By Jeremy Roberts
Last night, it was announced that the A&E Network has suspended Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson due to his statements in an interview with GQ. The cry from the conservative community has been potent.
It has opened a conversation that seems to come when any major news of the clashing of biblical theology and homosexuality come to the forefront of the American landscape. Every year, it becomes more and more difficult to stand by the belief that sex should only take place between one man and one woman in a marriage union.
Here’s some of what I see on Twitter and Facebook from Christians during this Phil Robertson controversy: Many Christians lack wisdom in lovingly expressing their opinion(s) on the sin of homosexuality. I expect homosexuals and defenders of the lifestyle of homosexuality to disagree with the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is sin. However, it is frustrating for Christians to express their beliefs in any way besides loving, humble, and merciful while at the same time non-compromising.
Friends, please stand up for your beliefs, no matter what they are, in a loving and humble manner.
Below is an analysis of the question, “Is it OK to be gay?” This is my belief on the subject of homosexuality, through the lens of a Christian who is conservative in my theology and progressive in my methodology.
1. What the Bible Says About Homosexuality [i]
Proponents of homosexuality try to cause doubt in regard to what the Bible says about this topic, but they will never accomplish their goal, because God’s Word will always accomplish the purpose for which it was sent:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10–11
So, reading that passage leads to this question: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13a If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.
Both verses communicate that God views homosexuality as an abomination. An abomination is something that is detestable. The practice of homosexuality is sickening to God.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Twice in this passage, it refers to gays and lesbians, and says that God “gave them up” to their sin. This basically means that God allowed the consequences of this sinful lifestyle to run their course in the lives of the homosexuals in this passage.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Wait just a second. Why does the Apostle Paul tell his readers to not be deceived? Because so many people are deceived.
This passage also names a few other sins in the same context; the emphasis throughout is on practicing those sins, meaning they have become habitual and starts to define who they are.
The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin, and those caught in it need to be freed by the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus has the power to make that happen!
1 Corinthians 6:11 (The Message) A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list.
In Greek, the word translated “such” is the term tauta. This is simply translated, “these.” Since the word is written in the neuter form (neither male nor female), it can be translated more literally, “these things.” This is significant because Paul is not referring to these Corinthians as people, but as things. It is as if their sin had grown so deeply entrenched in their lives that they were known specifically for it.
They practiced it; it was their lifestyle; that’s how they thought of themselves. Paul says these things are practiced as a lifestyle; that’s how they thought of themselves. And Paul says that if these things are practiced as a lifestyle and no repentance takes place, genuine salvation in Jesus Christ has never occurred.
This 1 Corinthians 6 passage should remind us that Christians are not to be against gays and lesbians, but against the sin that blinds them. Paul reminds his readers that because God had washed, sanctified, and justified them, they couldn’t go back to the sins from which they had been saved. In verses 9 and 10, Paul lifts up the banner of God’s truth. In verse 11, he raises the banner of God’s grace.
Here is the bottom line: The Bible nowhere affirms, sanctions, endorses or approves of the practice of homosexuality. God never calls it an alternate lifestyle. God opposes homosexuality, including homosexual marriage.
Critics of the traditional view of the Bible’s opposition to homosexual behavior often insist that the Old Testament’s prohibitions against homosexual practice applied only to ancient cultures (if, indeed, they applied even to them). They claim that opposition to homosexuality on the grounds of these texts is so outdated as to be laughable.
For the sake of time, I can’t dive into a deep explanation of defense of the Old Testament, but to put things succinctly, if we threw out the Leviticus 18 and 20 passages pertaining to homosexuality, we could also throw away the verses in Exodus 20 pertaining to murder and theft also being sinful.
Even if you just looked at the New Testament, it is clear the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful. We can find at least three texts (Romans 1:26–28; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; and 1 Timothy 1:9–10). And we also find that nowhere does the NT approve of, sanction, or look positively at a gay lifestyle.
Everywhere in the NT, we find the same testimony: the only kind of intimate sexual activity that God endorses occurs between a husband (male) and a wife (female).
So, Luke writes in Hebrews 13:4
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
In NT times, when this passage was written, the word “marriage” meant only a wedded union between a man and a woman. Therefore, the only kind of sexually active “bed activity” that God smiles upon occurs in the marriage bed, that is, between a husband and his wife.
“There was not one major religious leader or thinker in Jewish or Christian history prior to the present generation who argued for same-sex marriage.”[ii] – Dennis Prager
2. What Our Culture Says About Homosexuality
Locally in Chattanooga, TN
On August 5th of this year (2013), the city of Collegedale’s City Council voted 4 to 1 to OK extending health benefits to same-sex couples.[iii]
Hamilton County’s population is 336,463.[iv] In our county: 688 same-sex couples, 13% of whom are raising children together.[v] Throughout the state of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and then East Ridge are the sixth and seventh most heavily populated homosexual cities (respectively).
Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson announced in late August that one of his top priorities is to essentially follow Collegedale’s lead and expand health benefits to same-sex couples.[vi]
There are 10,898 same-sex couples. 1,959 gay couples claim to be “married.” There are 4.4 same-sex couples per 1,000 households in Tennessee.
The city of Knoxville just expanded health benefits to same-sex couples a few months ago, and Nashville is not far behind.
In 2006, pro-biblical-marriage forces in Tennessee lobbied to see that Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage. State statutes in Tennessee effectively disallow civil union or domestic partnerships between same-sex couples by affirming that marriage (between one man and one woman) is the only legally recognized marital contract.[vii]
Even in September, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that “Tennessee is turning away same-sex couples married in other states who seek to have their names changed on driver’s licenses and other state documents. State legislators banned same-sex marriage in a statute and voters did the same in the state constitution. The result is, as more Tennessee couples go to 1 of the 17 states and Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriages are recognized, they are having trouble getting it recognized back home. Complicating matters is the federal government now recognizes same-sex couples and allows Social Security cards to be issued in married names. The Tennessean reports that attorneys are recruiting potential couples for a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban.”[viii]
Thirteen states, plus Washington ,D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.
Total Number of Gay Couples: 594,391 Number of People in a Couple: 1.2 Million State With the Most Couples: California (92,138) State With the Least Couples: North Dakota (703) Highest Concentration of Gay Couple (% of all couples): Washington, D.C. (1.29%) Lowest Concentration of Gay Couples (% of all couples): North and South Dakota (.22%)[ix]
3. The Extra-Biblical Consequences of Homosexuality
Homosexuals are 50% more likely to suffer from depression and engage in substance abuse than heterosexuals.[x] The risk of suicide is 200% higher if one engages in homosexual activity. Homosexuals live, on average, 24 years shorter than heterosexuals. This is true, not just in the USA, but also in Denmark—a country that is highly tolerant of homosexuality. Homosexuals who die of AIDS typically pass away in their 40s, or without AIDS in their early 50s.[xi]
Lesbians have a greater risk of breast cancer than heterosexual women.[xii] The Journal of Sex Research reports that, after studying 2,583 older homosexuals, “the modal range for number of sexual partners ever [of homosexuals] was 101–500.” In addition, 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent had between 501 and 1000 partners. A further 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent reported having had more than 1000 lifetime sexual partners.”[xiii] 2% of the US population is gay, but 61% of people with AIDS in the US are gay.[xiv]
4. How to Communicate with Gay Friends and Family Members
A. Speak the Truth
Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
B. Speak in Love
Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Love homosexuals. Fervently pray for them, and in a non-condemning way, communicate to your gay friends that you pray for them.
It is not our responsibility to argue the authority or interpretation of Scripture with gay rights opponents, but simply to stand on the truth of Scripture while holding up true morality and the basis for it:
“Our pulpits communicate well the ‘wrongness’ of same-sex unions. But too often we sound like a ‘constituency’ arguing for our rights to the status quo. We speak about what is at stake for ‘our’ marriages and ‘our’ families—and all that is true. But we should speak more about what is at stake for those tempted to follow the lie of homosexual liberation. The apostle Paul reveals to us the outcome: death (Rom 1:32). That truth should make our hands tremble and our eyes moisten. . . . We should oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ not just because we believe Romans 1, but also because we believe John 3:16. And the culture should see us as brokenhearted revivalists, not just outraged moralists. We shouldn’t see homosexuality simply as a threat to family values in the abstract. We should weep that it is also a Roman road to hell—for real people with faces [and] names.”
– Dr. Russell Moore[xv]
God calls His church to love gays and lesbians through their struggles. The homosexual community will certainly love them into error; we need to love them into truth.
Hold up God’s truth without shame or compromise. Declare the gospel message of liberty and hope. Help our kids and student ministries to demonstrate love and help to those struggling with their sexuality. Demonstrate God’s mercy and love to those in the lifestyle of homosexuality and to their families, without a hint of compromise.
We All Need Jesus
All sin is wrong. Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive you of your sins and to set you free from the penalty of those sins. He became sin for you. 1 Timothy 1:15–16 says,
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Receive Jesus today.
[Used by permission. Jeremy Roberts is pastor of Church of the Highlands in Chattanooga. His website is jeremyroberts.org/.]
[i] Much of this section of the message was gleaned from Ronnie Floyd, The Gay Agenda: It’s Dividing the Family, the Church, and a Nation (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2004), chapter 6.
[ii] Dennis Prager, “Who Supports Same-Sex Marriage?” Townhall.com, March 9, 2004. [iii] Kate Harrison, “Collegedale Approves Benefits for Same-Sex Couples” http://timesfreepress.com
/news/2013/aug/05/collegedale-approves-benefits-same-sex-couples/, August 5, 2013.
[iv] United States Census Bureau. “2010 Census Data”. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
[v] Gary Gates and Abigail Cooke, “The Williams Institute” http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content /uploads/Flores-Barclay-Public-Support-Marriage-By-State-Apr-2013.pdf, April 2013. The Williams Institute is a UCLA School of Law think tank that studies sexual orientation law.
[vi] Joy Lukachick, “Chattanooga City Council’s Same-Sex Debate Ramps Up,” http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/oct/19/chattanooga-city-councils-same-sex-debate-ramps/, October 19, 2013.
[viii] Associated Press, “Tennessee Denying Name Changes to Same-Sex Couples,” http://timesfreepress.com/news/2013/sep/23/tennessee-denying-name-changes-same-sex-couples/, September 23, 2013.
[ix] Gideon Alper, “Gay Facts and Statistics 2013,” http://www.galperlaw.com/gay-law-report/gay-facts- statistics-2013/
[x] BMC Psychiatry, August 18, 2008 [xi] onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=255614
[xii] Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.showFeature& FeatureID=319&E:\ColdFusion9\verity\Data\dummy.txt
[xiii] Paul Van de Ven et al., “A Comparative Demographic and Sexual Profile of Older Homosexually Active Men,” Journal of Sex Research 34 (1997): 354.
[xiv] Center for Disease Control, cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/HIVIncidencePressRelease.html [xv] Russell D. Moore, “Revivalism, Civil Rights, and Same-Sex ’Marriage,’ ” SBC Life (May 2004).