The issue of homosexuality and same-sex partnerships has become an even more urgent issue in South Africa now that the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church has voted to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers. The synod also voted to permit same-sex unions to be blessed in Dutch Reformed churches.
Thankfully the decision won’t be forced on churches. Each individual Dutch Reformed church can decide for themselves their stance towards those who practice homosexuality in same-sex partnerships. Many of those who are pleased with the synod’s decision equate discrimination towards those who practise homosexuality as essentially the same as discrimination towards black people under apartheid. For them the synod’s decision has been a great moment of liberation to be celebrated.
However, homosexuality is not the new black. According to the Bible, differences in culture and ethnicity are part of God’s good creation and are to be celebrated – even as we are united in Christ. Homosexual activity, on the other hand, (like all other sexual immorality) is not part of God’s good creation, but sinful and dishonouring to God. Ministers and denominations that say otherwise are not being loving towards those who practise homosexuality because they are endangering their souls by giving many a false assurance of a lifestyle pleasing God.
God’s Word must be our Rule
God is very much for sex as shown by his creation of humans as sexual beings that enjoy sex. God as Creator knows how best we enjoy his good gifts, including the gift of sex. From the very beginning of the Bible we see that God’s purpose is for sex to take place within the marriage of one woman with one man (Genesis 2:24). God creation purposes are evidenced in the biological differences between men and women.
Let the marriage bed be undefiled
The biblical institution of marriage is essential for the welfare of human society. The Bible warns that there will also be those who will want to redefine marriage or devalue marriage. Hebrews 14:3 says,
“Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
Sexual immorality is any and all sexual activity outside biblically defined marriage. Rather than celebrate sexual immorality – like many do – we should warn people that God’s judgement will come upon all the “sexually immoral and adulterous”.
Is homosexuality sin?
To put it simply, yes. Homosexuality is not part of God’s good plan for human beings and is an expression of our rebellion towards him. In Romans 1:18-27 the Apostle Paul views homosexuality as the ultimate expression of rebellion towards God. The practise of homosexuality turns God’s order of things upside down; much like the first sin in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve listened to a creature not the Creator. Some “biblical” scholars have sought to re-interpret the Bible to say that God is actually pro so-called homosexual marriage or partnership. These are some of their arguments:
1. No longer applicable
Some will argue that the laws prohibiting homosexual behaviour are no longer applicable to us today as they were part of the discontinued parts of the Law of Moses (e.g. Leviticus 18:21-22, 20:13). They argue that because we do not have to keep all the Law of Moses (e.g. not eat pork, shave our beards, and not wear cotton and wool at the same time) people should also be allowed to practise homosexuality. This argument sounds convincing at first, but cannot stand. Firstly, heterosexual marriage is still God’s purpose as seen in the creation account – which comes before the Law. Secondly, the New Testament also condemns homosexual practise. Thirdly, the laws forbidding homosexuality are further implications of the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” and still very much applicable to us today. You might say that the laws against homosexuality are part of the “moral law”.
REACH South Africa‘s position paper on homosexuality says:
“We note further that this defilement (e.g. Leviticus 18:21-22, 20:13) is no mere matter of ceremonial purity but something abhorrent to God, leading to the extreme penalty. We note further that these acts are not just condemned in Israel as God‘s holy people, but brought God‘s judgement even upon Gentile people. We know of no rescinding or lessening of the seriousness of what we can only accept as part of God‘s moral law binding on all people in all cultures in all ages.”
2. No longer relevant
Others argue that the prohibitions in the Bible were culture bound and therefore no longer relevant in a modern world. For instance, in the Old Testament homosexual behaviour was linked with idolatrous cult prostitution and what the biblical author was condemning was idolatry, not homosexuality. Or they will argue that in the (intolerant, narrow-minded) New Testament author’s thinking homosexual behaviour was considered taboo; but today we are not that bigoted, so we should embrace homosexuality as a healthy, alternative lifestyle.
Both these “culture-bound” arguments can be answered by the simple observation that the biblical authors were not airing their own opinions, but based their views on sexuality to God’s purpose for human beings at creation. (Cf. Romans 1:20, 25)
3. Misunderstanding of meaning
Lastly, others argue that what the Bible forbids is homosexual abuses, like rape (e.g. a male slave owner forcing himself on a male slave) and homosexual prostitution. Hence the Bible is not against loving, consensual homosexual relationships. Again, this argument does not hold weight. The homosexual act itself is prohibited in the Bible, not simply the motive, circumstances or context in which it takes place.
Is homosexuality genetic?
Yes and no.
“Yes”, in that we are all born with a biased towards sin. We are all natural born sinners. Some may have more of a tendency towards one particular sin than other sins. One may struggle more with gluttony than with greed. One may have a greater tendency towards pride than pornography; or a tendency towards homosexuality rather than heterosexual sexual immorality (e.g. co-habitation, adultery etc).
“No”, in that there is no homosexual gene that somehow fatalistically determines your sexual orientation. One’s upbringing, circumstances, childhood and rearing (positive and negative) plays a huge role in determining one’s strengths, weaknesses, and temptation areas. But at the end of the day, we are – each one – responsible and accountable for our choices.
Is there hope for those who practise homosexuality?
Yes. In one sense homosexuality is the ultimate expression of rebellion towards God, but in another sense, the Bible treats homosexuality as it does any other sin. Consider:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Sin needs to be repented of. God forgives us our sins on the grounds of the death of Christ for us. As Christians we still sin, but our lives are marked by hatred of and turning from sin. A Christian’s life cannot be characterised by ongoing, habitual sin – whatever that sin may be. 1 John 1:6 says,
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
Homosexual orientation vs. homosexual behaviour
You may struggle with homosexual feelings; but because you are a Christian and want to honour God, you do not act on those feelings. You are to be commended. Homosexual orientation is not a sin, bit the homosexual act is. To put it more generally: temptation is not a sin, acting on temptation is. Jesus was tempted and yet did not sin. I may be tempted to view pornography, but only when I act on the temptation does it become a sin.
Is God homophobic?
God is not homophobic, but he is holy. He hates sin – all sin. He hates homosexual sin as much as he hates pride. The awesome news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus did not come to save those who love their sin or try to justify their sin, but those who recognise they are sinners. If church leaders keep telling sinners they are not sinners, how terrible will it be for those leaders on the Day of Judgement? Jesus said it would be better for them to have a great millstone tied around their necks and be thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).
An extract from REACH South Africa‘s position paper on homosexuality says:
“It is beholden on every true Christian to follow the plain teaching of the Word of God, and therefore to avoid homosexual activity as sin on a par with stealing, murder, and covetousness, which displeases God and makes us liable to the judgement of God.
It is beholden on every Christian, and especially ministers and teachers, to warn the unwary that such behaviour is offensive to God and bound to bring punishment.
As believers in the Christian gospel it is every Christian‘s privilege to assure those who turn to Christ from whatever sinful path into which they may have strayed that they have God‘s complete forgiveness and that they are wholly cleansed and brought into fellowship with him, and are true members of his Church.
Christian churches, denominations, and ministers are recognized by their profession of Christ as Lord and their adherence to the Word of God. Churches, denominations and ministers which advocate lifestyles in open conflict with Holy Scripture have strayed from the historic Christian Faith.
In particular, churches, denominations and ministers which by teaching, example and ordination policy declare to the world that homosexual activity is pleasing to God, when God‘s Word declares it evil and sufficient to exclude people from God‘s kingdom, endanger people‘s souls, and should be avoided by Christian people.”