I’m a Christian that doesn’t believe being gay is a sin and you don’t have to either. I am LGBTQ affirming and consider myself an ally to the community. I haven’t always thought this way though. I used to adamantly oppose the “gay lifestyle” (What an ignorant phrase, like it’s any different from those that live a “heterosexual lifestyle“?) *click here for a look at the gay lifestyle*. Why the change? Well, I blame Jesus. The more I studied scripture and learned about Jesus and what it means to be truly human, the more I discovered that love is at the center of all that exist. And let me tell you that I believe now more than ever that Love is Love!
1 John 1:7 says
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Once I started leaning towards being affirming, I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had that ended in someone saying that even though they have conflicting thoughts about affirming people being LGBTQ and gay marriage and that they really do want to embrace the community and even gay marriage, they couldn’t fully embrace it because “the bible clearly says it’s a sin”.
I get it. I’ve been there. I preached it and taught it. In the Christian tradition we are raised to take the Bible seriously and use it to shape our lives. In the tradition it is a holy and inspired text. Now let me just say that I fully believe in the inspiration of the scriptures and take very seriously the teachings and value it brings to humanity. It’s important to note that within the tradition, the biblical narrative is read and interpreted in many different ways. Personally I read it as a trajectory. It’s a story that leads us to Jesus, who points us to what God is really like and how to be truly human. In my opinion it’s not meant to be an antithetical moral device used to give us set rules for life. Although it has some excellent moral suggestions that can bring life to an individual and community, it also has some pretty primitive tribal hurtful suggestions that bring death and sorrow. Both are good because we can learn how to be and how not to be on this earth. It’s alive and active in a way because throughout the whole biblical narrative it’s taking the reader somewhere. To me it’s not a static text. It is a journey, not an inerrant flat text.
What I am going to do throughout the rest of this article is show you a biblical case for not only acceptance but affirmation of the LGBTQ community and gay marriage. You may not agree with the conclusions I’ve come to and that’s OK.
I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind.
My hope is that it will make you think about your personal views on the matter and offer you another way to look at the highly debated topic from a completely biblical perspective. Maybe even make you more empathetic and open to conversation on the topic without being so quick to judge. It’s about creating open conversation and dialog, not dogmatic assertion. This is not meant to be provocative for the sake of being provocative. After this I hope you will never use the “it’s just not biblical” excuse when referring to the extremely nuanced and ambiguous view of homosexuality in the Bible. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study on the subject. Instead it’s just a short overview into the thought process of the fully affirming biblical perspective.
The Clobber Passages
“Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground… and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.”
Yikes! Now before we go any further we must realize there is an arc to this story being told. If you don’t read the whole thing you’ll miss what the writer of this story is actually doing. In the ancient tradition the story goes that the Moabites and Amonites were traditionally rival tribes to the kingdom of Judah (the Israelites). The writer tells us how these other rival tribes came about at the end of the story. Lot (the main character) had some daughters who eventually had sex with him after getting him drunk and they, getting pregnant with their dads sperm, have his children (Genesis 19:31-36). One named Moab and one named Ammon. So you see, the writer of this story is saying the rival tribes of this story came from an incestrial relationship.
Do you see what the writer is doing?
The writer is saying these rival tribes were nothing but inbred bums. This whole story was about an insult to the other tribes. Everything else is just details to get to that main point. The writer is trying to get the reader in on the joke!
On another note, within the main story seen above, the writer espouses that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality but was the lack of hospitality. Even Jesus in the Gospels mentions this is the crime of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10). The angels and those surrounding the city who wanted to have sex with Lot, did not want to have loving sexual relationship or relations. They wanted to abuse and show dominance over Lot and his home it’s likened to the horrific stories you hear about rape in the prison system. It’s all about dominance and has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with humiliation.
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
So first I’m going to point out the obvious here and mention it has nothing about a woman “lying” with a woman. So I’m guessing being a lesbian according to this passage is okay.
The passages that are refered to above, have and can be used to marginalize and exclude the LGBTQ community from Christian fellowship, sacraments, worship etc. So if we take the Levitical passages how many Christians take it, you would also have to say they must be executed, or killed because that’s what follows in the verse (vs 13 “they shall be put to death”). Do you believe that is the right thing to do? If you use this verse to condemn same sex relations you can’t have your cake and eat it to. You have no choice but say that those who commit this act should be murdered too.
Also since we are following and adhering to Levitical law, there is no sex during a woman’s period, no planting a garden with 2 kinds of vegetables in the same soil, no clothes made of mixed fabrics, men can have sex with a slave women even if she is married as long as they bring an offering to the temple with possible light punishment, no eating fruit from a fruit tree for 3 years when it is first planted, no medium rare steaks, no cutting hair from the forehead and no clipping the beard, oh and no shrimp or lobster or crab . I could go on.
As a Christian who believes the Bible speaks truth and truth to power, Paul speaks of the law quite a bit. He says, The law brings wrath upon those who follow it. (Romans 4:15)
Christians are not under the law. (Romans 6:14)
Christians have been delivered from the law. (Romans 7:1-6)
The law which promises life only brings death through sin. (Romans 7:10)
The strength of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56)
The law is a ministry of death. (2 Corinthians 3:7)
The law is a ministry of condemnation. (2 Corinthians 3:9)
The law justifies nobody. (Galatians 2:16)
Christians are dead to the law. (Galatians 2:19)
The law frustrates grace. (Galatians 2:21)
To go back to the law after embracing faith is “stupid”. (Galatians 3:1)
The law curses all who practice it and fail to do it perfectly. (Galatians 3:10)
The law has nothing to do with faith. (Galatians 3:11-12)
The law is weak, useless and makes nothing perfect. (Hebrews 7:18-19)
So, in my opinion, the verses used in Leviticus cannot be used by Christians to condemn the LGBTQ community or used as a standard of righteousness in a person.
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 fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
And there you have it. It’s right there in black and white. Or is it….
So the word “homosexual” as we know it today is not actually in scripture, even though in most translations, as seen above, it is placed there. The words in question in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are μαλακοὶ (malakoi) and ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai). They are the underlined words in the above verse. In English the first word “malakoi” was originally translated “effeminate”. It’s even been pointed out to me that Plato actually uses the word in his work “The Republic” to mean boys not old enough to go into battle.
The next word Arsenokoitai, translated as homosexual seen above, was actually used in the septuagint scriptures (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible that Paul mostly quotes from) in the above Leviticus verse. It means “man layer ” or as seen in Leviticus is translated “man who lies with a male”. It does not actually imply what we think of today as someone attracted to the same sex.
So we have a “young boy” and then a word for a “man laying with another male”. Maybe something else is going on there. I’ll get to that in a minute. Anyways the word arsenokoitai was translated that way until 1946 when it was changed to the word “homosexual”. Once again, there was no word for any kind of sexual orientation, gay or straight, when Paul wrote these letters and certainly no thought of a loving caring relationship between 2 same sex partners that did life together . In Strongs concordance it is defined like this. “Definition: a male engaging in same-gender sexual activity; a sodomite, pederast“. You see there is more than one common definition. In the time of Paul one thing that was rampant amongst the culture was pederasty. In short its was an inappropriate relationship between a male adult and a male child. This was very common in the culture and time Paul wrote his letters. I am of the opinion that is probably what he was talking about. A good article on the subject can be read here. The same word is used in 1 Timothy 1:8-10 and needs to be looked at with this same lens.
“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.”
” Checkmate! There it is. Now what can you say about this passage that denies homosexuality as a sin?” Actually lots, thanks for asking.
You see what I did there? I created a dialog between me and another character talking against my view. Or as biblical Pauline Scholar and theologian, Douglas Campbell would call it, a “diatribe“. If you want to get fancy a “prosopopoeia“. I do this to bring up a point because in his theological treatise of the Apostle Paul ( The deliverance of God) he proposes that in the book of Romans, Paul is actually having a dialog, a conversation, between him and a “false teacher”. There is back and forth banter between the two. To read more on the subject either Google “Douglas Campbell diatribe” or you can click here. Anyways with this view the false teacher is speaking in verses 18-32, making accusations against the gentiles, and Paul counters these accusations in chapter 2:1-3, basically saying if that were true the Jews would be judged too, because they practices similar things and are no better.
This is just one argument against the condemnation of the LGBTQ community using this verse. Another one is that with a regular reading we need to finish Paul’s thought in Romans 1 with Romans 2, with him saying “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” In other words even if we condemn homosexuality, we are no better because we are all jacked up people, but when we condemn we are judging others and will be judged for our judging. Using the Romans passage in question to judge being gay as a sin is a sin in itself and is taking the verse out of context.
Lastly maybe if we are honest and look at the culture Paul lived in, we will admit it was pretty primitive compared to society now. Maybe… If Paul did think homosexuality was wrong, Paul was wrong…. I know, I know that gets all the inerrantist throwing fits but I believe the Bible is a trajectory not a flat text. We follow the Bible were it takes us and move forward with it. Don’t forget that Paul also said that long hair on men was “degrading” and never spoke against slavery. Are you with him on those matters? No you aren’t. Because they are flat out silly and wrong. The Bible is not an end in itself. We are supposed to use it to propel us forward, not stay stagnant in an ancient mindset. We are to progress. The path to peace is always forward, not backwards.
Above we see the word “homosexual” as we know it today is not actually in scripture. Also if we look at Jesus in the scriptures, he was always on the side of the abused and marginalized and outcast. So keep that in mind the next time you want to single out a group of people, even if you think they are sinners. Jesus is probably standing with and eating with and fellowshiping with them, while the religious prepare to throw stones at them..
We also know today that being attracted to whichever sex one is attracted to is not a choice. It’s just how someone is wired. Modern studies show that 5-10% of the human species is biologically gay and most likely its always been that way? Just as important is at the time the scriptures were written this wasn’t known and it was common thought that being gay was a choice and went against the “natural male/female attraction” and a perversion because of that. They didn’t have the advantage of modern science nor did they know the way the brain worked. We know now that being gay is not a choice like thought back at the time Paul wrote his letters and we also know, as shown, that Paul was most likely not even addressing consenting adults choosing to be in a consenting relationship together. I could be wrong (I don’t think I am) but that’s where I’m at and I have arrived here first and foremost because I believe love is love. People are people and God made Adam, Eve and Steve! But also as you can see I’ve done serious biblical study, and have had Spirit guiding me along the way, with common sense and love of all my fellow humans.
If you have any stories about your journey in affirming and fully embracing the LGBTQ community feel free to share and join in on the conversation.