Jesus and Homosexuality: Beyond the “Silence”
I once saw a brochure entitled What Jesus said about homosexuality.
When opened, it was blank.
The not-so-subtle point: Jesus didn’t talk about the subject.
The subtle implication: it’s not that important.
And it is true: Jesus never said a word about homosexuality.
He never publicly showed His support of the homosexual community by hanging out at “WineSKINS,” Jerusalem’s most popular gay bar or turning water into Mimosas at the union of a same-sex couple.
Amplification: It’s possible that Jesus alluded to homosexuals when He discussed those who were born “eunuchs.” (cf: Matthew 19:12) A person “born” a eunuch could be a cultural accommodation, a way to describe, define or designate that person as having desires/attractions different than other men. (I will cover this topic in a separate section. For an extensive, detailed discussion, I recommend the book God's Gay Agenda, by Sandra Turnbull)
In addition, there’s is evidence that Jesus dealt with a same-sex couple in the encounter with the Centurion and his servant, based on words used in the original language. If so, his response shows it was a non-issue.
Conversely, it’s obvious from the Gospels that Jesus didn’t directly condemn homosexuality…or homosexuals either. He certainly didn’t feed the fanatical anti-gay stance we see today of portraying homosexuality as the “greatest of all sins.” Moreover, He didn’t reinforce the ex-gay/reparative proponents by laying His hands on a known Galilean gay, making him instantly, miraculously straight.
I value the entire Bible, so don’t consider myself a “red-letter Christian.” However, I certainly think we should give serious consideration to the life of Jesus when it comes to this subject. In the opening verses of the Gospel of John, Jesus is called the Word, made flesh. (cf: John 1:1-3) That means if we want to know God’s Word on a matter, Jesus is (literally) the personification!
I’m convinced that even though Jesus didn’t include homosexuality in the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the gays, for they will help the meek gentrify the earth.”) or mention them in the Lord’s Prayer (“Lead us not in the paths of the perverts”), that doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable lessons we can learn from Him, if we are open to new insights. In my opinion, it’s not about what Jesus didn’t say on the subject of homosexuality; it’s about how His life and ministry might apply to this issue.
So, for those who want to know how to deal with gay and lesbians, for those who wonder about a person being gay and Christian, or for those concerned about the way the church treats gays and lesbians, let’s take a fresh look at the life and teachings of Jesus to help crystallize some answers.
The Promised Inclusion. At the birth of Jesus, the angels proclaimed it was “good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” (NASB; emphasis mine) The writer of John’s Gospel beautifully tells us that God’s gift is for “whosoever” (“whoever” in NSAB).
Unfortunately, the Gospel today is being perverted, transposed into something with no resemblance or resonance of good news. The emphasis has shifted from the love and mercy of God to focus on sin, judgment, condemnation, damnation. Grace has been supplanted with legalism. The Gospel message of liberty and acceptance has been hijacked and twisted, now seeking to impose shame and guilt. The “whosoever” inclusivity of God’s gift has been replaced with a provisional, exclusive one. The angelic message for “all the people” has been re-written as “everyone…but you.” And homosexuals have been strategically singled out for exclusion.
His Declared Ministry. Though many have their own opinion (even in His day), Jesus was clear about His ministry: He came to bring good news (there’s that word again) to the poor, the brokenhearted, the oppressed, the hurting, the wounded, the downtrodden, the outcasts. (cf: Luke 4:18-19) This ministry emphasis now seems to have gone astray. Rather than comforting those that Jesus said He came for—including the homosexual—modern religious zealots actually cause the very conditions Jesus came to remedy—oppression, hurt, exclusion, ostracism, pain.
Direct Association. It’s easy to judge people solely by the “sin category” we’ve assigned to them—dismiss them, and justify our disdain. But that’s not the pattern of Jesus, who hung out with the “wrong” people to the point that it began to impact His own reputation--being called a glutton, drunkard and friend of sinners. (cf: Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34) If we’re to follow the example of Jesus in dealing with outcasts, we must show them love first. That involves proximity more than preaching!
Example: If you want to see what can happen, read the blog of my friend Kathy V. Baldock. She’s an Evangelical mom who held the "traditional" beliefs about gay people. That is, until she actually met some!
Accusation Over Reflection. In the famous “Judge not, lest ye be judged” passage, Jesus says that before we can look to get the “speck” out of the eye of another, we need to get the “log” out of our own eye. (cf: Matthew 7:1-5) In other words, our time is better spend attending to our own "log" before we can adequately see the problem of others.
Targeted Reprimands. Listening to conservative religious leaders today, their harshest words seem reserved for gays and lesbians. In contact, the harshest words Jesus spoke were directed at the conservative religious leaders of His day—the scribes and Pharisees. It was their job to explain what the Scriptures said and meant…and how the Truths should be applied. They had memorized Scripture, and would often quote verses as “proof” of their beliefs. To them, “Truth” was set in stone.
But guess what? They were not always right, and Jesus exposed them. (And it got Him trouble…eventually leading to His death.) In fact, his scathing description of them in Matthew 23 seems to echo with familiarity today:
- Don’t practice what they teach v.3
- Place heavy restrictions on others v.4
- Like to be seen (respected and revered) by others v.5
- Goal is to convert and control v.15
- Theological hair-splitting to get around an issue v.16
- Religion takes priority over people (justice, mercy and faith) v.23
- Greedy & self-indulgent v.25
- Focus is on external behavior v.26-28
- Compared themselves to others, and feel self righteous v.30
Listen to preachers today, and determine if their approach is more like Jesus, or closer to that of the Pharisees.
The Proof Factor. The trait that Jesus said would prove to the world that we are His disciples has nothing to do with the church we attend, the number of Bible verses we’ve memorized (or the version of Bible we use), the prayers we pray, the party we vote for or the object of our sexual attraction. Jesus said the evidence is love. (cf: John 17: 20-26) Theology does not trump love! Regardless of what we believe or how much we disagree, our approach (attitudes and actions) should display love.
Side Note: Those who like to invoke the “abomination” passages of the Levitical law (Leviticus 18:32; 20:13) would also do well to listen to Jesus. He said the entire law is summarized (and expressed) in love. (cf: Matthew 22:34-40) And for the record, the Apostle Paul carried this same message. Check out Romans 13:8, 10 and Galatians 5:14.
Golden Rule! If none of this seems theological sound to you, then allow me to remind us all of one simple, undeniable truth: Jesus taught us to treat other folks the way we'd like to be treated. (cf: Matthew 7:12 ) That probably includes gay people.
I could give many additional examples, and will continue to expand this topic in future Brain Bubbles.
But let’s not miss the point: the way Jesus dealt with people provides an example to us. (cf: 1 Peter 2:21) If we truly want to emulate Him (i.e., "Christlike"), it doesn’t matter what we believe about a person, it matters how we treat them! If our Bible beliefs drive people away from Jesus—God’s Word in the flesh—rather than drawing them to Him, then we have misunderstood and misrepresent the Truth.
Would we find Jesus saying harsh, hateful things about gay people?
Would Jesus use lies and deception to rally people against homosexuals?
Would Jesus refuse to be around gay people…just because they’re gay?