When Christians Get It Wrong – In Dealing with Homosexuality

This begins week four of our interactive study, as I have said in the past, our study is only as good as that of the participation level.  If at all possible please read chapter 5 of the book When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton.  You can also watch the sermon based on the chapter, In Dealing with Homosexuals, preached by Reverend Hamilton.  Please also remember the ground rules we are using which I took from Allan R. Bevere: This is a place to reflect upon important (and some not so important) matters. If you read something you disagree with, don’t get angry; leave a comment in response and join the discussion.  Passionate and lively debate is a great thing and is encouraged in the context of civility. Comments that include name-calling, insults, and profanity will be deleted.  While we have not resorted to name calling, we came very close to a line last week.  Due to the possibility of “fly by” commenters on this subject all comments will be moderated or approved by me before appearing in this space.

Overview: One of the hot button issues of our day is “How do we as Christians address homosexuality, what and how do we do this.”  Hamilton reminds us that the focus of this book is on how we (Christians) are perceived by young adults who have rejected Christianity.  Hamilton also reminds us how divisive this issue is and that feelings on it are markedly different as generational bounds are crossed.  The goal in this chapter, as in the rest of the book is to look at how others see and experience what and how we say things. 

Observations from the book and the sermon: Hamilton emphasizes in this chapter that those outside of the church hold up Christian actions and directly compare them to Jesus’ actions with those deemed sinners and outcasts of His day.  Reverend Hamilton looks at how we have “grown” in our understanding of the Bible since the time of Peter.  He looks at the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and he acknowledges both sides with a definite lean towards a theory he calls “progressive revelation.”  He also looks at his understanding of a few different Bible stories. 

As we have done in the past weeks, please share with me about your general impressions of this chapter.  What areas did you find challenging?  What areas did you find yourself in agreement?  What would you like to discuss more fully?  As this has moved forward, I have one other reminder or piece of advice: There are real people reading your comments, some may agree and some may not, I pray that our spirit be as if we are writing to or reading from Jesus.

I look forward to your responses.

ron

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16 thoughts on “When Christians Get It Wrong – In Dealing with Homosexuality

  1. Very interesting perspective and no doubt is a tough subject. I agree that some of the laws of the old testament were for the people of the time but in the same respect I feel we should not de-sin homosexuality for it is clear in the Bible, it is a sin. I like Pastor Hamilton’s take on the subject though.

  2. I have found a good sermon that provides a perspective the biblical passages surrounding homosexuality. The sermon is called “Homosexuality, The Bible, And Us” by Rev. Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker. The selection below starts with the part of the sermon that addresses the biblical passages. This is actually about a 1/3 of a way into the sermon. Please note the below text is from the sermon, not from me.

    I discuss here the five biblical passages that address homosexual conduct. I say conduct rather than homosexuality because the biblical writers had no conception of anything like homosexual orientation.
    Text number one is from Genesis 19, the story of Sodom. Two angels in the guise of men come to visit Lot’s house. All the men of Sodom gather at Lot’s house and issue this ominous demand:
    Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them (19:5).
    What the men have in mind is rape – gang rape. Lot refuses and offers them instead his daughters, which reveals the low estate of women at the time. The men insist on Lot’s release of the guests. The angels strike them blind, and later the city is destroyed.
    The sin here is not homosexuality, but rape. Later scripture identifies the sins of Sodom variously as inhospitality to strangers, injustice, greed, lack of care for the poor, and general immorality (see Wisdom 19:13, Ezekiel 16:48-9, Jeremiah 23:14, Mathew 10: 5 – 15, Jude 7). It is we who have forced a focus on homosexuality.
    Text number 2 is from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13:
    You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (toevah)…If a man lies with a male as with a woman both of them have committed an abomination (toevah); they shall be put to death.
    These verses are from the holiness code, which had hundreds of rules about cleanness and uncleanness. Homosexual conduct between men is forbidden as toevah, but if you take a careful look at the whole code, you’ll see that it forbids a wide range of conduct, some of which we still consider destructive and immoral, such as incest and adultery. Some we now consider morally neutral – for example, sex during a woman’s monthly flow. Some would never consider toevah, like eating barbecued ribs – that is, unless your cholesterol is high.
    Jews and Christians alike take these passages and determine which parts still hold moral force and which do not. Our communities tend to agree on the Ten Commandments, but not on all the multiplications of these commandments, not on the penalties imposed. In Numbers, a man who picks up sticks on the Sabbath is put to death (Numbers 15:32-36). In Deuteronomy, a son is to be put to death for disobeying his parents (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21).
    The challenge is to make our moral discernments about these laws thoughtfully and as consistently as possible. I use two main criteria in my own interpretation of scripture. The first is from Augustine: Does my interpretation increase the love of God and neighbor, or decrease it? The second is to use Jesus, the word made flesh, as a key to interpretation: What seems consistent with who he was, how he lived, and what he taught?
    And we all seek the help of the Spirit of God as we interpret scripture. As Paul said, “The letter kills, but the Spirit brings life.”
    We all tend to be selective literalists. We can only hope to interpret consistently and thoughtfully and in ways that bring life and healing.
    Those are the Old Testament texts. There are three New Testament texts (I hope you are noticing how few there are).
    The first is I Corinthians 6: 9 – 10, in which Paul describes appropriate conduct for Christians. He begins the chapter by saying Christians should not take other Christians to court. No lawsuits between Christian brothers and sisters! Then in verses 9 and 10, he lists behaviors not fit for the kingdom of God: the immoral (pornoi), idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes (malakoi), homosexual offenders (arsenokoitai), thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers.
    Note our inconsistencies. Do we ever have discussions about letting greedy people join the church or about greedy people becoming deacons or about greedy people being married in the church? Do we exclude alcoholics , slanders, and swindlers?
    But we also need to look at the two Greek words here often associated with homosexuality. Malakoi literally means “soft”; arsenokoitai joins two words: “men” and “bed.” We have tended through the years to translate these words in line with our current prejudices. I think they are most accurately translated as “male prostitutes” and “homosexual offenders.” They, I think, refer to the most prevalent forms of homosexual conduct in the Greek/Romans/Hellenistic world: use of young males and feminized men as prostitutes and the older man-younger boy form of sexual behavior called pederasty. We are talking here of exploitive, abusive, and promiscuous forms of sexual conduct. The biblical writers could have had no conception of homosexuality as an orientation, or of a lifelong committed and monogamous same-sex relationship.
    The second New Testament text is I Timothy 1:9-10. Here is another list of behaviors presented as contrary to Christian doctrine and practice: “men-slayers, immoral persons (pornoi), homosexual offenders (arsenokoitai), men-stealers (think kidnappers and slave traders), liars, perjurers…”
    Again, I would translate the word as “homosexual offenders” – emphasis on the word offender – describing exploitative forms of homosexual conduct.
    I have to type this from the paper version of the sermon as I don’t have it electronically, so I will give the rest of the scripture explanations tomorrow. This sermon is also in the book “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.”

    • The sermon starts out with ” I say conduct rather than homosexuality because the biblical writers had no conception of anything like homosexual orientation.”
      As the Bible is the inspired word of God, isn’t that like saying God had no conception?
      This is mentioned twice in this sermon. He also says,”Again, I would translate the word as “homosexual offenders” – emphasis on the word offender – describing exploitative forms of homosexual conduct.” Or it could mean an offense was done in the form of homosexuality
      I have been trying to keep an open mind about this over the years and claiming God had no concept about anything, won’t help the argument….

  3. I find it inconsistent with the loving God we have discussed to simply remove gays and lesbians from God’s grace. I’m a baby boomer and I do not feel gays and lesbians should be excluded from church or not be receivings God’s love. I believe as Pastor Hamilton suggests that this issue will gradually be resolved in a loving manner consistent with the Bible. It took many Americans well beyond the Civil War ending in 1865 to resolve the statements in the Bible used by Southerners to justify slavery and hopefully this will be resolved as well. I don’t think it negates the meaning of the Bible to show compassion and caring to a group of people who are in the minority in the area of intimacy. The young people that I have talked to find it stifling that Christianity excludes gays and lesbians. It is like one more nail in the coffin to justify the rejection of Christianity due to its intolerance.

  4. The sin here is not homosexuality, but rape. Later scripture identifies the sins of Sodom variously as inhospitality to strangers, injustice, greed, lack of care for the poor, and general immorality (see Wisdom 19:13, Ezekiel 16:48-9, Jeremiah 23:14, Mathew 10: 5 – 15, Jude 7).

    Where is the book of Wisdom? I’m not familiar with this one.

    • Carol,

      I did not know either, but I felt I should leave it in since it was part of the paper sermon. I did some research and here is what I found on Wilkopedia.

      Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon or simply Wisdom is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books of the Septuagint Old Testament, which includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach).

      According to St. Melito in the second century AD, it was considered canonical by Jews and Christians,[1] and a Hebrew translation of the Wisdom of Solomon is mentioned by Naḥmanides in the preface to his commentary on the Pentateuch.

      The Book of Wisdom should not be confused with Sirach, by Ben Sira, also known as Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, Wisdom of Ben Sira, (or Sirach) or Ecclesiasticus, a work from the second century BC, originally written in Hebrew.

      • Wis 19:13
        And punishments came upon the sinners not without former
        signs by the force of thunders: for they suffered justly
        according to their own wickedness, insomuch as they used a more hard and hateful behaviour toward strangers.

      • Thanks for the info John. I wasn’t sure if it was another name for something like Proverbs or what. Now I know.

  5. “Homosexuality, The Bible, And Us” by Rev. Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker – Scripture portion Continued:

    The third New Testament text is Romans 1:18 – 2:1. Paul is describing what happens when we worship ourselves, the creature, rather than God the Creator. Idolatry takes many forms. Paul groups them into three. The phrase “God gave them up” introduces the three groups.
    1. “God gave them up in the desires of their heart to uncleanness (akatharisian), to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” This is a general description of sexual immorality.
    2. “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations (physin) for unnatural (para physin), and their men likewise gave up natural relations (physin) with women and were consumed with passion for one another.” This refers, I believe, to the patterns of exploitive and abusive homosexual conduct I have described above. We may ask, “What does ‘against nature’ mean to a same-sex oriented person?”
    3. “God gave them up to an unfit mind to do unseemly things.” In this group are those who engaged in “pornoi, ‘immorality,’ and poneria, ‘evil,’” those “full of covetousness and malice, envy, murder, strive, deceit, evil constructions; gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, proud, boastful, inventors of evil things; disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, merciless.” (Have we left anyone out?!)
    Now Paul turns to the Jews, who had been holding their noses, through Paul’s description of the first three groups, and says: And so you, my fellow Jews, you too, “have no excuse when you judge others, for in passing judgment upon others, you condemn yourselves, for you the judgers do the same things…”
    This passage is part of a five-chapter-long theological discourse that I summarize in the following five points:
    1. The pagan Gentiles are without excuse because they have broken God’s laws reveled in nature and conscience (1:18-32).
    2. The pious Jews are without excuse because they have become judgers of others while themselves breaking God’s law revealed to Moses and Israel (2:1 – 24).
    3. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23).
    4. But, miracle of miracles, we unrighteous folk have been set right with God by His grace as a gift through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a mercy-seat (3:21-26). The “mercy-seat” is an allusion to the high altar on the Jewish Day of Atonement. The death of Christ has become the Day of Atonement for the whole world, the once –and-for-all forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future.
    5. In Adam, the hold humanity, we all die; in Christ, the New Adam and New Humanity, we all are made alive (5:1-20).
    Are you getting the point of the great good news being announced here? We’re all in the same boat: of the same belovedness and the same vulnerability, with the same capacity for sin. But God’s grace is for all and in all. Sin is strong, but grace is stronger. The old creation is being transformed into a New Creation.
    Those are the biblical passages used by some Christians to condemn homosexual persons. But what did Jesus say about homosexual conduct? If he is our guide to interpretation of scripture, it is important o know what he said.
    There’s a pamphlet I’ve seen in a church narthex along with all the other tracts that address one thing or another. The bold title reads: What Jesus Said about Homosexuality. You turn the page and find….four blank pieces of paper. On the back are the words: That’s right. Nothing!
    Jesus is silent on the subject; Jesus’ ethic did not deal with lists of clean and unclean rules. (If this were all the gospel was about, I would not be here today.) His focus was on the heart. And his ethic had a seriously practical purpose: Did it hurt or help people? Moreover, he seemed especially tender hearted toward those who had made sexual mistakes, perhaps because sexual sinners were trying so hard to love and to be loved. And perhaps because religious people were so fixed in their judgment upon them.
    The famous story in the gospel text from John captures Jesus’ spirit. Some men drag a woman to him who has been caught in an act of adultery. (Where was the man? It takes two to tango.) They ask him if they should follow the law of Moses and stoner her to death. Jesus says, “You who are without sin cast the first stone.” He then stoops to write something on the ground. One by one, they all slink away. Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “Where are your accusers?”
    “They are gone.” She replies.
    “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus says “Go and sin no more.”
    Here we have a Lord who forgives all our sins and who calls us to a higher moral path. Can we be such a community? A community of morals and mercy? Of character and compassion? Here is the narrow way that leads to life. There are plenty of communities that are one at the expense of other.

    There was quite a bit more to this sermon, this was just the parts pertaining to scripture. This sermon can be found in the book “Crisis 40 Stories Revealing The Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America” Edited by Mitchell Gold. This should be available in the library.

    • I can’t seem to be able to find anywhere in the Bible where Jesus talks about incest either. What does that mean?

  6. Testing cuz my last attempt got erased.

  7. OK looks like I made it past the Pearly Gates of admission to this discussion thread.. I am asking for the scholarly (or non) amongst you to help. I am teaching Adam Hamilton’s lesson on the Bible’s View of Homosexualty in a few weeks to my SS class and I have a few observations/questions from those intelererazzi among you. First of all, is homosexuality so simple as one man loving one other man? Ditto woman, woman and all its variations. What about those men who dress as women but have no desire for other men (non homosexual/transvestite) or those who have equal yearnings both pysically and /or emotionally for either sex (bisexuality/pansexuality)? Then what about those men who were born in a man’s body yet feel they were misassigned somehow (transgender) that may or may not have feelings for same sex partners (and what sex is same sex)? What about the ambiguous genetalia/hermaphrodites who identify their sexuatliy based on, most likely, the gender assigned by birth yet, genetially, they are as much male as female? Thirty percent (give or take) of identical twins differ on their sexual preferences so the “womb versus world” arguement is exceedingy hard to explain. Asexuals proclaim to embrace the emotional yet reject the physical. To me, sexuality is biological and psychological ( who knows in what combo) and there is a huge continuum from “us”, the purely heterosexual, to “them”, the “aberrant”. To me, this discussion would be much simpler if it were only one man loves one woman versus one man loves one man (and vice versa). At what point do you say that the psychological trumps the physical? This is a real point of interest for my lesson planning purposes. Next question: taking the premise that homosexualtiy (in all is complex forms) is NOT a sin, then aren’t we all to “love our neighbors as ourselves”? Many scriptures would support this. But taking the premise that homosexuality (in all its complex forms) IS totally a sin, then where does it rank on the hierachy of sinfulness? I offer myself as an exemplary example of sin. Homosexuality and its variations don’t fall under my particalar banner of sin, but I have most of the others covered. So are my sins worse or better than the homosexuals? I am personally guilty of idolatry, covetness, bring it on. The list of sins I’ve not commited is surely shorter than those I have. Where do Jesus’ word, “He who is without sin cast the first stone” fit into my SS lesson? I would prefer that you assume that I am neither “for” nor “against”; I would prefer that you help me navigate my questions so that I am best positioned to present this subject. Thanks, see you in Heaven, and will any of our aberrant sexual brethern be there with us??????

  8. I don’t quote chapter and verse very well but it seems to me that the Bible says no sin is any worse than another. I have also heard that preached many times.
    As far as homosexuality goes, I read in the Bible that it is sin, mentioned in both the OT and the NT. as well as those “sexually immoral” which could pretty much include everyone else you mentioned. The Bible does say women are not to wear mens clothes and men are not to wear womens clothes. As they’re on the subject of sexual immorality I take it to mean a man dressing as a woman and visa versa, not to be confused with say a woman wearing overalls and a flannel shirt to work the fields.
    I have had many discussions with Preachers and laymen alike about homosexuality and the Bible and as of yet I haven’t heard a strong enough argument to prove to me that the Bible is wrong(as most of them claim) or how I might be reading it wrong, along with most Preachers, Biblical Scholars, ect.
    I don’t know if this helps or hinders you but it’s the best I can do.

  9. My understanding is when the bible refers to Homosexuality it is most often referring to the sex act. The issue is confused by the love=sex mentality. In short I believe the bible says it okay for to people of the same sex to love one another, they just can’t have sex with one another. Jesus, does not directly address homosexuality but he does say that marriage is between a man and women and sex is only allowed between married people. Also, sin is sin, don’t bother trying to rank them.

  10. Sorry that should say man and woman.

  11. Now I am ready to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming again to read more news.

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