Since June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, I have a question about homosexuality and the Bible. What does the Bible actually teach about it?
This is a very relevant question, and I’m glad you asked it. What first comes to mind are two passages written by Solomon:
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV)
9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 (ESV)
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
If one applies these principles to the practice of homosexuality and studies history, it’s clear that homosexuality is nothing new. It has been practiced throughout the history of mankind. In fact, it used to be far more predominant than it is now.
Along these lines, the first time the Bible mentions homosexuality is in the book of Genesis. We read the following about the entire male population of the city of Sodom:
Genesis 19:4-5 (ESV)
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.
5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”
From this, as well as the following passages (vs. 6-11), it is clear that the entire male population of the town wanted to commit homosexual rape against Lot’s guests, whom the context reveals were angels. In speaking Sodom, the divinely inspired New Testament writer Jude says the following:
Jude 1:7 (ESV)
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Take note that God says what Sodom did was sexually immoral, that they “pursued unnatural desire,” and that they “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Therefore, we see thus far that homosexuality was condemned by God during the days of Genesis.
It was likewise condemned during the time when the Law of Moses was in effect. God warned Israel to “not walk in (the) statutes” of the Canaanites once they took the land of Canaan (Lev. 18:3). “Statutes” comes from the Hebrew term chuqqa and refers not only to ordinances but also to customs and mannerisms. History shows that the original inhabitants of the land of Canaan were sexual deviants. Thus, we read of the following prohibitions against homosexual behavior:
Leviticus 18:22 (ESV)
22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 (ESV)
13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
I listened to a podcast back in 2018 in which Orthodox Jew Jordan Peterson, while discussing his commentary on the Torah, spoke of the historical research he did of the time period and how he saw that the normal custom of the nations and societies back then were to consider heterosexual marriage as something done purely for procreation’s sake; wives were not loved or given any kind of consideration. Instead, most people had both girlfriends and boyfriends on the side. Sex with one’s wife was a task done only for procreation; sex “for fun” was with one’s lovers of both genders. In this historical context, Peterson spoke of Moses’ prohibitions against homosexual intercourse as being “revolutionary” and progressive for their time, putting one’s wife in a whole new light. By condemning homosexual intercourse, God was basically telling humanity that sex with one’s wife was natural and expected for purposes far beyond simple procreation. This was practically the first step towards what is still widely accepted today but which wasn’t back then…that heterosexual marriage should be out of love and commitment between a man and a woman rather than treating wives like third-class citizens.
Sadly, Israel allowed some of the Canaanites to remain in the land of Canaan after they conquered it and thus opened the door for their sinful influence to permeate throughout the land, as seen throughout the book of Judges. Concerning homosexuality, we read during this time period of one of the saddest and tragic episodes in the entire Bible in Judges 19:22-25. As we continue to read through the recorded history of Israel in the Old Testament, we see that after the reign of Solomon (in which he introduced idolatry back into Israel’s religious culture — 1 Kings 11), Israel continued to be influenced by the sinful culture of the Canaanites. This included idolatry that had homosexuality as part of it in the form of “male cult prostitutes” (1 Kings 14:24). The increasingly sinful religious and social culture of Israel and Judah led to their ultimate downfall.
In the New Testament, the early church existed within the culture of the Roman Empire, a culture which was very sinful in similar ways to that of Canaan in the Old Testament. Writing to the church in Rome, God inspired Paul to say the following about the homosexual practices of the culture of his day:
Romans 1:24-28 (ESV)
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
It is noteworthy that God cited homosexual behavior as unnatural as well as “what ought not to be done” in this passage. Some defend homosexuality as natural in the sense that “we were born that way.” The scientific data proving that has yet to be found, and the Bible itself says the opposite.
Additionally, while writing to the church at Corinth, Paul cited both “homosexuals” (malakos, effiminate, the passive participant in homosexual intercourse) and “sodomites” (arsenokoites, the active participant in homosexual intercourse) among “the unrighteous” who will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). However, he then said to the Christians in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
By writing, “And such were some of you,” God indicated that some of the Christians at Corinth had previously participated in homosexual activity before converting to Christ, and were no longer doing so due to repentance. That is significant. One can repent of any sin if one wishes, including the sin of homosexuality.
Homosexuals are also listed among that which is “contrary to sound doctrine” in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:
1 Timothy 1:8-11 (ESV)
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
It should be pointed out that Paul wrote what Jesus commanded through inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. Eph. 3:3-5; John 16:12-16). Thus, Jesus condemned homosexuality as well. Additionally, Jesus and other writers of the New Testament also condemned homosexuality implicitly by condemning fornication because fornication by definition includes all sexual intercourse deemed unlawful by God (cf. Matt. 19:9; Heb. 13:4).
This would also make the practice of same-sex marriage sinful in the sight of God, since Jesus said that God joins together a man and woman in marriage:
Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Because homosexuality is growing more prevalent in western culture, how should Christians react to it? First, what the Bible teaches about homosexuality should be taught and discussed. Christians should not be ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16), but should instead be willing to teach all of what Scripture teaches about this and any other subject (Acts 20:27). We must do so with our friends and loved ones, keeping in mind the Great Commission (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). We must do so with our children in age-appropriate ways (Eph. 6:4, 11). As Paul wrote to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Secondly, we must “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We must teach and discuss biblical teaching about homosexuality and do so with the following directive from God in mind:
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Thirdly, we must remember that temptation to sin is not the same thing as committing sin itself. Jesus was tempted in all things in which we are tempted, and yet He did not sin (Heb. 4:14-15). As Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
This means that if we know of someone who is struggling with the temptation of homosexuality, we must love them with the love of Christ (John 13:34-35) and thus do all we can to encourage and comfort them as they struggle with it, with the goal being to help them overcome it (Gal. 6:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:11, 14; 2 Cor. 1:3-5).
Finally, we must avoid tribalism, something which is very easy to do both in our current religious and political culture. It would do us well to remember the teaching and example of our Lord:
Matthew 9:10-13 (ESV)
10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Luke 6:31-33 (ESV)
31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
Luke 6:35-36 (ESV)
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Homosexuals have souls just like everyone else…and Jesus died for those souls. He wishes that the gospel be proclaimed to all…including the homosexual community. He wishes that love, kindness, goodwill, and patience be given to all…including the LGBTQ+ community.
Does this mean, or require, condoning of what they do which God calls sin? Does it require excusing it away, or downplaying it? Does it require participation? Of course not. As Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
However, the same Source for that directive also said this:
John 17:14-19 (ESV)
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Paul entered the city of Corinth (Acts 18), a city known throughout the Roman Empire for its debauchery, a city in which at the time there was no church of Christ. Paul went to where the sinners were and preached the gospel to them, both in word and by letting his light shine (Matt. 5:16), by showing them the love and compassion of Jesus. As a result, some of them were converted to Christ, obeyed the gospel…and repented of their sins, including the sin of homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Christians, we must stand against homosexuality while at the same time reaching out with the love, benevolence, goodwill, kindness, and compassion of Christ to homosexuals. That is the only way any of them…and anyone else who is caught up in any sin whatsoever…will truly be converted to Christ. Doing so will be hard. It will bring us grief and persecution. We will be slandered and lied about by some. Yet this is what Jesus would have us do.