(This is the text of my sermon delivered Sunday, May 17, 2015. It is the second of a series of four messages on the topic of homosexuality. –geno)
In late October of 1974, Jesus made himself known to me and brought me to a place of repentance. One of the things I was eager to do was just read the Bible. In fact, I read it so heavily that I finished it by Christmas. I remember just being thirsty to know what it said.
Twenty years later, in the mid-1990’s I found myself in a meeting with PJ and young woman in our living room who was considering joining our church. By that time I had been the senior minister for about five years.
“I have never been attracted to a man,” she began. “I have known this since I was a young girl, since before puberty. What do you think about homosexuality?”
I replied, “I think the Bible condemns homosexual sexual acts, but not necessarily the orientation, the attraction.” Her response: “Wow. You sure take away a whole lot when you take away sex.”
My response was, “I am not taking away anything. I am seeking to walk under the authority of the Bible and what it teaches. I would ask you to do the same, submitting yourself to God’s word.” She served alongside us for well over a decade while living a celibate lifestyle.
Today, now 20 years since that conversation, I still believe basically the same things. But I am not closed off to the possibility of change in my view. I am still reading, still talking, still learning. When it comes to the subject of human sexuality and same-sex attraction I remain a student.
I still believe that the best way for anyone to live is to be in submission to the Bible’s revelation of the nature of God and His call to all humanity to come home from the distant land of rebellion, independence and pride.
This morning I am going to continue talking about homosexuality because I think it genuinely needs to be a topic of conversation in our church.
The Big Picture
The Bible is not a book about homosexuality and the rejection of homosexual people. In comparison with the text as a whole very few words are spent on this topic in the Bible.
What the Bible is actually about is God…and His desire to dwell in the midst of the people He created for himself, for His glory and for His pleasure. In the beginning, we are told, God created the world and populated it. But human beings turned their backs on God beginning with the first man and the first woman.
Since that time God has been in the business of calling humanity back to Himself and providing a way home for those who will take it. He has done this by sending His Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world. His ultimate goal is glorify Himself and His ways through a redeemed and restored humanity that walks in love one to another and in adoration toward Him.
God made a way for broken, independent, rebellious people to come to Him, to be received into His family, His household, forever. The Bible is about this story of creation, fall, redemption and glory.
In order to tell this story about God’s love and redemptive victory the Bible also tells the story of humanity and our broken ways…our broken relationship with God and our broken relationships one with another.
Our Broken Sexuality
All to often our broken ways with one another find expression in our sexuality. This was true from the very beginning when Adam blamed his wife for his own sin.
So it should not be surprising that any talk on human sexual misconduct should begin at the very beginning. Any talk that purports to teach what God thinks about human sexuality should begin in the garden.
And there we find no mention of homosexuality. We find, instead, these words: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
Later, in chapter 2:18-24 we read about God putting Adam asleep and taking material from his side and fashioning Eve and then bringing her to him. When Adam awoke and saw Eve he exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23, ESV)
A Traditional Interpretation
Traditionalists typically teach (among other things) that God’s intent for humanity is that one man should be related to one woman in covenantal relationship for a lifetime because:
- Eve was taken out of Adam and not created from the ground as Adam was…meaning that when he saw her he saw a complement of himself, that the two together would make one whole. “You complete me,” is a good way to capture that idea.
- Genesis 1:24 says that, “…they shall become one flesh.” This is a reference to sexual as well as psychological unity of the man and the woman. It presupposes two persons of the opposite sex, it demands complementarity.
- In Genesis 1:28 God tells the male/female pair to, “…be fruitful and multiply…” This presupposes the ability to procreate, to bear children.
- This account establishes God’s norm of one man and one woman together forming the fundamental unit for human flourishing and the development of the human race. This story excludes the joining together of multiple partners or partners of the same gender.
Note: Much of this material is agreed upon by traditional scholars including Kevin DeYoung in his recent book What does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (Crossway Books, 2015) and Robert Gagnon in his work with Dan O. Via in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, (Augsburg Fortress Press, 2003)
A Non-Traditional Perspective
Non-traditional or revisionist scholars reading this text would say, “Wait a minute Geno,” this is reading far too much into the text. God also created homosexual persons, he just created them later, (“…I was born this way…”). Your fourth point is an argument from silence at best, and eisegetical (reading into the text) at worst. This is the contention of one of my friends, a Bible scholar, seminary professor, and local pastor.
Such teachers would also say that the mandate to procreate (point #3) was, in fact, given to heterosexual couples and they should do so. That mandate was not given to homosexual couples because they are not in view in Genesis 1 and 2. Matthew Vines argues this point in his book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Random House, 2014):
“From a theological perspective, marriage primarily involves a covenant-keeping relationship of mutual self-giving that reflects God’s love for us…Same-sex couples’ inability to procreate does not exclude them from fulfilling the Bible’s basis for marriage.” (Vines, Kindle loc 2080, 2014)
Non-traditional scholars also argue that the most important way heterosexual couples become ‘one flesh’ is covenantally and psychologically. Loving, monogamous homosexuals have proven over and over again that they can do this when given a chance.
Matthew Vines again, “What seems to me to be the most important in marriage is not whether the partners are anatomically different from one another. It’s whether the inherently different people involved are willing to keep covenant with each other in a relationship of mutual self-giving.” (Vines, Kindle loc 2177, 2014)
Finally, many non-traditional scholars who adhere to the Biblical witness and who embrace homosexual relationships as good and right, discount the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality.
Professor Dan Via clearly makes this case in a book he jointly wrote with Professor Robert A.J. Gagnon titled, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Augsburg Fortress Press). I recommend this point-counterpoint book, written in 2003 as a good introduction to the scholarly debate.
“…there are three factors that, in concert, are powerful enough to override and disqualify the Bible’s absolute condemnation of same-sex intercourse: (a) the biblical understanding of creation and redemption and of the bodily-sexual definition of human existence along with the Bible’s belief that acts must be understood and evaluated in the light of character; (b) the reality of a destiny created by homosexual orientation; (c) the experience of gay Christians.” (Via, Two Views, Kindle loc 1052, 2003)
Professor Robert Gagnon replies: “The alleged ‘immutability’ of homoerotic desires does not justify equating homosexuality ad heterosexuality in ‘God’s creative intent’ (N159). Destiny for Christians is determined by God’s purposes at creation and for re-creation, not by whatever seemingly intractable urges humans might have. Reorientation is the order of the day…” (Gagnon in Two Views, Kindle Loc 1144, 2003)
I believe the traditional view here is the best view, the view most closely adhering to the Biblical witness for two main reasons—(a) Jesus refers to the male-female complementarity of Genesis 1, and (b) Paul uses heterosexual complementarity in marriage to illustrate the relationship of Christ and the Church, calling it a ‘mystery’.
Jesus on Male/Female Complementarity
Jesus quotes both the important Genesis texts 1:27 and 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-6 when explaining his teaching about divorce:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall be come one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’” (ESV)
Here he is speaking against the easy way men were allowed to divorce their wives in first-century Israelite culture. In doing so, he affirms the male-female coupling and the one-flesh nature of that union. Kevin DeYoung explains:
If marriage is simply the formation of a kinship bond between those who are committed wholly to one another, there is no reason why multiple persons or groups of people cannot commit themselves wholly to one another. There is no internal coherence to the notions of monogamy and exclusivity if marriage is something other than the reunion of two complementary and differentiated sexes. It’s because God made the woman from the man that she is also for the man…And its because the two—male and female—are divinely designed complements for the other that monogamy makes sense and same-sex marriage does not. (DeYoung 2015, pg. 31)
Paul on the ‘One-Flesh’ Mystery
Finally, in Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 and adds a twist: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (ESV)
The one-flesh nature of the male-female bond that forms the basis for marriage is a living, breathing, walking-around illustration of the nature of the bond between Christ and his bride, the church.
Paul’s concluding ‘mystery’ builds on the complementarity of the union of male and female as well as on the exclusive nature of the love that is shared by one man and one woman as the apostle has outlined Christian marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33.
It is probable that Paul is looking forward to the great day of consummation when the Lamb slain from the foundation is finally joined to his bride for whom he has suffered long. As the Apostle John puts in the Revelation:
“Let us rejoice and exult for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;…” (Revelation 19:7, ESV)
From beginning to end the Bible proclaims the fundamental nature of marriage to be the uniting of male and female in one-flesh harmony. Same-sex union just doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical paradigm.
I believe there is hope for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, but that hope is found in the continued struggle and the grace God gives to push back against these drives, NOT in following one’s orientation into a same-sex relationship.
“And such were some of you,” Is Paul’s hope-filled, grace-supported, faith-embracing statement for those homosexuals in the first-century church at Corinth who came to Christ and walked away from their lifestyle. “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.” (I Corinthians 6:11, ESV)
This same Jesus, alive and active, can do the same today. Will you trust Him to do this for you?
This week let’s gather in groups of two or three, please no more, and tell another story about someone we love who wrestles with same-sex attraction or may actually be in the lifestyle. Please limit your story-telling to speaking about someone you LOVE. If you only have one such story, please tell that same story to someone new this week.
If you do not have a story to tell, or do not wish to tell a story, get with another person and talk about how Hope Chapel can improve its ministry to those wrestling with same-sex attraction or someone who claims Christ and is struggling in the gay lifestyle.