Monday, 15 July 2013

Same-Sex Relationships

How have I come to talk on this topic this morning? Did I draw the short straw? Some of you may remember that I preached on a similar theme about 4 years ago. So why revisit it this morning?

The world is changing, and we have to address such issues if we as church, or indeed God’s people in the world, are to be relevant and be able to apply God’s word to the world around us.

I strongly believe that a church has to be relevant to world in which it finds itself. It should have something to say on the issues facing people today and equip its people to answer such things based on what the Bible teaches as opposed to what the media might pump out.
My aim this morning is explore what the Bible has to say on this topic and by the end to have a biblical response to these issues. How as Christians do we answer a question from, for example, a work colleague.. “You’re a Christian, what do you think about gay marriages?”

Why relevant to us today?

The act of parliament going through at the moment is to allow marriages of same-sex couples.
There has been rapid social change that has brought about an unprecedented degree of acceptance of homosexuality.  This has changed the Western perception of the nature of sexuality, the concept and what makes up a family, the education of our children and the nature of human rights.

Also as a church we will have to decide how such changes affect us and the wider church community. With that in mind I urge you to come to the church meeting Tuesday where more will be said on this and what it is that we need to decide.

We need to reassert our belief in the authority of the Scripture and not shy away from such subjects because the world tells us to be politically correct.

However, we do need to be sensitive to the fact that we are dealing with people’s emotions, their sexual identity and their dreams of falling in love and acceptance. We also need to remind ourselves of how Jesus was with those in his time who were marginalised.

He didn’t shy away from making judgements about what is right and what is wrong according to Scripture, but we are not to be judgemental.

We are all human, and we are all sexual and there are endless connections in the Bible between sexuality and spirituality.

We are all weak and vulnerable and nobody except Jesus has been sexually sinless. We must also remember that we will be judged by the same standards as we judge others.

One last caveat before we look at this in more detail. I understand that this may be a sensitive subject for some. This is also not necessarily the complete view of the leadership nor the church’s policy. I ask that with everything that is said on this platform that you prayerfully consider and weigh with scripture.

My aim this morning is explore what the Bible has to say on this topic and by the end to have a biblical response to these issues.


So how big an issue is this? If you used the number of column widths in the press you would certainly think this is a big issue and in some ways it is.
A survey on 2000 reported
    • Men between 16-40 who had ever had a homosexual partner were 5.4% (Women 4.9%) and those having one in the last 5 years being 2.6% (Women 2.6%).
  • The number of civil partnerships are low compared to straight marriages
  • Sexual offences Act 1967 declared that for consenting adults over 21 in private homosexual practices were no longer a criminal act. This was reduced to 18 in 1994 and this was reduced to 16 in January 2001.
  • Currently there is no distinction in law between heterosexual and homosexual activity. Both are covered by the same legislation.
  • A civil partnership enjoys many of the tax advantages that a heterosexual married couple enjoys.
  • In Europe with the Human Rights Acts, laws that criminalise private consensual sex between adult men are invalid.
  • Global attitudes are diverse. In approx. 70 countries homosexual activity is illegal, and in some, same-sex relationship are punishable by execution. In others, jail sentences are long and treatment harsh.

What about the church?

Unfortunately, if you mention the church to those outside of the church the most common thoughts that come to mind are gay vicars, child abuse and hypocrisy. Given to media press it is hardly surprising and over the years we’ve not always helped our position.

Recent events have been extremely hurtful for the Church of England and this has exposed some deep divisions that still exist on issues of human sexuality.

Whilst we may say that the church has moved on and is more accepting and compassionate that 20/30 years ago some folks last experience may well be from that time. There is certainly an argument that we need to repent of our attitudes and actions in the past on issues such as homosexuality and how the church has treated them.

Is homosexuality a Christian option?

You may be surprised to know that there is a Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) who argue that same-sex relationships and heterosexual marriage are “two equally valid alternatives” being equally tender, mature and faithful. They go on to say that “it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship”

The difference between preference and practice

There is a difference between homosexual practice (which a person is responsible for) and homosexual preference (for which he or she is not responsible)

We may not pass judgement on people for who that are, but we may for what they do.

Sexual intercourse is to be between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage. A person who can not marry and who is living a celibate and chaste life, whatever his or her sexual orientation is, is living a life which is pleasing to God.

Let me put it another way because this is important. A celibate homosexual man or woman is no different from a celibate heterosexual man or woman living outside the confides of marriage. Both lives are equally pleasing to God.

I’ve heard it said by some Christians that homosexuality is a sinful choice of the individual and they are not born with that sexual orientation because God doesn’t make mistakes. I have to disagree. Evidence overwhelmingly supports the case that sexual orientation is something we are born with and not always a choice. Yes, I’d agree that God does not make mistakes and that he creation was perfect in every way. The key word is was. Sin entered this world and his creation is broken and not as he planned. We see this in the events on the news, our sinful nature which comes oh to easy to us and even the weeds and thistles in our garden.

What does the Bible say?

These fall into two categories, ‘Bible Prohibitions’ and ‘Sexuality and Marriage’

Bible Prohibitions

These are:

  • The story of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-13) which is similar to the story of Gibeah (Judges 19)
  • The Levitical texts (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13)
  • Paul’s portrayal of pagan society in his day (Romans 1:1-32)
  • Two Pauline lists of sinner where each refers to homosexual practices of some kind (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11)

There’s not time to look at all these in any detail.

The story of Sodom has traditionally given the Christian view that they were guilty of homosexual practices which they intended to inflict on two angels who Lot was entertaining. Theologians argue whether the text ‘so that we can know them’ meant to have sex with them and Jude in verse 7 makes reference to the ‘sexual immorality and perversion’ of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Homosexual behaviour was not Sodom’s only sin, but according to Scripture it was one of its sins, which brought down upon it fearful judgement from God.

The Leviticus texts are as follows:

Leviticus 18:22:

'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.’ – NIV

Don't have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.’ – The Message

Leviticus 20:13

'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’ – NIV

"If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent. They must be put to death; they are responsible for their own deaths.” – The Message

Both these texts belong to the Holiness Code which are at the heart of the book. These challenge the people of God to follow his laws and not copy the practices of Egypt and Canaan. Sounds a lot like today doesn’t it.

The homosexual lobby argue that these texts refer to practices that have long since ceased and have no relevance to us today. They are cultural rules for that time only.

However, William J. Webb points out that this is not the case. He argues that the issues here are that of sexual boundaries.
  • Incest laws to protect the boundaries between parent and child
  • Bestiality laws to protect the boundaries between human and animal
  • Homosexual boundaries to prohibit intercourse between members of the same sex.

These boundaries are not cultural in that they change as Scripture develops but prohibit such activities in any place and time.

Paul’s two lists of sins that are incompatible with the Kingdom of God, the Law and the Gospel are as follows:

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; nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10 (NIV)

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.
We 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, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers— and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NIV)

The Christian rejection of homosexual practices does not rely on a few isolated texts. These negative prohibitions in Scripture only make sense in the light of its positive teachings in Genesis 1 & 2 about human sexuality

Sexuality and Marriage in the Bible

Members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement draw parallels between heterosexual and homosexual partnerships. Can these parallels be justified?

In Genesis 1, God affirms the equality of the sexes, both being formed in the image of God.

In Genesis 2, he affirms the complementarity of the sexes, which consists of heterosexual marriage.

Three fundamental truths emerge from this second account of creation.

Heterosexual gender: a divine creation

Genesis 2:18-20 says

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. Genesis 2:18-20 (NIV)

There is a need for human companionship. God seeing this need made a woman out of Adam’s rib.

This suitable helper was female who was also to be his sexual partner with whom he could become ‘one flesh’ so that they might consummate their love and procreate their children.

Heterosexual marriage: a divine institution

God having made a suitable helper brought her to Adam in much the same way as a father brings a bride today.

Heterosexual fidelity: a divine intention

In the Genesis story there are references to ‘flesh of my flesh’ …they will become one flesh. This is not accidental but deliberate. Heterosexual intercourse in marriage is more than a union; it is a kind of reunion. It is a union of two persons who in the sexual encounter of marriage become one again.

The complementarity of the male and female sex organs is only a symbol at the physical level of a much deeper spiritual complement.
The story goes on and says:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:24-25 (NIV)

This is the Old Testament definition of marriage:

  • a man’ – the singular indicates that marriage is an exclusive union between two individuals
  • will leave his father and mother’ – a public social occasion with public recognition
  • and be united to his wife’ – marriage is a loving, cleaving commitment or covenant which is heterosexual and permanent
  • and they will become one flesh’ – marriage must be consummated in sexual intercourse, which is the sign and seal of the marriage covenant, and over which no shadow of shame or embarrassment had yet been cast.

Jesus later endorsed this definition of marriage in Matthew 19:6

Jesus confirmed:
  • Heterosexual gender is a divine creation
  • Heterosexual marriage is a divine institution
  • Heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention

The homosexual liaison breaches all three of these divine purposes.

As Christians we should not single out homosexual intercourse or relationships for special condemnation.

The fact is that every kind of sexual relationship and activity which deviates from God’s revealed intention is displeasing to Him and is under his judgement. This is arguably a bigger challenge to the church today.

This includes polygamy (having more than one spouse), cohabitation, casual and temporary sex or liaisons, adultery and homosexual partnerships.

Arguments brought by Homosexual Christians against this Biblical teaching
Obviously homosexual Christians argue against these teachings.

Some say “I’m gay because God made me gay. So gay must be good. I cannot believe that God would create homosexual people and then deny them the right to sexual expression.”

A similar argument is that “You say that homosexual practice is against nature and normality, but it’s not against my nature and to me it is not is the slightest bit unnatural”

Some would also argue that homosexual behaviour is quite widespread in animals.

We are in real trouble if we start letting the animals set standards for human behaviour! God has established the norm for sex and marriage by creation.

Same-sex intercourse is beyond and in excess of nature in that it transgresses the boundaries established by God.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement argue that love is the greatest thing in the world and that is it the ‘nature and quality of relationships that matters’.

However the concept of a life-long, faithful relationship in a same-sex relationship is largely a myth and not supported by the facts.

  • Nation Gay Men’s Sex Survey
    • 14,600 respondents
    • 73% of gay men surveyed had more than one sexual partner in the last year. This compares to 30% of heterosexual men.

Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereo type, not merely the majority experience, it is virtually the only experience.

There is practically no comparison that can be drawn between homosexual partnerships and heterosexual marriage.

Another popular argument is on the texts from Romans 14:1 and 15:7

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
Romans 14:1

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God
Romans 15:7

The argument uses these texts to say that surely it is the duty of every heterosexual Christian to accept homosexual Christians. Paul told us to accept – indeed welcome – one another. Also, if God has welcomed us, who are we to pass judgement? God loves and accepts us just as we are.

It is certainly true that God does love us just as we are. A fact that amazes me every time I think of it, that we don’t have to, indeed cannot, make ourselves good first. He meets us where we are, wherever that might be and with whatever sin is in our life.

He does accept us and fully and freely forgives all who believe and repent.

What he does not do however is condone our continuance is sin.

We are to welcome each other are fellow pilgrims but not as fellow sinners who are determined to persist in our sinning.

God welcomes us in order that He can redeem us and transform us, not to leave us alone in our sin.

We can challenge society to sexual self-control and faithfulness and point to Jesus as the source of forgiveness and power.

Christian Response

Having established that homosexual partnerships are not a Christian option, if we are to call homosexual inclined people to abstain from homosexual practices and partnerships, what advice and help can we give them to encourage them to respond to this call?

The Christian call to Faith

Firstly faith accepts God’s standards.

The only alternative to heterosexual marriage is singleness and sexual abstinence.

But the world around us would say that “to expect homosexual people to abstain from homosexual practices is to condemn them to a life of frustration and despair. It is outrageous to ask them to deny what is normal and natural to them. It is inhumane and inhuman. It’s cruel.”

But the Word of God is different.

We are all summoned to various forms of self denial, not in just in this area and not just for the homosexual inclined.

Sexual experience is not essential to human fulfilment. Jesus was single, yet perfectly human.

Also God’s commands are good and not grievous. The yoke of Christ brings peace not turmoil. Conflict only comes when we resist.

The crisis here then and in many decisions we make is this. Who do we believe? Do we believe God and his word, or do we believe the world?

Secondly, faith accepts God’s grace.

Abstinence is not only good if God calls us to it, it is also possible. This is not only for homosexuals but also for the millions of single heterosexual people who experience the struggle of singleness.

This is not made any easier by the society we live in. We make this harder for ourselves if we listen to the plausible arguments of the world or if we lapse into self pity. We also need to guard ourselves against feeding our minds and imagination with pornographic material and so inhabit a world in which Christ is not Lord.
Whatever our ‘thorn in my flesh is’ we have Christ. Christ comes to us as he did to Paul and says

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness 2 Cor. 12:9 (NIV)

Secondly there is the

Christian call to love

Love is what the church has generally failed to show to homosexual people.

At present we are living ‘in between times’. We live between the grace we grasp by faith and the glory which we anticipate in hope.

Homophobia overlooks the fact that a majority of homosexual people are probably not responsible for their condition. As mentioned earlier though, they are responsible for their conduct.

Since they are not deliberately homosexually inclined they deserve our understanding, our compassion and not our rejection. I wonder, do we treat heterosexual people who sexually live outside God’s revealed purposes the same as we do homosexuals?

As Christians we should develop an environment of love, understanding, acceptance and support.

Lastly there is the

Christian call to hope

Is healing possible for homosexuals?

Healing is not self control but the reversal of their sexual orientation.

Many homosexuals would reject strongly the language of healing or cure as they do not see the need for either and have no wish to change.

But what about those that do? What about struggling Christian homosexuals?

Opinions differ greatly on the causes of homosexual orientation so as a result the opinions on the possibilities and meaning of a “cure” differ as well. The issue divides people into three categories:

  • Those who consider healing unnecessary
  • Those who consider healing impossible
  • Those who consider healing possible

As Christians we know that the homosexual condition is a deviation of God’s norm. It is not a created order, but of the fallen order. How then can we say that this is irreversible?

The only question is about when and how we expect divine intervention and restoration to take place.

True Freedom Trust’ have on their website and in a pamphlet testimonies about what Christ is doing in the lives of Christian homosexual men and women who have found a new identity in him and have a new sense of personal fulfilment as children of God.

A couple of examples are these:

My prayers were not answered in the way that I hoped for, but the Lord has greatly blessed me in giving me two Christian friends who lovingly accept me for what I was”

After I was prayed over with the laying on of hands, a spirit of perversion left me. I praise God for the deliverance I found that afternoon … I can testify to over three years of freedom from homosexual activity. But I have not changed into a heterosexual in that time”

Complete healing of body, mind and spirit will not take place for any of us in this life.

The Christian’s horizon is not bound by this world.

Jesus is coming back again. Our bodies will be redeemed. Sin, pain and death are all going to be abolished. The universe and ourselves are going to be transformed.

It is this assurance that helps us bear whatever our present pain might be.

It is the hope that we all cling to.

Simon Sturman