Saturday, June 28, 2008

What does the Bible say: Homosexuality (pt 2)

Please read part 1 here.

The second passage with which we will deal is the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a lengthy story, and understanding the context of it is quite necessary, so I will quote it at length:

Genesis 19:1-14 (ESV)

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they said, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

Prior to the story, Abraham, Lot's uncle, pleaded with God to save the city of Sodom. God agreed that he would spare the city if there were but 10 righteous people in the city. Of course after the quoted section, Lot and his wife and daughters flee and the city is destroyed by fire and sulfur.

As we look at this passage, allow me to quote a statement I made yesterday.
When reading the Old Testament, the minimum requirement for a Christian is to see God's attitude then as close to how he feels now. In other words, if people were to be executed or punished for something in the Old Testament, then it is probably at least a bad idea now. (For this principle, I must give credit to this great professor.)
I believe this should be a guiding principle to our study of the Old Testament. Many principles can be directly, literally applied to our lives today. But, even if they can't, we should at least see God's attitude as consistent through all times.

In dealing with this passage, the essential question is, "Why was Sodom destroyed?" Fortunately this question is directly answered in the text: "because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD." This is the same answer given both to Abraham and to Lot.

What was this "outcry?" The narrator does not directly say anything, but that God was checking it out to see if the outcry was true. Instead, the writer characterizes the people of Sodom by telling a story of how they reacted to the presence of the angels. The night the angels arrived, every single man of the town showed up at the house asking Lot to let the angels out so that they could "know" them. This was not an invitation to dinner and conversation. Later, Lot offers his daughters who have never "known" a man. They knew him didn't they? Rather, this "knowing" is certainly sexual.

Many have made the argument that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for general immorality. However, the specific kind of immorality indicated by the author of the story was homosexual desire.

To demonstrate that God is not after this nation in particular, the next story at the end of Genesis 19 tells of an incestuous encounter between Lot and his daughters. This results in the formation of the Ammonite and Moabite nations which become enemies of Israel for the remainder of their history.

In this story, God is directly dealing with sexual immorality. So as to be clear, the author feels it necessary to enumerate, in narrative form, the various kinds of sexual immorality that are unacceptable. Therefore, the pervading principle is that sexual immorality, especially homosexuality, multiple partners, and incest, are destructive behaviors that could lead to annihilation.

As for the modern application, there is no city on earth where every man is a participant in homosexuality. However, if we are to take our guiding principle to heart, then God must be very clearly opposed to homosexual behavior, among other things. We must make another thing clear though. Does God actively seek to destroy those who sin against him?

No! In fact, God even made an effort to check the place out and see if the accusations were even true. As with all people that God thought of destroying, he allowed an opportunity for repentance. He even brought Lot, someone who knew the true God, to the city, possibly with the hopes of providing them another chance at righteousness. However, in their final moments, the men of Sodom demonstrated their entire rejection of God. Still, God chose to save those who had remained loyal to him alone.

11 comments:

  1. So because the bible to you clearly states homosexuality is a sin that also means you'd never gamble, eat shellfish, and you hate interacial marriages ("cultures should not mix") . ALong with several other passages stating things that today have been looked past because like homosexuality are not as horrible as people think...

    Will God hate me for loving or you for hating?

    Does the fact that I'm a homosexual mean I am not as good as you? As smart or capable as you? Does it somehow make me unworthly of opportunity and life?

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  2. Thanks for the response, and I'll try to answer your questions and statements as best as I can.

    "You'd never gamble"
    I would also say that gambling is an unwise, even sinful, decision and that it is something that Christians should not participate in. My primary reason is that we should recognize that every material possession we have came from God, and he expects us to be good managers of it. Gambling is not good management. But, of course, that somewhat depends on your definition of gambling.

    "Eat shellfish"
    For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, the book of Leviticus (chapter 11) says that a Jew should not eat any sea creatures that don't have fins and scales. This is one of several issues that were directly modified by the teachings of Jesus. In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus states that what a person says and does is more important than what they eat "There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. . . Thus he declared all foods clean." Therefore, as a result of this teaching, I have no problem eating the scavengers of the sea.

    "hate interracial marriages"
    Actually, this is a thing the Bible is frequently accused of that just doesn't stick. There is nothing that says the cultures should not mix. Instead, both the Old and New Testaments say that a follower of God should not marry someone that doesn't worship God. Exodus 34:13-16 is one example: You shall tear down their altars ... for you shall worship no other god ... lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land... and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods." This, along with many other passages show that the problem is the people of Israel leaving the one true God. In fact, most people of different nations in that region would have been nearly identical racially.

    "several other passages stating things that today have been looked past"
    There are several Old Testament references that were either fulfilled by Jesus' sacrifice or that he specifically modified (like shellfish). Anything else should stand today, and it is an act of negligence on the part of Christians if we ignore the commands of these passages.

    "Will God hate me for loving or you for hating?"
    God, of course, makes no indication that he hates anyone seeking after him. I also, have said nothing about hatred. I agree with what you imply here that if Christians show hatred toward ANYONE, they are in sin. Likewise, God will not show hatred to those who seek him, only love.

    "Does the fact that I'm a homosexual mean I am not as good as you?"
    No, and I have made no claim to be good. This has nothing to do with how good we are. Even Jesus said, "No one is good but God." This, like all other Biblical passages about sin, is about pointing us to seek God's salvation. I need his grace just as much as anyone else in this world.

    "As smart or capable as you?"
    No, I think homosexuality is totally unrelated to intelligence or aptitude.

    "Does it somehow make me unworthy of opportunity and life?"
    This is like the "as good" question. No one is worthy of opportunity and life. We deserve nothing good that we receive. Any sin makes us unworthy, but God has chosen to ignore that for those who ask his forgiveness and follow him. I'm in the same boat here. God has given us opportunities and life, but it has nothing to do with how good we are, only that we've recognized his control in our lives.

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  3. to be honest mikey, with everything I've ever read in the bible (old and new testament)...i still don't see it condemning homosexuals...personally, I feel it's silly for all these big name preachers (this isn't a knock on you either, even though you're big time to me bud) such as Dobson and such always focus on this rather then things that matter. Like say bettering the world around them, good works, helping make this world a better place for EVERYone...not just themselves. Granted this commment doesn't deal much with the topic you've presented, just feel like throwing it out there...holla at ya boy Mikey!

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  4. This was posted on my blog at: www.pioneerpreacher.com and thought I'd add to the discussion.

    I read in a book recently that talked about a headline that boggled my mind. It was in the editorial of a newspaper and it was a column talking about homosexuality. It read, “a God like ours…Jesus would refuse them.”

    Finish this statement “When it comes to homosexuality, a God like mine would ________________________”

    Your answer to that question will largely determine how you would treat people who are struggling with homosexual attraction. The answer to that question is due to your own opinions, the opinions of your friends, what you’ve been brought up under and been taught to do.

    I remember reading a story about a gay pride march in Washington DC where a group of Bible-believing “Christians” were shouting derogatory comments at a crowd of homosexuals. While the Christians taunted the homosexuals, yelling nasty remarks, the gays sang Jesus loves me.

    Isn’t it interesting that the ones who often have the most hate in their hearts aren’t “them”, but “us” ?

    It’s interesting to note that Jesus went out of His way to embrace the unloved and unworthy, you know, the folks who matter not at all to the rest of society. The unwanted people. Jesus shared meals with tax collectors, most who were viewed as thieves, and routinely stood up for the dignity of those whom no one else would stand up for, like the adulterous woman in John 8, the prostitute in John 12, and those who were afflicted with diseases, such as the blind, the lame and the lepers.

    We must finish the statement, based off of the answer of the Jesus, and the sole basis for which why you and I are here…read it in John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

    Please note a few important words. First, the world. That includes people of all backgrounds, and all sins (including homosexuality). Next, circle the word whoever. God’s love is not conditional. Everyone has access to it. Next, circle the word didn’t. It’s important to understand why Jesus came. To show us the way. Not to condemn people, but to preach the saving message of Christ -- that there's hope found for those who know Jesus.

    Let’s finish this point up.

    “When it comes to homosexuality a God like mine would: love, accept, want, embrace and help them.”

    Homosexuality is no different than any other sin. It's sin. And Jesus embraced, loved, accepted, and helped sinners.

    Homosexuality is no different than any other sin. It's sin. And Jesus embraced, loved, accepted, and helped sinners.

    ------
    Michael, thanks for your heart in candidly sharing a very difficult topic. I hope everyone who reads this will understand that your heart is not to point fingers, or to tell people that they are awful or horribly wrong...but that it's not God's best for their lives.

    I appreciate your heart bro,
    Jeremy

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  5. I'm two-thirds with you. Incest=bad. Multiple partners=bad. But that last one changes for me, because the story doesn't seem to plainly state "homosexuality" to me, but rather, homosexual rape. Most certainly, any form of rape=bad.

    That makes such a difference to me. But please, blame my thoughts on my no-good hippie liberal pinko communist upbringing -- I've never been able to shake it.

    At the risk of exchanging meaning for succinctness,
    Amber

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  6. Joey, thanks for the thoughts and compliments. I agree that improving the life of those around us is a high goal. We must work to actively improve our world. However, we must also realize that all efforts to this end are futile if we ignore the status of our hearts.

    Jeremy, thanks for the post. I completely agree.

    Amber, you are right that the immediate context of this passage is homosexual rape. In fact, the heterosexual rape account from Judges 19-21 would seem to support your point. However, the destruction of Sodom was already under consideration before this encounter. What was the issue? Rape? Homosexuality? Immorality? I think the answer is "yes" (all of them).

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  7. Like Jeremy said homosexuality is supposeable a sin just like any other. And no one can honestly say they have neve sinned. I will continue to live my live happily living in "sin" daily. While knowing there are many others out there doing the same thing. No one will ever be able 2 force others to love certain people.

    Love everyone and judge no one

    ~Lou , "The loving lesbian!"

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  8. Lou,

    I feel for you, because I know that many followers of Jesus have looked at you and thought many things that are wrong. I cannot apologize enough for that. I have often said that disciples of Jesus should (as simple as this sounds) act like Jesus did. And that is never condemning a person for what they are doing. But loving them, despite their flaws and failures. We all have them. To think that because you're a lesbian, and because I do stupid stuff...that you're any less worthy of love from Jesus than I am is wrong. And I am sorry for that message that could have been conveyed to you by other followers of Jesus. I know Michael's heart, and that's not why he wrote this.

    I think when I look at the life of Jesus, I see something very unique. If you look at the story of the woman at the well, she's had five bad marriages. She goes to the well at noon to draw water. Mainly because everyone else was at home during the noon hour, and this was the time she could come and be alone, without the scoffing of other people.

    Jesus notices her, and instead of telling her how awful and wrong she is, simply offers her a better way. She could have chosen to reject it, but she chose to accept it, and her life was changed.

    I think the heart behind many followers of Jesus is good -- they aren't trying to be jerks, but to (in their own way) tell you about a better way.

    There are many issues in my life that are being worked out. I have many things in my life that are wrong, and that God needs to heal, and fix.

    So, I say this as someone who is with you in life, not against you. I don't have my holy hat on pretending to be better than you are. The truth is, we're all screwed up, broken people.

    God created us to love and be loved. There was a certain way that it was setup in the beginning and it was for a man to love a woman, and a woman to love a man. That's not to say that women can't love women, and that men can't love men, because I think you'd agree that you love your partner, and that she loves you too.

    And while you believe that this relationship is an awesome thing (and it may be for you), it's not the best thing.

    I am praying for you -- that God would save you from some of his followers (seriously), but more importantly that you would see the awesome plan of God as it relates to your love-life. As good as it is now, there's something so much more.

    Peace,
    Jeremy

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  9. Anonymous5:12 AM

    Props for the honest and temperate answers. I'm new in Christ and not homosexual- and this is still one of the topics I struggle with. What an incredible challenge for gay people to have to wrestle with. I couldn't even imagine. I pray for y'all to have peace, and to not let this separate you from Christ. He still loves us all, I don't know why we're made this way- but I hear He has a plan. God's bless

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  10. Ezekiel:
    Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous3:41 PM

      Yes, Ezekiel 16:49 actually says why Sodom was destroyed, but I guess it's a lot more self-righteous fun to come up with our own self-serving interpretations.

      Delete

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