Evangelical Christians are people who are on “the way” in following Jesus Christ while rooted firmly in the authority of God’s Word – the Scriptures. While we take value from reason, experience and tradition, all are submitted to the authority of Scripture wherein we find the Absolute God. When considered in light of the Absolute whom we worship, and to whom we submit, there are clear conclusions which are drawn regarding the issue of homosexuality and our responsibility for ministry as with any other characteristic of fallen humanity. The differing opinions on this matter ultimately proceed from the differing opinions on the authority of Scripture, the presence of a God who is absolute and the degree to which we must submit to Him. We remain firm in our commitment to submit to God standing firmly on the authority of His Word.
Contemporary debates, as most emotionally charged debates, press the positions to extremes. Within the context of an increasingly secularized society that abandons basic absolutes rooted in God in favor of an egalitarian relativism, it becomes increasingly difficult to “hate sin while loving the sinner.” The discrimination between activity and identity is lost in the all-consuming battle to “win.” Therefore when someone says that homosexuality is sin, it is interpreted as hatred of homosexuals. Conversely, if another person says that their heart breaks for homosexuals and they wish to reach out to help, it is easily interpreted as accommodation or compromise.
Although it seems that the issue of homosexuality is more prevalent these days than ever before, it is safe to say that it is nothing new. It has been a matter of discussion for millennia. For some reason, however, these days the matter has achieved a crescendo perhaps because of its import to the character and foundation of such historic influences as the United Methodist Church. Yet, as throughout creation and time, God is still in heaven and remains committed to the redemption of fallen humanity through the grace and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the Christ.
Clearly homosexuality represents a complex issue. The practice of it is incompatible with Biblical teaching. Take for example the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. It becomes evident that this is a pattern of behavior that has existed since the fall of humanity by the willful act of disobedience. The attempted gang rape of Lot’s male visitors reflects the thoroughgoing wickedness of a people bent on violent abuse. The manifestation of that wickedness, in this case, took the form of unnatural sexual relations.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 provide explicit reference to homosexual activity in the Old Testament. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” While in interpreting the Levitical verses Christians recognize that the Holiness Code in chapters 17-26 is not binding in its details today, we accept that it does represent the principle of Holy behavior as important to a Holy God. Further study reveals that not only is it important to Him, He provides a means whereby it is attainable. The specific activity of homosexuality is clearly part of that type of behavior that is not holy and therefore not acceptable to Him.
In I Corinthians 6:9, Paul lists a number of wrongdoers who will not inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. I Timothy 1:10). Among them are “male prostitutes” and “sodomites.” The point of the list is to demonstrate the types of behavior which are unacceptable to God even to the point of disqualification in the Kingdom. While no rationale is given for condemning it and it is unclear whether Paul was talking about male prostitutes and their male customers, young men or boys who were being sexually exploited by older men in a pederastic relationship, or any males acting in homoerotic ways, it is clearly in a category of behavior that is looked upon with disdain by God.
The clearest reference to homosexuality is found in Romans 1:26-27. Here Paul says, “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” This passage occurs in the context of Paul’s discussion of God’s judgment upon sin.
This passage is significant in that it attempts to describe the sinful state of humanity, which arose due to the fundamental sin of people refusing to honor and give thanks to God (Romans 1:21). Thus homosexual activity does represent the cause of God’s judgment so much as it represents one of the many results of what happens when God gives people up to their sinful actions (cf. Romans 1:26-31).
In each case it is important to note that it is the activity that is condemned by God who loves everyone. Just as an earthly father loves his child even in the midst of misbehavior, so also God loves His creation in the midst of sinful activity, which includes homosexual behaviors. He so loves us that He has made a provision for us to be forgiven for sins, cleansed and reconciled to Him in love. For “He was not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life.” (II Peter 3:9)
While we believe that “His grace is sufficient for all our needs,” Christians recognize that the application of that grace may come in a number of ways. It may be through the deliverance of someone from the tendencies toward sin. It may also, as in many cases, be through applied grace that enables the person to discipline and control the tendencies so as not to lead to sinful activities. In either case it truly represents “Amazing Grace” which sets the captive free from sin. Why? Because God loves all of us, even though not all will respond to His grace.
Thus as Christians we should do all we can to reach out to persons who struggle with this behavior as we would anyone, rather than discourage or exclude them from fellowship. We should give the same compassion we have received, encouraging people to live in conformity with Scripture and in submission to God and the grace He offers freely and without discrimination to all who respond in faith.
Kevin Mannoia, Dean
Haggard School of Theology
With Donald Thorsen