Pride (That Kind)
June is Gay Pride Month, apparently, and I've already been asked if you can expect a sermon on homosexuality this month. Answer: probably not, but you do get a blog post (and a rather longer one than usual at that). It's a complex issue, and a post is far too short to treat it properly, but here we go anyway.
The Bible has about seven passages that deal with the subject: Genesis 19 (and its counterpart Judges 19); Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:18-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; and Jude 7. There are a few others that discuss it by implication, but these are the explicit ones. With that said, we have to look at these critically, in their proper context (historical and biblical). The story of Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen. 19) is as much about the attempted rape of angels ("strange flesh"; Jude 7) and a lack of hospitality (Ezekiel 16:49-50) as it is anything else. We can't use Leviticus without upholding the entire Law of Moses, otherwise we're just cherry-picking the verses we want to follow and ignoring the others. Paul's epistles, however, have nothing to lessen their impact or soften their teachings. Romans 1 argues from creation to say homosexuality isn't part of the natural created order as God intended it. 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 include it very specifically in what we call a "vice list," a list of other (and sometimes similar) sins.
People argue about all of this. "We know now that sexual orientation is genetic. That means it's natural, and therefore Romans 1 falls apart." First, this argument prioritizes science above Scripture instead of the other way around. Second, we haven't proven that yet, actually. Scientists last year decided it was a combination of several genes working together along with psychological/environmental factors (and I'm sure as we continue to grow in knowledge, there will be epigenetic information and other things to consider as well; we're learning genes aren't everything we thought they were). Third, as someone with a genetic disorder, let me say not everything in the genes is a natural good. They were impacted by the Fall as well, and that gives rise to both genetic illnesses and genetic predispositions to sins like gambling and alcohol addictions. They may be "natural" for a specific individual, but that's far from calling them good or saying Paul was wrong. Others argue about the words Paul uses in 1 Cor. and 1 Tim., since he seems to invent one of them, but 99% of Greek grammarians think we have it right when we translate it "homosexual." Some will then argue that those passages don't refer to loving same-sex relationships. And they don't specifically -- they apply to all homosexual acts generally. There are no exceptions or exclusions mentioned. Nor do they apply specifically to only male cult prostitutes or the Greco-Roman practice of pederasty (if you don't know what that is, don't look it up); these are separate words used in other places, but not here.
Finally, people say Jesus was silent on the subject, so we just can't be sure about it. There are many things wrong with that logic. First, all Scripture is on an even playing field. All of it is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), and the words in red don't get to cancel out the words in black. They speak the same message. Second, this argument suggests that Jesus doesn't speak through the rest of the Bible, that somehow the other books aren't actually the word of God inspired by the Word of God. If the Bible speaks, then Jesus has spoken. Period. Third, and more to the point of this discussion, Jesus actually did say something about homosexuality. In Matthew 15:19 and its parallel of Mark 7:21, Jesus uses a specific word the NIV translates as "sexual immorality." That word includes everything listed as immoral in the Torah: fornication, adultery, incest, bestiality, and homosexuality, among others. By calling that word sin, he calls sin everything it encompasses.
We've understood all this for 2,000 years, and only now is it being questioned (or outright rejected). As we engage in this conversation with those around us, we must keep two things in mind. First, we're dealing with real people. This isn't an abstract idea, some random thought experiment; it's about the daily lives of flesh-and-blood human beings. This demands humility, compassion, and a willingness to listen. That leads to the second thing: we are called to speak truth in love. We cannot be cruel, arrogant, or self-righteous. So speak truth; call sin what it is. But do it out of love, not judgment. Keep it civil.
Remember: Christ died for them, too.