be traced back in the gene pool to its initial corruption in Genesis 3. In the case of birth defects, this genetic corruption can affect specific parts of the body, such as the heart, the skin, the blood, or even the brain.
Let’s zoom in on this last point, i.e., how the genetic effects of the Adamic curse can affect the brain. Sometimes, as a result of the Adamic sin, a genetic or chemical malfunction in the brain of a developing baby affects its sense of sexual identity and sexual function. In my judgment, the best scientific evidence points to this conclusion.
This raises a very serious question: how can we explain same-sex attraction, homosexual feelings, and transgender feelings? Are they inborn, or acquired? There is much controversy over the answer to this question. I will now list three main suggested answers. In each answer, the distinction between the homosexual disposition (condition) and homosexual behavior (acts) is crucial. It is one thing to BE a homosexual; it is another thing to DO homosexual things.
The first answer to the question: the homosexual disposition is inborn and thus natural, and thus homosexual behavior is itself completely natural and quite moral. This is the claim of the secular gay community, and this is its basis for the legitimacy of gay marriage. I.e., “This is the way I was born, so this is what is natural for me.” Or as some put a religious spin on it, “This is the way God made me, so this is the way he wants me to live.” This answer as a whole is quite contrary to the Bible.
The second answer to the question of the origin of same-sex attraction: the homosexual disposition is acquired by choice and is thus itself sinful, and homosexual behavior is obviously therefore unnatural and sinful. This is the way many Christians have viewed it, and many still do. They say that there is no scientific evidence that the gay disposition is inborn. Since one chooses to be homosexual, he or she can choose to abandon both the condition and the behavior. Thus it is a sin to be (or continue to be) a homosexual, and a sin to do homosexual things. Again, as a whole, this answer is contrary to the Bible.
The third answer, which I believe is Biblical, is that the homosexual disposition—same-sex attraction—is (probably) inborn, but like any other birth defect it is UNNATURAL but NOT SINFUL. On the other hand, homosexual behavior is both unnatural and sinful. (Remember: it is very important to distinguish the homosexual disposition from homosexual behavior.)
The bottom line is that even though the homosexual disposition may indeed be inborn or genetic, this is the result of the death-curse placed on the physical world in Genesis 3. Thus being inborn does not make same-sex attraction normal or natural. It was not part of the world as created, but is part of the world as corrupted. It does not excuse or justify homosexual behavior. At the same time, even though such an inborn condition is not normal (if indeed it is inborn), the homosexual person is not morally to blame for having the disposition. A person is not a SINNER because he or she has been born (as I believe is usually the case) with same-sex attraction.
No matter what one believes about the origin of the homosexual disposition, though, we must recognize that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior (including lust), or homosexual acts, or homosexual lifestyle (including gay marriage) as contrary to nature and contrary to God’s will. It is sin. The key texts are as follows: Genesis 19 (the saga of Sodom), with commentary in Jude 7; Moses’s Law: Lev. 18:22; 20:13; and three texts from the Apostle Paul: Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10.
This leaves us with another serious question: what can a person who is homosexual DO, who wants to live a life that pleases God and leads to heaven? What kind of message does the church have for homosexuals? What do we have to offer – HATE or HOPE? This leads to the last point –
III. THE WORLD AS CURED.
In the Christian world view, God is the Creator of a perfect world, but human free will has caused that world be become cursed and corrupted. But the Creator does not simply abandon his world to the ravages of sin and corruption; from the beginning he has had a plan to CURE the world of its pervasive sin and disease and death. This cure takes two forms.
First, God offers a PERSONAL, PRESENT cure to all those affected by sin’s curse, including homosexuals. A key passage is 1 Cor. 6:9-11. In verses 9 & 10 Paul lists many who will not inherit the kingdom because of their sins; in verse 9 he includes two different words for homosexuals. Just as it is the case with fornicators, thieves, idolaters, and swindlers, those who persist in their homosexual behavior are among the “unrighteous” who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” But this is not Paul’s main point. In verse 11 he continues: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God.”
Here is the personal cure offered by the gospel. Some of you were homosexuals, says Paul, but you have received the double cure of salvation. In your baptism (“you were washed”) you have been justified (forgiven) and thus freed from the penalty for your sins. You have also been set apart from your former life through the gift of the regenerating and indwelling Holy Spirit. Through his indwelling presence the Spirit gives you power—power either to change your homosexual disposition as such, OR power to enable you to live with that disposition without sinning. If the only way to do the latter is celibacy, the Spirit will help you to do it. (Remember that many heterosexuals are limited to a celibate lifestyle by unchosen circumstances; they too can do so by the power of the Spirit and by the support of the body of Christ.)
But there is more. God offers the sinner a personal cure, but he also promises a COSMIC, FUTURE cure that will remove the corruption that sin has caused from the whole creation. This is the basis for hope for all who have suffered debilitating diseases and birth defects, and have thereby been forced to live very limited lives here on this earth. A person may say, “It’s just not fair! Why do I have to live my whole life with this condition?” A gay person may say, “It’s not fair that I cannot marry the one I love and to whom I am attracted, just because they are of the same sex as I!”
I can see why one might ask such a question, and I can see that the afflicted person might have a point—IF life in this world were the only life a person can have. But this is NOT the only life, or the only world, that we can have. You see, God has promised to CURE this diseased universe, and to replace it with a completely new “heavens and earth” (or at least to rehabilitate and renovate the one we have by completely removing all effects of sin and its curse). This cosmic cure will result in a new, uncorrupted “heavens and earth” (universe) at the second coming of Jesus (2 Peter 3:10-15).
But the best part is this: for God’s people this cosmic cure includes a redeemed, glorified body that is completely free from all effects of the death-curse! As Paul puts it in Romans 8:23, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” The redemption of our body—completely set free from its present sin-caused conditions and limitations!
The deal is this: all who commit themselves to Jesus Christ will have a part in that new, improved, eternally perfect universe. Is it worth the commitment? Is it worth the wait? Will this future cosmic cure be worth submitting ourselves to “the sufferings of this present time”? Absolutely! Here is what Paul tells us in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”! We must focus on the future life! Living your life on this present corrupted earth with uncomfortable limitations for several decades is nothing compared to the promise of an eternal perfect life in a perfect body in the new universe!
Even the universe itself, in a sense, understands that its present state is one of “futility” and “slavery to corruption,” and it “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth” even now (Rom. 8:19-22). And, says Paul, with an “anxious longing” this distorted creation “waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (v. 19), i.e., our full adoption into God’s eternal family, with our new bodies. Thus do we also wait: eagerly, expectantly, patiently, and confidently.