Tag Archives: LGBT. homosexuality

Jesus and Sexual Controversy (LGBT 7)

According to the gospels, Jesus is the clearest revelation of God the world has ever seen (John 1:14-18; 14:9). If we want a picture of how God views homosexuality in general and LGBT people in particular, it would be extremely helpful Jesus offered a clear position on the matter. But a careful reading of the gospels shows that Jesus never said anything about any aspect of LGBTIQ. No question on this issue was ever raised in His presence and no pronouncement from Him on the topic is recorded in the gospel records.

But that does not mean that Jesus has nothing to say about sexuality. There is a very significant dialogue He has with the Pharisees regarding divorce (Matthew 19 and parallels), and Jesus says a number of things in this passage that are pertinent to our topic. I will quote the passage with some highlighting of my own and then offer some comments.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? (Gen 2:24) 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Deut 24:1-4) 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:3-9

Gerald Winslow notes that in this passage and several others the Bible lays out an ideal and a real. The ideal is grounded in creation. Male and female are physically and emotionally designed to bond to each other in lifelong unity. Forsaking all others, they will find undistracted joy in each other’s company and in mutual sexual experience. They were designed over time to achieve ever-increasing intimacy and delight in each other. That is the ideal. But after the Fall (Genesis 3) there is also a “real.” Hearts get hard. Children are abused. Husbands and wives cheat on each other. Some people get sexually greedy and exploit many. Divorces happen. Hearts get broken. Also part of the real is that some people are attracted to the same sex. Others suffer from dysphoria between body and brain. Some have incomplete sexual organs or organs from both sexes. Back in the beginning, God laid out the ideal. And the ideal remains in place. But in reality, things often go awry. Jesus states the ideal, but He also recognizes the real. Because hearts are hard, the creation ideal is rarely if ever achieved fully on this earth.

More Emerging Conclusions (LGBT 6)

The best scientific research I have seen, at least from sources not biased against Scripture or religion, have concluded that a gay or lesbian identity is changeable. A person embraces a gay or lesbian identity by choice, it is not inherent. This means that a person can have a homosexual orientation but still embrace the gospel call to accept Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and the master of one’s life. Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is core to what it means to be a follower of Jesus, so this finding is very significant. There is no immutable barrier to LGBT people accepting the gospel and participating in the life of the church.

At the same time, research indicates that, in most instances, homosexual orientation is not a choice, but is ingrained into the person’s being. So-called “change therapies” have had very limited success over a period of five or six years (there may seem to be a “change” over the short term, but it usually does not last). It is likely that where a change can be scientifically verified, the person was actually bisexual rather than homosexual, but these categories can be hard to separate clinically. If one’s orientation is ingrained, and not subject to change, that is extremely significant for how Christians should treat LGBT people. To demand a change in inner thought processes and urges when such a change is unlikely or impossible is more abusive than godly.

How do we explain the presence of immutable characteristics that incline a person contrary to God’s original creation design? From a biblical perspective, these are a consequence of human rebellion and sin, but not necessarily the individual’s own rebellion and sin. Sin is not just a legal breaking of the law. Sin is a poison or an infection that is ingrained inside all human beings from birth and distorts everything we do and everything we are. In this we are all on the same ground. We are all broken people whose brokenness may manifest itself in different ways, but from the standpoint of the gospel, we all start in a similar place. We are “out of compliance” by nature. That means “temptation” is not the same thing as sin. In a broken world, sexuality of all types can incline a person toward sin. In this the homosexual and the heterosexual are on the same ground. Both are broken, in the biblical sense, and both need the redemption that comes in Christ and the support of the Holy Spirit. Sin and its consequences cannot be eradicated by effort, they require divine intervention, which will only be experienced in its fullness at the Second Coming (Rom 8:22-23; 1 Cor 15:51-54). Until then, we are all in need of compassion, understanding and forgiveness.

This tells me that any Christian outreach to LGBT people must occur in full awareness of a common brokenness. If heterosexual Christians act as if they are morally superior to homosexual people, they are not only abusive, they are wrong from a biblical perspective (don’t worry, we will be looking at the biblical texts themselves soon). They are like those Jesus describes as seeing the speck in another person’s eye while missing the plank in their own (Matt 7:1-5, NIV). The biblical perspective on sexuality is not biased against gays, its analysis penetrates deep into all human self-deception and delusion. LGBT people are not exempt from the biblical analysis, neither are they to be singled out as uniquely lost or depraved in some way.

Another emerging conclusion is that bisexual and homosexual are not the same thing. If one thinks of orientation as a continuum with full heterosexuality at one end and full homosexuality at the other, bisexuality is a condition in which the person is somewhere between, attracted at times to the same sex and at times to the opposite sex. Most people are at one end of the spectrum or the other, but some are at various places in between. For church communities that like everything simple or “black and white,” sexuality and its manifestations are more complicated than they would like. Add in intersex and transgender, and things are far more complicated yet. Bisexuals may have more choice in how they express their sexuality, but bisexuality is also more a symptom of human brokenness than the result of a person’s decision and action.

In this generation, people and human sexuality have proven to be more complex than we realized before. I would like to turn in the next blog to some of the biblical data to see what “word from the Lord” we can get to help manage the complexities as church communities.

Three Levels of Homosexuality (LGBT 4)

I use the traditional term “homosexuality” instead of “same-sex attraction” here because the latter is not broad enough for the points I am making in this particular blog. What people call homosexuality actually comes in three different forms, each describing a larger group than the previous. Since people, particularly church people, often confuse these forms, and that leads to serious misunderstanding, it is important to be as clear as possible.

Gay or Lesbian Identity. As noted earlier, in the narrowest sense homosexuality can be a matter of identity, not just a matter of orientation or attraction. To have a gay or a lesbian identity mean that a person who feels attracted to the same sex embraces that attraction as core to their identity. Gays and lesbians, in the technical sense, do not see themselves as primarily black or white, male or female, German or Hispanic; their core identity is wrapped up in their attraction to those of the same gender. It is “who they are.” They are not ashamed of their orientation, they can even be militant in promoting it. Homosexual people who embrace a gay or lesbian identity offer the biggest challenging to churches who embrace the New Testament understanding of the gospel. According to the New Testament, no one can serve two masters. Either Jesus Christ and the gospel are central to one’s identity or something else is. All are equal at the foot of the cross and all are likewise challenged to embrace Christ’s call for total and unlimited commitment. Promoting Christ commitment is not prejudice or “gay-bashing,” it is the same commitment all are asked to do, whether straight or otherwise. Your former core commitment may have been to a country, or an ethnic group, or your relatives, or you racial peers; all are called to make their one and only central commitment to the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Gays and lesbians are to be treated as equals at the foot of the cross, and they too are called to make Jesus Christ their one and only central commitment. On this matter there is no inequality and there can be no compromise.

Homosexual Orientation. But gay and lesbian identity is only one aspect of the church’s dealings with homosexuality. Gays and lesbians truly sold out to their sexual identity are a relatively small group. There is a much larger group of people who are strongly and consistently attracted to others of the same sex. This is what we would call homosexual orientation or same-sex orientation. For them, the orientation to the same sex seems as natural as the typical heterosexual person’s orientation to the opposite sex. But orientation and identity are not the same thing. Full disclosure, when it comes to orientation, I am about as heterosexual as they come, but I don’t make that the center of my life or my theology. It is an aspect of who I am but it is not core to my identity. While I once strongly identified as a German-American and as an awesome athletic specimen (in my dreams at least), my core identity is now centered in Jesus Christ and the unique picture of God I learned as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And I know people with a homosexual orientation who are just as committed to Christ and the church as I am. They do not embrace their orientation in place of Christ or alongside Christ. It is something they feel that they did not choose and cannot change, so they seek to keep it submitted to Jesus Christ as much as I commit my heterosexuality to Him.

Same-Sex Attractions. There is an even larger group of people who do not have a homosexual orientation but may have on occasion felt a homosexual attraction. It is not uncommon for a heterosexual person at one point or another in their life to see someone else of the same sex and feel something stirring that they did not expect. As mentioned earlier, I am about as heterosexual as they come. But I can remember as a young person talking with one of my teachers. It was a friendly conversation, we were face to face about a foot apart, and he had this interesting moustache that moved when he talked. Suddenly, in the back of my mind I heard the words, “Kiss him.” I didn’t, but I wondered for a long time where that had come from and what it meant (more on that later). More recently, I spoke with a colleague in the medical school who specializes in psychology and asked him what percentage of heterosexual people have an experience like mine. “I don’t know any research on it,” he said, “but based on my counseling experience I’d say somewhere between 50 and 100%. What do these kinds of experiences mean and how does the whole homosexual spectrum fit into the biblical world view? Where does this come from? Is it a choice? How should the church relate to people who disclose a homosexual orientation? Stay tuned.