What makes homosexuality an issue? If the topic is brought up, someone is going to strike either a conversation or a great avoidance. Homosexuality is an issue. People are not the only source that makes homosexuality an issue. The Bible and theology, society, biology, and choice make it an issue, too. The Bible has several verses that at the very least raise questions about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not what is considered a typical marriage union. It is argued as being from lust versus being from love, being from choice or being from biology. Natural procreation cannot come out of homosexual intercourse, but there is still the issue. What is in question: the behavior, relationship, or orientation, or all three? I know that I am against the homosexual lifestyle and orientation, but not the homosexual person. Many who are against the lifestyle are cold and cruel towards homosexual persons. While theologically I may somewhat agree with these people, I have a compassion for and even friendship with the homosexual. This topic is one that is often brought up, it is one that I (and others) feel strongly about, and it is one where there is a way to say, "I disagree with the lifestyle, but I love the person." Reflecting on that statement, many in "my camp" can only disagree, but not love.
A list of Bible verses applying to homosexuality is the following: Genesis 19:1-29, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Judges 19:22-23, Acts 15:28-29, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:10. I will not follow the argument that some of these verses are not focusing on homosexuality (for example, hospitality in Genesis 19:1-29 and Judges 19:22-23 ) and therefore minimize the warning against a homosexual lifestyle. Even if some of these verses do not focus on homosexuality explicitly, what is said about it is at least negative. Certainly, there is the complexity of homosexuality being behavior, relationship, and orientation (to be mentioned in more detail); however, I have found no positive statements about homosexuality in the Bible. For some verses (holiness codes in Leviticus), some Christians ask for reasons why the verses speak against homosexuality. While it may be a question worth pondering, the bottom line is that the verses do speak against homosexuality. It is worth pondering what is behind verses in the Bible, but that does not change the fact that they are verses in the Word of God. If something is morally questionable, then I would suggest not agreeing with it unless it is known to be right. And at the very least, even for moral behavior, I do not want to do anything to cause my brother or sister to stumble (See Romans 14:15-23). If anyone has a question about whether something is right or wrong and goes ahead and does it, then to me, that is "playing with fire" or moral carelessness. Finally, regarding the Bible, I remember seeing on television a story where a lesbian pastor stood up and said, "Here is what Jesus said about homosexuality." She then stood in silence. My heart breaks. While Jesus did not use the word for homosexuals, He does mention sexual immorality (See Matthew 15:19). Homosexual behavior is included in the definition of sexual impurity in Romans 1:24-27. If homosexuality is defined as sexual immorality/impurity, then Jesus does talk at least indirectly about homosexuality being ungodly. There are many other verses that warn against sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 13, 18-20; 1 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 12:16, Hebrews 13:4, and Revelation 21:8). Considering what the Bible outlines in the verses above and mentioned earlier, I conclude that homosexuality is sexual immorality and thus ungodly. In summary, then, if the Bible is my only source, then I do not see homosexuality favorably. And since the Bible is above all other sources, then I can only draw the following conclusions: Homosexuality, the orientation, is unnatural and not what God intended. Homosexuality, as far as a sexual or "love" or romantic relationship, is wrong because it, too, is not what God intended, it is unnatural, and it leads to the behavior. Homosexuality, the sexual behavior, in my opinion, is the least debatable; it also is not what God intended. If something is not God's intention, it is against His will, and this is sin. That is what I understand from the Bible. I now discuss my feelings on some of the issues about homosexuality.
What about marriage? The Bible refers to male and female in the ideal marriage. Ephesians 5:21-33 has a good portrayal of the ideal marriage. Genesis introduces one man and one woman -- Adam and Eve (See Genesis 1:26-27). I am reminded of a quote I once heard: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." In the Bible all marriage contexts are between man and woman. Further, cosmically speaking, the church is the bride and Christ is the bridegroom (See Ephesians 5:31-32 and Revelation 19:7-8, 21:9) -- a cosmic heterosexual model, if you will. (11/1/07 note: I wrote about marriage theology in August 1998). Let me expound: The heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman is a picture of Christ (represented by the man) and the Church (represented by the woman). Homosexual "marriage" is a perversion as it models either two Christs without a Church or it models Churches without Christ.
Some ask how an "act of love" could be condemned? Love is so misunderstood in humanity. Love comes from God. Love is His intention. Homosexuality is not His intention; it is not of God. And since a house divided against itself cannot stand (See Mark 3:24-25), if love is God's intention and homosexuality is not God's intention, then homosexuality is not an "act of love." I believe the homosexual lifestyle is a choice (11/1/07 add.). However, for the sake of argument (11/1/07 add.), one could say that homosexuality is one of two things: a biological phenomenon or a lust (I include passion in this definition). If it is a lust, then it is simply a choice of rebellion against God. If it is a biological phenomenon, or what I will call a predisposition, this makes choices more difficult perhaps but does not eliminate the ability to make a choice based on the predisposition. An alcoholic is biologically predisposed for a certain biochemistry that triggers when he or she takes a drink. Yet, those with alcoholism in their genes can choose not to take a drink and thus not live an alcoholic life with negative consequences. If there is a biological aspect to homosexuality, then (like in alcoholism) there is still a choice. There is still accountability. When I was unmarried and single, I chose to abstain from sex (11/1/07 mod.). I had passions to unite with a woman, but since I was not married, those passions were under the self-control of the Holy Spirit (11/1/07 mod.). I challenge homosexuals at the very least to strive for self-control in such a way as an unmarried heterosexual should. If someone is a diabetic, then he or she has to learn to control his or her diet and take insulin. Likewise, if a condition is a health or physical or genetic condition then the person with that condition must learn to live with that condition, control it via treatment, and in case of communicability (such as a promiscuous heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual spreading of HIV), protect others. It is all about self-control and accountability, both of which involve choice. There is a choice.
Yet, there is the complexity. There is the act, the relationship, and the orientation. Act (behavior) refers to intercourse, relationship refers to sexual or "love" or romantic interpersonal interaction, and orientation refers to passion or lust (See 1 Thessalonians 4:5) for those of the same sex. I find all 3 as not being God's intention. I would emphasize ceasing (in the following order) the behavior, any sexual relationships (although I am fully supportive of friendships with homosexuals), and by God's grace to strive to change the orientation, although I would imagine this to be the most difficult to do (11/1/07 mod.).
In discussions about homosexuality, I have heard much about the functions of sex: procreation or pleasure or both. I believe that sex potentially serves purposes of intimacy, pleasure, and procreation. I know that sex is not solely for procreation, but there is something to be said for procreation: You and I would not exist if not for the procreative nature of sex. Some persons from laboratory, surrogate, or test-tube births may argue my point here, but even then, their parents while perhaps not having been in a heterosexual union, came from ancestry that was biologically built on heterosexual unions. Heterosexual unions have the potential for procreation. Procreation is absolutely impossible for homosexual intercourse to produce. Some against my argument may be insensitive and bring up those heterosexuals who struggle with the pain of infertility when that is a biological dysfunction, not an event where they did not want children or an event where they were not designed for that potential. Biological dysfunction in procreation and not being designed by God for procreation differ greatly! Others may "cop-out" and say, "What about birth control?" People using birth control may or may not want children, but they do not go against God's design. The issue is not about children. Bringing up infertility (which is insensitive) or birth control (which is weak) is merely taking the focus off of the discussion of homosexuality, something I find which occurs even with the Bible verses at times. With homosexuality, it is not a biological dysfunction interfering with people wanting children, but rather an unnatural act (See Romans 1:26-27).
So, is homosexuality this great sin? I do not want to overrate homosexuality as a sin. When one commits one sin, he or she commits them all (See James 2:10). If I curse and hate or have extra-marital sex, that is committing a sin just like the homosexual. A sin is a sin, and a stain on the white robe is a stain. Sexual sins do differ somewhat from other sins, though, in the fact that if someone commits a sexual sin, he or she sins also against his or her own body (See 1 Corinthians 6:18). Although homosexuality should not be overrated as a sin, sins in general should not be underrated with a complacent attitude.
With that in mind, what about homosexuals in society and in the church? Homosexuality is wrong and some people agree, but likewise, so is a man sleeping with his girlfriend and having sex with her before marriage. People should not calm down about homosexuality necessarily, but should increase awareness that other sins are just as wrong, and have compassion for people in sin. I know that society is very condemning of homosexuals, hating the person rather than separating the person loved by God from the sin he or she commits. That is sad. Homosexuals need love -- true love -- Jesus Christ, as we all do. As far as homosexuals in the church, I do not feel that they should hold any position in the church, but I welcome them to the church as part of the congregation. By saying, "I am a homosexual," one says that he or she does not strive in repentance against this lifestyle, thus in a way saying, "This is how I am and I am unwilling to have a softened heart towards the Holy Spirit in working in me to change it" (11/1/07 mod.). A preacher may have committed adultery in the past, but if he or she gets up in the pulpit and says, "I am presently an adulterer and this is who I am," then this is unrepentance (See 2 Corinthians 12:21). That preacher should step down (and repent -- this parenthetical note was added 24 July 1998). All of us have sinned (See Psalm 53:3, Romans 3:23), but I encourage all (even myself) to live a life of repentance. Repentant sinners, including ex-homosexuals, should be allowed to hold positions in the church. So while I do not feel that unrepentant sinners and homosexuals should hold positions in the church, I welcome the homosexual and any unrepentant sinners to the congregation (and the intent to being part of the congregation would be repentance -- this parenthetical note was added 24 July 1998). What better place for one to be than church! Homosexuals are of sacred value to be ministered to. Like other sins, homosexuals should strive (in Christ) against an immoral lifestyle (repent). As far as my view, I feel that it would be much more difficult to stop a homosexual lifestyle than a foul and crude tongue, but all things work together for those who love the Lord (See Romans 8:28), and ultimate strength and possibility is found with Christ Jesus the Lord (See Philippians 4:13).
With Love and Understanding in Christ,
James A. Johnson
2 April 1998
I received an E-mail on 24 July 1998 in response to this article which included the following:
"The article that you wrote on homosexuality is wonderful. I think you have covered all scripture there and I hope it has helped people to understand where the Bible stands. The statement you make there about having them as friends even though you disapprove of their lifestyles - I wonder - it does not agree with 1 Corin. 5. According to that we should not associate with them as well as other sinners who do not repent, such as drunkards, prostitues - others are listed. In fact it says we should not eat with them and they should be removed from the church. I agree with this. I hope the [church] will take a stand on that - I think if they don't, they will continue to have problems and be pulled down."
Below, I have a modified (for the sake of clarity and confidentiality and universality) version of my response:
Thanks for the compliments and words concerning the homosexuality article I wrote. I can see where on the surface, the article appears to disagree with 1 Corinthians 5, but after reading the article, 1 Corinthians 5, and the footnotes, they do not disagree.
The footnotes I find helpful in understanding the verses even more so in context. Here are the footnotes regarding parts of 1 Corinthians 5, NIV:
==========START OF FOOTNOTES=======
5:9 "I have written you in my letter" -- Paul here clarifies a previous letter (one not preserved). The Corinthians mistook that letter to mean that, on separating from sin, they should disassociate themselves from all immoral person, including non-Christian people. Instead, Paul meant that they should separate from immoral persons in the church who claimed to be Christian brothers (v v. 10-11).
5:11 "With such a man do not even eat" -- Calling onself a Christian while continuing to live an immoral life is reprehensible and degrading, and gives a false testimony to Christ. If the true Christian has intimate assocation with someone who does this, the non-Christian world may assume that the church approves such immoral, ungodly living and thus the name of Christ would be dishonored. Questions could arise concerning the true character of the Christian's own testimony (cf. Ro 16:17-18; 2 Th 3:6, 14-15).
5:12 "judge those inside" -- The church is to exercise spiritual discipline over the professing believers in the church (cf. Mt 18:15-18), but it is not to attempt to judge the unsaved world. There are governing authorities to do that (Ro 13:1-5), and the ultimate judgment of the world is to be left to God (v. 13:cf. Rev 20:11-15).
(All of the above footnotes are from the New International Version
of THE NIV STUDY BIBLE. Copyright 1985 by Zondervan Bible
Publishers. Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
=============END OF FOOTNOTES==========
1 Corinthians 5 talks about expelling the immortal brother. That is, if one calls himself or herself a Christian and continues sinning and does not desire to repent. This does not include the following: People of the world, Christians who struggle with sin but have shallow repentance, and people who are unrepentant in that they have not yet repented but desire to do so. I am a Christian, and I sin, but I desire to repent. There are 3 things to consider then in regards to 1 Corinthians 5:
1) Does the person claim to be a Christian?
2) Does the person continue to sin?
3) Does the person desire repentance?
A yes, yes, no would fit the bill for 1 Corinthians 5. We don't want to take 1 Corinthians 5 out of context and separate ourselves from all immoral people or become like Pharisees. 1 Corinthians 5 is specific to unrepentant and continually immoral people who claim to be Christian. A practicing homosexual who calls himself a Christian fits this bill.
In my article, I am clear that homosexuality is wrong, is not compatible with the Christian lifestyle, that there is a need for repentance, striving for change, and self-control. I do use the term "unrepentant" in description of people welcome in the church. But in view of the entire article, these unrepentant ones would be there for the purpose of repentance. I should make that clearer, but it is there in the article that although welcomed, these people are urged to repent.
Jesus was "picked on" for spending time with prostitutes and tax collectors and other "sinners" but He was striving to compassionately urge them to repentance. [It is appropriate to befriend the homosexual when he is not a Christian (knowingly or unknowingly as in thinking he is but apparently is not), or when he does not claim to be a Christian while practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or if he claims to be a Christian that he also strives in repentance to give up that lifestyle, and if the association with the person does not bring up question about the Christian testimony, and if the association with the person does not dishonor the name of Christ.] 1 Corinthians 5 would not apply to people who are non-Christians, to those who have relapsed or fallen into sin and desire repentance, or to those who show repentance even if it is shallow at times (or to those who have deceived themselves into thinking they are Christians but apparently are not). Yet, if one's homosexual lifestyle is a continuous and ongoing lifestyle, and he does not desire to repent, and he claims Biblical support for his lifestyle, then 1 Corinthians 5 applies. As the Gospel preaches, we want to compassionately try to win people for Christ, and if a brother sins, approach alone once, then with a witness, and then before the church, afterwards treating him as you would a tax collector (as taught in Matthew 18:15-17). Even if the person is expelled from church, however, we should still forgive the person, pray for the person, and love the person.
With further understanding in Christ,
James A. Johnson
24 July 1998
***NOTE: Some clarification was made in the original homosexuality article after this correspondence via parenthetical notes which are also labeled as being added on 24 July 1998.
***I made further additions (add.) and modifications (mod.) on November 1, 2007, in view of the full realization that the homosexual lifestyle is a choice, in view of my being a married man now, and in my growing understanding of God's sovereignty. Further, I linked the Bible verses after converting the original text document to a web format.
designates additions/modifications made in January 2017.