Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homosexuality and Freedom

The issue of homosexuality is one of the most contentious issues in American culture today. The biblical position is clearly that homosexuality is wrong. The point of this post is not to prove this, but rather to talk about how we respond to this teaching. If you want to look into the biblical framework, you can read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:9-11, or Romans 1:24-27. Also, you can listen to a message that I just preached at Life Bible Fellowship Church this past Sunday if you want to hear my framework on these passages and this issue.
Of all the biblical positions that Christian embrace, this may be the one that is least tenable in our culture. There are many reasons for this. One of the key reasons is that this teaching seems to take away the freedom for people to define themselves.
I confess that, when dealing with the values of our culture, it is a hard sell when trying to convince people that homosexuality is wrong. It is an uphill climb. I don't believe that this post will necessarily convince anyone to change their position. I do, however, hope to present some thoughts that may be able to help us with our framework as we talk about the issue.
The main issue at stake in this post is this: Does the Bible's teaching on homosexuality rob people of their freedom?
In a sense, it seems like the answer is a very obvious, 'Yes.' When anything is forbidden, this robs people of freedom. In this sense, all prohibitions in the Bible rob human beings of freedom. Prohibitions against adultery, murder, robbery, slander, and pride all rob people of freedom. The prohibitions force us to change our actions, to limit ourselves. In order to follow them we must say 'No' to our impulses when we feel like slandering others, retaliating in violence, acting on sexual impulses, and thinking too highly of ourselves. All commands, in a certain sense, rob us of freedom.
To follow this up, it is reasonable to conclude that most people agree that it is good for us to limit our freedom. Most of us believe that in every situation we should not exercise our freedom to murder or rob one another. And most of us believe that, at least most of the time, we should not commit adultery or speak disparagingly of others.
But why do we limit our freedoms? Is it just so that others are not victims of our slander or violence or pride? If this is the case, then we might say, "Our lives would be better if we could freely enact our violent and sexual and verbal and territorial impulses, but for the good of others, we must deny ourselves." We might lament our loss of freedom, but begrudging accept the situation.
But would our lives really be better if we lived completely by our impulses? The answer is certainly 'No.' In fact, true freedom is not about the ability to say 'Yes,' but the ability to say 'No.' Before the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were not free because they had to say Yes to their masters. Their freedom was defined by their ability now to say 'No' to them. When we are free, we are able to say 'No' to those who would make oppressive demands from us. Denial is core to the idea of freedom.
But now comes the point of divergence between those who embrace the gospel of Jesus and those who reject it. Those who embrace Jesus end up concluding that Jesus sets us free from a number of oppressive masters. In fact, we conclude that, for the most part, our impulses are oppressive masters. Our impulse toward pride will end up placing us in the prison of self-love. Our impulse toward anger will place us in the prison of bitterness and resentment. Our impulse toward rampant sexual exploration will place us in the prison of hollow sexual addition or the quest to fulfill ourselves through sex. Our impulse toward speaking cruel words to others will place us in the prison of loneliness and self-importance. When we let our impulses lead us, we are not free. We are their slaves. We have to do what they tell us to do. What we think will bring freedom only brings slavery.
But the point of all this is not that there is no proper expression of the freedom for which we long. The point is not that we can't get freedom. The point is just that we often look for it in the wrong places. We look for it in the free expression of our appetites for food and drink and sex and revenge, while all of these lead to slavery instead of freedom. But behind all of these misguided actions is the proper desire for freedom. We want it, and God knows we want it.
Jesus said that he came to set us free, and that freedom comes with becoming his disciples and obeying his words. Freedom comes not through obeying our misguided impulses, but neither does freedom come through throwing off any possible master. We as human beings are not free, and we need a liberator to lead us to freedom. Jesus is the master and liberator who leads us to freedom.
Can a master lead you to freedom? Can you get freedom through obeying everything that a person tells you to do? It sounds like a paradox, but it isn't. If you are tangled up in chains, you would gladly obey the instructions of someone who was able, step by step to tell you how to become untangled. If you were trapped in a dark cave, you would gladly obey every instruction of a person who came to lead you to freedom. Jesus is the master, the Son of God, who died in order to lead us to freedom. He claims that he can do it. The only question is whether or not we trust him enough to follow his lead.
Now, when it comes to homosexuality, there is clarity that God's Word identifies it as a sinful activity. This means it is an activity that will not lead us to freedom, but instead to slavery. Like other sins, it offers us freedom because it offers us the opportunity to freely follow our impulses. Whether or not there is a genetic condition that leads to same-sex attractions, it is clear that some people will live a homosexual lifestyle if they freely follow their impulses.
Many of us want to ask why it leads to slavery instead of freedom. I think that we do have some answers to this question. We could conclude from the Bible that we are compromising our masculinity or femininity when we trade in heterosexuality for homosexuality (Romans 1). We could conclude that we overlook how God has made us (emotionally and also biologically), and thus miss out on the lives God has ordained for us. But we also must, to some extent, exercise faith in cases like these. There are many times, when following someone to freedom, that you must trust him without knowing why a certain path is necessary. Sometimes we must deny our appetites even though we are saying to God, "This other way seems better to me." In order for finite human beings to experience freedom, we must at some level be willing to trust the infinite God who sent his Son to purchase our freedom.
So, in the end, the biggest question does not concern the wrongness of homosexuality (or any sin). The biggest question concerns whether or not we trust Jesus to lead us to freedom. He claims that he can do it. Do we believe him?
If we do, then we all must be willing to say 'No' to a number of impulses in order to say 'Yes' to him and his leading.


  1. So, here will be the question. Does my sexual attraction to the opposite sex, (which led to me being happily married) become something that is on the same level as murder, robbery, slander, and pride if my orientation was for the same sex instead of the opposite. Is that really how you see the gay community. And, if your brain was wired in such a way as to not be sexually attracted to your wife would you be willing to live with her for the rest of your life rather than with someone to whom you are attracted? I'm not trying to ask bad questions, I would really like to hear your answers.

  2. VWBlack, thanks for your comment. I'll try to respond to your thoughts.
    First of all, if I was not clear about this in the post, I do not believe that the Bible teaches that any orientation or attraction is wrong or sinful. I have attractions to a lot of things that would be wrong, were I to act on them. No one is condemned or inferior (nor should anyone be shamed) because of an attraction or orientation.
    The issue in many areas of our lives is not our attractions or temptations. The issue is how we choose to respond to those. I think it would be accurate to say, in light of Matthew 26, that Jesus was attracted to the idea of bolting and not following through on his Father's plan for him to sacrifice his life. Yet he yielded his will to his Father's.
    As for the question of living with someone to whom you're not attracted, I this is a vital question for all of us.
    First of all, there is no command to get married. The Bible teaches clearly in Matthew 19 an 1 Corinthians 7 that lifelong singles are not second class citizens in the kingdom of God. People with same-sex attractions are not required to get married at all (nor are any of us).
    Second of all, any of us could end up in a situation in which we are not attracted to our spouse. Some people have arranged marriages. Some people change and gain weight. Some people have disfiguring accidents. Something could happen to my wife that would make her not as physically attractive as she is now. In a case like that, would it be valid for me to abandon her in favor of someone to whom I am physically attracted? Clearly the Bible's answer is "no." We are called to fulfill our vows and those vows are not dependent on our spouses remaining (or even being) physically attractive to us.
    I hope this has helped. Feel free to comment again if you want to follow up on some of this.

  3. OK, I see, If a homosexual man lives according to his desires and does not put up a lifetime of resistance, even if he is otherwise law abiding, he is the same as a murderer or robber. Of course that point of view comes from the Bible. So now I would like to know just how far you go with this biblical point of view. Leviticus 20:13; If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Should we, as a Christian country, send out the police, FBI, and others to round up all of the gays and execute them. You may not want everyone to read your answer to this, so you can Email me at ibmvwb@hotmail.com.

  4. VW, I will email you, but I also thought it would be good to post a response here.
    The foundational issue here is what you think of the Bible. If we consider it to be God's Word, then we end up embracing not just the things that resonate with us, but the things that seem counter-intuitive to us. Because of this, the question is not whether one sin is equal to another or worse than another. The question is whether or not we will follow Christ or follow desires that lead us in a contrary direction. This is something we all face. Same-sex attraction is simply one of many desires that lead us away from freedom and toward slavery. The same is true of heterosexual lust, greed, jealousy, and all kinds of other things.
    As far as your question about Leviticus, it is important to put all Scripture in context. Those of us who embrace Christ are not national Israel. I wrote a post a little while ago about the role of the Old Testament law in the lives of Christians today. Here is the link: http://groupthinkrescue.blogspot.com/2012/08/are-ten-commandments-for-today.html.
    In the Old Testament, Israel had not only personal moral commands, but also civil commands because they were a nation. The church is not a nation with civil laws. We do not have power of enforcement. And there is not New Testament idea that the church is to be an agent in punishing people who commit sins. Instead, we are a prophetic witness to the culture. We proclaim God's truth, and we invite others to embrace it and respond.
    There have been Christians who have responded to gay people in ways that have been hateful and ugly. That is not my intention at all. My intention is to reflect what God has said, and to invite all of us away from self-directed lives that lead to slavery, and toward God-oriented lives that lead to freedom.

  5. Good answer, Last part first. The church is not a nation with civil laws. We do not have power of enforcement. And there is not New Testament idea that the church is to be an agent in punishing people who commit sins. I don't think of this as an idea that comes from the bible but rather one that comes from our American culture which has been laid out by our constitution for more than 230 years. I am talking about the 1st amendment to the bill or rights. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. I think that, were it not for these words, the Christian Church, or some splinter denomination, would have taken over a long time ago. After all, how many times has the Christian Church become a nation with civil laws and the power to enforce those laws, and with very bad results. I think it was founding father James Madison who in 1784 recognized the necessity of expelling religion from government once and for all. I think that by doing so he sought to protect both religion and the civil rights of people whom religion does not like. In this case the gays. So, you have a constitutional right to use words like slavery, immoral lust, adultery, murder, robbery, slander, and pride when ever you talk to a gay person and call that freedom, but I think that all the gay man will ever hear from you after having those words thrown at him is “clang, clang, clang, gong, gong gong. In the end it will be Jesus Christ who will have the last word. Matthew Ch 25 verses 31-to the end. And He defines the difference between the sheep and the goats buy how each one treated the least of his children. Not one word about there sexual orientation. After all, an argument about sexual orientation is an argument for this life only, sense in the kingdom of heaven there will be no male or female. right. And I have a constitutional right to my point of view. And I also have a biblical right to my point of view, Romans Ch 14 verse 4. And, this is also your blog on which I am writing, so I will go now.