An Important Clarification: The Biblical Response to Homosexuality in the Church and the Culture

I’ve written a lot on this blog about Homosexuality, because it’s a hot issue right now. In it, I am attempting to cut what I believe is a Biblical line between the left and the right on this issue – a line that I believe corresponds to the Libertarian line. Much of what I have said so far has been directed toward arguing against the conservative faction. But I feel that it is necessary to clarify.

The problem I have on this issue is that there seems to be a problem in conservative thinking in separating our response to sin in the church and our response to sin in the world. We rightly desire to obey our Lord Jesus Christ in all that he has taught us, but we seem to think that that necessarily requires us to apply that same standard to those on the outside – that being obedient to Christ requires us to march on the world in order to make them obedient as well. I have come out against this, saying that our task is to be salt and light and to hold high the Cross, allowing God to draw lost sheep unto himself. Because of this, I fear confusion over my message, that the conservatives who hear my position cannot escape intellectually categorizing me with those who, like Rachel Held Evans in an article I linked recently and apparently now the Pope, desire to make homosexuality acceptable within the church. So I feel I must clarify, that I am guided by the commands of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Here Paul makes the clear distinction that I have striven so hard to make: that our judgment of those who live in sin should be reserved to those who also claim the name of Christ. What should we expect from the World other than to follow their Prince? Our task as believers is not to bring judgment on the World, but to apply the standard of Christ’s commands to ourselves.

Now just in case there is any confusion on this issue – this particular quote does not mention homosexuality by name – here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 for clarification.

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.

Is Homosexuality Really a Sin?

Some have tried to quibble with the Biblical denouncement of homosexuality as a sin. I will simply defeat him with a single stroke. The Greek phrase here translated “men who practice homosexuality” has caused such great consternation by translators and commentators over the years because it is not found anywhere else in the New Testament, nor in any texts from the culture at large, save for later works referencing 1 Corinthians. This would seem to leave it open to interpretation until it is discovered that this Greek phrase is lifted word for word from the Septuagint’s rendering of the phrase “lie with a male as with a woman” from Leviticus 18:22.

This therefore settles both the question of what specifically was Paul referring to in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (Being effeminate? Male prostitution? No. Lying with a woman as with a man. I.E. Men having sex with Men.) and the debate as to whether those Homosexuality laws of Leviticus were somehow cultural related to the idolatry of the pagan nations and therefore classified in the same category as the diet and dress code laws which would make them passé in the New Testament. The answer is clear. Paul means that it is a universal and timeless moral law that men who have sex with men (and by extension women who have sex with women) will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some Affirmations

I must affirm several things, then:

  • Homosexuality is a sin that will bar someone from the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • The sin of homosexuality is more than just redefining marriage, but is a rebellion of the heart against the created order of things and is a form of idolatry (Romans 1:18ff).
  • Homosexuality is a wholly unacceptable lifestyle for one who claims to follow Christ. Struggling with temptations to homosexuality that you are fighting against in reliance on his grace is one thing. Such brothers need to be encouraged and strengthened with the gospel, just like believers who struggle with any other type of sin. However, living willfully and unashamedly in that lifestyle thinking that you are just fine before God is another thing entirely. That is what is thoroughly unacceptable to Christ and cannot be tolerated in the church.

Purge the Evil From Among You

What should our approach be to such people? We must follow Matthew 18. We first try to work through the issue one on one, then we bring two or three witnesses, then involve the whole church, and if in the process it becomes clear that the person has no desire to repent and submit to the gospel, then this person must be treated as “a Gentile and a tax collector” – which is to say as an unbeliever.

So What about The Culture?

So my main concern on this blog has been with the question of how do we approach Gentile and Tax Collector homosexuals? How do we interact with unbelieving homosexuals? Should we attempt to purge these evils from among us? No, Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 5. He says that he is not referring to the immoral of the world, but to those who bear the name of brother and are immoral. He says, “What have I do do with judging outsiders?” which is rhetorical with the contextually obvious answer of “Nothing!” We are charged with purging the evil from among us.

Further Affirmations

Since then we are to endure the persecutions of this world, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and living at peace with all men, I therefore affirm:

  • That Gospel ministry is hindered rather than helped by any offensive approach from the church which attempts to force unbelievers to abandon sinful lifestyles. Such strategies are behavior modifications only, doomed to failure, and only create an antagonistic relationship which need not be there. The Bible does warn us about coming persecution, but says that as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace (Romans 12:18) – meaning that we are not to contribute to the antagonism.
  • That one such strategy is the crusade to “Defend the Traditional Family,” which is merely a veiled attempt to attack and restrict the homosexual lifestyle using the coercive and inherently violent sword of the state.
  • That the Church bears the responsibility of denouncing such Pharisaical strategies and attitudes and distancing ourselves from them, as Christ did when he was here. We should eat with the tax collectors and sinners, not attempt to force change on them. We should show compassion for those whose sin has brought painful consequences on them. We should live out the Gospel before them as we “go and sin no more” and be an example of the enabling power of Christ to do so, being ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us.

Libertarianism

Thus, I am a Libertarian. I affirm that marriage can only really exist between a man and a woman, but that the government is not needed to make such a definition, nor can its attempts to change the definition avail any real impact. Government issued pieces of paper are ultimately worthless when it comes to determining what a true marriage is. I find that far too often, we as Christians expect the government to do our job of upholding the Biblical standard of truth. I recognize that the government is an inherently secular institution, particularly in a secular society such as ours, and that we should not expect it to hold high the Biblical standard. Rather we should do that work in our own private lives, in our churches, in our body life, in our own marriages. We should be the salt and the light that shows the better way of God’s law to the world.

Our influence on government should be focused on restraining its use of the sword so that it can only use force against those who have first harmed someone else by their own use of force.

I further see through the political aspect of this issue to realize that it’s not fundamentally about Marriage. As Laurence Vance pointed out in his article Same-Sex Marriage, this issue is not primarily about the definition of marriage, but about homosexuals’ rights to “form any kind of legal arrangement they choose whereby medical and financial decisions by one party on behalf of another could be made.” There is nothing inherently sinful about this desire. The problem is that marriage is a prerequisite for such an arrangement.

  • The Conservatives respond by saying, “Yeah well, that’s the way it should be. Tough. If you want those things, change.”
  • Liberals respond by saying, “Well, we need to redefine marriage to be more inclusive.”
  • Libertarians respond by saying, “Hang on a second… why does that even require a marriage? Can’t two people form any kind of contract they want as long as it involves voluntary mutual consent?”

And there you have the important clarification. I hope this clears up the issue entirely.

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