The Irrelevant Legal Environment
A couple of years ago the US Supreme Court overstepped its Constitutional boundaries once again, expanding a decision in one particular case pertaining to the constitutionality of one specific state law forbidding homosexual “marriage,” and applying that decision to all such state laws now and in the future. Consequently, by default homosexual “marriage” is now legal in all fifty of the United States. The legality of this Supreme Court decision is questionable to my mind. In fact, I would say that defining marriage in the first place lies outside the province of the federal government under our Constitution, and shouldn’t be covered under any state or local laws either. But those are subjects for other BriRants.
Ever since that momentous Supreme Court decision, the courts have been filled with civil and criminal cases brought against Christian wedding service providers (e.g. justices of the peace, cake bakers, florists, photographers, and owners of wedding and wedding reception venues) who refused on the basis of their religious beliefs to provide their services to homosexual couples. At least one of these cases has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a decision is pending sometime in 2018. Most of the service providers involved in these cases have been subsequently forced out of business, fired from their jobs, jailed, and/or fined. The accusation against the service providers in all these cases is unlawful discrimination against homosexuals under a growing raft of state, local, and federal laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual preference in the provision of commercial goods and services. The defense by the service providers in each case has been an appeal to their Constitutional protections for the free practice of religion and freedom of expression.
Legally, of course, the service providers don’t have a leg to stand on. The violations they are accused of are against state and local laws. Since the US Congress has enacted no laws forbidding or restricting the free practice of their religious beliefs, the US Constitution’s First Amendment protection of the free practice of religion has clearly not been infringed. Furthermore, the courts have repeatedly ruled that the baking of cakes, the arranging of flowers, the taking of photographs, and the officiating of weddings by officers of the state are not constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. Of course, the court has also ruled that pornographic images are forms of constitutionally protected speech, but that’s also perhaps a subject for another BriRant. The legality of the question is fairly cut and dried, and the legal outcomes are totally predictable, especially considering the modern trend of the federal government to insinuate itself into regulating virtually every aspect of human life.
The important question is one of morality, not legality. Are these wedding service providers morally wrong to take a stand against homosexual “marriage” or not? I recently shared a post on Facebook complaining about the injustice that one of these Christian couples, after having been sued under an Oregon anti-discrimination law for refusing on religious grounds to bake a cake for a homosexual “wedding,” had not only been forced out of the business, but had also been ordered to turn the impounded assets of their business over to the plaintiffs as a damage payment. One of my Facebook friends responded with a sarcastic comment – “Religious liberty through discrimination. Murika.” To be honest, that comment got me a little hot under the collar. Everybody knows it’s “Murka” – two syllables. But it also got me thinking. Is it really wrong for a Christian to discriminate against the practice of homosexuality, knowing what the Bible says about it?
To Each His Own Prejudice
In searching our hearts for our personal answers to this vital question, we all bring our own prejudices, as indeed we do into all aspects of our lives. Therefore, before I waste any more of the reader’s time than I already have, it behooves me to confess my own personal prejudice in approaching the question. It is simply my belief that the Bible is God’s very Word, spoken by His Spirit to the human scribes who wrote it down for us to use in governing our behavior, and in learning the will of our God. The Bible itself attests to this:
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NKJV]
Yes. I know that this is circular reasoning. Clearly, one can’t logically use the Bible’s own statements to prove the validity of the Bible’s content. I merely include this quote to show that the Bible does confirm what I already know to be true purely by faith. It’s my personal prejudice in the matter. I make no apology that the Bible is the sole basis for my moral stance on human behavior, but it would be intellectually dishonest if I were not forthcoming about it. So then, with my confession of faith in the Word of God made clear, let’s examine the question at hand – What does the Bible have to say about homosexual practice?
God Clearly Forbids Homosexual Practice
The Word of God is crystal clear in its position on the practice of homosexuality. God spoke directly to Moses, His prophet, saying…
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. [Leviticus 18:22- NKJV]
Even before God gave the law to Moses, He clearly demonstrated His wrath against those practicing homosexuality when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19). God forewarned Abraham of His intent to destroy the wicked cities…
20And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” [Genesis 18:20-21 NKJV]
This might raise the question, exactly what behaviors in Sodom and Gomorrah did God find so reprehensible? Certainly it is possible – even likely – that homosexual practice was not the only sin for which the two cities were condemned, but the Word makes it clear that it was at least partly to blame for God’s displeasure. Indeed, it is for this very reason that we even have the English word “sodomy.” Check out what happened when the angels God sent to investigate the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah came into the city…
4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.“ [Genesis 19:4-5 – NKJV]
God’s prescribed judgment upon male homosexual practice was also given by God directly to Moses in His law…
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. [Leviticus 20:13 – NKJV]
Those who are ignorant of the Bible, and (dare I say it?) don’t know God often argue that the wrathful, so-called “Old Testament God” who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed the entire world by flood during the time of Noah isn’t the same as the loving, “New Testament God” we find in the teachings of Jesus. Thus, the Old Testament condemnation of homosexual practice is no longer operative. But we must be wary of drawing any such conclusion. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is essentially the acknowledgment by God of mankind’s inherently sinful nature, and our inability to repent from our sins of our own accord. Thus if God is to enjoy the loving fellowship He desires with sinful man and created us to enjoy with Him, it was necessary for God to take upon Himself His own righteous judgement and punishment for our sin – death – in our place. So God came to Earth in the flesh of the man Jesus Christ, lived a perfectly sinless life, died on the cross – a spotless blood sacrifice of atonement for our sins, and rose again on the third day. God did all this so that we may be forgiven of our sins, and through His own atonement for our sins offers us the right to dwell with Him forever in glory if we simply believe and confess this Gospel to be true.
That is wonderful news for all of us, but it doesn’t imply that God has altered His disgust at mankind’s sins. Indeed, God is altogether incapable of change. The writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews confirms this succinctly…
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Hebrews 13:8 – NKJV]
We must beware of confusing God’s forgiveness of our sins (homosexual practice among them) through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, with His somehow granting us permission to sin. God has by no means changed either in His outlook upon our sins, or exactly what constitutes sin, except in some rare cases (e.g. dietary laws) that have been given specific New Testament dispensation (c.f. Acts 10:9-16). God’s condemnation of homosexual practice and other sins has not changed. The apostle Paul makes this very clear in his letter to the Romans…
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. [Romans 1:18-32 – NKJV]
But lest we fall victim to the “Jerry Springer” effect, and begin to think ourselves better than others because we regard our own sins as somehow less heinous than theirs, Paul makes a strong admonition against any such “holier than thou” attitude a little later in his letter to the Romans…
9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.10As it is written:There is none righteous, no, not one;11There is none who understands;There is none who seeks after God.12They have all turned aside;They have together become unprofitable;There is none who does good, no, not one. [Romans 3:9-12 – NKJV]
It is merely by God’s grace through the cleansing blood of Jesus that we may escape the righteous condemnation for our sins…
9Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. [1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – NKJV]
Recently, some revisionist “translators” with a plain, unabashed agenda to legitimize homosexual practice among Christians produced the so-called Queen James “translation” in which some “difficult” passages such as these were drastically re-worked to make them more palatable for those desiring to rationalize homosexual practice. I have posted on this topic before on this blog – https://huppbrian.us//brirants/on-todays-hot-button-sin/. A more thorough examination of this disingenuous “translation” may be found at https://www.gotquestions.org/Queen-James-Bible.html. As a side note, I find it particularly humorous that the Queen James “translators” have liberally sprinkled their despicable misappropriation of God’s Holy Word with lots of “thees,” “thous,” and “wherefores” in a pitiful attempt to somehow give their “translation” an air of respectability. I suppose that this in itself is an example of Moses’ farewell warning to the Israelites of God’s curses upon those who would disobey His law…
The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. [Deuteronomy 28:28 – NKJV]
But I digress…
I believe that these scriptures confirm God’s condemnation of the sin of homosexual practice. But before we move on, I think it would be helpful to summarize what we’ve seen in God’s Word.
- The Bible is perfectly clear in its condemnation of all sin – including sexual sin – clearly defining exactly what constitutes sin in God’s eyes.
- All people are sinners – born into sin by our very nature.
- God has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and spared their rightful punishment – death – through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
- God’s forgiveness through Christ’s atonement by no means implies God’s permission to continue in sin. God still expects us to struggle against sin even knowing that we are sinners by nature.
- God’s Word makes no real distinction between one sin and another. Notice that among the sexual sins, 1 Corinthians 6:9 lists not only homosexuality and sodomy, but also fornication (sex outside of marriage) and adultery (married people having sexual relations with anyone other than their spouses).
- Furthermore notice that sexual sin is grouped right in with other sins like boasting and being disobedient to parents. God finds all sin despicable and rightly deserving of death.
- Importantly, notice (Romans 1:32) that God condemns not only those who practice the various sins, but those who approve of others doing so.
But that brings us to another question, and the main point of this BriRant. The discerning reader will have noticed that throughout the discussion above I was careful to always say that God’s Word condemns “homosexual practice” not homosexuals. This is an extremely important distinction.
The Essential Distinction Between Nature and Behavior
A few years ago, a colleague visiting my work place from our company headquarters asked me a pointed question after learning a little about my Christian beliefs, “Do you dislike homosexuals?” First of all, I think I’m being honest when I say I don’t implicitly dislike anyone. Certainly – like God – I am appalled by many of the behaviors of my fellow creatures (just as I am with some of my own), but I don’t dislike them per se. In all fairness, I must admit that I am not capable of unconditionally loving all people regardless of their behavior as God does. This is despite Jesus’ own admonition for Christians to do just that…
34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. [John 13:34-35 – NKJV]
I freely admit that I have yet to truly live up to that standard, or indeed – if the truth be told – to very much at all of what Jesus commands. After all, the standard is utter perfection…
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:48 – NKJV]
Nevertheless, I do strive to love all people regardless of my perception of their behaviors. So my response to my colleague was, “No. I don’t dislike homosexuals – just homosexuality.” This admittedly sounds as trite and pat as the old Christian cliché – Love the sinner. Hate the sin. Okay. Maybe it is trite and pat. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I think I can honestly say that I do love the homosexuals I know despite the fact that I hate their practice of homosexuality.
Sadly, most of the body of Christ in the western world has knuckled under to the lie that in order to love homosexuals we must condone and even celebrate homosexual practice. The church has been cowed by the invalid argument that the American church is just as wrong to discriminate against homosexual practice as it was (and sadly still is to some degree) to discriminate against people of other races. In our anxiousness to never be viewed as racist, we fail to see the hole in the argument that discrimination on the basis sexual conduct is just as immoral as discrimination on the basis of race. Once again, the discerning reader will have noticed that I said “sexual conduct” not “sexual preference.” This is an extremely important distinction that I will delve into shortly.
First though, let’s examine what the Bible has to say about race. The answer is simple – nothing – well very little. God simply doesn’t seem to give very much importance to race at all. Certainly, the Word acknowledges that there are differing tongues (languages), tribes, and nations. But the Bible simply doesn’t mention racial characteristics, even in cases where a story in all likelihood surrounds a “person of color” – e.g. the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8, or the Queen of Sheba who visited the court of King Solomon. The only reference I could find at all to skin color is in Jeremiah 13:23 where the prophet admonishes the people that they are no more capable of changing their sinful ways than someone is of changing the color of his skin, or a leopard of changing its spots. The Bible most certainly never disparages anyone based solely upon their physical characteristics. God is wholly concerned with the state of our hearts – what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. might have called the content of our characters – rather than the color of our skin. Therefore we, being created in the very image of God, should do the same. The problem is that while God can see into the depths of our hearts, we can’t. We are utterly helpless to discern the content of a human heart – often and especially even our very own. What we can discern is behavior. Furthermore, as we have already seen, God prescribes clearly in His Word which behaviors are acceptable to Him, and which are not.
What then can we say to one who claims to have been born with homosexual desires? Can we morally discriminate between an in-born sexual preference and the act of sexual sin? Certainly. Almost all people develop a driving sexual attraction when they reach puberty. For the vast majority, it is a heterosexual attraction, and virtually all people who are biologically of one gender become sexually attracted to those who are biologically of the opposite gender. But God’s Word strictly defines the acceptable bounds where we may satisfy these sexual desires – within the confines of marriage. So although I might desire to engage in sexual activity with someone other than my wife, God strictly forbids it. In fact, Jesus tells us that lustful desire for another woman is in itself a sin…
27“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matthew 5:27-28 – NKJV]
For the homosexual or transsexual God makes no provision for the outlet of sexual desire. Whether or not the desire is truly inborn, God clearly states that fulfillment of the desire is a sinful abomination, and He clearly forbids it, pronouncing a judgement of death upon those who indulge in the behavior. Thankfully, God has made provision through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for homosexuals (and whoever believes in Jesus’ resurrection) to be forgiven of their sins, empowered by God’s Spirit to repent of (turn away from) their sins, and even cleansed of the desire to commit them. In that regard, the world is full of people like myself who can testify that God has not only rescued them from the consequences of a besetting sin, but also cleansed them from the desire to commit the sin. This is the hope of salvation and regeneration that the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides to homosexuals and everyone else who believes and calls upon the Name of Jesus for salvation.
Can we truly separate our love for a person from our detestation of their behavior? I think we can. A dear loved one of my own is a heavy and frequent drinker. I suspect that he frequently also drives his car while under the influence of alcohol. Clearly this behavior is not only illegal, it is surely harmful to his own health and could also endanger others (the very reason it is illegal in the first place). I truly detest my loved one’s willingness to take this risk, and deplore the ravages I see the drink has been taking on his body over the years. Yet I can honestly say that I love him dearly despite this dangerous and irresponsible behavior.
Is It Any of Our Business?
Despite the trend of insidious government intervention into and regulation of practically every aspect of our lives, I don’t think we have the legal right to impose our will or our morality upon other “consenting” adults. The legal aspect of transgender and homosexual parents indoctrinating their children into the transgender and homosexual “lifestyle” is another question entirely. But as I stated above, the legal questions are not only unimportant, they are largely a foregone conclusion in today’s legal and political climate throughout the western world.
The question of the morality of discrimination on the basis of sexual conduct (not sexual preference) is an entirely different matter – one which I believe is Biblically quite clear indeed, as I hope I have shown in this BriRant. Clearly, it is right for Christians who believe the Word of God to stand up boldly in defense of its precepts. Furthermore, Christians have a moral obligation to lovingly point out the Biblical truth, not only about homosexual conduct, but all of the other sins God abhors, provided we do so in the love of Christ by His Spirit with the full understanding that each and every one of us is a wretched sinner by nature in thought, word, and deed. We must always declare the filthy nature of sin to all who will listen, but we must always do so in the context of sharing the Good News that God has already won the victory over sin, and given us a way of escape through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross for our cleansing, and His miraculous resurrection for our redemption. We must always use the conviction of sin strictly as a means of sharing the Gospel of redemption for all who believe in Jesus’ resurrection and confess Jesus as LORD. We also have a moral obligation to our fellow creatures and to our LORD to confess and repent of our own sins day-by-day…
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10 – NKJV]