As the normalisation of homosexuality becomes increasingly prevalent within the United Kingdom then the evangelical church finds itself increasingly at odds with the moral views of society. And over recent months this conflict between 'secular' morality and Christian morality has become more intense and has even led to more than a few churches leaving, or committing to leave, the Church of Scotland. The most frustrating thing about the debate is the amount of false accusations levelled at Christianity. It comes as no surprise, for in any battle it makes sense to portray the opponents in the worst possible light. So there is a great deal of confusion out there on what Christianity teaches and why we object so strongly to gay marriage and homosexuality. This is an attempt to clear up some of the myths.
Myth: Christianity is all about hating gays
This is, I think, the most understandable myth in the sense that usually the only time Christianity makes the news is in relation to the issue of homosexuality. But it's still a myth. To illustrate this point then I'd like you to guess how many sermons I've heard on the issue of homosexuality. Bear in mind that I've been going to church all my life and heard an awful lot of sermons... The answer is zero, while it's been mentioned in passing if it was relevant to the Bible passage we were looking at then I can't recall a single sermon that was centred on this issue. I'm not saying ministers never preach on homosexuality, they do, or that they shouldn't, but I am saying that there are a lot of other things in Christianity which are, frankly, more important.
My second objection to this myth is the use of the word hate. For while, as a Christian, I object to the practise of homosexuality it does not extend to hating people who are gay. The command of Jesus is to "love your neighbour as yourself" and that means that though I do think homosexuality and gay marriage are both wrong then behind all my actions must be a love for all my fellow human beings.
Myth: Homosexuality is the only sexual sin
When Jesus is teaching people about sexual morality he says the following: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5v28. The standard set for the Christians is purity of both action and thought. Sex should be within marriage only and marriage between a man and a woman (who are not related). Thus, any action or thought which runs contrary to this is a sin.
Against this standard who can stand as pure? No one. The church is a collection of redeemed sinners seeking to live up to this standard of moral perfection. Seeking and failing - the reason we rejoice in a gospel that tells of a salvation for us to be had outside of good works is because we know all too well how far short we fall of God's moral perfection. We trust in Jesus Christ because he died in our place for our sins.
Myth: It can be argued from the Bible that homosexuality isn't a sin
Probably the most honest account of attempts to argue from the Bible that homosexuality isn't a sin is in the Church of Scotland statement on the issue. Basically, those arguing for the inclusion of practising homosexual ministers recognised that the Bible prohibits it but went on to explain why we had to look beyond the Bible. Such is the only way to argue for the Bible contains clear statements on the matter.
One of the clearest statements is found in Romans 1 and I challenge anyone to read it any other way that what is obviously apparent: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." (1v24 - 27)
Fallen humanity will always try and worm its way out of obedience to God but the word of God is clear on this matter.
Myth: God made some men with homosexual desires so he can't blame them
Yes, there is some truth here, all human beings are made in God's image. But likewise, since the fall all human beings are sinners by nature and choice. We are morally responsible agents and are culpable for our actions before God. Each human being suffers from different temptations due to difference in personality and temperament. One man might struggle to control his anger, another might be greedy, another power crazy, another tempted to homosexuality, another tempted to heterosexual lust.
While we all have our unique weaknesses this does not provide us an excuse before God. He will judge all of us under the same standard of moral perfection. Rather than seeking excuses this should send us running to the cross to find a righteousness outside of ourselves and in Jesus Christ. The fact that it doesn't is just further evidence to our rebellion against God.
Myth: Christianity is all about love so should welcome homosexual relationships
Again, this is based on a truth. God is love, the beating heart of the gospel message is the love of God to sinful men and women. This love is displayed most fully in the fact that God the Father sent his Son to die for us. The only appropriate response to this love is to love God back.
But God's love is not an omni-benevolent love unconcerned with how we live. It is a pure, holy, love that burns with righteousness. "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." (Romans 12v9). God's love is a love that is wrath against sin. Likewise, as Christians, we must love what God loves and hates what he hates. As Jesus said: "If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14v15). As Christians one of the ways we love God is by obeying him. When it comes to the matter of homosexuality, then yes, God's love is shown to those who struggle with this by the fact that he sent his Son to die for sinners everywhere. But equally, God's wrath is against sinners everywhere who do not turn to him in repentance and faith in Christ. Christians who struggle with homosexual temptations seek to love God by resisting these temptations.
Myth: Christians are inconsistent as they don't follow the Old Testament
In Leviticus one of God's laws for the nation of Israel is: "‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (20v13).
Christians don't do this anymore, therefore the charge is laid that we are being inconsistent. This has more to do with people not liking the Old Testament than anything else. A full explanation of the position of Old Testament law in the Christian life today would require a whole blog post to itself. I'll try and briefly summarise though.
When it comes to God's law in the Old Testament (or Covenant) it is useful to spilt it into three categories: moral, ceremonial and civil. The moral law acts as an eternal expression of God's moral perfection and what is right and wrong. We find this in the Ten Commandments, set apart from the rest of the law by being written on two stone tablets. Jesus fulfilled these by living his life in keeping with them but they are still in effect and Christians should still obey them.
The ceremonial law is everything relating to festivals and the sacrificial system. This was fulfilled by Jesus Christ who was the "once and for all" sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice was so great that no other is now needed. Thus these laws are no longer required for we live in a New Covenant.
The civil law was given to the theocratic nation of Israel to act as an example of God's moral perfection and the severe consequences of disobedience. Such a theocratic nation no longer exists. The New Convent is for all nations and all peoples and Christianity is now found in all nations and peoples. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to follow all the civil laws though there may be great wisdom we can discern from them and great principles to follow.
In this specific context, the fact that homosexuality is wrong falls under the moral law. The punishment for is falls under the civil law. Therefore, we uphold the former but realise that the latter is no longer required.
This was written to clear up misunderstandings about Christianity and homosexuality. It may be that my answers have offended you more than the myths. There's not much I can say if that is the case. Christians fight against gay marriage out of love for God and our fellow man. For we know that God is not to be mocked and we reap what we sow. What kind of people would we be if we thought that society was taking a huge step into wrongdoing and we said nothing? At the heart of our stand against this trend in society is a simple truth that God knows better than we do what is good for us. His law is perfect and we break it at our peril.