A Biblical Perspective on the LGBT Issue.

hands held together

The rapid change in social attitudes to homosexuality has left many Christians confused and disturbed, torn between a desire to be faithful to the Bible and at the same time to respond with empathy and respect to LGBT issues. This article aims to help Christians facing this dilemma by looking carefully at the relevant passages in the Bible.

First mention
An established principle for interpreting the Scripture is that the first mention of a subject in the Bible determines the meaning and significance of subsequent references.

The first reference in the Bible to gender occurs in the opening chapter, Genesis 1.27. In the authorised version it says:

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

In present day English I think a good translation would be:

“ God has been making mankind to model and illustrate himself.  He’s been making them male and female.”

Significant grammar 
I believe the grammar is vitally significant here. If God is simply making each individual either male or female, this verse should say, “God is making them male or female."

But instead of an “or”, we have an “and”. This implies that each individual human being has both genders. God makes each individual male and female, not male or…. Each person has the potential to be either male or female – to switch between genders according to need and desire. We each have our female side and our male side.  There are qualities and ways of behaving that we normally label as “male” and others that we identify as “female”. We can choose which of these qualities we want to show and which we want to hide. The successful human being is the one who can draw out, and draw on their male and their female sides effectively in the appropriate situations

God is male and female
This verse implies that God himself is both male and female. If he needs to make us both male and female for us to show his likeness, than he must be male and female himself. Not only is he Father, Son and Spirit, the mighty warrior, she is El Shaddai, the God of the full breast. She is the hen who spreads her wing over her chicks and rocks us quietly to sleep, the One in whose arms we are at peace like a weaned child with its mother.

An example from Paul
If you are not used to grammatical precision, you may query whether this is just hair-splitting on my part. But compare it with Paul’s comment in Galatians 3.15-16. There he points out that in Genesis God promises to bless all nations through Abraham’s “seed” (singular) rather than “seeds” (plural). Paul takes the singular “seed” as implying that one specific descendant of Abraham (Jesus) will be the source of the blessing, not all his descendants.

If the “and” means we have a choice of gender it must also mean we have a choice of sexual preference.
 
Wonderful love
David and Jonathan provide an example of love between two people of the same gender (see 1 Samuel 18.1). Was this a homosexual romance or just a strong friendship? The clues that there are in the Bible are not enough to provide an answer. However, it is worth noting that David’s affection for Jonathan and loyalty to him were as strong as they could be. In 2 Samuel 1.26 David says of Jonathan,
“Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than the love of women.”              
The obvious and straightforward interpretation of these words is that Jonathan’s lovemaking gave David more pleasure than that of Michal, Ahinoam and Abigail (he had not met Bathsheba at this point). It is difficult to imagine what else David could have intended by that statement. The relationship of David and Johnathan was sealed by a covenant in God’s presence. It has the essential ingredients of a marriage – leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh.
If you take Genesis 1.27 on its own it accommodates the whole gender spectrum and need not rule out gay sex or gay marriage.

Why detestable?
But what about Leviticus 18.22?

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman. That is detestable.”

This is one of a whole list of sexual relationships described in similarly negative terms.

I find myself asking, What does it mean by “as one does with a woman”? The Hebrew verb translated as “have sexual relations with” is related to the idea of turning – “don’t turn to a man as to a woman.” Two thoughts combine in the semantics of this verb:

•    Doing with a man what you would do with a woman; and
•    Turning over or turning round.

Something makes it “detestable”.  What might that be? The risk of infection is an obvious factor. Other laws in the same section of Leviticus are about ritual cleanness. The outlook of the writer knows no distinction as we do between ritual and medical hygiene. The key message is that the person who approaches God has to be clean in every sense of the word.
 
Anal sex and domination
I think this verse is an attempt on Moses’ or his editor’s part to refer to anal sex, in the absence of an existing vocabulary to talk about it. If I am right, love, affection and sexual arousal between men are not the issue here but only the practise whereby a man inserts his erect penis into someone else’s anal passage. This practice has been known as sodomy because of a particularly unpleasant incident that took place in a town called Sodom and is recorded Genesis 19. Abraham’s relative. Lot, who lived in Sodom, gave hospitality to some visitors and a mob of men from the city demanded that Lot hand over his visitors to them so that they could rape them by having anal sex with them.

Sex can signify three different things:

•    Domination
•    Seduction or
•    Appreciation

Since the earliest times victorious armies have raped people in communities they have conquered. In so doing they affirm their ownership and control of those they conquered. I’m not condoning this practice, just drawing attention to it. In countless unhappy homes one partner is subjected to degradation by the other who wants to possess and use them. Sex can say “I have conquered you, you are now my slave.” The men of Sodom wanted to possess and control the visitors to whom Lot had offered hospitality.

Similarly a seducer manipulates others, either trying to gain sexual pleasure from them or trading sex to obtain other gains such as power or influence. Rape and seduction both involve controlling or disempowering another human being. In contrast God’s purpose for sex is for it to be an expression of self-giving love.

So Leviticus 18.22 outlaws coercive, anal sex rather than homosexuality. Romans 1.26-27 is another reference in the Bible which is seen as condemning homosexual behaviour. It is very evident that, as he writes, Paul has in mind the incident in Genesis 19 and is again referring to coercive sex that is greedy and self-seeking. The same goes for a reference in1 Timothy 1.10.

There is nothing in the Bible that rules out the possibility of loving, covenanted, faithful and exclusive sexual relationships between people of the same gender.

The bride of Christ
All the scriptures relating to marriage depict Israel and/or the church as God’s bride.
The pre-fall relationship of Adam and Eve is the model for Christian marriage. Is there any way in which the marriage of a woman and a man gives a better picture of the relationship of God and his people than that of two men or two women? In the present state of science, I have to say, there is only this: You need a male and a female to procreate. Christian marriage reflects the divine marriage which has the purpose of creating offspring in Jesus’ image.

Married to Jesus
However we apply Genesis 1. 27 we must not undermine the place of marriage as a sacrament pointing to and illustrating the relationship between God and his people. I, a man, am part of the Bride of Christ. Because God made me male and female, I can fulfil that role.