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The Bible and homosexuality

"The Bible and homosexuality" Continued...

The phrase “contrary to nature” means that homosexual conduct does not represent what God intended when he made men and women with physical bodies that have a “natural” way of interacting with each other and “natural” desires for each other. (See the ESV Study Bible note on Romans 1:26–27; cf. also Romans 1:19–20, that the truth about God and his moral law is visible and apparent in the material creation.) Homo­sexual desires are “dishonorable” both because they are contrary to God’s purpose and because they treat a person’s biological sex as only half of what it is. While the logic of a heterosexual bond is that of bringing together the two (and only two) different and complementary sexual halves into a sexual whole, the logic of a homosexual bond is that another person of the same sex complements, and fills what is lacking in, that same sex, implying that each participant is only half of his or her own sex: two half males making a full male or two half females making a full female. In other words, the logic of sexual intercourse requires a sexual complement, and thus a same-sex bond is a self-devaluing of one’s own gender inasmuch as one sees the need to complement structurally one’s own sex with someone of the same sex.

In a long list of sins, Paul also includes “men who prac­tice homosexuality” (1 Corinthians 6:9).This phrase translates two different Greek terms: malakos means “soft” or “effemi­nate” and was commonly used in the Greco-Roman world to refer to the “passive” partner in homosexual acts, while arsenokoitēs is a combination of Greek arsēn (meaning “man”) and koitē (here meaning “sexual intercourse”). The term arsenokoitēs was apparently coined by Paul from the Septu­agint (Greek translation) of Leviticus 20:13, and means (in plural) “men who have intercourse with men.” In 1 Timothy 1:10 Paul uses the same word arsenokoitēs in the midst of vices derived from “the law” (here, the second half of the Ten Commandments), which means that this verse also should be interpreted as an absolute prohibition of male-with-male intercourse, in keeping with Leviticus 18:22; 20:13. Early Jewish interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and early Christian interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, also show that these verses were understood as absolute prohibitions against all types of homosexual conduct.

Does the Bible address the question of homosexual attitudes and desires? It must be remembered that God ultimately requires moral perfection, not only in human actions but also in attitudes of the heart. Therefore the Bible prohibits not only adultery but also a desire for adultery (Exodus 20:17; cf. Matthew 5:28), not only theft but also coveting (Exodus 20:17). This is because “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Therefore Scripture teaches that any desire to break God’s commandments is also viewed as wrong in God’s sight. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). While an impulse to do what God expressly forbids is (by definition) an impulse contrary to God’s will, the Bible recognizes that Christians will be “tempted” by their “own desire” (James 1:14) and encourages Christians in such circumstances to “remain steadfast” (James 1:12) and to “be doers of the word” (James 1:22). This implies not actively entertaining the wrongful impulse (cf. Matthew 5:28), and not dwelling on it so that it “gives birth to sin” (James 1:15).

It is not surprising, therefore, that not only homosexual conduct but also homosexual desires are viewed as con­trary to God’s will. Homosexual desires are viewed as “dis­honorable passions” (Romans 1:26), and Paul also says that homosexual partners are “consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:27), giving a strong image of a powerful but destructive inward craving.

This is not to say that homosexual desire is as harmful as homosexual conduct. Though all sin is wrong and brings legal guilt before God (cf. James 2:10–11), a distinction between wrongful desires and wrongful actions can be made with regard to many areas of life. Hatred of another person is wrong in God’s sight, but murdering the person is far more harmful. Coveting a neighbor’s farm animals is wrong, but actually stealing them is much more harm­ful. And lustful desires for adultery are wrong, but actu­ally committing adultery is far more harmful. Similarly, homosexual desires are wrong in God’s sight, but actually committing homosexual acts is far more harmful.

Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publish­ers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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