I am on a journey, a journey which is not yet over. Over the years, my ideas, my beliefs, my politics, my heart and my attitudes have changed enormously. But my faith in a living God who loves us and wants a relationship with us has not changed. So I approach this subject with some trepidation and I hope with some humility.
I want to talk about relationships between people of the same-sex and address the issue of same-sex marriage in the context of a loving, committed relationship. I don’t believe that God treats people differently that he has created but who are attracted towards people of the same sex as he treats me, a confirmed heterosexual.
Promiscuity and unfaithfulness to the person we are committed to is wrong because it hurts us, and other people and is therefore against the prime directive of “loving our neighbour as ourself”. This is true whether we are same-sex orientated or not and we should not judge these activities differently. But what about two people of the same-sex who want to live together in a loving committed relationship? I have come to believe that God can bless such a relationship, and that relationship is no obstacle to following Jesus Christ.
How do I, as a christian, deal with the few passages in the bible which appear to condemn homosexuality? Now I am on a journey and do not claim to be an original thinker on these issues. I am not a theologian but I have a thinking mind and I trust a compassionate heart and can weigh up what others have written.
The Old Testament law
Moses gave the ancient Israelites laws which would set them apart from their neighbours who worshipped false gods and lived in a corrupt society. Paul said that God has set us free from the law and so no longer need to live in fear of eating lobsters or wearing clothes made of cotton and polyester! We have discontinued following these laws, along with rejecting institutionalised slavery. To say that “lying with another man is an abomination” is not helpful and needs to be rejected as an argument against homosexuality.
What is “normal”?
“A man leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife”(Genesis 2:24).
This text describes “normal” sexual behaviour but does nor condemn different arrangements. There are two types of opposite, one is the complete reverse, the other is just what is different. For instance the opposite of light is darkness, which is merely the absence of light. There is no such thing as anti-light. Light can overcome darkness, but darkness cannot cancel out light.
In the same way, the opposite of normal is not abnormal but different. I think we could say that God created men to be normally attracted to women. But same-sex attraction is not abnormal, it is just different. Most English men have white skin but some have brown or black skin but this does not make them abnormal just different in one way only. Most people are right-handed but some are left-handed and fortunately we no longer regard this as abnormal.
Point to consider: Perhaps we need to emphasise the verbs, “leave” and “cleave” rather than the nouns, “man” and “wife”.
God created diversity and this needs to be celebrated, not judged or feared. Fear of people who are different is to some extent inbred within us. When society was tribal we feared a neighbouring tribe who was different from us, but who might invade us! Racism flourishes when people of other races are regarded as sub-human.
I used to fight against the idea that same-sex attracted people were made that way. I have now concluded that God loves diversity and did in fact make each one of us with an in-built orientation towards people of opposite sex or the same sex.
We need to consider the words of the apostle Paul.
“Because of this [referring to idol worship], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26–27)
Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (p. 95). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
These verses have traditionally been used to condemn all sexual activities between members of the same sex. But Paul was referring to temple idol worship and the idolatrous and adulterous practise of sexual activities of men and women at the temple outside of their relationship with their spouses.
Matthew Vine writes much more about this:
“Remember, the most common forms of same-sex behavior in the Greco-Roman world were pederasty, prostitution, and sex between masters and their slaves. The majority of men who indulged in those practices also engaged in heterosexual behavior, often during the same times in their lives. That isn’t to say that no one pursued only same-sex relationships, or that no same-sex unions were marked by long-term commitment and love. But such examples were rare enough that the overwhelming majority of visible same-sex behavior fit easily into a paradigm of excess. ” (p. 104)
“In Paul’s day, same-sex relations were a potent symbol of sexual excess. They offered an effective illustration of Paul’s argument: We lose control when we are left to our own devices. We have no moral anchor without God, so chaos and confusion are a typical result when we abandon him. While that principle remains true today, the specific example Paul drew from his culture doesn’t carry the same resonance for us. That isn’t because Paul was wrong—he wasn’t addressing what we think of today as homosexuality. The context in which Paul discussed same-sex relations differs so much from our own that it can’t reasonably be called the same issue.
Same-sex behavior condemned as excess doesn’t translate to homosexuality condemned as an orientation—or as a loving expression of that orientation. Given the cultural status of same-sex behavior in the ancient world, it’s not surprising that Paul condemned it. He opposed all forms of lust—sexual desire indulged to the excessive height of same-sex behavior would have been no exception.
Where does this leave gay Christians who seek committed relationships? They don’t pursue same-sex relationships because they’ve grown tired of heterosexuality and are seeking a new outlet for their insatiable lusts. They pursue same-sex unions for the same reasons straight Christians pursue opposite-sex unions. They desire intimacy, companionship, and long-term commitment.”
Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (pp. 106-107). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Incidentally, I have also studied books which present a more traditional point of view but I must say that these have been less compelling.
It is often been suggested that the only course of action for a same-sex attracted person who wants to follow Jesus Christ is a life of celibacy. But I think that this is unrealistic and unreasonable. Some people do choose a life of celibacy and this can be good, but it should be a voluntary choice. It should not be to obtain the acceptance of their heterosexual friends. If a same-sex couple live a life love and commitment to each other, then they hurt no-one and God can bless their relationship,
I realise that I have not offered a full biblical response in defending same-sex relationships but I would urge you to read Matthew Vine’s book on the subject.
The minimum the Christian Church should do is stop all judging and start accepting gay christians as equal brothers and sisters who share in the redeeming love of God.