For the Bible tells me so: What the Bible actually says about homosexuality

This is an article I’ve been planning to write for a while, but it was so personally upsetting that I didn’t. I encourage you to pass it on to anyone you like. I ran this article past my parents and friends, and they gave me permission to use them as examples here. It’s technically Daily Awesomeness #159: Get your grump on.

Warning: PG rated for mention of homosexuality, consent, and adultery – plus overt Christianity.

Each Bible verse referenced here (all from the New International Version) is included in order of mention below the gratuitously gorgeous library picture that comes at the end of the article (the photo was taken by Candida Hofer and published in the Thames&Hudson “Beautiful Libraries” book. It has nothing to do with anything I’ve talked about). I’m leaving aside the Old Testament in this article, because Jesus is the fulfilment (and the end) of many rules – something for which bacon-loving Christians are grateful (especially me).

For the Bible tells me so

My mother is an Anglican priest who likes to wear her dog collar with a hot-pink shirt. She’s also, according to the Bible, an adulteress. Oh, and the Bible also says that she shouldn’t be a priest (1 Timothy 2:12).

So what makes her an adulteress? In Matthew 5:32, Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Oops, that only makes my father an adulterer. My mistake! Sorry Dad! But I’m afraid the last twenty-five years of marriage (and raising my brother and sister and I) were a sin against Heaven. You should stop at once.

Jesus says a similar thing in Matthew 19:9, and the exact same thing in Luke 16:18.

I’m really glad my Mum remarried. All my life Christian people have taken me aside to tell me how much they admire my parents’ relationship, and I agree. So what’s the deal, when the Bible says so clearly my Mum and Dad should not be married?

The deal is simple: love trumps all. Jesus himself conveniently gave us a summary of every single bitty rule in the whole darn Bible (it’s also mentioned in Luke 10:27 and Mark 12:29-31). Here’s Matthew 22:36-40.

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It’s pretty obvious that the love between my Mum and Dad is something holy and good. It’s real love – the kind that lasts beyond the flush of attraction, and beyond hundreds of moments when one or both of them wanted to give up. There are thousands of similar stories of godly remarried men and women around the world. As a result, divorce is widely accepted in the church today – so much so that my parents are praised rather than shunned for their relationship.

So we agree, right? Two people loving each other is what Jesus wants.

And then there’s my friend Bobby. Bobby is someone who I admire for his goodness and his Christian faith. Bobby is not attracted to women – just men. And Bobby wants to marry someday. He wants to marry a godly man.

Of course the Bible has plenty to say about that too. The New Testament describes “homosexual offenders” as “wicked” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), “unnatural. . . indecent” (Romans 1:26-27), and some scholars say that the “perverts” described in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 as “ungodly and sinful” are also homosexuals. These are the only three New Testament references, and they’re a little less clear than the references to divorce (as well as coming from Paul rather than Jesus) – but they’re clear enough.

Some argue that the homosexuality referred to in these passages is a more specific word relating to a relationship between very different ages, or talking about an unwilling partner (there’s an internet reference for that at the bottom of this page, but I don’t recommend it for children). Since I don’t speak Ancient Greek, I don’t know.

I am an ordinary heterosexual Christian who’s read the Bible a few times, and followed Jesus for twenty years. I love God, I love my parents, and I love my gay friends. I have seen “adulterous” couples like my parents shine with God’s love, and I’ve seen the same selfless love in gay couples.

I know it takes courage for a Christian to stand up for their beliefs against a corrupt world. But courage isn’t the right quality to express when it comes to homosexual human beings. Love is. Let God speak to the conscience of gay people in whatever way He thinks best – he’s capable of that, don’t you think? Since there’s theological doubt, shouldn’t we leave it up to Him? Non-Christians are right in saying homosexuality is none of our business. Our business is to love. Sometimes we think telling someone what they’re doing wrong is the loving thing to do, but it just doesn’t work that way (except in special circumstances, for example a parent disciplining a small child).

Jesus was infamous for hanging around tax collectors, women of ill repute, and sinners (Matthew 9:10-12, Matthew 11:19, Mark 2:15-17, Luke 5:30, Luke 7:34, Luke 15:1). The Bible doesn’t record him telling them their lifestyle is wrong, except when he says to a woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (after both saving her life and making it clear that everyone sins). He also told one man to stop sinning – after he’d healed him (John 5:5-15). But when he saw Zacchaeus (a tax collector, ie thief) what actually happened was this: When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” ” (Luke 19:5, NIV)

All these “sinners” were people Jesus actually knew before he said anything about sin – except Zacchaeus, who is a more typical example of Jesus’ behaviour. So it would appear that Jesus’ reaction to a sinner is to invite himself over to their place for dinner – and then to stick around. Sometimes he mentioned sin, but usually he didn’t. Jesus is the only person who ever had the right to judge us – and he chose to have dinner instead.

He seemed to like the company of sinners, which offended a lot of people. You’ll notice there are WAY more references about Jesus eating with sinners than there are verses condemning sinners of any kind. Since that society was much like ours in many ways, you can be sure at least some of Jesus’ friends were gay. So if you’re the kind of person who asks, “What Would Jesus Do?” about gay people, the answer is apparently, “Crash on their couch indefinitely, and help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge.”

The only people Jesus immediately condemned were the religious authorities – the ones who took it upon themselves to tell everyone else how to please God (sound familiar?) The whole chapter of Matthew 23 is a massive rant against the so-called “righteous”. Here’s verse 13: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

I hope I never slam the open door of Heaven in anyone’s face. Jesus died for us so that door could stay open.

So, to sum up – the Bible tells us not to allow women in authority, not to allow remarriage, and not to allow homosexuality. But love trumps all.

Women priests can love their congregations – which pleases God. Divorced women can love a godlier man the second time around – which pleases God. And gay couples can embody the love of Christ – which pleases God.

Jesus died because none of us are capable of living by the rules. So throw your own rule book away before you hurt someone, and ask God to give you a more loving heart (and gay friends who can cook).

I recommend you start by

(a) Regardless of your stance on homosexuality, never tell anyone they’re a sinner – because everyone is.

(b) Never treat a minority group as less valid than everyone else. (Which means that it’s time to let gay people legally marry – they each have a conscience of their own to decide whether gay relationships are okay or not.)

(c) Ask yourself why homosexuality seems so wrong to you, but you’re more likely to be okay with de facto relationships and/or remarriage. (If you’re 100% against all three types of relationships, you’re at least consistent.) I’ve had to face the fact that for me, it was because homosexuality was weird to me – much like people with a different skin colour. Time to move on and realise there’s no real difference – and time our laws reflected that. (Astonishingly, Aboriginal people in Australia didn’t get the vote until the late 60s. Before then, it was considered right and proper to prevent them voting. Can you believe it? Sometimes, our deepest-held beliefs really are wrong.)

And if you’re gay and reading this, I’m sorry for everything I and other Christians have done to make your life harder. You should know that Jesus loves you.

Specifically you.

This verse is yours as much as it is mine:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Article written by Louise Curtis at https://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/for-the-bible-tells-me-so-what-the-bible-actually-says-about-homosexuality/

You may use this article elsewhere, but do not cut or edit it without consulting me. Please include this note with the article.


1 Timothy 2:12
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

Matthew 19:9

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Luke 10:27
He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all yoursoul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Mark 12:29-31

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 1:26-27

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

[Hi! Are you reading all the Bible verses? Cool! My favourite is the story of the woman of ill repute nearly getting stoned to death.]

Matthew 9:10-12

10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 11:19

19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

[I don’t really understand the “wisdom” bit of this verse. Kind of ironic, really.]

Mark 2:15-17

15While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 5:30

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Luke 7:34

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘

[They make him sound fun, don’t they? No wonder sinners hung out with him.]

Luke 15:1

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.

John 8:1-11 [This is the one I mentioned before – my favourite one]

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

[Jesus is such a smart alec sometimes.]

John 5:5-15

5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Luke 19:5

5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

[Dear gay people and/or sinners: Feel free to invite me over and give me food. I like food.]

Matthew 23

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. [Jesus is scary.]

16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. [Did you know cummin eases flatulence?] But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. [Yuck.]

25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? [So Jesus, what you’re saying is. . . you’re not a fan.] 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate.39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

[Which may or may not take a while.]

One example of the argument that “homosexuality” in the New Testament refers to sex that involved a difference of either age or consent (a well-known argument with many other sources that I didn’t bother finding): http://www.lionking.org/~kovu/bible/section09.htmlhttp://www.lionking.org/~kovu/bible/section09.html

[Did you read the whole thing? Time for a lie-down.]

13 thoughts on “For the Bible tells me so: What the Bible actually says about homosexuality

  1. As a ‘sinner’ who regularly invites you to eat at my table, and a non-christian who hates the righteous ignorance of their own ‘sins’ practiced by many Christians, thanks for this one. And for the opportunity to revisit a few bible verses that I haven’t in a while. I always forget how much I giggle when reading the bible!

    • Ann: You’re welcome. For fairly obvious reasons, I don’t actually think of you as a sinner (although there ARE KFC connotations when you come to mind). I hadn’t realised how much I was practising what I preached (at least with the sponging-off-people part).

      Louise

    • Don’t tease me Jolyon. You know I’m not up to dropping by. What with you being a 24-hour flight away and all. . .

  2. Great article! I do read Ancient Greek, and that has always being how I’ve read those passages. The Greek perspective of homosexuality is very different from the modern one. I think it’s very, very important to look at historical context when studying the Bible, just like any other historical text. But I’m an archaeologist, so I would say that.

    • Your knowledge of Ancient Greek just made my blog SO much classier by association. You just made my day.

    • Hi David. I may not agree with you, but I do like your use of “hogwash”. Welcome to the exclusive crowd of people-who-actually-comment.

  3. So… People in gay realtionships ARE sinning (admitted by you often in this article) and the cost of their sin will be the due penalty for their perversion (Rom 1:27) [quoted by you]
    And as christians we know that the step towards sin is a step away from God. Do we encourage that? Do we really LOVE someone by saying its ok to step away from God?

    But don’t pass me off as dogmatic in my belief! I agree with your point that we should accept everyone in our church! Everyone! Even gay people – but everyone must seek redmeption from sin. Jesus does make it clear that he wants people to “turn away from their sin” [John 8:11 paraphrased] and without sounding like an old cliche we must love the sinner but not the sin.

    Basically, be careful about being a Proactivist about this kind of thing because you must be aware that when your time comes to be judged your LOVE will be looked at by our Father and would you want God to see that it was misrepresented and actually working against his bride?

    Food for thought…

    And sorry to be the guy retorting

    • Hi Green Anon. Congrats on being both polite and rational. I won’t say you’re wrong, because that’s not my job. Ever. With anyone.

      • Perhaps you could respond to the points brought up in his post though?

        P.S. Re: your parents being happily married- I’m really sorry & I hope this doesn’t offend you, but doesn’t God work all things for good- even bad things (Rom 8:28)? However that doesn’t mean the ends justifies the means (Rom 3:8).

      • Ammo/Anon:
        (italics for Anon quotes)
        So… People in gay realtionships ARE sinning (admitted by you often in this article) and the cost of their sin will be the due penalty for their perversion (Rom 1:27) [quoted by you]

        Actually, no, I don’t believe they are sinning. At all. I believe with all my heart that gay couples, like my parents, have made a loving and godly choice. That choice to give one’s heart and soul selflessly to another person can’t possibly be a sin. Therefore, either I’m misunderstanding the Bible or Paul misunderstood Jesus when he wrote those verses. But I’m not going to pretend the verses don’t exist. I trust in love – which is what every single verse in the Bible is about – over the smaller picture of a handful of individual verses. We’re all stumbling around doing our best until Jesus comes back, and if I’m going to make a mistake, I’m going to make it the mistake of believing in God’s love over his desire to punish us.

        But don’t pass me off as dogmatic in my belief! I agree with your point that we should accept everyone in our church! Everyone! Even gay people – but everyone must seek redmeption from sin. Jesus does make it clear that he wants people to “turn away from their sin” [John 8:11 paraphrased] and without sounding like an old cliche we must love the sinner but not the sin. ]

        Yep, a cliche but still good. But it breaks my heart when gay people find out I’m a Christian and flinch. They’re afraid of me, because to them “Christian” and “someone who is about to berate me” are synonyms. First of all, it is very rarely our place to tell someone what to do. Even Jesus rarely told people what to do, and it was most certainly his right. Secondly, we the church need to really ask ourselves why we object so much to homosexuality, but accept blatant heterosexual sinners. Do you know a Christian person that married a non-Christian? Did anyone stop them? Did anyone throw them out of the church? The Bible (and logic) clearly states that we shouldn’t yoke ourselves to unbelievers. But homosexuality – something that most of us are not tempted by – is overwhelmingly punished. We’ve managed – accidentally I think – to focus on the one sin most of us aren’t tempted by. Very odd.

        Basically, be careful about being a Proactivist about this kind of thing because you must be aware that when your time comes to be judged your LOVE will be looked at by our Father and would you want God to see that it was misrepresented and actually working against his bride?

        Food for thought…

        That’s EXACTLY my question to anyone who doesn’t welcome a gay person in Jesus’ name. I’m a teacher by trade, and I fully understand that if I’m wrong I could be leading others into sin. I am sure enough of God’s loving kindness to speak up – which makes a lot more sense than being sure enough of God’s judgement to speak up (which I’ve done against homosexuality in the past).

        And sorry to be the guy retorting

        LOL. No problem; you were polite and it’s clear you’re doing your best. . . just like so many Christian gay couples.

        PS Amanda, if I found myself married to someone I felt God had told me not to marry, I’d rather get divorced than continue in that sin. Luckily, I don’t think my parents sinned in getting married, despite what a few verses say. Love trumps all – even gender (Galatians 3:28).

  4. Pingback: Homosexuality and Divorce | Felicity Banks

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