So What Does the Bible Actually Say About Homosexuality?
In my last blog post, I shared some thoughts about why it is that Christians can’t seem to agree on what the Bible says on the subject of homosexuality.
In this post, we’re going to chat about what it actually does say.
A Good Place to Start
So, is God a wowser? Does He want to put unreasonable shackles on us by restricting something as fundamental to our existence as our sexuality?
I don’t believe so. In fact my starting point is this: God created us; male and female He created us in his own image … with the express purpose of blessing us (Genesis 1:27-30).
He made us, He knows us and He loves us. In fact, He loves us as a father loves his children:
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are … (1 John 1:3)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. (Matthew 7:11)
And like any great dad, He wants the best for His children. He wants it so much, that He paid the ultimate price to give us His best:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. (John 3:16).
Anything that falls short of the mark of God’s perfect plan for your life and mine, is called … “sin”. In fact the Greek word used throughout the New Testament for “sin” – hamartia – literally means “to miss the mark”, or as we might put it today … to miss the whole point.
God wants the very best for you and me and He knows what that is, because He made us. That’s my starting point.
But The Bible Says Precious Little About Homosexuality
I’ve often heard people say that the Bible is virtually silent on homosexuality. So why do Christians get so hung up about this?
But that’s simply not true, although it’s easy to see how people come to this wrong conclusion.
There are only a handful of specific references to homosexuality in the bible (click here to see them) – around 15 or less. But “sexual immorality” – that’s huge. Over 100 verses directly relating to the subject and many more that indirectly talk about it (click here to see them).
The words used for sexual immorality in the New Testament are pornos and porneia – from which we derive the word “pornography” still in use today.
Now – here’s the important bit. These words refer very clearly to both heterosexual and homosexual behaviour.
In case you don’t believe me, here are the definitions, straight out of my Greek dictionary:
PORNEIA: Illicit sexual intercourse:
1. adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc
2. sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
3. sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11
1. a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
2. a male prostitute
3. a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator
The Bible Doesn’t Discriminate
So the truth is that the Bible doesn’t discriminate between heterosexual immorality and homosexual immorality. It counts both as equally missing the mark of God’s perfect ideal for our lives.
So, a man and a woman sleeping together before being joined in the life-long union of marriage falls just as short of God’s perfect ideal for us, as does homosexual or lesbian behaviour. And for that matter, so does a man looking at a woman in the wrong way:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27,28)
The Bible is totally non-discriminatory in the matter of heterosexual and homosexual immorality.
In fact, from the very beginning until the very end, God’s ideal for man and woman, is that they be joined in an exclusive, intimate, life-long relationship:
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24,25).
That word “clings” literally means “cleaves”. It has the clear connotation of deep intimacy and permanence – something that Jesus elaborated on in Matthew 19:3-6.
Yes, the Bible is largely silent on the polygamy of the Old Testament. We’ll talk about that another time. But it is clear that God’s ideal is for a beautiful, intimate, one-on-one relationship between one man and one woman. That never changes.
A Stark Contrast
And nowhere is the contrast more stark between God’s ideal and the alternatives, than in this Scripture:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4).
There’s God’s ideal – the marriage bed undefiled on the one hand, and sexual immorality (in all its forms) on the other. One is honourable, the other will be judged.
Here it is again even more strongly:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)
The Apostle Paul wrote this particular passage into a society not unlike the one in which we live today. Thessalonica was a racy city – sexual immorality was rife and was considered quite normal. Other religions had temple prostitutes (both male and female) and the immorality that they practiced (both heterosexual and homosexual) was an intrinsic part of their lifestyle.
What Paul was writing 2,000 years ago to the Thessalonican Church, was no less controversial in society at large back then, than it still is in our society today.
Don’t Be Surprised
So, let’s not be surprised when people scream and shout at the Bible and at those who believe in what God has to say through His Word.
Society was so outraged at what Jesus said, that they nailed Him to a Cross. Society was so outraged at what the Apostle Paul said, that they executed him too … and, so far as we know, most if not all of the other Disciples.
In the face of the vocal and often vitriolic rhetoric of some sections of society, the temptation is to capitulate and just go with the flow. It’s much easier that way.
That’s not what I am called to do. With all my heart, I believe that as a Christ-follower, I am called to lovingly yet firmly profess and proclaim God’s best; God’s ideal; God’s glorious plan for the life of every man and woman in this world.
What they do with that … is up to them.
A Personal Postscript
Should anyone feel so led to label me as homophobic … well, I guess that’s their prerogative. But just so that you know, I live in the heart of the gay district of Sydney. Many of the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis, some that I am very close to, are gay or lesbian.
I treat them each with love, dignity and respect. I don’t shove anything down their throat, and I would be greatly surprised if any of them would even think of calling me homophobic.
It is in fact possible to disagree with someone, without tearing each other apart. And my heart remains, as always, to speak the truth in love.
Oh, and by the way, any comments added to this blog post that do not speak with dignity and love, will be removed. We are all made in God’s image, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God.
I have a good gay friend who I challenge every so often. Im not offended by his gay nature. It is who he is. And his beliefs are his own and I allow them to be until I challenge him again. Call it wrestling. But I do know that God loves him. That he has tried the church thing and the Christian church didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand his pain until he told me why he was trying out a gay church – when coming up to the altar for healing for his leg, they couldn’t pray for him until they prayed to make my friend straight. So he had to find prayer at a gay church where that wasn’t a issue and his real and painful leg was. (and I do realise the issue of prayers in a gay church here). But my friend wasn’t accepted in a Christian church until he became straight. That’s NOT love. That’s bloody torture. My friend didn’t suddenly wake up and decide to be gay no more than I decided to be straight.
It’s love people. Real honest love. Stop signing those anti-gay petitions in church and go out and be friends with them. Read the story of the tax collecter and the Samaritian/Jew and get it!!! Leave your Scriptures behind and ACCEPT them as they are. And as you accept them and they accept you, then real change through real love can happen.
The Bible does not discriminate against gays. But as a one time ex-gay I can say some churches and church goers do. I like what my father taught me about religion: it’s not about what other people do, its about what you do.
To Mark concerning human rights I’d say ‘and so what’ they oughtn’t to rival the authority or value of God’s opinion for Christians! Homosexual preference and practice has never illustrated a strength of a culture but a weakness. Surely, the people caught up in it must be respected but the practice must be called for what it is.
As for equating homosexual sin with heterosexual sin, it is MORE DESTRUCTIVE and damnable because it is more clearly against the light of nature than other sin. I am weary of the ‘all sin is sin’ bromide which is a half-truth: yes it is but some sins do more damage than others, clearly.
It is a naieve humility which claims otherwise.
Thanks Berni for your honesty and your willingness to share your God given wisdom.
May God bless you as you are, and have been a blessing to many.
My heart says AMEN to all that you say here.
Sure Jesus died for our sins – for all man kind… BUT its only when we confess & repent of them – truely from the heart-that his death was not in vain!! and go and sin no more!
We go to the Father in prayer through Christ.
If we all thought more on the sacrifice he made for us, everyday play that scene of his final moments of being tortured for us and nailed to wood, hung in the air NAKED … Then perhaps we could show love more to the sinner/unbeliever.
its because of what he did for us that we choose to love him,and its because we love him that we choose to live a life that obeys his commands and is pleasing in his sight. This is true worship.
One of the things I have realised that God hates sin his Son died on a cross to deal with it for human beings. The fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I.m only starting to understand we dare not disobey . We must forgive, obey etc or else we are walking on dangerous ground
Apologies for the Late post here…
Berni, I absolutely love the gentle way you explained how society views God’s words and how Christians over the last two thousand years have been martyrdom because of their faith in Jesus.
I just can’t believe that there is soooo much confusion about this topic, and yet it’s one of the most clearer topics in the bible there is.
Homosexuality is a sin. God says so, period.
There are only two types of people in this world currently alive…
Children of God, (Christ Followers)…and the rest…
Children of the evil one.
The bible teaches us to watch out for the evil one, so it’s really simple…
Everyone who is NOT of God, is a children of the evil one, and promotes all sin.
We are all born in this life as the children of the evil one, and that’s why Jesus says…
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Now, I absolutely totally couldn’t agree more with Berni’s post on homosexuality…
Why? Not because it makes sense, it’s because, Berni being Berni, Me being Me.
We share the same spirit of truth…
There are countless of sins not stated in the bible…
And that’s why God gave us his spirit to warn us against these sins, and the spirit does not only warn us, but it offers us a way out, it gives us strength to overcome.
Drug-addiction, smoking, body piercing,.etc…are just samples…
I can go as far as I understand…to say this…
“Anything that is NOT the will of God, is our own will or the will of the evil one and is Sin or leads to sin”
So in reality I could be building a church in the middle of a deserted area, and that’s not the will of God, but my will.
and that’s why God says through James…
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
PS: Our faith compared the earliest Christians/disciples cannot even compare…
These followers used to pray and live by faith everyday for a meal, for water, to escape prosecution.
We on the other hand…well…we have savings, a home, open the tap and we have water, go to the local store and buy a meal or food. get sick and have a range of medicines and antibiotics.
So in conclusion…, there more we have, we live less by faith and turn away from God.
love the sinner, expose the sin!
looking historically, I believe 50 years ago we had the same debate about de-facto relationships vs a married relationships, divorce vs non-divorce …
the debate is really about what does God say vs what does man say … and at the end, with the separation of God and Man, man always “looses” and day after day moves a step further away from God …
we are just witnessing the increasing wickedness of man, as the Bible pronounces.
now, I don’t think it is fair to force on Christians to accept a life-style that is against our traditions and beliefs and force Christians pastors to marry same sex couples. I think this is were the real battles of the future will be after same sex marriage equality becomes law – which eventually will be.
Leviticus 20:13 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.
I think the most important thing you have uncovered here is the definition of sin. It is a falling short, not making the mark. Which no-one ever completely makes, and Jesus died on the cross to take the sins of the world upon himself. We all are forgiven.
We all do things and live or lives in ways which fall short of what God planned for us. And therefore we sin, in no degree more or less than homosexual people. It is clear from Scripture that marriage is a man/woman union. It is clear that homosexual prostitution and homosexual fornication are as shunned as heterosexual prostitution and fornication. What is never clear is whether monogamous, Christ-centred, same sex relationships are condemned as sinful. That they are so has, I believe, largely been assumed, as well as the actual state of being sane sex attracted. That male/female marriage is the ideal does not then exclude the possibility of same sex partnerships (although the argument of sex outside of marriage would beg the question as to whether homosexual sex is therefore still as sinful as heterosexual sex outside of marriage).
I think we are too hard on our homosexual brothers and sisters, too quick to condemn others for sin when we are guilty of sin ourselves and too quick to show aggression in this area, which often reveals the real rhetoric behind the quoting of Leviticus/Romans.
I can see you have attempted to approach the matter with love – I put forth the proposition that we should continue to study the Word and pray to more clearly understand Gods plan, because if real monogamous love between two people can be sinful because they are the same sex, we have a problem! :-/
I’ve just been given the link to your website and read you for the first time. I like and agree with your approach to and including the point where you equate all sexual activity outside of the marriage bond as sin. In other words my heterosexual sin is just as wrong in God’s sight as someone else’s homosexual sin and God will call us both to account. Praise Him that in Jesus the price was paid and there is cleansing from all sin by His precious blood, when we come in faith and trust Him.
Now having said that, I notice that you don’t quote the scriptures that deal with the causes or judgement of homosexuality. You have relegated these scriptures to a link in your blog which I suspect most people will not research. Personally, I don’t feel intellectually honest if I don’t include such passages as Romans chapter 1 and Leviticus chapters 18 to 20 (compare 20:13 with Romans 1:24) But let me hasten to proclaim again that all sin is sinful in God’s sight and that all sin is atoned for in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. One last thing Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9 – 11 includes me “That is what some of you were. But you were washed… sanctified…justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” Praise God for my precious Saviour! Ken H
Thanks Ken. The reason I didn’t include all the scriptures is purely a matter of the lengh of the post. It was already up over 1200 words, longer than my usual ones. And in effect, they are not quite as relevant to the point that I am on about in this particular blogpost as the ones I quoted, which is why they are in links.
A line ball call. But I could easily have written 20,000 words on this one without blinking an eye.
Not sure anybody would have read it though! 🙂
I would seriously suggest a part 2 and 3 as I think the start you have made is a great foundation for truth and to cover all angles this way would be a great read and inspiration 🙂
Very grounded and expressed with compassion Well Done Berni
Thank you so much Berni for presenting such clear biblical perspective on this issue! I totally agree. We should be able to articulate our views and beliefs in love without being labelled.
Just a quick comment on Liz’s response to Daniel’s post. I believe Daniel meant intimicacy within a marriage (loving, consensual sex within a biblically defined marriage). Anything outside of this is sin. Spouse abuse in any form is sin.
As I understand it, this blog may be interpreted as an expression of the Christian’s perspective on marriage because of the ACT’s legislative assembly’s intention to legalise same sex marriage.The spiritual definition of marriage is very clear in the Bible. It is the union of a man and of a woman entered into by a solemn vow taken before God and witnesses. Note that the Bible doesn’t define a ceremony before an ordained celebrant in a church. In my view two Christians who take this vow in front of a Christian witness are, in the eyes of God, husband and wife. The traditional legal definition of marriage which in Australia reflects the Christian spiritual definition of marriage is being challenged; and in many countries it has been redefined to include same sex marriage. Here again note that I don’t qualify these countries as Christian countries or nations because countries are constitutional entities. The legal redefinition of marriage to include same sex marriage doesn’t challenge the biblical definition of marriage. It is intended to give same sex couples the same legal rights as legally married man and woman. A legally married man and woman are not married under the biblical definition of marriage if they have not undertaken to take their vows as Christians and before God. Therefore my question is. Should Christians oppose same sex marriage which would deny same sex couples the same legal rights which are granted to man and woman couples who don’t accept and follow the precepts of marriage as defined in the Bible?
“. It is intended to give same sex couples the same legal rights as legally married man and woman”
Same sex couples (and de-facto’s) already have exactly the same legal rights in Australia as married couples.
Exactly right Pete, and they have had those same rights for many years. So why all the incessant lobbying in Australia for the ‘same legal rights’ as married couples? June
Good question Nick – and it’s another question entirely to the one which I address in this blog post.
Should Judea-Christian morality be “enforced” through the law.
I’m not going there … this time around.
Exactly the point I wished to raise Berni. The Bible as you state condemns homosexuality. In many countries it is legal and in a few it is illegal. It is to be noted that countries that haven’t legalised homosexuality are strongly condemned by the human rights organisation of western countries.
I don’t mean to argue with your dictionary but it clearly comes with some definitions for the word that are not available elsewhere – such as Strong’s Greek lexicon ( http://biblesuite.com/greek/4202.htm ) where the word is used to refer to the selling of a person for sex and also with idolatry – and nothing else. By conflating that directly with homosexuality or lesbianism, your dictionary is intellectually lazy at best I fear, and dishonestly promoting of a prejudice at worst. Even bestiality (where consent or any kind of financial transaction is clearly not possible) can only be allowed as an example for consideration, not as a definition of the Greek word – the Greeks had a perfectly good word for bestiality (κτηνωδία) and that is not used here so even bestiality cannot be allowed as a definition of Porneia. Since these added examples are the basis for much of your argument you find that a study of the words themselves – and only them – might lead you to a different conclusion.
It is, of course, perfectly possible for homosexuals to be sexually immoral – you know the local gay culture from being surrounded with it and can easily attest that immorality (in the “straight” senses of the word such as infidelity or failing to even attempt to be in a relationship with a sexual partner) is probably more common than even in the “straight” singles scene – but one does not automatically imply the other and there is no linguistic evidence here to support that argument.
I am no theologian but I can read a dictionary and see what it says as well as the next man or woman and I do not feel that you have proved your point here from the evidence provided. As such, please don’t be surprised that I disagree with some of your conclusion – it’s not personal and I also believe we are all searching for God’s purpose as we live our lives. Considering these matters is a part of that journey and the places that such consideration takes us are part of the plan for our lives that we can really only hope to see with hindsight. If in doubt, I find that Mt 22:35-40 gives me the best way to proceed and I hope that is at least slightly apparent here. I can see that you do the same as you write.
the key to this discussion is understanding what the words meant to the people to whom they were spoken and written, at the time that they were spoken and written.
Kittel’s Theological Dictionaries are amongst the most widely used and widely respected around the world.
The following link takes you to the appropriate excerpt”
(You’ll need to cut and paste it into your browser)
“Later Judaism [i.e. in the inter-testamental period] shows ow the use of porneia broadens out to include not only fornitcation or adultery, but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage and sexual intercourse in general”.
This, combined with evidence of common usage of the terms in extra-testimental records and documents, makes it clear that the terms, by the time that Jesus walked on this earth and in the decades following when New Testament Scriptures were written, were understood to mean all sexual relations, other than those in a committed heterosexual relationship.
Frist I must say that God is not “He” or “She”. God is Spirit. God is the Creator, Redeemer and Life Giver. Many preachers like you folks are still living in the Matriarchial society. A child who was abused by a male can not be comfortable calling God He because the child will always be frightened of the male figure.
Please preachers when you write and preach use language which helps the community.
Saleshni – I suspect that you meant patriarchal society. It is true that God is neither male nor female and that He is Spirit. However, He chooses to reveal Himself using masculine gender – God the Father, and God the Son. See the blog post that I wrote about this very thing … here: http://bernidymet.com/god-he-she-or-it/
I have been waiting expectantly for this post. Thank you for your biblical truth and teaching. God Bless You!!!!!!
That’s great, it’s been a big debate hasn’t it!
It is also something that I was questioning over the past couple of months.
So many people these days refuse the bible and believe in other options.
I can see that Australia was a much safer place when more people had Christian beliefs.
I would like to know your views on boat people, people smugglers, non genuine people fleeing war and the Muslims wanting to change our laws here and the risk of terrorism in Australia.
What does god think?
Charmaine van Heel
Charmaine, that’s quite an agenda there! I’ll see what I can do … in time. 🙂
I so agree. I have lots of gay friends and they are antiChristanity because of the church’s stand. But I cannot compromise what the Bible teaches or apologise for it, even though I love them as individuals. It is akin to Jesus’ attitude towards the prostitute. “Go and sin no more” is not toleration or what she does.
Well said Bernie. Back your take on this 100%. On this issue, we often forget, we are all guilty of sin before Him. Hetrosexual sex or homosexual sex outside of the bonds of marraige is sin. When the proper ideal is placed before us, then it is clear that God does not play favourites. And when discussing this issue, that is the only logical way to present it, which you did very well. Thank-you, this is a message all people, especially the church, need to hear clearly. God bless.
“… homosexual sex outside of the bonds of marraige is sin.” – Daniel
So is homosexual sex inside the bonds of marriage not sin?
Then zoo-sexual sex outside of the bonds of marriage is sin but inside the bonds of marriage is not?
Then statutory rape sex outside of the bonds of marriage is sin but inside the bonds of marriage is not?
Where is this leading to then – justification of all sin.
Berni; It is always a blessing to see rational and clear discussion on this subject. As a retired pastor I have often been taken aback with some vitriolic statements made by Church leaders in the field. Like Shakespear “Me thinks they doth protest too loudly.”
My conviction is that Christ died for the ‘whosoever’ and to exclude any one from His Kingdom because of past sin is a distinct no no. That however does not allow continued sin to go unanswered. The ONLY way is repentance, confession and faith in Christ. Here endeth the lesson.
Yip, and to abstain from ALL sin how hard it might be. Sanctification is indeed a process but a necessity to live a life pleasing to God.