shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#105 - Sexual orientation
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Why do so many Christians
today condemn homosexuality, when the Bible itself does not condemn homosexuality
and same-gender relationships?
Without knowing the context of your email, I cannot be certain of your intended message. In answer to a question posed to me by someone else writing to BibleTexts.com, I wrote a response that is relevant to and, I believe, understanding of your view. My response emphasized unconditional agape love, monogamy in sexual relationships (regardless of orientation), and permanent fidelity. The subject of sexual orientation is addressed in a way that encourages all Christians to be non-judgmental. You can read what I wrote on the subject at:
As detailed in that previous question and answer, same-gender sexual relationships are explicitly and unequivocally condemned and severely punishable in the Old Testament. It should be recognized, however, that many of the teachings and practices found in the Old Testament are not endorsed in Jesus' teachings and practices. For example, Jesus' teaching to "love your enemy" was as radical a departure for 1st century Jews as it is for many 21st century Christians. For more on this subject, you can browse:
All Old Testament teachings and practices need to be viewed and evaluated through the lens of Jesus' teachings and practices. As we go back to the original texts and genuine early Christianity, we find a spirit of fellowship and agape love that leaves no one out. (Jesus did not leave out even the Samaritans, the tax collectors, the adulterers, the debtors, or the ritually unclean!) Unfortunately there currently is a lot of theologically biased revisionism applied to New Testament and early Christian teachings, practices, and history that inaccurately represents Jesus' original message. Such revisionistic theological willfulness, intellectual dishonesty, and ignorance of genuine early Christian history and faith has too often resulted in professing Christians' rejection of Jesus' real teachings of unconditional agape love, Spirit-based discernment, forgiveness, and inclusiveness. Winning over those with unchristian attitudes can only be done through the power of God's invincible love, as witnessed by our own expression of unconditional agape love, Spirit-based discernment, charitableness, forgiveness, and inclusiveness -- including toward those who persecute our brothers and sisters.
As discussed in my above-mentioned response, traditional cultural dogmas regarding sexual orientation fortunately are gradually being informed and displaced by a more scientific approach to sexual orientation. In the context of the scientific community's conclusions that sexual orientation is programmed into the nature of a person and is not determined by choice, it seems Christianly appropriate to apply Paul's teachings of 1Co 7:1,2 to all people, regardless of sexual orientation:
Now, to deal with the matters you wrote about. A man does well not to marry. But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. (1Co 7:1,2, TEV)
What is important is that Christians of all sexual orientations understand and commit themselves to adhering to and being supportive of the Christian standard of unbroken sexual monogamy during and after marriage, whether heterosexual or gay/lesbian marriage - with sexual abstinence before marriage. Regardless of orientation, the sacredness and permanence of marriage that Jesus taught needs to be cherished and preserved by and for all Christians. It is easy to conclude that both Jesus would share this view today -- the Jesus who taught the very socially disturbing good Samaritan parable and who discerningly taught that "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luk 17:21). It is also even easy to conclude that Paul today would share this view -- the Paul who confronted conservative Judaism and wrote, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2, NRSV).
With emphasis not on the orientation but on the permanence of faithful, non-abusive marriage, I now quote Jesus:
A wife must not leave her husband; but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife. (1Co 7:10,11, TEV. This is Jesus' "command," which Paul quoted sometime between 52 and 54 A.D.)
In the beginning, at the time of creation, 'God made them male and female,' as the scripture says. 'And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.' So they are no longer two, but one. Man must not separate, then, what God has joined together." When they went back into the house, the disciples asked Jesus about this matter. He said to them, "A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery." (Mar 10:6-12, TEV. This was included in the earliest canonical gospel, which was written sometime around 70 A.D.)
To further explore the biblical teachings regarding divorce and adultery, you can browse:
In her article on "Wedlock" (Mis 288:1), Mary Baker Eddy writes the following:
Even your sincere and courageous convictions regarding what is best for others may be mistaken; you must be demonstratively right yourself, and work out the greatest good to the greatest number, before you are sure of being a fit counsellor. Positive and imperative thoughts should be dropped into the balances of God and weighed by spiritual Love, and not be found wanting, before being put into action. A rash conclusion that regards only one side of a question, is weak and wicked; this error works out the results of error. If the premise of mortal existence is wrong, any conclusion drawn therefrom is not absolutely right. Wisdom in human action begins with what is nearest right under the circumstances, and thence achieves the absolute.
It also may be worth noting that I myself have been very happily married to my dear wife for 27 years, and we both feel very blessed by our 4 lovable, loving, and talented children. So I firmly believe in permanent, non-permiscuous, monogamous relationships, but I have concluded that a sacred intimate relationship may be not only a permanent marriage of two heterosexuals, for the overwhelming majority of the global population that are heterosexual, but it may be also a permanent marriage or civil union of two gays or lesbians, for a significant minority of the global population whose natural sexual orientation is not heterosexual. Just as sexual orientation is not a matter of choice but is a matter of the nature with which one is born, so my conclusion is not based upon current trends or upon relaxing of Christian standards but upon an understanding of both the letter and the spirit of early Christian teachings and based upon unconditional, spiritually discerning, Christian agape dissolving hypocrisy, bigotry, fear, and cowardice. As the author of 1 John wrote, "We love (agapao) because God first loved (agapao) us." (1Jo 4:19) To do otherwise is to not know God. (1Jo 4:8)
For additional food-for-thought, you are welcome to read a relevant modern rendering of the Good Samaritan story at:
Another significant resource for better understanding the historical and theological issues is The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition, by Bart D. Ehrman (NY: Oxford University Press, 2004), especially pages 403-406, the sections on "Ancient Ideologies of Gender" and "Gender Ideology and the Pauline Churches" (in the chapter, "The Oppression of Woman in Early Christianity").
To explore other relevant questions and responses, see:
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer