One of the most frequently-asked questions I got when dealing with issues of human sexuality- including homosexuality- is why I dealt so little with the New Testament. My Christian friends wondered why I barely hinted at Paul’s writings on the subject, and my liberal friends wanted to know why I failed to bring up Jesus. Today I’m going to attempt to answer for myself on both counts.
No doubt my liberal friends perceived a weakness in my logic. Why- if I am a Christian- didn’t I bring up Christ? They suppose that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, and so they believe that they have a good counter-argument. This belief is nonsense, as is the belief held by many Christians that Christianity should have very little interest in the Old Testament. Just a small rant here: but the New Testament is set very firmly in the history and theology of the Old. As I am learning, everything in the Old Testament- while powerful and pertinent in its own context- provided for everything we in the Church believe and know and hold to in the much larger context of the Gospel and God’s unfolding revelation of Himself. In short, you cannot have the Church without Israel first. You cannot have the message of Christ without the Law. “Christ the Savior is born” is of no meaning unless we better understand vicarious atonement, sin, sacrifice, and Law. Grace cannot be divorced from Truth, nor Justice from Mercy, and it is very wrong of us to ignore the larger portion of Scripture. It isn’t just about “Bible stories” in Sunday School, you know…..those narratives are only the beginning of something much, much grander.
So, on to the subject at hand. How exactly does Jesus weigh in on the issue of homosexuality? Consider the following with me for a moment:
- Jesus spoke in Matthew 19 of the Genesis account of creation: God created male and female as the model for marriage. That is the only paradigm that Jesus ever uses. He doesn’t even remotely leave the door open on the subject of marriage.
- Jesus tells us in John 5:19: “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Sondoes likewise.” How significant it is, then, that Jesus’ first miracle- His first act as an adult that reveals His true nature- is at a wedding in Cana. Like the Father, He blesses the wedding. I understand that Jesus helped avoid a serious issue for the bride’s family in performing the miracle, but remember- that was Mary’s concern in running out of wine. Jesus never claimed the miracle occurred to avoid shame and a scandal. I also understand that the water-to-wine miracle had certain theological and Messianic implications. However, we must admit that Jesus’ choice of settings for a first miracle was not insignificant. There were other places and people that would have been just as significant.
- In the Matthew 19 passage, Jesus mentions three types of “eunuchs”: born eunuchs, man-made eunuchs, and eunuchs for the Kingdom. There are people who do not marry or at the very least are not fully functional with regard to biological sexuality. There are those who have been made eunuchs for political purposes (the normal sense of the word “eunuch”.) Finally, there are those to whom God has given the gift of celibacy instead of the gift of marriage. Any attempt to make one of these three categories of eunuch inclusive of homosexuals is reading something into the biblical text that simply isn’t there. At the very best case, the third type of eunuch could refer to a person who experiences same-sex attraction but chooses to give up those desires for the purpose of obeying God. This person is forgoing the sexual intimacy they desire for the sake of following Christ. This is an example of taking up the cross for the purpose of discipleship.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands upon the commandment against adultery to include looking on someone to lust after them. Yes, I know it is dealing specifically with a man lusting after a woman, but Jesus is emphasizing the sin of lust, not the gender of the people involved. Reading through the Old Testament Law reveals that this is common practice. So “simple” lust is a sin, not just acting on that desire.
- It’s common sense that Points 1 and 4 above create an air-tight case against homosexuality from Jesus’ perspective. IF marriage is to include only male and female and IF lust toward someone outside of marriage is sin, THEN it is impossible for a man or woman to lust after (much less sleep with) someone of the same sex and not sin. Jesus does not have to give special mention to homosexuality because He has emphasized the boundaries for marriage and designated everything outside those boundaries as sinful. Frankly, Jesus doesn’t have to mention pedophilia or bestiality for those same reasons. There is a great wall around marriage, and there is only one door by which we may enter.
- My final point is, in many ways, the culmination of the discussion I’ve been having with my readers. We’ve seen the biblical evidence against homosexuality time and time again with respect to the Old Testament. We’ve even demonstrated that the commands against homosexuality have specific implications outside the Mosaic Law. It isn’t just a Jewish theocracy that needed to adhere to a moral code– it’s every person in every nation. Jesus had a few things to say about the Law, though. For starters, His first public message made it very clear that He didn’t intend to destroy it. Jesus didn’t think the Law was wrong or immoral. He is, after all, God in flesh. We call it the “Mosaic Law”- the code of Moses, but it was really God Who had spoken.
Jesus- God in flesh- was the Author and Fulfillment of the Law. Jesus accepted the burden that came with the Law, paid the penalty for atonement demanded by the Law, and offers grace, mercy, and love in many ways because of the Law. He couldn’t do any of that without a proper foundation. The Law is not the enemy of grace; it is its basis. Sin meets its Atoner, Death meets its Conqueror at the Cross only because God had explicitly revealed Death and Life, Sin and Holiness through the Law and the Old Testament narrative. So, yes, Jesus weighed in on homosexuality, but then again He weighed in on a lot of sins. He lifted up the Woman Caught in Adultery and found her free of condemnation, but He was also loving enough to tell her to stop her sin. Believers have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins…..and reading Paul’s epistles make it very obvious that “believers” can include people who have experienced- and acted upon- same-sex attraction. That’s the whole Gospel, folks- not just the parts we like to hear.