By Jim Wright
Sometimes we hear it said that we should not judge. Yet God says that we should judge righteous judgment. Sometimes we hear that this is the nineties and things are different. Yet Jesus says that He is eternal, the beginning and the end.
Some say that they want to talk about values, morality or ethics without bringing up the Bible. Or worse, they interpret the Bible in light of what they already want to do, not in terms of what it really says. Self will and Scripture are strange bedfellows. Light and darkness do not produce children. Talking to someone about truth without the Bible is like talking to a fireman who does not believe in water. Strange bedfellows.
Homosexuality is one of those hot topics where folks wave the white flag of truce and surrender to fiery rhetoric about non-judgement, changing times, and religion withoutrules. But these are strange bedfellows. Let us not wave the flag of surrender. Let us look at what is in the Book and see if it is clear enough for us to stand with confidence.
In Genesis 1:27 (NAB), we read the creation story:
"God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them."
There was nothing vague or nonspecific about created sexuality. This is not an issue of "interpretation," this is simply the way we were made. In the days of Moses the laws were written. Homosexuality and was forbidden in no uncertain terms:
"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination. You shall not have carnal relations with an animal, defiling yourself with it; nor shall a woman set herself in front of an animal to mate with it; such things are abhorrent." Leviticus 18:22&23 (NAB)
The consequences for this behavior were specific and not subject to interpretation.
"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." Leviticus 20:13 (NAB)
Ethical rules do not change one iota from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Here is what St. Paul says about this:
"Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Corinthians 6:9&10 (NAB)
He did not say this in one isolated place where we might wonder if "sodomite" really has the implication that we attach to the language today. Here what he says in his letter to Timothy:
"We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching." 1 Timothy 1:8-10 (NAB)
Even in those times there were deceiving teachers, non-believers who talked of many things but never taught obedience to the will of God. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote:
"God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned." 2 Thessalonians 2:11&12 (NAB)
In that message, he made it clear that not only are those who do the evil condemned, but also those who approve evil are condemned. Jailed for preaching the true gospel, St. Paul wrote of this in more detail and at greater length. Paul had been taught by Jesus Christ through direct revelation. This is what he says about the subject:
"God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
"Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their own perversity.
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Romans 1:24-32 (NAB)
Just in case some might say that the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah was in the Old Testament and under the law, implying that it is somehow discounted, hear what Jesus' brother, Jude says:
"Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." Jude 7
The significance of Sodom and Gomorrah as a lesson about homosexuality, immorality and idolatry is not isolated in an old text. It is again referred to as relevant in all the following passages: Isaiah 1:9, Jeremiah 50:40, Amos 4:11, Matthew 10:15, 2 Peter 2:6.
People on earth prayed to God for justice against the Sodomites. We hear that cry here:
"Then the Lord said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin is so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out." Genesis 18:20-21 (NAB)
God heard the cries of a few righteous people who were outraged at Sodomy. Here is part of that famous passage:
"Before they went to bed, all the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old-all the people to the last man-closed in on the house. They called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intimacies with them.'
Lot went out to meet them at the entrance. When he had shut the door behind him, he said, 'I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men, for you know they have come under the shelter of my roof.'" Genesis 19:4-8 (NAB)
The men of the city would not be satisfied with young virgins in lieu of the male angels. Therefore, the angels intervened:
"But his guests put out their hands, pulled Lot inside with them, and closed the door; at the same time they struck the men at the entrance of the house, one and all, with such a blinding light that they were utterly unable to reach the door." Genesis 19:10&11 (NAB)
The family of Lot was escorted out of the city before Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed. By way of tragic confirmation, this story does not stand alone in its outrage against homosexuality. Following the patriarchs, the Egyptian captivity, and the wilderness experience, the Sodom scenario happened again. A Levite from Ephraim came to Gibeah one night. He was traveling with his concubine and stayed with an old man from the tribe of Benjamin. Note the similarities to the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah:
"While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, who were corrupt, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man whose house it was, "Bring out your guest that we may abuse him."
The owner of the house went out to them and said, "No, my brothers; do not be so wicked. Since this man is my guest, do not commit this crime. Rather let me bring out my maiden daughter or his concubine. Ravish them, or do whatever you want with them; but against the man you must not commit this wanton crime."
When the men would not listen to his host, the husband seized his concubine and thrust her outside to them. They had relations with her and abused her all night until the following dawn, when they let her go. Then at daybreak the woman came and collapsed at the entrance of the house. Judges 19:22-26 (NAB)
We see the same word here, abuse, for the way they treated her and the way that they wanted to treat him. She died from sodomistic rape. See what the husband does.
"On reaching home, he took a knife to the body of his concubine, cut her into twelve pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel." Judges 19:29 (NAB)
The whole nation, all twelve tribes, were summoned to respond to this outrage. "The leaders of all the people and all the tribesmen of Israel, four hundred thousand footsoldiers who were swordsmen, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God." Judges 20:2 (NAB)
The tribe of Benjamin refused to give up the guilty parties. All remaining eleven tribes stood against them for their perversity. Two days of battle followed. Forty thousand Israelite swordsmen died trying to take the hill country defended by Benjamin. On the third day, 25,000 men of Benjamin were killed, the city burned, and all the inhabitants and livestock were put to the sword.
Six hundred men from the tribe remained. The eleven tribes then raided a nearby enemy at Jabesh-gilead, taking four hundred virgins for the Benjamites. Next, they raided Shiloh for another two hundred girls. The eleven tribes mandated and enforced that the men of Benjamin have wives, not as a reward, but to ensure that they would not ever stray after strange flesh again. That shows how seriously they took homosexuality and sodomy.
No rape in the history of Israel had such a strong, unanimous response. Over sixty-five thousand Israelites died in three days. It was probably closer to 100,000, allowing conservative numbers for the wives and children in Gibeah. This carnage was not because of money, border disputes, or race. This was because the sin in Gibeah had to be stopped. Israel knew that to see evil and do nothing about it made them as guilty as if they had done it themselves. They would not lie in that bed.
Now look at the singular quality of both Sodom & Gomorrah and Gibeah. In each case, the men of the city were militant homosexuals. In both cases, they lusted after any new male in their community. In both cases, it is clear that they had families because there was a community. They were capable of normal, heterosexual relations, but they burned in their lust for strange flesh. They declined virgins in both cases. In both cases, the wise, old men of the city said that it would be better for the community if the men raped a virgin than if they raped a man. That is really the ugly, bottom line message. It was not a message of sexism, it was the lesser of two evils. One is the bed of nature, but the other is the bed of death.
There is no subtle interpretation here. God's words are consistent, clear, repeated and reinforced over centuries. The law states it. The prophets reinforce it. Jesus referred to the disgusting history of Sodom and Gomorrah as a known metaphor of shame. The apostles affirmed that what was ethical behavior under the law remained ethical behavior after the law. The covenant of reconciliation changed, but right and wrong are still the same. Homosexuality is wrong, period. Anyone who condones it or approves of it is as guilty as if they were in the same bed. This is what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Copyright ©1999 Jim Wright, Las Vegas, Nev.
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