Some proponents of the LGBT movement insist that it is compatible with Christianity. Is that true? Christianity is defined by the Bible. Does the Bible allow for a new or evolving Christian sexual ethic?
Early in the Bible God established his design for human sexuality. Immediately following the account of God presenting Eve to Adam in Genesis 2, God’s word says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
More than a thousand years later Jesus was questioned about marriage and divorce by the Jewish religious leaders. In his response, in Matthew 19, he affirmed God’s original design for marriage. Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Have you not read? ‘In the beginning he created them male and female,’ and ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh’?” The joining of male and female is fundamental to God’s creation.
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God they were cut off from God’s presence and blessing. They began to suffer under the curse that comes from rebellion against God’s word. In the generations that followed, disobedience to God became a sad but predictable trait of humanity.
God was not finished with humanity. In Moses’ day the Lord established a covenant with the Hebrew people, his chosen nation (Israel). That covenant included a body of law that is summarized in the Ten Commandments. The details of God’s law forbade sexual relationships that departed from his established design, which was revealed early in Scripture and subsequently affirmed by Jesus.
The prohibited sexual relationships in God’s law included premarital sex, adultery, incest, bestiality, and same-sex relationships (Leviticus 18). Only the original design for marriage and family was endorsed: One man and one woman freely committed to one another for a lifetime. The prohibitions from Leviticus are affirmed by the New Testament. Regarding same-sex relationships, the letter to the Romans affirms God’s prohibition (chapter 1). We are warned that those who persist in participating and promoting such sinful behavior will be “given over.”
Jesus acknowledged that his appearance and ministry fulfilled certain aspects of the Old Testament law, thus relieving God’s people of their need to observe them. For instance, in an argument with the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus proclaimed all foods clean (Mark 7). Prior to this, certain foods were considered ritually unclean by the Mosaic Law.
Jesus never advanced any deviation or alteration in God’s design for human sexuality. Indeed, he never acknowledged any change in God’s prohibitions against murder, adultery, lying, and many other commandments. In other words, Jesus himself revealed certain changes in the relationship of God’s people to Mosaic legislation, but not regarding human sexuality. There is no positive statement about same-sex relationships anywhere in Scripture.
Any attempt to use Old Testament legislation about trimming hair, making clothes or planting crops as a comparison with human sexuality fails to recognize the special position of marriage and family in God’s plan and his word.
The Bible treats sexual relationships as unique. Although it is true that all sin is alike because all sin separates us from the love and blessing of God, Scripture notes the special status of sexual union. The letter to the Corinthian church warned believers that all other sins are outside one’s body, but sexual sin defiles one’s inner self, a serious matter for any Christian since all believers are living stones in the single structure of God’s temple, his church (1 Corinthians 6; 1 Peter 2).
Why should human sexuality be treated differently from all other sins? God’s gift of sexuality is meant to do more than provide for procreation and pleasure. The marriage relationship is designed by God to reflect his love for his people (Ephesians 5). A Christian marriage is meant to be a living parable of the love relationship between Christ and his church. The church is the Bride of Christ (not any one believer, but the church in total). The Christian wife submits to her husband as the church submits to Christ. The Christian husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for her, a love willing to sacrifice self.
Are faithful, loving, monogamous same-sex relationships true to the intent of Scripture? The “B” in LGBT creates problems with this proposal. To be active bisexually requires more than one partner, thus raising serious questions about fidelity. Since the L and the G stand in solidarity with the B, they apparently express approval of polyamory against the clear design of Scripture.
It is true that the Bible reports times when God’s people engaged in polygamy, but never with approval. In fact, God’s word always highlights the inevitable failures of alternative designs of marriage and family (see Jacob and his wives in Genesis).
Are same-sex relationships in modern times different from those in Bible times? If that were so, it would be logically possible that God did not address modern relationships in the Bible. This would be either a terrible omission by God (creating conflict among us unnecessarily) or evidence that God cannot see the future (discrediting his sovereignty). Neither option is true to the claims made for God in Scripture. God is sovereign and he made no mistakes in his word. His design for human sexuality stands, just as his prohibitions against murder and adultery stand.
Another possibility would be that God has only recently decided to reveal this new view about same-sex relationships. This would put proponents of the New Sex Ethic into the same category as Joseph Smith, who assured his wife that God told him he could have other wives in addition to her. Smith tried to make the case that Christian churches had been wrong for more than a thousand years about human relationships (among other things). He claimed a new revelation directly from God, one which apparently undermined centuries of Christianity.
Proponents of forcing LGBT on God’s church are in the unfortunate position of being another pseudo Christian cult, like Joseph Smith’s group (Mormons), or Charles Taze Russell’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or Mary Baker Eddy’s (Christian Science), or one of countless others. Each of these false teachers also claimed special revelation from God that disagreed with the clear word of the Bible.
Those who question the clear word of God are risking association with the Father of all lies (John 8). He was the first to utter the words, “Did God really say. . .?” (Genesis 3). In fact, the biblical prohibitions about human sexuality are stated in clear language. Circumventing them requires twisted and strained logic which serves to justify sinful human desires and passions.
The LGBT community insists on defining personal identity by sexual orientation. Followers of Jesus find their identity in Christ. Jesus calls on anyone who would follow him to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him (Matthew 16). Jesus will not take second place to any human ideology, desire, or philosophy. His followers must renounce all idols, including sinful notions of human sexuality.
When responding to skeptics about the resurrection, Jesus surprised his listeners by revealing that marriage will be absent in heaven (Matthew 22). We may conclude from this that sexual orientation is a matter for this age only. At best, sexual orientation is a temporary part of our identity. Our eternal identity will not depend on our sexuality. For those who have taken the blessing of sex and perverted it into the ultimate goal of life and the cornerstone of their identity, Jesus’ heaven may sound more like hell.
The great missionary Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to the believers in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12).
“Living sacrifices” is a reminder of Jesus’ exhortation to “deny self.” The follower of Jesus is not pulled through life by the ebb and flow of human desire. Jesus’ people find their pathway in life from him, from his example. Jesus was willing to deny himself of his very life in order to complete his mission. These are the footprints he has left for all who wish to be his disciples (1 Peter 2).
So what about the one who is attracted to the same sex? What is he or she to do? Predictably, the Bible’s answers have already been attacked, mocked, and deemed to be completely unacceptable by pop-culture proponents of LGBT. Nevertheless, like God’s design for sex, his word to those with same-sex attractions stands.
First, God’s word to the one with same-sex attraction is the same as it is to all people: Seek him in prayer. Don’t misquote me. I am not saying “Pray away the gay.” Despite the derogatory tone of this phrase, I know from first-hand experience that God has the power to change our desires. But God works according to his time table and his agenda. We must patiently endure. Prayer is not merely about persuading God to do something now. Prayer is communion with God which includes listening for his Spirit and gaining wisdom from our experiences in life (see the Book of Job).
Second, God sometimes calls people to celibacy. It is no surprise that worldly minds reject this option without any serious consideration. The world says, “Indulge yourself!” Jesus says, “Deny yourself.” Jesus recognized celibacy as a special calling in God’s kingdom (Matthew 19). The Bible envisions a church where most are married but some are freed from the commitments of an intimate physical relationship in order to invest more time and energy in kingdom pursuits (1 Corinthians 7).
Same-sex relationships undoubtedly include authentic human desire and affection. But human emotions are notoriously prone to manipulation and to unpredictable fluctuations. Human affection is not a dependable moral compass. In fact, the power of sexual attraction has shipwrecked many a life and family. Any who choose to “follow their heart” instead of submitting to God’s word should beware the consequences.
The ways of this world have always pulled God’s people away from his truth. Pop-culture in the West has embraced LGBT in a rapid and unprecedented way, sweeping away established cultural norms and laws about marriage and family while threatening to ruin any who stand in the way. To disagree with this New Ethic is to risk being charged with hate speech, a circumstance that reveals the intolerance of the LGBT movement. But we must choose between God’s word and those who claim that God’s word doesn’t mean what it clearly says.
Any attempts to promote prohibited sexual relationships as acceptable expressions of human sexuality misunderstand and misrepresent God’s word. Unfaithful relationships do not reflect the pure and faithful love that God has for his people and that his people are to aspire to for him. Same-sex relationships do not reflect the joining of what is different yet compatible, God and his church, husband and wife.
The writer of this article is sympathetic with those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex. Human affections are strong. God made us passionate people. He is a passionate God and we are made in his image. But our passions are wounded by sin and subject to manipulation, temptation and deception.
If you are struggling with same-sex attractions, please do not despair. The story of your life is yet to be finished. We all struggle with sin. Sinners are not the enemy of the church. Sinners are the intended targets of God’s grace and mercy! God’s word assures us that he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4).
If you are promoting the erroneous idea that same-sex relationships are endorsed by God and working to persuade others to agree with you, I urge you to reconsider. Jesus warns that anyone who breaks the least of God’s commands and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5).
Christ Jesus assures us that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away (Matthew 24). How many popular movements that questioned God’s word have come and gone in the past two millennia since he made that promise? Every generation sees its challenges to God’s truth, but the challengers have always eventually faded away and they always will. Each of us should decide to build on the rock of God’s faithful and unwavering truth, not the sand of the world’s shifting desires and ideas.
Brother Richard Foster
Please note: Bible references above give only book and chapter. This is by design. Too often debates about the Bible’s message employ verses and even smaller sections of Scripture without due consideration of their context, thus misrepresenting God’s intended meaning. I invite the reader to examine carefully the context of my biblical quotations, testing their applications for faithfulness to God’s word.
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