The Christian Approach to Homosexuality – Part 4

Peter Eng

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World Vision (a Christian Relief Organization) employs homosexuals. Many evangeli­cals who support World Vision object. We are not here to accuse or to excuse World Vision. But this is a good test case for us to understand our own views towards homosexuals. Should Christian organizations hire homosexuals? What about when they are only hired for services? For instance, should I knowingly pay for the services of a plumber when I know he is gay? (Most people don’t have a problem with that.) And how is that different from hiring someone full-time? Does it depend more on the job the person is hired for? For instance, is there a difference between hiring a homosexual who does maintenance compared to one who is in ministry?

Our conversation is not about hiring.  But I think the hiring issue causes us to think and clarifies our view towards homosexuals. The points below are not of equal length because they do not require equal treatment.

#1 Look at our sexuality with eternity in view

What will it be like in the (completed) Kingdom of God? That is, how do we function sexually in the resurrection? Let’s put our present day sexual concerns in light of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us, “For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25 cf. Matthew 22:30). Our marriage relationship and our sexuality will become irrelevant. (This is not only about marriage but also a polite reference to our sexuality.) 

This does not suggest our sexuality should be ignored as a moral issue because it concerns only our current existence. As much as family, marriage, and sexuality are all of great concern to us now, and God has given us distinct guidelines for life here in this existence, homosexuality falls under the same level of concern. We will continue to sing God’s grace and love into eternity, and we will be pleased to know that any contention about issues of sexuality will pass into oblivion. Our struggles with sexuality, whatever they may be, will be no more

#2 Judgment begins with the household of God

The Apostle Peter gives us the principle that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). When we make the assertion that homosexuality is wrong according to the moral standards given to us in the Word of God, we are not suggesting that heterosexuals are better people. In the area of our sexuality, heterosexual people are no less sinful, no less failures, and no less in need of redemption or in danger of judgment.

If we remove the sin of homosexuality from the text in 1 Corinthians 6, it reads, “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who worship idols, or commit adultery … or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Homosexuality is wrong, but should not be singled out as the only thing that disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God. Adultery is specifically mentioned here. Beside sexual sins, the other sins that keep us from the Kingdom of God are: idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, etc.

Evangelical Christians who submit to the authority of Scripture need to recognize that homosexuality is not isolated as a special sin that keeps us from the Kingdom of God.  There are many other sinful aspects of life that would prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. Many heterosexual people indulge in sexual sins. Many commit adultery. Heterosexual misbehavior is not excused any more than homosexual misbehavior. While we have spent much space asserting the sinfulness of homosexuality, we do so because too many people assert that homosexuality is not a sin. We do it not because it should be singled out. It is like if some group decides to assert that adultery is not sin. We then have a push back to assert it is sin.

The current homosexual assertion that homosexuality is not sin is one reason for our current push-back. We know that the argument has become increasingly strident, and in part, it is due to homosexuals asserting that homosexuality is a choice issue, not a moral issue.

At the same time, we need to recognize that homosexuals are discriminated by much of society. They are not persecuted the way Christians are persecuted, but in some instances they are killed because of their homosexuality.  I think Christians have added to the problem. Let me explain.

Let’s say homosexuals are bullied in a community, in school, in the military, or at work. What is our response as Christians? Do we stand with the person or against him? We can join the crowd and marginalize him further because of his sexual sin, or we can stand with him because he is a person made in the image of God and in need of redemption.

Now, when we look at our own attitudes, we see it is easier to join the crowd in marginalizing a homosexual than to behave as Jesus did. The person is first a human being before he is a homosexual. When we look at 1 Corinthians 6, we see that adultery is confronted in the same way as homosexuality.  To help us clear our own head, and heart, it is useful for us to compare how we respond to adultery and homosexuality, because we see Scriptures placing them beside each other.

I suspect heterosexual sin is more prevalent than homosexual sin! Some place the incidence of adultery to be around 50%, but it is likely that it is no lower than 30%. In a country like America we see adulterers sitting comfortably in churches singing praise to God as though they have done no wrong.  On our part, we see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil.

If we will be fair to homosexuals, why do we not address the sexual sin of adultery with equal vigor as we do the sin of homosexuality? I think if we dare to look within us, we will find the answer, notwithstanding the point that we are in a push-back response to the assertions made by the homosexual community.

Many of us have deep seated animosity against people who practice homosexuality.  Perhaps in part because we are not them, so we can afford this animosity. Perhaps we are deflecting our own guilt onto them. Perhaps we are not guilty and like to use them as examples that we are not sinners like these people. The reality is that homosexual people have suffered prejudice.  They respond to this prejudice by asserting that homosexuality is not a sin. That is also incorrect!

At some point, we need to ask if the current homosexual assertion that homosexuality is not wrong is the result of the prejudice they have suffered, and if we have contributed to their current assertion.

Let’s take a step back and ask, “Why?” Why do we have this prejudice in the first place? 

I believe that in part, we see homosexuality as worse because it is a perversion of the natural order of sexuality.  Adultery, on the other hand is a sin by excessive indulgence, or in taking pleasure beyond where we have the right to do so. Adultery is engaging in normal sexuality to sinful excess. Homosexuality is engaging in abnormal sexuality.

There is some justification to say that homosexuality is worse than adultery, like it is to say incest is worse than adultery.  But what the Bible makes clear is that either homosexuality or adultery disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God.  If we leap from the 50th floor and die, does it make any practical difference if we leap from the 49th floor and also die?  Do we say it is terrible to leap from the 50th floor but quite alright to leap from the 49th?

At the same time, I am puzzled. If we have 5 people leaping from the 50th floor and 100 people leaping from the 49th floor, which should be the greater concern if we can address only one issue at a time? Would it not be that we would do a triage of trying to save as many people as possible first? Why do we address homosexuality so much more than adultery when adultery is more common than homosexuality?

Do you think Jesus’ injunction to first remove the log out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye applies to us in our approach to sexuality?

When we place homosexuality and adultery side by side, we begin to see our own picture emerging. We see we have been discriminating against homosexuals. We see our own failure and our own double standards. We see that perhaps we should not be the guiltless party entitled to cast the first stone.

Jesus told the crowd ready to stone the woman caught in adultery, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7 KJV), the principle applies to homosexuality. Let the one who does not commit adultery, who does not have sexual sin, who does not watch porn, who is not greedy for money, who does not love things more than God … cast the first stone.

Jesus does not excuse the sin of the woman caught in adultery.  What Jesus brings to the table is the sin of the other people who surround this woman caught in adultery. Jesus is asking for equal justice.

I like to suggest to you that we need to affirm two things: (1) homosexuality is sin because the Bible affirms it; (2) homosexuals have been unfairly targeted and are right to say they have suffered discrimination.  In the first point, I know I will have evangelicals agree with me readily.  But in the second, I am out on a limb.

I hope to persuade more fellow evangelicals the sinfulness of homosexuality does not give us the right to behave the way we have been behaving towards them. We need to apply the same rules. That is one way to determine our own bias. Next we need to stand in their shoes to determine if our actions are righteous.

#3 Standing in their shoes

Let’s return to the test case of World Vision. Does World Vision allow openly adulterous people to be employed? If so, they need to allow openly homosexual people in their employment. If they allow one and not the other, there is an immediate failure in being consistent. So let an employer ask if he employs adulterers and homosexuals, and use that as a platform in social justice. We are not discussing if World Vision should or should not do this or that. My suggestion is this: if we will have justice we can let the stones fly or let the stone lay on the ground. We cannot have selective stoning. There is grave injustice in selective stoning.

Next, we need to stand in their shoes. Let’s say you have employers who are homosexuals and you apply for a job. He looks at you and sees you are heterosexual. He decides he will not employ you because you are heterosexual, would you accept that?

But I need to qualify. There is a clear justification for a religious organization not to employ people who continue to engage in activities contrary to their moral requirements and there is no injustice in that.  A Christian organization can dismiss practicing homosexuals as it dismisses practicing adulterers.  A Buddhist organization can dismiss people who eat animals just as a Muslim organization can dismiss people who eat pork. But there must be a consistent adherence to the tenets of one’s own belief system.  We cannot selectively fire people for one and not another when they fall under the same consideration.

Perhaps another scenario is this. You discover that among your employees, one is an adulterer and one is a homosexual. Do you fire both of them, one of them, or neither? If yours is a secular business, do you fire them?

The challenge we face is this: If we are sympathetic to the injustice suffered by homosexuals, people think we accept homosexuality. But that is not the case. Not any more than the suggestion that when Jesus defended the woman about to be stoned, he justified her adultery. We affirm both the sinfulness of adultery/homosexuality and also affirm the need for a righteous and compassionate handling of sexual sins. Jesus gave us many examples.

Many of us have friends and loved ones who are homosexuals. We face the tension of loving them without approving their action.  This struggle brings home the attitude we ought to have. The Christian view towards sin is redemption. We all need redemption from sin as much as the homosexual or the adulterer. At the same time, we are much more than our sin.  The homosexual and the adulterer is more than his sin. He is the person Jesus loves. He is the person for whom Jesus died.

#4 Homosexuality and the law of the land

The challenge we have before us are man-made laws and man-made protocols. If we submit to the moral laws of God and construct our legal system according to God’s moral law, we will have a different approach to many things. The world’s justice system is not aligned with Scripture. So how do we address the issue of homosexuality in a country’s legal system?

In previous conversations, we talked about the Singapore Penal Code S377A.  It is a very imperfect law.  But there is nothing in its place if it is abolished. I do not think all imperfect laws should be abolished as the resulting vacuum is worse. S377A continues to serve the function of identifying homosexuality as wrong. For me that is the most important function of S377A.

S377A is quite bad in that the penalties connected to it are terrible.  Let’s use adultery as a comparison again. Does an adulterer get sent to prison? I think not.  At the same time, adultery remains in the books as something wrong. Homosexuality should be recognized as a moral wrong but not singled out for disproportionate penalties. As there are penalties for the adulterer so the homosexual should not expect to go scot- free. The good thing is that Singapore has applied a light hand on S377A and as a legal system, we have not made victims of homosexuals.

Conclusion

I like to propose to you the biblical view of homosexuality as follows:

  1. Homosexuality is a sin. Adultery and other sexual sins are also addressed in the Bible and homosexuality is not singled out as a sin for special attention.
  2. All sexual sins are linked to our present corruptible body, and all sexual sins will be resolved when we rise from the dead and live in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
  3. We use adultery as a comparison to search our own hearts concerning possible bias against homosexuals and have discovered that there is merit in the homosexual complaint that we discriminate. We must desist.
  4. The Christian approach to homosexuals and adulterers is one of redemption.  We affirm they need help and we are called to be agents to help them, not to inflict harm on them.
  5. The State has laws that are more confusing than consistent. The law of the land is not particularly helpful in the redemption of homosexuals (or adulterers). We are called to reach people at their place of need and empower their life with the presence of the Holy Spirit who transforms the heart and the mind.

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