Jesus and Sexuality, Part VI

“Disapproval of homosexuality cannot justify invading the houses, hearts and minds of citizens who choose to live their lives differently.”
Harry A. Blackmun (American Supreme Court justice, 1908-1999)

We began this blog series on Jesus and Spirituality by stating that although the issues recently in the media regarding Gay marriage are are legal, the underlying discussion is a discussion of morality.  We have also set the foundation for Christian ethics by stating the role of scripture, tradition, reason, experience, and culture in the shaping of ethics.  We looked at some particular scriptures that viewed sexuality in general, but have not looked at some of the more pointed scriptures in the Bible regarding homosexuality.

We begin with the premise that in the Bible, revelation is progressive.  That means that information or priniciples revealed in the earlier parts of the Bible are continually focused and clarified in latter parts.  Jesus, who is the ultimate manifestation of truth (see John 14:6) was found of saying "You have heard it said that.... But I say to you...".  He was not changing principles, but clarifying principles.  As we look at scriptures, it is important to keep that in mind.  Some of the early scriptures are not the last word in the debate.

The earliest scripture that touches upon the issue of same sex sexuality is found in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 19:5.  In this narrative, God tells Abraham that he is going to bring judgment upon the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to their wickedness.  We are not told in this text what their wickedness was, but that their sin was "grievious" (Genesis 18:20).  In this well known chapter, Abraham then advocates for the people who live in Sodom and Gomorrah who are not wicked, but righteous.  Again, the definitions of these characterizations are not explicit.  God agrees with Abraham not to wipe out Sodom if he can find a few righteous people.  The Angel of God (which apparently looks like a man) enters the town of Sodom where Abraham's relative, Lot is also living.  Lot, fearing for the welfare of the Angels, invites them into his home for safety.  It is there we get the following text:

Genesis 19:4-5:
Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — both young and old — surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." NIV

Lot responds by offering his daughters to the men, but the men insist on having relations with the Angels.  The morality of Lot's offer to give up his daughters is subject to another blog, but in this narrative God's judgement comes down upon Sodom after this. 

The question is whether the wickedness was from homosexuality itself or whether it was from the violent and coercive acts that the men of Sodom were trying to do.  It is apparent that this type of action was considered normative in the community.

The Christian and Jewish traditions maintain that a good part of the sin of Sodom was the promotion of the practice of homosexuality.  In fact, the name "Sodomy" was given to practice of male-male sex. 

However, scripture clarifies its self.  Several hundred years later, the prophet Ezekiel was speaking to the Israelites:

Ezek 16:49-51

"'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. NIV


1. The greatest sin of Sodom seems to be self-centeredness and unconcern for the poor and needy.  Their highest priority was their own pleasure and comfort.
2. Their actions were detestable (KJV: an abomination) and they did do them pridefully.
3. Due to the pride, there was no opportunity for change or what is called repentance and they were judged.

Interestingly, the Ezekiel passage does not mention homosexuality as the key sin that was committed in Sodom.  What was more concerning to God was the exploitation and self-idolatry that certainly was manifest in their sexuality as well as every aspect of their lives.

Now, the Ezekiel passage does not say that God blesses or ordained homosexuality either.  However, it does go a long way to clarify that the key grievious evil was a self-centered, hedonistic life style that was expressed in everything they did, including their sexuality. 

Was that self-centeredness revealed in the violence (their need to violate others) or in the homosexuality itself is not explained or delineated. 

The key point in the Sodom passages is not the sexuality, but the results of living a life where pleasure and self are at the center and concern for God and others has been marginalized.  Jesus will have much to say about that in his teachings.  However, before we get to that we have a few more Hebrew scriptures (Old testament) to review in the next blog.

Before you stop reading this blog, reread the Ezekiel passage and think about American culture.  I can not help but to be concerned about our own unconcern for the  poor and needy and how that appears in a God who loves justice, not just retributive, but distributive as well.

I would love to hear your thoughts,

God bless,

Pastor M Traylor