We have now looked at the 7 biblical references to homosexuality (as well as a possible 8th and 9th reference). I think we have had some really good and respectful discussion and I know it has been helpful to me as I have been discerning what God is not just saying “about me”, but to me. So thanks to all of you who have contributed to that conversation.
Before I post some of my concluding thoughts from this study of both hermeneutics and the passages, I want to briefly mention a few other principles of wisdom found in the scriptures that I think are helpful in understanding and application. This is by no means comprehensive, but just some important principles that I think offer wisdom:
(1) SEX MATTERS. The consistent witness of scripture is that sex matters. Sex is a big deal. And… sex is a really good thing. (Sometimes we forget that in the midst of this conversation.) One of the reasons that sex is such a big deal is that it is a deeply spiritual thing — it is not just physical. The Bible is also clear that sexual immorality is sinful and must be avoided. (The Bible is equally clear about grace, forgiveness and restoration!) We need to take sex seriously.
(2) SEX ISN’T ALL THAT MATTERS. But, on the other hand, I think God has a lot less hang ups on sex than we do. Sex is important, but it is not more important than things like love, grace, evangelism, the pursuit of justice, building healthy marriages, etc. As one prominent pastor and theologian has put it, the Bible is not a book about sex; it is a book about God and his relentless pursuit of his people.
(3) DON’T BURN WITH DESIRE. OK… a practical principle… I have mentioned it in previous comments. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul makes the case that singleness is better than marriage (interestingly, not many conservative evangelical churches hold to this Pauline teaching very often). But, he says, if you are going to “burn with passion/desire” then it is better to get married. Paul’s suggestion is not to “tough it out” and simply “will your desires away” or “pray them away”. No! He says, “look… the best plan is not to marry, but if you can’t do that it is better to marry than to get yourself into trouble with your sexual desires.” I think this advice has wisdom in it.
(4) FOLLOW YOUR CONSCIENCE. Another Pauline principal I have mentioned before… In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, Paul talks about the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols and whether this is a sin or not. This might not seem like a big deal to us, but in the ancient world that Paul was in, almost all meat was sacrificed to idols… or at least it was hard to be sure whether it was or not, unless you slaughtered it yourself. So this had very practical implications. Also, we know from Leviticus, that idolatry and eating meat sacrificed to idols and other gods is a very big deal! To all of this, Paul offers some good advice: “if you think it is a sin, then don’t eat it; if you don’t think it is a sin, then eat it. Don’t let this issue become divisive, follow your own conscience, don’t judge others — we are accountable before God ourselves.” Again, I think this is sound advice.
(5) GENESIS 4:19. Genesis 4:19 is one of the most tragic verses in scripture, I think. It says, “Lamech married to wives…” — just a few chapters past creation, and polygamy has already entered into the picture. This piece of information is offered without commentary or condemnation. It just is. The marriage institution — that was supposed to be about love and commitment and “one flesh” has crumbled quickly. What is the implication of this for us and our current conversation? It is a reminder of the reality that we all live in Plan B. In the Old Testament, you didn’t need a judge or justice of the peace or even a rabbi to tell you that you were married — the sexual act itself is what made you married. That is the Biblical teaching — in other words, “premarital sex” is actually impossible… when you have sex, you are either getting married or committing adultery. No other options. Of course, we don’t think about sex and marriage this way anymore. Why? Well for starters, it would mean that a large portion of our youth groups would be already married and a huge portion of our churches would be guilty of divorce and adultery… in other words, in our fallen world, it just doesn’t work. The challenge for all of us to learn to LIVE WELL AND FLOURISH within Plan B — that place between the already and not yet.
(6) LOVE WINS. I have posted a lot on this idea already, so I won’t reiterate everything. But Jesus makes love the primary ethic of the Christian faith, of discipleship and of Christian mission/witness. Paul proclaims it as the single most important issue — even more than faith (1 Cor 13). In fact, the whole Bible really comes down to describing God’s irrational and unquenchable love for broken people — and our response to him.
So those are all principals I am remembering as I work towards some conclusions…