“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:24–28, NIV).
The homosexual agenda in the USA today is evident everywhere. Whenever you pick up the newspaper there are articles on the subject. When you turn on the news you are confronted with it. When you receive your Christian newsletters from agencies such as Focus on the Family, the American Family Association or the Family Research Council, you are informed about it. I believe that the homosexual agenda is the issue about which Christians must be aware. It is a problem that threatens the Christian family, the Christian church, the Christian school and the Christian community. It is a sin problem, a church problem, a social problem and a civil problem. It is a problem that needs to be viewed and analyzed not psychologically or sociologically as the secularists do, but biblically. It is a problem that needs to be responded to, not in fear or revulsion, but with grace and compassion. Only a Christian therefore is able to deal with this problem.
HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN PROBLEM
Notice the words that Paul uses in the above verses to describe homosexuality: “…sinful desires, impurity, degrading of their bodies, shameful lusts, indecent acts, perversion, the improper activity of a depraved mind, exchanging natural relations for unnatural.” Paul’s teaching here is based on the Old Testament where God’s creation design was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. “So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:21–24, NIV). The creation order of sexual relations designed by God was to be male-female.
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states: “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of THE LAW OF GOD.” Does the Law of God tell us that homosexuality is a sin problem? “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; mat is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22, NIV). Homosexuality is an abomination to God, so much so that the prohibition against it was woven into the fabric of Israel’s legislation!
Later in the book of Leviticus God says this again: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (Leviticus 20:13, NIV). To be engaged in homosexual behavior is not an alternative lifestyle as far as God is concerned. He demanded the death penalty for it!
A few brief verses later, God reveals that these laws were not just for Israel, but that the other nations were also to be judged by them. “You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them” (Leviticus 20:23, NIV). God does not have a double standard, one for His people and another for the rest of the world. All people, all nations will be judged by His one standard, His Law. And that Law condemns homosexuality.
The word sodomy in our English language refers to the sin for which destruction came upon that city. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16,49–50, NIV).
Many today say that the sin warranting Sodom’s destruction was lack of hospitality. While that may be partly true, it is not the whole truth as the text makes dear. The word for “detestable things” in Ezekiel is the same word as used in Leviticus 18:22. The KJV translates it as “abomination.” Besides, there is a New Testament commentary on Sodom’s destruction which is abundantly clear: “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7, NIV).
The objection that is commonly raised against these texts is that they come from Leviticus, thus they are ceremonial in character, thus they are fulfilled and abolished in the coming of Jesus Christ. At first that sounds reasonable until you examine what else is in those very same passages: laws dealing with adultery, child sacrifice, bestiality (sexual relations with animals), stealing, lying, slander and vengeance. Are we to believe that these no longer apply today also? Of course not! The fact that moral laws are interwoven with the ceremonial ones does not mean that when the ceremonial aspects were fulfilled in Christ, the moral laws were abolished as well. Such reasoning is specious.
The Bible is a unity. What Paul tells us in Romans 1 is the eternal and abiding will of God respecting homosexuality. It is a sin problem. And regardless of what some in our nonjudgmental, supposedly “homophobic” age may say, this is actually a hopeful designation. “Calling homosexuality a sin will seem to be a cruel, insensitive attitude, a ‘homophobic response’ of condemnation rather than concern. But the truth is that it is the beginning of true freedom and joy for the homosexual. For if homosexuality were either an inescapable human condition (like height and skin color) or an incurable disease, there would be no hope. The homosexual would be locked in his lusts forever, with no possibility of escape. Once we see clearly that homosexuality is a sin, we can also see the way of deliverance.”1
HOMOSEXUALITY IS A CHURCH PROBLEM
Rome, where Paul sends this episode, along with Corinth, were the New York and San Francisco of their day, perhaps even worse when it came to matters of sexuality. In those cultures homosexuality was extolled as the highest form of love. It was reputed to aid military prowess among their military. Interesting that the more things change the more they remain the same!
This issue poses particular problems for the church in our day. It effects our view of biblical authority as some in the church seek to tell us the above passages “no longer apply.” It effects our view of church ministry as some tell us that homosexuality is not a sin to be repented of but an acceptable alternative lifestyle. It effects the scope of church discipline, because if it is not a sin, then it is not subject to discipline. It effects the church’s responsibility in the social sphere. Does the widespread acceptance of homosexuality pose a threat to our culture, signaling its erosion? Or docs it evidence an advancement of civilization as we move beyond restrictive and repressive views of sexuality? How should the church respond?
Paul in Romans 1 was critiquing his culture and fighting against its infringement on the church. It is the same today as the church is threatened with capitulating to the culture rather than critiquing it. The United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Disciples of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA have all come out with pro-homosexual study reports. The United Church of Canada actually advocates ordaining practicing homosexuals in its recent report. The National Council of Churches includes as one of its member churches the Metropolitan Community Church, an exclusively homosexual denomination. Bishop Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Church goes so far as to say that Paul was gay and that Jesus and John were intimate.
While this might be understandable and expected from liberal mainline churches such as the ones above, evangelicals are not much different. Tony Campolo, a professor of sociology at Eastern college, an ordained Baptist minister and popular speaker, believes that “Paul, in Romans 1, condemned one kind of homosexual behavior which is a perversion resulting from an insatiable sexual appetite yielded to the demonic.” He went on to suggest that homosexual lovers ought to live together in a lifelong covenant without having sex. He explains: “There are Christians who might disapprove of this arrangement, claiming that the Bible implies a condemnation of even romantic feelings between members of the same sex. However, these critics are hard-pressed to build a biblical case for their complaints.”2 Really? Listen to Jesus: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NIV).
Another evangelical espousing similar views is Stephen Hayner, president of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and an ordained minister in the mainline Presbyterian Church. “At a talk given at Yale and later in an interview with the Religious News service Hayner asserted that ‘committed relationships’ between homosexuals might be a ‘gray area.’ While he affirmed, ‘The biblical view of what a sexual relationship should be is this: one man and one woman united in marriage,’ he also claimed that God seems to allow ‘committed homosexual relationships’ permissively, even though it is not a part of His ongoing perfect plan.’”3 This evidences that the church is in serious trouble on this issue. The one institution that God has ordained to combat Satan’s kingdom has capitulated to it.
HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SOCIAL PROBLEM
In Romans Paul is using the Scripture as a lens through which he looks at culture. There he provides for us a spiritual diagnosis of its ills. His diagnosis reveals a society in decline and decay. More importantly this divine diagnosis displays a culture that is under the judgment of God. The evidence of this is rampant homosexuality.
In verse 18 we’re told: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” How is the wrath of God being revealed? “God gave the them over, God gave the them over, God gave them over” is the repeated refrain. Homosexuality run rampant in a society is symptomatic of a culture that is abandoned by God to destruction. History verifies this when we see that homosexuality as an accepted lifestyle is present in every societal decline.
Consider our own society if you will. Garth Brooks, in his recently released country-western music album, has a song We Shall Be Free in which he advocates support for same-sex couples. “When we’re free to love anyone we choose then we shall be free.” In an interview for Newsweek magazine he stated that he used to be repulsed by homosexuals but now he’s ‘progressed’ in his understanding: “Traditional family values (?)—if parents are the same sex, that’s still family values to me.” Other examples are the open propagation of homosexual relationships as “normal” on TV shows and in educational curriculum. It seems as if you can’t view or read anything in the dominant media culture these days without being literally bombarded with these views.
I firmly believe that this is just one more evidence of God’s giving us over. And when the church is promoting the same views, it is nothing short of provoking God to judge us! Where are the men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (I Chron. 12:32)? Where is the church that is called to read the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3)?
HOMOSEXUAliTY IS A CIVIL PROBLEM
Are “Gay-Rights” right? In I Timothy 1:8–10 we read: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” The word for “perverts” there, is “them that defile themselves with mankind,” or alternatively translated, “sodomites.” What Paul tells us here in these verses is the third use of the Law of God as historically understood in the Reformed tradition, i.e. the civil use. The Law is used to restrain wickedness and promote righteousness (see Romans 13:3,4).
Lest you think this odd or strange, hear Justice Byron White, speaking for the 5-4 majority in Bowers v. Hardwicjk, as he offers a historical and constitutional perspective: “Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and forbidden by the laws of the original thirteen states when they ratified the Bill of Rights. In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, all but 5 of the 37 states in the Union had criminal sodomy laws. In fact, until 1961, all 50 states outlawed sodomy; and today, 24 states and the District of Columbia continue to provide permits for sodomy performed between consenting adults… Against this background, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious.”4
There are today states and cities that have enacted “gay-rights” laws. It is a pattern that is sweeping the nation like a wildfire. Think of the implications of this for Christians: An OPC Church in San Francisco was sued for firing a homosexual organist (see news item in this issue of The Outlook). Though the church won in court, it endured extreme persecution to this day at the hand, of militant homosexuals.5 Would the church be allowed to refuse the Lord’s Supper to an unrepentant homosexual? Could a Christian school refuse to hire a homosexual teacher? You begin to see the dimensions of the civil crisis we face.
Yet today there are those Christians who have their head in the sand blathering such slogans as: “You can’t legislate morality.” I tell you that if you don’t legislate morality, someone will legislate immorality! There is no neutrality; it is either righteousness or wickedness.6
Homosexuals promote the cause of rights by saying that this is just like the fight for women’s, civil, or disabled rights. However this overlooks an important difference. Those laws protect what a person is not what a person does. Homosexuality is an action, a lifestyle. In fact it is what homosexuals do that is their defining characteristic. This is why the homosexuals are fighting so hard to establish that homosexuality is a created design and not a chosen practice.
Homosexuality should be a crime. This would not promote persecution of them or legitimize the invasion of their bedrooms. But it would restrain them by insisting that it be kept private. It would also restrain the cultural influence and acceptability of this perversion.
The church needs to exert her prophetic voice and stop running from social issues such as homosexuality. To be silent is to aid and abet immorality.
THE BIBLICAL SOLUTION
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:1 6). The solution is not “safe-sex.” When condoms have a failure rate of 16%, that’s like playing Russian roulette The solution is not “just say no” for “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). The solution to the problem of homosexuality is the gospel. In the gospel alone is there power to break the power or this sin. And in the gospel alone is found the love of God that can wean one from the love of this sin.
In I Corinthians 6:9f, we see that Paul not only condemned homosexuality but he had experience ministering to them. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul states unequivocally two important assertions. First, he says that homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom. Yet, he also says, without any contradiction, that is what some of you were. There were homosexuals in the Corinthian church that had been saved. They were no longer homosexuals for they had been saved by the blood and Spirit of Christ. That lifestyle was in the past tense as far as they were concerned.
This is particularly instructive for the church. The church is the institution of mercy and compassion. The homosexual is not to be excluded from the ministry of the church today any more than they were in Corinth by Paul. Homosexuals need to hear of the power of the gospel to liberate them, the love of Christ for sinners, the acceptance of forgiven sinners like them by forgiven sinners like us.
AIDS should be seen as an opportunity for ministry, not a threat to it. The assistance the world has to offer is without God and without hope. The church and Christians alone have the resources necessary to assist homosexuals dying of AIDS. We have peace, pardon, hope, love, mercy, compassion in abundance because our God is the overflowing fountain of all good.
Perhaps the mere thought of ministering to homosexuals in general and/or AIDS patients in particular seems repulsive to you. “After all,” you may be saying, “the behavior homosexuals engage in is disgusting and foul; it makes me sick to think of it. And AIDS patients? Aren’t they just getting what they deserve? Besides that plague is contagious.” But think of how repulsive you were when you were in your sins. You were a stench in God’s nostrils; all your righteousness was as filthy menstrual cloths (Is. 54:6). You were afflicted with the plague of sin so often likened in Scripture to leprosy. And yet, Christ came to you with open arms of love and embraced you and saved you. It is you of whom Paul speaks when he says, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Did you get what you deserved from God?
Just as Jesus loved the unlovely, so also should Christians love to bring them to God. This is why the church and Christians were so prolific in founding hospitals.The love of Christ must compel us.
In conclusion then, the Christian response to the homosexual problem should be two-fold. We need to work for the salvation of homosexuals and at the same time raise a prophetic voice to petition the civil authorities. May the God of all grace, the Lord of the church be pleased to rouse His Body to action—before it’s too late!
1. David Chilton, Power in the Blood: A Christian Response to AIDS (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1987), p. 116.
2. David Fraser, Ed. The Evangelical Round Table: The Sanctity of Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988), pp. 159–161. See also: Tony Campolo, Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to Touch (Irving, TX: Word, 1988). pp. 105–120; Cornerstone, 19, Issue 94.
3. World, Dec. 9, 1989. See also Ibid Dec. 23, 1989; Ibid, Jan. 13, 1990. Cited in George Grant, Unnatural Affections (Franklin, TN: Legacy Communications, 1991). p.16.
4. Bowers v. Hardwicjk, US, 106 S. Ct. 2841. 92 L. Ed. 2d 140 (1986).
5. Read When The Wicked Seize A City by the pastor to see how militant and violent the “gay-rights” crowd is.
6. For on excellent book: on just this topic see George Grant, Legislating Immorality: The Homosexual Movement Comes Out Of The Closet (Chicago. IL: Moody Press with Franklin, TN: Legacy Communications, 1993).
Rev. Paul Murphy is the pastor of the Dutton Independent Reformed Church.