Our series continues on understanding what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about homosexuality. All references made by other authors can be found here.
After looking at the passages that speak out against homosexuality, I want to turn towards the words of Christ. Within the larger debate surrounding the Bible and Homosexuality, are several little debates, one being this: Jesus never spoke against same-sex relationships. Which, quite honestly, is correct, Jesus never said a word, directly, about same-sex couples. However, we need to pull back from this question and look at the bigger picture of what Jesus said, didn’t say, and the model He left us to live out.
The [Silent] Words of Christ
In the gospels, Jesus never directly spoke about same-sex relationships. He didn’t confront it, but rather remained silent. From this, people conclude that being in a gay relationship is a non-issue; moreover, they believe that the silence of Christ gives approval of their relationships. However, Jesus’ silence actually indirectly speaks about same-sex couples. Just because He didn’t speak out against it, doesn’t mean He gave His approval.
There are several things Jesus never spoke about in the gospels: spiritual gifts, church function, incest, missions, worship services, church doctrines, roles of the husband, mentoring people, etc. Are we to think that we don’t have to do missions cause Jesus never spoke about making such endeavors? Can we conclude that all forms of incest or being absent-fathers are allowable because Jesus never spoke about these issues? Of course not. We have other scriptures within the Bible that speak on these topics, other passages we turn to in order to find answers. Saying something is irrelevant or allowable because it is not found in the four gospel books is bad theology. All scripture, Paul says, is useful in instructing Christians in how to live – Old and New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 15:4). And this was confirmed by Christ in the Gospel of Luke (24:27, 44-45).
John 21:25 states there were many things that Jesus said and did that no one recorded. True, He could have spoken in approval about same-sex relationships, but then again, He could have not. The question I keep coming up with is, if Jesus did give approval to gay relationships then why wasn’t He more vocal about it? Christ never backed away from correcting wrong teaching. Take the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, where Jesus took time to clear up misconceptions about what the Old Testament said and how it was being taught by religious leaders. If He believed that same-sex relationships were now acceptable, wouldn’t He had made such declarations? Especially when He talked about relationships and marriage (Mark 10:5-9).
The silence of Christ doesn’t really help the pro-gay side on this issue; in fact, to me, it hurts their argument. Jesus’ silence could be that He didn’t have anything new to add to what was already said about homosexuality. Christ understood that such relationships – even committed ones – were wrong in God’s eyes. Even more, the Jewish people knew this. Was there reason to debate the issue if both sides believed it was wrong?
But Jesus didn’t understand homosexuality like we understand it today, might be running through your head. Again, while the question is valid, don’t forget one important detail: Jesus, being God, knows all things that He has created (Colossians 1:15-20). Unless you believe that Jesus was not God, He shared the same characteristics as God because He is God (omniscience, omnipotence, etc). And, if Jesus understood homosexuality as it is now, the other writers of the Bible fully understood the issue, too:
There is every reason to believe that the biblical writers did know of homosexuality as a condition. Certainly the apostle Paul … would have encountered this condition among the peoples of Greece and Ionia. Furthermore, the writers of the Old Testament also would have encountered it among the sophisticated inhabitants of Canaan (Oswalt, p. 54).
In this line of thinking, let me also suggest this: even though Jesus didn’t say anything in the gospels, He did speak out against homosexuality elsewhere in the Bible (Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians). If Jesus is God, then the words God spoke, Jesus spoke (John 1:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:16) – plain and simple.
The [Audible] Words of Christ
Now, in this discussion, it is very important to hear what Jesus did say in the gospels. His silence about one issue speaks aloud in other areas. For instance, Jesus upholds marriage (and sexual relationships) as being between one man and one woman (Mark 10:5-9). He understood the marriage vow to be sacred between two people and God, and not a means to end in divorce. While the church is quick to point out that gays shouldn’t marry, we are quick to forget we shouldn’t divorce our spouses. Yes, Jesus gave certain grounds for a justifiable divorce (Matthew 5:32), but let’s be honest, we don’t protest outside of court rooms because straight Christians are divorcing, do we? In this vein, how are we any different from the Pharisees and Sadducees? We’re not.
Even though Jesus was silent about gay couples, He didn’t exclude them from salvation. Several times Jesus says that He came to save the world, to bring all of mankind to Himself, through His death and resurrection (John 3:16, Luke 19:10, John 10:14-16, John 12:32). All of mankind includes gays and lesbians. Jesus didn’t make a distinction as to who can be saved and who can’t, and neither should the Body of Christ. Every man, woman, and child deserves to hear and receive the message, love, redemption, and grace of Christ – EVERY ONE! The church doesn’t decide who receives Jesus, or who gets into heaven, only God does.
The message of Jesus is universal, but it’s a message that speaks to us specifically. God is after our hearts. He is bent on us walking in purity. The idols we hold dear to our hearts, the foolish things we wrap our lives around, the discontentment we feel, the masks we wear each day, are all things Christ calls us to forsake in order to fully embrace the abundant life He offers us. This includes the struggles we deal with and the sins we live out justifiably. As my friend Tim Geiger states:
all who wish to submit to the Headship of Christ are welcome [in church]. The Church is made up of nothing but sinners, but sinners who have been redeemed and are being changed into the image of Christ, their Head … [It] is sin on the part of the Church not to be in the instrument of Christ to expose sin and to bring the sinner to repentance and utter dependence upon Christ … The Church must welcome all who inquire, while it resists changing its message [so as not to offend] (p. 76-78).
A healing church embraces the difficult task of bringing forth both grace and truth – to all. Christ, and even Paul, understood that effective ministry, essentially, begins with telling “the truth in such a way that [the person] will respond” (Thompson, p. 42). Unrepentant homosexuals are no different than unrepentant heterosexuals; sin is sin, and everyone is in need of the same gift that comes forth from Calvary: GRACE. As Jones rightly contends, “we are quick to condemn those we are uncomfortable with but slow to judge ourselves” (p. 204). Consider, then, how Jesus did ministry, and do likewise.
The Model of Jesus
There are two essential stories within the ministry career of Christ that effectively illustrate this “grace and truth” mindset: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4), and Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 8). In the first story, Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman at the well, during the sixth hour of the day. This is important to note, because it was such an unusual time for women to be collecting water. As the story goes on, the woman’s past failed marriages and sexual activity are exposed by Christ. One should consider, though, how Jesus conversed with the woman, and how He led the conversation onto deeper things, building trust with her. What He offered her was not condemnation for her past sins, or a fire and brimstone message on purity, but rather a compassionate explanation of what it would take to fill the deep longing within her: she needed to drink of the everlasting life-giving water that only He could provide (John 4:13-14, 26).
Next, Jesus is talking with a woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders of the day presented this sinful woman before Jesus, hoping He would sentence her to death, as the Law required. Beautifully, Jesus responded by asking those who have not sinned to cast the first stone; slowly each leader started to leave. Jesus is alone with the woman, asking where her condemners have gone. She responds that they had left, to which Jesus replies, “then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). This is one of the clearest pictures of how to balance ministry in truth and grace: do not be afraid to call sin what it is but approach the individual with compassion. Unfortunately, many Christians have failed to find such balance: either they love the person without calling sin out, or they call sin out without loving the person. Both actions are wrong and ineffective.
The same grace of John 8 can be seen in the father of the prodigal son, in Luke 15:11-32. Grace is a move of God that causes Him to run in our direction and welcome us home, as the father does when his son finally returns. Grace is hearing the father say, “Dress my child in the finest of linens; for he was once lost, but is now found”. Grace is a kiss from God unto broken and wounded hearts. God yearns for those who need Him, and delights over those who receive Him (Zephaniah 3:14-17). Therefore, the Church should also fully receive and “yearn” for such people to enter through their doors, not turning anyone away from God’s presence, grace, or truth – neither straight nor gay persons. In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), with no condemnation (Romans 8:1), for God’s Spirit has washed, sanctified, and justified those who are His (1 Corinthians 6:11). This is the Grace and Truth of God. This is the message of Jesus that we are to model.