The purpose of this series, just up front, is my desire is that it would produce light and not heat, to provide us understanding and not to inflame people’s emotions. I want to give full disclosure up front. I’m no expert on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, but in the last 10 or 12 weeks, of course I’ve taught about this, on this issue, in the past, but in the last 10 or 12 weeks, I’ve done a significant amount of research and have really learned a lot, and what I’m here to do is to kind of report that to you in this presentation. I want to be as objective as I can, but you need to know up front that I am a Christian and I come from a with a Biblical perspective. And finally, I would say this, as I look back on my life, I have never really had any very real, what I would call close friendships, or really known anyone very closely who was a homosexual or lesbian that I could talk to about this issue. I did have a first cousin who I didn’t realize was homosexual until I found out he had AIDS and died a couple years later after they had discovered that was what he had, and I did have several opportunities to visit with him before he died, and he was a very nice, very kind man, and it was a very sad day for me and our family the day he died. I also know a woman who is a lesbian and has a partner and they have an adopted son, and the way I know her is that my son has played sports with with her son, and she’s a very nice, pleasant, well, in fact, I really like her a lot, but that’s probably the most extensive I’ve been in as far as, I guess you can say I’ve lived somewhat of a sheltered life, but I did have one very extensive conversation over lunch with a man, and it was so extensive, probably a couple hours, I took notes during the lunch, and this was a man who had been a practicing homosexual for years, and we discussed his life and his lifestyle, but, when I met with him, he said that he had experienced, years before, a real spiritual transformation and now was heterosexual and married with kids. He did tell me, however, that he still experiences, from time to time, attraction to certain homosexual men that he encounters out in the world, and he said, you know, it’s a real temptation.
Now, let me just say this, that’s a very controversial issue today. Can a gay or lesbian be delivered from their sexual orientation? Can they change and become heterosexual? And I will address this in the third and final session, but I just share all this to let you know my perspective as we start this series. The reason I chose to address it is because I think it’s the most controversial issue that’s on the forefront, or at the forefront of our country today. I mean, you see about it in the Boy Scouts, in the military, but also, I think we’re aware of the fact it’s causing such great division in communities and in the older mainline Protestant churches, and so, I think where we need to start, as we discuss this, is to consider the issue of moral authority, because I think this will explain how we’ve gotten to this point in our culture.
You see, guys, all great civilizations have believed in having moral boundaries. I mean, if you think about it, all boundaries serve an important purpose in all of life. Fences keep out trespassers and protect children on playgrounds, governments impose speed limits, lines define a football field, but what you’re seeing is a growing number of people who do not believe in constraining certain moral behaviors. Listen to what Ravi Zacharias said. He said, “There is no creative impulse or end result in life that provides for limitless possibilities without some parameters. In the fragile path of living where relationships intersect and passions collide, God in His wisdom has provided fences and walls and boundaries for our well-being that we might not stray into terrain that destroys the very essence for which we were made.” And then he goes on to say, “And it is these fences and walls that are coming down today with thundering force.”
I don’t think most people realize that in almost every civilization in history, homosexual behavior was considered immoral and illegal, because the underlying belief was that God designed men and women’s bodies for heterosexual sexual relations within the confines of marriage, and sex between those who are of the same sex was considered unnatural. I mean, you saw this in our country for years. Most people don’t realize this, but then, in almost every state, sodomy was considered illegal. In fact, in Alabama today, I was talking to an attorney yesterday, it’s still illegal, though it’s not enforced. Gay marriage was unlawful in every state and today, I believe it is now lawful to be married, have a same-sex union, in thirteen states, and up until 1973, the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality a psychiatric disorder, but all that’s changed. It’s becoming more and more recognized and accepted as a normal alternative lifestyle, so, the question is, how did this change come about? What’s happened to cause people to be so accepting? Well, I think it starts by asking this simple question. How does a culture determine what is right and wrong, what is moral and immoral? I mean, is there anything wrong with anything? There used to be one predominant view but now, what we have today is two competing views. I guess you could call them worldviews, and it’s created a conflict on a multitude of fronts.
Now, let me start by talking about this new modern view. The new modern view is that all truth, including moral truth, is subjective. It comes from within the heart, it’s an inner feeling, and you have to discover that truth for yourself, and once you’ve discovered it, because it’s my truth, it’s true for me, it may not be true for you, but it’s true for me, and this explains why modern people believe that the number one virtue we should all embrace is tolerance. It’s taught on university campuses that we should be tolerant. We should be tolerant of everybody’s moral view because it’s their truth, and you don’t have a right to criticize their truth. Now, if you think about it, the main problem with this view is that it makes few moral demands on a person’s life. The other view, which is, was, so predominant in our land, and it’s still, I think, a powerful force, is the Judeo-Christian view that says, moral truth is not subjective, it’s an objective outer reality, that you submit your life to and it’s true for all people in all places, at all times, and, of course, this truth has been dispensed to us by God because in the Judeo-Christian tradition, God speaks. He reveals, and His Word is truth.
Before we look at what the Bible actually says about human sexuality and marriage, I want to critique these two views because I think it’s so important – these two different views of moral truth, the subjective versus the objective. Again, that first view, that truth is subjective, it has to be discovered from within the heart, where you supposedly get your own truth, and I find my truth. It’s kind of, it’s like the incident that some of you’ve heard me share. On the Oprah Winfrey show, you remember where they were talking about finding the meaning of life and she had these experts on her panel, and they discussed it and they talked and they’d get to some commercial break and she would say, stay tuned, when we come back I’m going to tell you, we’re gonna answer for you, what is the meaning of life, and they go all the way through the show, and they get to the very end, 15 seconds left, and the camera focuses in on Oprah and she ends by saying, well, I guess you’ll just have to look within yourself to find the answer. You see, that’s the way, that’s the modern view of discovering truth. Look within yourself, look within your heart, find it in your feelings, because it’s not objectively true, it hasn’t necessarily come from God. You’ve got to discover it yourself.
The problem with this view, you will find, it’s a hard way to live your life. I mean, what do you do when your heart does not speak clearly, where it is divided, and you just don’t know? I mean, all the time, you’ll see how people’s passions sweep them into certain actions and it blows their lives up, and so, the question that you ask, those who have this first view is, how do you get an anchor in your life, a rock that you can look to, a foundation, so that you know you’re doing the right thing, particularly when you have competing desires raging in your heart? You see, it becomes difficult in acting decisively, it can leave you very unstable, it can lead, basically leads you down a path of destruction, because it’s, like in The Oprah Winfrey Show, they’re trying to find out. We don’t know, you just have to look within your heart to figure that out.
Now, in the second view, where the belief that the Bible is an objective reality that you can submit your life to, where, at times, you have to say no to your heart and your passions and yet, what’s happening is that I’m finding that many modern people think, okay, I believe in God and I accept the Bible except when it comes to, and you can fill in the blank, and in our culture, usually that is something having to do with sexuality, particularly homosexuality and premarital heterosexual sex, but, have you heard that before, oh, I believe in God, y’all believe in the Bible, but you know, I don’t believe this teaching and I don’t believe that particular doctrine, but where does that leave you? Basically, you’re saying, I am so enlightened, I know what parts of the Bible are true and which parts that can be thrown out. I mean, what you end up with then is with no real faith and no real relationship with God and where He is not a living reality and I, let me share with you, within these terms. I heard this illustration from Tim Keller. He said, “Think about your life and think about your computer. You know what the great thing about a computer is? You can program it to do what you want it to do and when you do that, you know what? You and your computer get along just fine because that computer is under your control. Now, contrast that with a real relationship with a person. That person will not act like a computer. They’re not robots. I mean, they have their own will, they have their own opinions, they have their own view of life, and therefore, in relationships, just look at your marriage, or when your children, should have been in my house last night, wills clash, there are conflicts. You contradict each other, and if you have a relationship with anyone, and there’s never any conflict or clash, it means you have turned the other person into a computer. The relationship has become mechanical and you are hiding who you really are.”
I share this because when a person says, I want to believe in the God of the Bible, but I don’t want to believe in this particular teaching or doctrine, and I don’t accept this about God. If that’s your point of view, how can God ever contradict you? How can your God ever tell you something you don’t want to hear and when you decide what you believe is true in the Bible and what’s not, what you’re actually doing is treating the Bible and God like a computer. You are creating a God that cannot talk back to you. You see, the only way you can have a God who truly speaks into your life and tells you what you do not want to hear, you have to accept and submit your life to the Bible as being God’s truth. That’s God’s final and ultimate authority, and some of the things that God will say to you is wonderful, it’s almost too good to be true, it’s hard to believe, but then, there are other things that are going to be hard to accept, but you know what? If you and I accept it as the Word of Truth and are willing to surrender our wills to it, that’s when you’ll really begin to grow in a relationship with Him and He’ll be a living reality in your life, a real relationship, not like a computer, and He will become the anchor of your life.
The final point I would make before we turn to what the Scripture really has to say is that if you are a person who does believe that the Bible is God’s objective moral law which you’re called to submit your life to, you need to be very confident that it is true, that it really is from God, that it is divinely inspired, do you believe that? Well, you’re gonna, the reason I say this, because, as we go through this series, this becomes the bottom-line issue, and I might add, this is why I wrote the book Reliable Truth: The Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism, because I felt like it was critical to present the evidence that the Bible is valid and true. In fact, the evidence is quite compelling. I had a 26-year-old man who is agnostic read the book and we discussed it, and he said, I had no idea there was so much evidence that validates the Bible and Christianity. Particularly Jesus. I had a father and I just got an email from him, his teenager told him that he was an atheist. The two of them went through, not only he was he an atheist, but the Bible was a bunch of myths and legends. They read through the book together over a six-week period. The son completely recanted and rejected his atheism and accepted Christ, and I share this because, you see, the Christian faith is not a belief in the absence of evidence, on the contrary, it is the proper response to the evidence that we have, and if you’re a Christian, you should care greatly about the evidence, because this is what faith is built on. We don’t have a blind faith, we don’t believe in pie-in-the-sky by and by. As Augustine said, faith is trusting in a reliable source, and this is why I say that the Bible is trustworthy, it is reliable, and it is under-girded by powerful substantive evidence and you’ve just got to be willing to look at the evidence.
With that being said, what does the Bible actually teach about homosexuality and gay marriage? I read about a book that was published and it was titled, All That Jesus Said About Homosexuality, and when you open the book, up it’s a bunch of blank pages. And the reason is because basically, Jesus never mentions that word, implying that since He didn’t, did not ever mention homosexuality, it must not be forbidden. Of course He never mentioned anything about rape or incest either. You know, in Matthew 7:21, when caught, you know, this was when Jesus was being criticized by the Pharisees because they didn’t eat the right foods or they didn’t wash their hands before eating and Jesus says, the problem is that when you eat food it goes into the body and into the stomach and it’s eliminated. He said, what you need to worry about is what enters into the heart because it’s what comes out of the heart that defiles the man, and He says, from out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, and deceit. Sexual immorality, first of all, when He’s talking, He mentions adultery there, but he also refers to certain sexual immorality, so, there is sexual immorality. Then He makes reference, true, that’s outside of adultery, or that’s in addition to adultery, and that word, the word that’s used for sexual immorality is pornea which is where we get the word pornography. Now some translations, the New American Translation uses, instead of saying sexual immorality, uses the word fornication, but pornea literally means in the Greek, to encompass all forms of sexual immorality. In other words, that there’s certain sexually immoral conduct in addition to adultery. Well, what is that? What’s He referring to? Well, you have to realize and remember that Jesus viewed the Old Testament, the Torah, as the Word of God because He consistently quoted it as the final authority in life. He quotes it 92 different times and says, “it is written”. When He says that, He’s saying, it is authoritative. Jesus did not have to mention homosexuality because the Old Testament law forbid it. In Leviticus 18:22, it says, do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable. And then, in Leviticus 20:13, he says, if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. Clearly, the word detestable conveys a clear moral judgment regarding the sin of homosexual practice.
Now, I’m going to come back in just a minute and see what Jesus has to say about marriage, which is very pertinent to all this. Before I do, I think we need to look at what the apostle Paul had to say, and I’m just going to read these Scriptures to you. First Corinthians 6:9-10. He says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the covetous nor drunkards nor revelers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.” You need to know, Paul was directing these words to particular people, the church at Corinth, that really struggled with certain morals, particularly sexual morals. And then, 1st Timothy 1:10, he says, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that the law is not made for a righteous person but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” So here, in two different parts of Scripture, he identifies homosexuality with a host of other sins.
Now, this is important because unless you’ve studied this, you wouldn’t know it, but in those verses where I read the word homosexual, you need to know that in the original Greek the word that was used was Arsenokoitēs. And the bottom line is that this word does not appear in any literature prior to the New Testament. It’s like a new word that pops up in Paul’s writings and then is used in the years that came afterwards and all the Christian writings, you see it, but prior to that, you never saw that word. Today, it’s translated, some translate it as pervert. The NIV, instead of homosexual, I looked it up in a Greek dictionary and it’s the word sodomite, but in many people’s minds, this is kind of a dispute over what Paul is actually describing, and this seems, however, to have been resolved when this linguist David Wright demonstrated that this word Arsenokoitēs was a term coined by Hellenistic Jews, particularly Paul himself, and it was taken directly from the teaching in Leviticus, which was in Hebrew, because Arsenos, the first part of the word is male, m-a-l-e, man, and koite, k-o-i-t-e-n, the second part of the word, means to lie with, or bed with, and so, even though it was not that word that he’d used in the past, all you had to do is take the two root words and put them together. It means, to bed with another male, and if, and I would even say, if there is any question about Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, all you have to do is turn to Romans 1 where you see, I think, a very clear teaching. And I’m gonna just read it to you. I’m gonna read verse 20 to 28, and this is not, he’s not really talking to particular people, he’s talking about mankind in general, and he talks about how man finds himself going into the moral abyss, and usually it’s because of idolatry, God is replaced by something else. Listen to what Paul says starting in verse 20 of Romans1.
“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understand and understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and of four-footed animals and crawling creatures, and therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity so that their bodies would be dishonored among them for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural and in the same way also, the men abandoned the natural function of the woman, and burned in their desire toward one another. Men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error, and just as they did not see fit to acknowledge god any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper.”
Now, in making comments on these verses, John Piper, who is very highly regarded as a Bible scholar, says, “The Bible never addresses homosexuality apart from its relation to God. These verses in Romans 1 is all about what happens to human souls if God in a culture is replaced by something else, particularly when God’s authority is replaced by man’s authority.” Piper goes on to say that, “These verses in Romans 1 have profound reflections on homosexuality.”
John Stott, in making reference to these verses says, “Paul is condemning human behavior that is against God’s created order and these obscene pleasures that Paul speaks of that he says is a perversion of the created order,” he says, “we should expect sexual sin when men displace God with the things of this world and we commit idolatry. When man does this, He gives them over to following their desires whatever those desires might be, however unnatural those desires might be.”
I want to come back to Jesus and see what He has to say about marriage because in Matthew 19, beginning in verse 4, listen to what Jesus says. “Have you not read that He Who created them from the beginning, made them male and female and it is said for this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh? Consequently, they are no longer two but one flesh; what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” John Stott says that, “Jesus’ words explain the profound mystery and the beauty of heterosexual intimacy which he says poets and philosophers have celebrated in every culture in the history of man.” He goes on to say, “Heterosexual intercourse is much more than a union of bodies, it is a blending of complimentary personalities through which, in the midst of prevailing alienation, the rich created oneness of human being is experienced again in the complementarity of male and female sexual organs is only a symbol at the physical level of a much deeper spiritual complementarity.” and he says, “From these verses in Matthew, Jesus makes three statements about God’s natural design. He says, first, God made them male and female. Secondly, God said that a man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Thirdly, He joined them together in such a way that no human being might put them apart. Here then are three truths that Jesus affirmed very clearly. Heterosexual gender is a divine creation, heterosexual marriage is a divine institution, and heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention,” and then Stott goes on to say, “a homosexual liaison is a breach of all three of these divine purposes.”
But, you know, it’s terribly important to note that God instituted marriage where two people commit to heterosexual monogamy. The Bible does not endorse any other types of marriage or any other types of sexual intercourse. He doesn’t provide or endorse for any alternatives, so, with that being said, the Church and Christians, think about this, should not single out homosexual intercourse for special condemnation because when it gets right down to it, every sexual relationship that deviates from God’s revealed intention is sinful and displeasing to Him, whether it’s two men in a homosexual relationship, or a young man who in college sleeps around with lots of women. It’s a violation of marriage as God designed it. But, to the modern mind, our thinking is, my body is my own to do with as I please. I think clearly that was the problem with the church in Corinth and that’s why Paul in 1st Corinthians 6:18 says to the church in Corinth, flee all sexual immorality because when you sin sexually, he says you sin against your own body, and then in verse 19, this is crucial, he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you receive from God. You are not your own. Your body is not your own because you were bought with a price, therefore glorify and honor God with your body.”
You see, that’s, Christianity is so counter-intuitive, because when you come to Christ, Jesus says you have to deny yourself, you die to yourself, you surrender all that you are and all that you have to Him. That’s why it says your body is not your own, you’ve been bought with a price, glorify God with it. But now, again, people are going to argue, it seems just so unjust and so unfair to deprive people of their desires and the instinctive pleasures that life offers and then replace it with nothing.
Now, I’m going to come back next week, and I’m really, this is just an introduction to this series. Sections two and three, you really get into the nitty-gritty of this and it’s absolutely fascinating. So much that we don’t know and understand that it’s crucial for us to grasp. But I do want to share a quick response to this. This idea that to deprive people of their desires and the instinctive pleasures that life offers and replace it with nothing. want to share with you, in session three, I’m going to read this person’s story, because it’ll blow you away, but I do want to read what this woman had to say, a response to this is a woman by the name of Rosario Butterfield. I read her book this summer on her life. There was a great write-up in Christianity Today on her life, she just, this is the way she would have described herself. She said, “I was a left-wing English professor at Syracuse University. I was a lesbian, I had a lesbian partner who was an animal rights activist. My view of life was rooted in the teachings of Freud, Marx, and Darwin, and my (her) primary field of teaching, of study, was called ‘critical thinking’ but her specialty,” and this was the name of the course in the Syracuse curriculum, it was called “queer theory”, “queer theory, which was basically a form of gay and lesbian studies, and then one day,” she wrote, she says, her life took a turn. She said, “I never saw this coming.” She began to do research on the religious right because she wanted to understand what she called “their hatred against queers like me”, and I will come back to her story, but just to say she eventually becomes a Christian and today is married to a pastor in Durham, North Carolina at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church and has four children, but she is incredibly wise, and has great insight, and this is what she has to say about sexual sin and this idea of, you know, we all have to deny ourselves. She says, “What Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be healed by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. The idea of dying to self. What is left of your sexuality after you surrender this, it’s up to God, but healing to the sexual sinner is death. Nothing more, nothing less. I think that too many young Christian fornicators planned that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators planned that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian Internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong and the marriages that result from this line of thinking are in dangerous places. I know, because 50 percent of Christian marriages end in divorce because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin.” And then she says this, “Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus can do that.” And you know, it strikes me, guys, that we all, in one form or fashion, have been guilty of sexual sin. All of us, whether in the flesh, or in the imagination, we’re all sexual sinners, and therefore, we all have a universal need to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, but we also need His power operating in our lives, to enable us to be free from whatever one’s particularly distortion of God’s intent for sexuality.
So, in closing, when you study the words of Jesus, when you see Him interact with other people, very often, you see very tender words, you see great compassion, but there are other times where you see Him quite angry and uses very harsh words. I mean, look at the Pharisees. Here are these religious moral people. What did He call them? Serpents, brood of vipers, hypocrites, murderers. But then, He has two different encounters with two different women, who clearly are guilty of sexual sin, and you see a different response. In John 4, if you remember, the Samaritan woman, she’s been married five times and was currently living with a man, and He makes no remarks about her marriage. He offers her living water, living water for her empty soul, and then you have, in John 8, the famous encounter, and this is what I’ll leave us with, with the woman caught in adultery and the scribes, and this is John 8 starting in verse 3, “and the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the midst they said to Him, teacher this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. The law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. What then do You say, and they were saying this testing Him in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him, but Jesus stooped down and with his finger and wrote on the ground.” Of course, I find it interesting, they bring the woman that’s called an adulterer but where is the man? Why isn’t he there too? When they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and He said to them, “He who is without sin among you let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” and again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground, and when they heard it, they begin to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and he was left alone, and the woman, where she was in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, woman where are they? Did no one condemn you? And she said, no one, Lord, and Jesus said, neither do I condemn you, go your way. From now on, and sin no more. I mean, you don’t see any condemnation, you don’t see Christ chastise her for adulterous act, but also, He doesn’t say go and follow the desires and the passions of your body, He says, I think what He says to all of us, all of us as sinners, go, and sin no more. Do not follow the desires and passions of your body. Follow Me, walk with Me, and I will give you the Grace and the power to be set free from whatever sin you might struggle with and I will love you with a deep everlasting love because Christ Himself said this. I’m the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.