Posts Tagged Sodom and Gomorrah
Why doesn’t God love gay people? I would hope that Christians would immediately say, “He does love them.” However I am fairly certain some churches would have concerns if they suddenly received a ten percent influx of visitors next Sunday, who happened to be gay. Homosexuality is one of the biggest social concerns affecting our churches today and it is not a new subject. I adamantly proclaim God does love gay people. Unfortunately, based upon church history in the last few decades, I can understand why people might think the church feels God doesn’t. We have a real problem if our excitement for visitors is truly proportionate to our ability to accept them based on how dirty we think they are. I am certain Christ would disagree with our praxis if we tell God which of his children we want to work with. The church’s stance on the subject of Homosexuality ranges from hypersensitive to possibly sinful, so I am going to suggest we rethink our position on how we address Homosexuality. Now, before you stop reading and dismiss this idea as anywhere from ridiculous to heretical, please take a few minutes to read through this article, think through what I am saying, and decide for yourself. Maybe by the end a voice in your heart will tell you to forget it, or maybe you will find a voice in your heart to help me set a trend that could change our world. I am going to propose we look at Homosexuality, why we say it is outside of God’s plan, and then rethink how the church should communicate that and deal with it.
There are a handful of biblical references that either directly or indirectly address homosexuality. The purpose of this article is not to offer a critical textual analysis of them to attempt to define the ultimate truth. The verses are clear; and simply put, the more we openly debate the biblical text regarding this issue, the more we obfuscate its relevance. We need to review them though to understand what it says. The bible offers direct prohibition of homosexual sexual practice in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). In the same law it also says that if a man commits adultery he should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10), if a child curses their parents they should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9), and if a married couple has sex during the woman’s menstruation cycle, they should both be cut off from the people (Leviticus 20:18). We seem to be very willing to support some laws and not interested in supporting others. I am not suggesting we stop reading Leviticus, but there is a good reason why most churches don’t “preach through” this book. Simply put, it requires a great deal of context and background to understand. Therefore I am going to posit that we should not use Leviticus as the proof text for our arguments against Homosexuality.
Another argument used by the church is from Sodom and Gomorrah. Etymologically we get the word Sodomy from this, and have used the word Sodomites to refer to Homosexuals. Genesis 13 tells us that the people of Sodom were wicked and sinned greatly. Genesis 18 reiterates this but neither explains directly what that sin is. The following passage from Genesis 19 explains the immorality that was rampant in the city.
4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:4-5, NIV)
It is ridiculous to use this text to prohibit homosexuality because it looks nothing like homosexuality; it does however look an awful lot like gang rape. Are we really expecting the world to equate two men or two women having consensual sex with gang rape? There is no comparison. An ancient city full of people willing to commit aberrant crimes of forced sex has no relation to modern people engaging in alternative sexual expression. Frankly Christians look like idiots when we say the two are the same. I think this argument causes more problems for Christians than for homosexuals, as it indicates we are a hypocritical people who don’t even closely read our own bible.
Additional prohibitions exist in 1 Corinthians and 1Timothy. These verses contain the Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi . These words are traditionally translated as homosexual and effeminate, yet there has been a lot of discussion about their true meaning over the years. Some feel that arsenokoitai is a translation of a Hebrew phrase in the Holiness code in Leviticus regarding the prohibition of a “man lying with a man as a woman”. The word malakoi is generally accepted to refer to the passive partner in the ancient Greek and Roman practice of Pederasty. This practice involved an older man courting and engaging in sexual relations with an adolescent boy. I personally feel that the latter translations and scholarly views on the terms are actually correct. Beyond offering a proposed solution to the historical conundrum of understanding ancient cultural oddities, this gives us nothing. Neither reference contextually refers to the modern practice of homosexual coupling. If we need to educate a person on the Hebrew and Greek in order to present God’s take on a modern dilemma, maybe we are trying too hard. These verses seem to be used to try to win arguments more than they are used to save souls. I am quite certain God is less pleased with our practice of arguing with sinners rather than showing them God’s enduring love and pointing them to salvation.
This leaves the most powerful reference in Romans 1. Paul is trying to deliver the message of Christ to a non Jewish world. He begins his treatise by envisioning the world in its infancy stage. He explains that people knew God, but did not glorify him or give him thanks. Because of this, God allowed them to continue the path they were on so their hearts darkened, and their thoughts became futile. They replaced the glory of God with selfish desire and allowed that desire to control them. God did not stop this from happening, because man exchanged the truth of God for a lie about themselves. In simple terms, they rebelled against God and became their own gods. Homosexuality then enters the picture, both for women and men.
“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Rom 1:26-27 NAS)
This passage clearly states that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God. It is and always has been an act that God wants mankind to steer clear of. It is not an evil entity by itself; rather it is seen as a byproduct of rebellion. It is a symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.
We use Romans 1 to declare homosexuality to be vile by the nature of this act and demonize it in and of itself. We do ourselves a great disservice by doing that because we miss the fact that it is not the first, last, or even the most prevalently mentioned symptom of rebellion against God. All sexual immorality is condemned by this passage along with idolatry, every type of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. If we as a church really want to honor God by preaching Romans 1 to proclaim his name, why do we solely focus on homosexuality? Why do we not pursue the other condemnations like we do homosexuality? I am ashamed to say this, but it appears we are not as bothered by the other symptoms, so we target a specific symptom, while letting the disease continue.
Homosexuals feel sexual attraction to people of the same sex, and it is irrelevant whether this desire is innate or whether it is learned through societal interaction. They take action on that desire proclaiming dominion over God by saying that their sexual desires outweigh his authority to declare what is right. Homosexual interaction is not more or less offensive to God than any other sin. The real problem is the abject rebellion declaring God has no right to regulate human behavior. Unfortunately this is rarely the center of the discussion by Christians. Some have branded Homosexuals as aberrant and less than human because of this sin, while other Christians go so far the other direction that they lessen God’s authority themselves in a “more loving” approach. Realistically neither direction is right, as we can neither reject God’s authority, nor usurp his power. We need to stop treating sin like something people are getting away with, and start treating sin like something people need to recover from.
Rather than approaching people who are lost due to their sins, we have alienated groups of people based upon our fear and dislike of a specific sin. We have created so many walls between ourselves and these groups that we may never be able to fully break them down. Homosexuality is not a cultural oddity that will pass away from our society. While our nation is currently at war with active troops dying in a foreign land, one of the largest social concerns in our country is “Gay rights”. Our world is not thinking correctly, and the Church should be the compass that helps the world find direction, but we are not doing that effectively. The current condition of the world is my evidence.
We need to start by setting our own compasses in the right direction. We can do this by asking for forgiveness from God, and then from the homosexuals that we have persecuted. What do you think would happen if every Christian who knew a homosexual went to that person and asked forgiveness for the bigoted, selfish, hateful, and foolish ways they were treated, or just forgiveness for not speaking out about it sooner? By doing this, we are not changing our doctrine to say that God now accepts the behavior but the act of asking forgiveness could reopen the lines of communications between a group who knows they are lost due to sin, and a group who still needs to recognize that.
Secondly, we should take a special collection from our own congregations and have the money donated to AIDS research. How do you think the world would react if the Christian church donated millions of dollars to research a cure for that devastating disease? I do not think this will fix all of the problems, but I do believe it will tell the world we are serious about what we believe and are willing to do something about it. This act alone may even give us the opportunity to talk to people and not just talk at them.
Thirdly, we should stop trying to fix Homosexuals. They are not broken machines. They are creations of God that have been damaged by sin. This damage cannot be fixed by reforming orientation by our understanding of propriety. We need to be willing to accept that we don’t have a solution. Only God can repair the damage through the love and forgiveness of his son. We can accept homosexuals as God’s children and show them the God who can heal them. This does not mean that Homosexuals will stop being attracted to the same sex. Churches will have to accept that people in their congregations will still be tempted to sin, so we will need to do a better job of supporting them.
Lastly, I think we should actively pray for these people. While the church’s history with homosexuals may not engender an appreciation of our prayers, we should do it anyway. Start with the people you know and pray for them regularly. Make an active effort in your prayer life to love that person enough to raise them up to God and ask him to intervene in their lives. If we are lucky enough, He will use us to do that.
The church is in crisis mode now and becoming more socially irrelevant daily. We are in a world that is spinning out of our control, but realistically it has never been in our control. We need to stop pointing fingers at other people and spend more time loving all of God’s people, because our actions say more than our words ever could. We are only given so much time on Earth, and ultimately we do not know how much time we have left to address our sins against homosexuals. When we stand before our God, will we be able to explain why we took his impartial and everlasting love and chose to only show it partially and in short supply? God calls us to be the light in the darkness, not to be a cause of darkness. If we band together as brothers and sisters in Christ, taking our jobs as churches seriously, I think we can change the world for the better.
You now have a choice. Throw this article away, dismissing it as heretical garbage, or act on it by helping break down the walls between the church and the homosexual community. Take time to pray about your choice and listen to the Spirit. If we truly listen to the Spirit, He will guide us through all of the world’s challenges. I am confident if we all do that, then we will be closer to each other, closer to God, and closer to tearing down the walls we have built.