A young man in our congregation runs a chain of bakery stores in Northern Ireland. A few months ago a gay man representing a group called ‘Queerspace’ came into one of his stores and placed an order for a cake with the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’. The order was refused by the management because it went against their strong Christian convictions about the nature of marriage. There would have been no problem selling the customer a cake—he wan’t being denied service because of his sexual orientation. The bakery simply refused to endorse his campaign for gay marriage. The management have also refused to ice cakes with (heterosexual) pornographic pictures or slogans they found offensive. There was no question of this man being treated differently because he is a homosexual.
Nevertheless, a few weeks later, the bakery was threatened with legal action by the Equality Commission, a publicly funded body, claiming they had breached equality laws which outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services.
Needless to say, the case prompted a media storm. And it didn’t take long before Christians in general, and the management of this bakery in particular, were being accused of homophobia. It’s such a common slur, isn’t it? It’s a lazy way of shutting down any intelligent discussion. If you disagree with homosexuality, then you are automatically homophobic—irrationally prejudiced against gay people.
But is there any evidence to support this charge? Is Christianity homophobic? What does the Bible actually say? Here are a couple of points from a sermon I preached at a recent guest service on the subject a few weeks back…
1. We must condemn the practice of homosexuality
If we have been created by God then he is the only one who can tell us what is right and wrong sexually. After all, if God doesn’t tell us, who can? Is it just a matter of whatever is culturally acceptable? That would seem to leave the door wide open to incest, polygamy, paedophilia, bestiality or whatever in an even more ‘enlightened’ future.
As we look at the Bible, it is absolutely clear that homosexual practice is forbidden. This is clear not just in the way God set up the world in the beginning (one man and one woman for life), but in several explicit statements. Lev 20.13, for example, is an absolute prohibition on all homosexual activity: If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
At this the homosexual lobby is up in arms, but it’s vital to read the statement that comes just three verses earlier: If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. In other words, God condemns all sexual sin. Too many Christians are soft on heterosexual sin while making a huge fuss over homosexual sin.
The New Testament is no less explicit about homosexuality than the Old Testament. Rom 1.24 speaks of God giving people over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
‘Unnatural’ means against God’s created order. The customs and norms of culture may change and do change all the time, but the Creator’s pattern for humanity stays fixed.
There is no way to get around a straightforward reading of the Bible on homosexuality (though many try to do so in all kinds of ingenious ways). We can’t rewrite the Bible to suit ourselves. Only God has the right to tell us what we may and may not do with our bodies.
2. We must accept the people who are struggling with homosexuality
It is not enough to simply condemn the practice of homosexuality. We must show love and compassion and seek to minister the grace of Christ to those enslaved by this particular sin.
Homosexual practice is disgusting—it is a perversion of God’s perfect plan for humanity. But so is a man looking lustfully at woman. So is gossip. So is losing your temper. So is gluttony and laziness. How seriously do we take Proverbs 6.16-19? There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Homosexuality is an abomination—but so are many other sins that we commit every single day. Does our indignation boil over when we see some TV show endorsing homosexuality, but wouldn’t miss our favourite soap opera that is stuffed full of heterosexual fornication and adultery? Let’s take the planks out of our eyes!
We are all sinners. We have all sinned sexually and we all need the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Our whole self is rotten and needs to be redeemed. Homosexual or heterosexual, we all need a Saviour.