At times, I’d rather not talk about homosexuality and Christianity. It’s a lightning rod topic that often polarizes people. Homosexuals have been on the wrong end of weaponized Christianity for many years, and a lot of hate has been done in the name of Jesus.
In spite of all this, I do think it’s very important to talk about the subject of homosexuality. I have friends who are gay. I love them and I want to make sure that I represent the Bible fairly to them.
I only want to draw lines where God draws lines. I only want to push where God pushes. My opposition or support of homosexuality must be based solely on the Bible. It can’t be based on the culture, my feelings, my history, or anything else.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:17-19:29) has often been used as a weapon by fire and brimstone preachers to decimate homosexuals. Sodom and Gomorrah and homosexuality have been linked together like a chain and been used to beat people over the head.
In light of this, I can understand why many homosexuals would cringe at just the mention of the story. In more recent years, pro-homosexual scholars have given alternate explanations of the passage, saying that God didn’t punish these cities for the sin of homosexuality.
Rather, God punished them for either gang rape, inhospitality, or some mixture of the two. They argue that Sodom and Gomorrah and homosexuality don’t really belong in the same sentence.
Because our interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah will shape our understanding of homosexuality, I want to look at the passage closely. We don’t want to mess this one up. Specifically, I want to look at the alternate explanations given for this passage. I’m not going to quote the passage at length here but would encourage you to read it on your own.
Objection #1: Sodom and Gomorrah Is About Gang Rape
The first objection raised against this passage is that it’s not really referring to homosexuality, but is actually referring to a form of gang rape. This is the type of gang rape that often occurs in prisons and isn’t about sexuality so much as it is about power.
So, what exactly is this passage talking about? Is it gang rape or homosexuality?
Jude 7-8 brings some clarity to the subject:
…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
I would agree that what happened in Genesis 18-19 was a form of gang rape. But, in light of Jude 7-8, it also seems clear that God punished them for their pursuit of sexual immorality and “unnatural desire”. In the New Testament context (see Romans 1:26-27), “unnatural desire” most likely refers to homosexual desire.
Also, it would be unjust for God to punish the inhabitants of Sodom for a gang rape that never actually took place and the inhabitants of Gomorrah for an event that they took no part in. The clearest explanation of Genesis 18-19 is that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah for pursuing (not having!) homosexual desire.
The Bible interprets itself at times. Jude tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah and homosexuality are related.
Objection #2: Sodom and Gomorrah Failed To Be Hospitable
The second argument raised against Genesis 18-19 is that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah not for homosexuality, but for a serious violation of an ancient hospitality code. Hence, when the men of Sodom said that they wanted to “know” the two angels in Lot’s house, they were actually saying that they just wanted to get acquainted with them.
This interpretation is difficult to hold for several reasons. First, the Hebrew word for “know” (yada) clearly has a sexual meaning just a few verses later when Lot offers his daughters to the men.
Second, the men of Sodom clearly intended harm for the angels. If not, why didn’t Lot just open the door and let them in?
Third, why was Sodom destroyed and Lot spared? In reality, Lot would have been the one chiefly responsible for violating any codes of hospitality. There are several more arguments against this interpretation, but you get the point.
Again, the clearest understanding of the passage is simply that God punished them for fully pursuing homosexual desire. Sodom and Gomorrah and homosexuality belong in the conversation together.
Sorry if that felt technical, but I think it’s important to be really careful with this stuff. I also realize that this passage doesn’t deal specifically with the issue of a Christian, gay relationship, but I think it lays some groundwork. Rather, it addresses the consequences of giving in to homosexual desire.
So, to my friends who are gay, please consider these verses very carefully. There sure is a lot at stake here. I really believe that heaven and hell are at stake. I don’t carry any personal grudge against any of you.
I love you and care about you very much. Because I love you, I believe it’s important for me to tell you what the Bible says. And please know, I don’t think for one second that I’m better than you. I’m not. In many ways, I’m worse. I desperately need a savior.
I also know that many of you have been dealing with homosexual desires since you were young, and it can feel unfair to say that God punishes people for their natural desires. I’ll deal with that later, but I just want you to know that I can imagine the tension and pain you would feel.
Oh, and by the way, please come to my church if you’re ever in town.
And to my friends who are Christians, make sure you use these verses with compassion and care. They aren’t to be used as weapons. Use them as Jesus would have used them.
NOTE: The arguments I used in this post were adopted from a very helpful book called God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger. I highly recommend it.