BOOK REVIEWS, CONTEMPORARY ISSUES, & THEOLOGICAL DISCUSSIONS
“Jesus never said a word about homosexuality!” This is what some people will say when the topic of homosexuality or gay marriage gets brought up with Christianity. And to a certain extent, it’s true that Scripture never records Jesus saying the word “homosexual.” Not even once. But is that really all we can do, or all we should do, to see what Jesus’ opinion is on the topic? If people grant Jesus the position of having moral authority, and care what He says on social issues, then shouldn’t we investigate a little more of His words?
Take for instance other topics like incest, beastiality, rape, or pedophilia—Jesus never said anything about those things either, so do we conclude that He was apathetic to them or approved of those actions? Of course not, most people know that Jesus would not have approved of any of those things. So why do we wonder about homosexuality? Could it be our cultural bias that makes us doubt we can know Jesus’ opinion?
Speaking of culture, we can take a look into Jesus’s culture and find some hints as to His thoughts that may shed some light onto the question at hand. Jesus is Jewish! Jesus was a 1st century Jew who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus also believed in the O.T. law, and obeyed it: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–19, ESV) Jesus considered Himself Lord over the law, but He honored the law (along with the intentions or “spirit” of it) and thought it to be holy, righteous, and good. Jesus agreed with the moral precepts contained in the Law.
Now, before people start to wonder about where I am going with this, let me say fully and openly that we are not under the old covenant as Christians today; we are under the new covenant of grace: “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:4–6, ESV) So we are to live unto Jesus, in the new way of the Spirit, under the new covenant. What did the law do? According to Paul: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:19–22, ESV)
The law came so that the people of Israel would know “when they missed the mark” and help them understand their need for a savior. Jesus didn't decrease the intensity of the Law, He increased it by pointing to our very thoughts. Jesus had the highest view of the law, and no wonder why, it’s His law! “For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8, ESV) So what did Jesus say about His law? “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40, ESV) This is a very powerful statement from our Lord. Notice that Jesus says the greatest commandments are:
For example, in Pauls letter to the church in Corinth, we see that a problem arose because the church had a member who was sleeping with his stepmother. So what does Paul do? He writes to them: “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:3–5, ESV) Notice that Paul wasn’t shy about who's Name to invoke the authority to make this judgment. He said: “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and “with the power of our Lord Jesus.” How did Paul know what Jesus would have said? Because Paul knew that Jesus is Jewish! There was no “WWJD” moment for Paul! He knew even though Jesus never said a word like “don’t sleep with you stepmother.” The reason He knew what Jesus’ opinion was is because of what had already been revealed by Jesus’ Father: “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.” (Leviticus 18:8, ESV) Let me remind you that this verse is from the same chapter in Leviticus as the verse about practicing homosexuality.
Would anyone be willing to say that Paul misspoke here? That he shouldn't have invoked Jesus’ words because Jesus didn't specifically mention the sin of sleeping with your stepmother? Of course not! So why would we doubt Jesus’ opinion in the area of homosexual practice? Some may retort that Jesus did speak against adultery, and that is really what Paul is upset about here, and thats why he invokes Jesus’ name, but Jesus also spoke of sexual immorality, and both are present here. Also, Paul states as a preface to the judgement: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2, ESV) Why would Paul use such a preface if he is only speaking of adultery, which is much more prevalent than a man sleeping with his fathers wife? It’s the sexually immoral nature of the sin (mentioned in the first part of verse 1) that of “sleeping with his fathers wife” which causes the repugnance in Paul.
There is simply no ground to say that Paul could assume that Jesus was against sleeping with your own stepmother and not against the practice of homosexuality. Jesus included both in His prohibition of “sexual immorality” because both were in the Law. Paul knew that and was confident enough to invoke Jesus’ name and authority to condemn it. Paul could justify the invocation of Jesus name on the authority of: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So we can see here clearly that one can confidently know what Jesus did say and we can confidently know where He did stand on the issue of homosexual practice. However, now that we have said this, I think we need to take a look at what Scripture says to those who are in this lifestyle. Paul writes to the same church in chapter 6: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11, ESV)
There is hope in Jesus! He is able to break every chain! He loves you! You don't have to find your identity in your sexuality. Find who you are in Jesus. Be His! He calls you out of darkness and into marvelous light. He comes to give you life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10–11, ESV) Life is not found in sex, it’s found in Jesus! Our identity is not found in our sexual orientation, it’s found in who God says we are.