The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
As promised, here is my follow up letter on what Scripture teaches about homosexual desires and actions. What I would like to do is note some of the key passages, summarize the issues, and perhaps say a few things about standard evasions—for that is what they are, evasions.
Of course, sodomy gets its name from one of the Cities of the Plain, Sodom.
“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4–5).
The standard objection to this citation is that the men of Sodom were proposing to rape the angels, and that faithful loving relationships were not in view at all. But the sin of Sodom, sin that culminated in the scene outside Lot’s house, was far more encompassing than simply attempted rape.
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Eze. 16:49–50).
And Jude the Lord’s brother described the problem this way:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
In short, this public attempt to rape the angels occurred in a much broader context, a context of luxurious living, contempt for the poor, idleness, pride, abominable practices, fornication, and going after strange flesh. In other words, the problem with Sodom was just what everybody thought it was—before some scholars got hold of it.
A homosexual prostitute is called “a dog” in Deuteronomy.
“Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 23:18).
Some might say that the problem here was the commodification of sex, not the homosexual act in itself. But this is not the kind of problem that can be solved by giving it away. Scripture teaches that free love is worse than merchandised love.
“How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment” (Eze. 16:30–31, ESV).
And John echoes the Deuteronomic insult by excluding these “dogs” from the New Jerusalem.
“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15).
Next we have the flat prohibition found in Leviticus.
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:13).
Now it is possible to argue that this refers simply to anal intercourse (“as he lieth with a woman”) and not to other forms of homosexual behavior. For example, lesbianism is never mentioned in the Old Testament by name. But Paul, clearly reasoning from Old Testament categories, does mention lesbianism:
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Rom. 1:26).
The objection to the law in Leviticus is that we are inconsistent to keep the prohibition and not to keep the penalty. Why opposition to homosexual intercourse on the part of modern Christians, but no one is urging the death penalty for it? This objection misunderstands the nature of the Old Testament case law system. The death penalty in this instance was not a minimum penalty, but rather one of the options, depending on the circumstances. Centuries later, three righteous kings (Asa, Jehoshaphat and Josiah) banned the sodomites who had set up operations near the Temple, and they are praised in the text, even though they executed no one.
“And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made” (1 Kings 15:11–12).
“And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land” (1 Kings 22:46).
“And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove” (2 Kings 23:7).
So then, execution of homosexuals was not mandatory, not even in the Old Testament. But it was detestable, and these kings are praised for their work in shutting down the rainbow parades. That said, homosexual practices are worthy of the death penalty, which is affirmed, even in the New Testament.
“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:32).
At the same time, it is important to note that many of the things mentioned in Paul’s list here are sins that are in no way limited to homosexuals. Homosexuals are included, as the earlier part of Romans 1 makes perfectly clear, but all sinners, hetero and homo both, are under the wrath of a holy God. All of us die, and all of us deserve to. This is because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
Why does God not drop the hammer then? The answer is that God in His grace determined to save the world from its sin. He could have, in all justice, condemned the world for its sin, but in an exercise of grace upon grace He decided to save the world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
So the death penalty for homosexual lust and behavior still applies. The glory of the gospel is that Jesus died on the cross as a perfect substitute—for these sins and for all the others. In other words, the New Testament did not see an abrogation of the death penalty for sodomy. Rather it is in the New Testament where we see the ultimate fulfillment of it, a final execution for sodomy.
Jesus was executed by wicked men, under the wrath of a holy God—cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Gal. 3:13)—and among many other despicable sins that were imputed to Him, sodomy was certainly one of them. So New Testament Christians must not reject the death penalty for sodomy. Rather, we maintain that Jesus, who died for our sins, was not put to death for generic “sin,” but rather for all the detestable things His people had ever done. He died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).
This means that we do not seek to win the world for Christ by executing sinners. God’s plan and purpose is to fill up Heaven, not Hell. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13). Abraham was promised the world, but he was not going to inherit the world “through the law.” Rather, the world is going to turn away from all its sin—including sodomy, the desire for sodomy, and all justifications of sodomy—but it is going to do so in response to the preaching of the gospel and the responsive righteousness of faith.
So then, Christians do not set aside the death penalty for homosexual sin. Rather, we preach the ultimate fulfillment of that death penalty, testifying to the utter righteousness of it. When Paul talks about the sins that Christ delivers us from, he is explicit—Jesus saves us from among the malakoi, the effeminate, the soft ones, the passive, the catamites. Not only that, He saves us from among the arsenokoitai, the couplers of themselves to other men. He saves those who play the man with other men as though they were women, and He saves those who act like women in relationship to a man. He does the same for hertero-adulterers.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
How is it that any of us can be washed? It is because of that death penalty. How is it that those guilty of every vile homosexual desire, intention, or action can be washed, sanctified, and justified? Only because of the death penalty. If the Christian faith is not grounded on the righteousness of the death penalty for sinners, then the human sacrifice that was offered up in Jesus was entirely pointless. And if that is the case, we are all still in our sins.
More later, and thanks.