Scripture and Homosexuality: What Jesus said and did

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.

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16 responses to “Scripture and Homosexuality: What Jesus said and did

  1. Pingback: Scripture and Homosexuality « Six:11 Ministries·

    • It’s not true that Jesus never directly spoke out against homosexuality, same sex relations, sodomy, and same sex marriages. The truth is, no matter how you say it, or arrange it, and rearrange these words over and over again they all still mean the same thing! People who play with words and say that Jesus never exactly spoke out against the words that they put together will not make them excusable or themselves to be guiltless. If a man condones sin, then he is a partaker of that sin, himself. Isn’t it an acceptable saying that actions speak louder than words? If a child brings home a gun, and the father finds it, and destroys it right in front of the child without saying a word; does that mean he never condemned it? Jesus has spoken out against homosexuality, same sex marriages, and all the like. Jesus surely does directly condemn homosexuality in the Bible, but those who say that he never did really couldn’t care less if he did or not, because all they really want to do is push homosexuality stealthfully. Just for the record, anyway: John 8:56-57 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? (KJV). Where did Abraham see Jesus come to him in the Bible? There is a literal visitation from the LORD in Genesis Chapter 18. Jesus also said in John 5:37 that no man has ever seen the Father’s shape, or even heard his voice at any time, so this visitation is surely with Jesus Christ, himself. Jesus said to Abraham in Genesis 18:20-21 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. (KJV) Well, we all know what happens after he goes there. In Sodom they lived the homosexual lifestyle, as it is recorded at that time how the men of the city refused to have relations with Lot’s daughters, and even wanted to molest the angels that came into the city to save Lot. Jesus Christ himself destroyed it after Lot was clear of it. Yes, he directly condemned it!

  2. Thanks for such a thoughtful post! Let me tack on one thought: In my estimation, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 addresses gay men using the term “eunuch.” this text comes immediately after his proscription of divorce. In v. 10, the disciples say, “If such is the case a a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (NRSV) For me, Jesus nails the matter beginning in v. 11. “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

    In that time, “eunuchs” were not only men without testes. The term included men who were seen as deviant in multiple ways (e.g., gentle, “soft” or effeminate), as well as men who were entrusted with particular responsibilities because they were not typically tempted by women (and perhaps less vulnerable to blackmail, as well). Whatever their characteristics, eunuchs had two things in common: They did not marry, and they were not welcome in the synagogues. They were clearly among the disenfranchised of that time.

    To me, Jesus recognized the controversy that his words on this topic would generate, and went on to say that gay men are born that way, they can be attributed as such, and they can be blessed as such, for their living sacrifice. Very powerful stuff, both in its time and today.

    I’m sure that this text has been analyzed by many Bible scholars, and with all kinds of interpretations. One question might be whether the principle in it can be extended to women; I don’t know the answer to that. In any case, as I understand them, I take great comfort in Jesus’ words in this passage.

  3. Pingback: Jesus on Homosexuality | An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy·

  4. If Jesus, “being God, knows all things that He has created”, and “shared the same characteristics as God because He is God (omniscience, omnipotence, etc)”, then:

    “He knew how his words would be interpreted. He knew what crimes, what horrors, what infamies, would be committed in his name. He knew that the hungry flames of persecution would climb around the limbs of countless martyrs. He knew that thousands and thousands of brave men and women would languish in dungeons in darkness, filled with pain. He knew that his church would invent and use instruments of torture; that his followers would appeal to whip and fagot, to chain and rack. He saw the horizon of the future lurid with the flames of the auto-da-fé. … He saw thousands of men, under the orders of priests, building prisons for their fellow men. … He saw his followers using the instruments of pain. … He knew that the Inquisition would be born of the teachings attributed to him. … Why did he not tell his disciples, and through them the world: ‘You shall not burn, imprison and torture in my name. You shall not persecute your fellow-men.’?”
    – R.G. INGERSOLL, About the Holy Bible

    The fact remains that he didn’t.

    If he gave any thought at all to the subject of homosexuality and believed that gay relationships were sinful, he could have warned his followers that nonetheless it was equally sinful to maltreat homosexuals. But he didn’t.

    • … But He did warn His followers of not loving others correctly; and He did warn that things in this life would get crazy, defiled, unruly, and hard pressed for mankind – especially Christians. Not sure what you’re point is Merseysidewilliam.

  5. Jesus was also supposedly silent about slavery, racial equality, gender equality, environmental protection, democracy, child labor, nuclear proliferation, capitalism, abortion rights, euthanasia, etc., etc. Should we infer that Jesus intended his followers to revert to Mosaic laws for all issues that were not canonized in the selected writings?

    It seems to me that much societies’ recent progress would not have been possible had we interpreted Jesus’s supposed silence as merely an endorsement of the preceding Hebrew bible. Instead, what we do know is that Jesus did not merely update religious laws, but encouraged his followers to critically examine the purpose of the laws and their intentions in applying the laws.

    Also, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that we for certain that Jesus was silent on any particular issue. Scripture is not a definitive transcript. We can only imagine what discussions Jesus had with his disciples, dinner guests, followers, and critics. Considering that sexuality — never mind homosexuality — was and continues to be a taboo topic, it’s not surprising that his followers may have been selective in what was recorded, published, and saved.

    • Hey Norm – thanks for responding.

      You’re right, Jesus doesn’t talk about those things. It would have been much easier if He did, though. Still, we can glean from other passages answers to those situations. Slave and racial equality is answered in such passages as Ephesians 2; gender equality is seen through the writings of Paul and attitudes of Jesus; and God calls us to protect the environment in His command in Genesis 1.

      Again, while Jesus did not speak about such things in the gospel, He did speak about them elsewhere – what was written in the OT and what was being written in the NT.

      And, while Jesus may have had a conversation about homosexuality being “ok”, wouldn’t He have included that message somewhere in the gospels, or New Testament? He called for the correction of several other things found in the OT, why not this one issue, too? His silence, and His constant referral to male-woman relationships (marriage, sexual, lustful) all point to the fact that Jesus understood homosexuality to be outside of God’s will.

      To say that the writers of the New Testament were selective in their writings is a bogus thought. They talked about many topics (acceptance of Gentiles, no circumcision, loving your enemies, praying for the government, etc), that were highly controversial in their day. If Jesus had made it clear to them – in private even – that same-sex relationships were now blessed, they would have pointed that out in their writings. These men and women were bent on preaching the message of Jesus – not a man made doctrine, but the words and life of Christ.

  6. Did you or anyone else ever actually hear Jesus say any of that?
    Or about anything else for that matter.
    Who could have written all of these sayings down?
    And on what – stenographers note pads and using ball point pens perhaps?
    Tape recorders or video cameras!
    For instance who could have possibly even heard the private conversations between Jesus and Pilate? Certainly not any of Jesus’ disciples. And Jesus could not have conveyed the content of these conversations to any of his disciples or followers while he was hanging and dying in agony on the cross.
    Somehow after the inevitable chaos of 3 CENTURIES later when the “official” Bible was fabricated from the then many then competing kinds of Christianity, the “authoritative voice of Jesus” is remembered with unambiguous crystal clarity.
    Oh puleez!
    Besides which Jesus was not in any sense a Christian, nor did he found the religion about him, namely Christianity. Every minute fraction of which was created by others after his death, and mostly long after – centuries even.
    Corpses are incapable of creating anything! Havent you noticed!
    Jesus was an outsider, a radical Spiritual Teacher/Master who appeared and taught on the margins of the tradition of Judaism as it was in his time and place. if anything he was a Jewish Rabbi.
    While he was alive Jesus taught and demonstrated a universal, non-Christian, non-sectarian Spirit-Breathing Spiritual Way of Life.

  7. Pingback: Six:11 Top Blog Post for 2011 « Six:11 Ministries·

  8. Pingback: A Christian’s Response to Homosexuality « life of a female bible warrior·

  9. Is there a difference between a homosexual who remains monogamous versus one that is promiscuous? The christian Church does not see any difference and this rejection has lead to homosexuals abandoning faith altogether and entering into promiscuous behavior. This promiscuous behavior leads to an exasperation of HIV proliferation which contributes to death.The church’s rejection of homosexual marriage is responsible for death.

    There has to be an element of common sense here, just because Jesus didn’t condemn slavery doesn’t mean we should bring slavery back. You would think if God has foresight and saw that the two primary issues in the future were going to be abortion and homosexuality, he would of had some red letters (words of Jesus) covering the issue. The fact that Jesus did not talk about it gives us the ability of discernment.

    If the only sin, assuming it still is a sin, a homosexual couple did was be homosexual than they would still be sinning less than 99% of Christians. It is time for the Church to grow up.

    • Thanks for stopping by Jonathan, and thanks for commenting.

      I wouldn’t say that the church is responsible for the spread of HIV and the death of gays and lesbians from AIDS. The church has its faults, but that’s taking things a bit too far.

      In my opinion, Jesus spoke more than just “the red letters,” and that’s what I tried to point out in the post. If we believe that Jesus is God, then whatever God spoke, so did Jesus. Likewise, as the Spirit inspired men what to write, so Jesus inspired the men what to write.

  10. Not only does the Bible condone slavery, it gives you pointers on how to treat slaves that you own, as property. I have no use for such a book.

    • Thanks for your comment, Angela. Actually, the term for “slave” in the Bible is “bondservant.” People were servants to either pay off a debt or because they were willing to be someone’s servant.

      What we know slavery to be today is not exactly what it was back in Biblical times. And the “pointers” were given in order to elevate the person as someone to respect and count as equal. Unlike our use of slavery where people were demeaned and treated like garbage.

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