Here’s the second of six thorny questions I’ve been asked to address. Last time it was “Hasn’t science disproved God?” Today we discuss “Is God homophobic?”
I’ve got to keep it under 600 words. I’d love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?
Is God homophobic?
Christ is Core
“I will spit on anyone who says homosexuality is a sin!” So said my lunch companion. The provocation? I had just revealed I was a Christian. I hadn’t mentioned the topic but suddenly homosexuality was on the menu and the temperature shot up.
It was clear what she thought Christians were saying: “Sexually righteous people (like us) go to heaven. Sexual sinners (like you) go to hell.” But here’s the truth I tried to get across: only sexual sinners go to heaven.
Mark 2:17 applies as much to the bedroom as anywhere else: Jesus is a Spiritual Doctor who has come not for the sexually healthy but the sexually sick. And that’s all of us. Confessing to our own sins – sexual and otherwise – is vital in our witness. We proclaim a Saviour not a sexuality.
Desires Don’t Determine Us
This needs to be carefully expressed but the Bible has little interest in our sexual orientation. Defining our identities according to our sexual preferences is a modern, western fascination unknown to the rest of the world (and to the rest of history). Jesus certainly does not preach heterosexual orientation. Can you imagine Jesus turning to His disciples and saying “Let your sexual desire be unto the multitude of women”? Inconceivable. Heterosexuality is not the point. And my orientation is not my identity.
Christians are Counter-Cultural
In Old Testament times, Egyptian and Assyrian views of sex were markedly different from Israel’s. Similarly, Greco-Roman views of sex were worlds apart from those of the New Testament. The Bible has always set out a radically different sexual ethic to the world’s. Therefore both Christians and non-Christians should stop being shocked by their differences. Remember 1 Corinthians 5:12!
Are Christians Homophobic?
Many Christians have been motivated by an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals. For such un-Christ-likeness we can only apologise. But, on the other hand, if we’re simply disagreeing about sexual ethics, we should resist being labelled “homophobic”.
Just because a Buddhist forbids meat-eating, I don’t call him carni-phobic – I don’t assume he has an irrational hatred of carnivores! Instead I try to understand his view of the world – a bigger vision of reality in which vegetarianism makes sense. I might not agree, but I don’t think he’s bigoted.
In the same way, we must take every opportunity to step back from the hot topic of sex and explain the ‘bigger vision’ of the gospel.
Sex and the Gospel
The gospel is a love story, we should tell it as such (see Ephesians 5:21-33 for instance). Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom gave Himself to us in a marriage union, paying off all our debts (on the cross) and giving us all His riches (in the resurrection). We proclaim this love to non-Christians. And for Christians, this love becomes the model for our own marriages (see Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:27-30; 19:1-12).
Because of the gospel we believe that two different parties should be united in unbreakable love (i.e. male and female, mirroring Christ and the church). Because of the gospel we believe we shouldn’t play around or only dabble in our unions. Instead we should commit for life (i.e. no sex outside marriage).
In all this, the point is not to enforce sexual laws, the point is to proclaim good news. For the non-Christian, their challenge is not, first and foremost, “Can I abide by this regime?” but “Do I believe this love story?” If they get the love, the life will follow.
Friend not Phobic
Jesus was known as the Friend of sinners. He never flinched from sexual sinners but forgave and freed them (see Luke 7:36-50). Here’s our message to the world: Come to Christ – not as hetero-sexual, homo-sexual, bi-sexual, etc – but simply as a sinner. At Christ’s table you have a place equal to every other sinner. Though we fail to reflect His gospel in a thousand ways, He knows how to lead us, step by step, into greater and greater freedom from sexual slaveries as well as the other really dangerous sins – like greed, unforgiveness and moral self-righteousness!