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During the last 30 years, homosexuality has become an open and controversial issue in our society. Before then, homosexuality was not openly discussed and was almost universally viewed by society as sin.
In 1973, the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders and declared it was "a normal, if divergent lifestyle." States began to repeal sodomy laws. By 1978, 59% of Americans thought homosexuality was "not acceptable at all," and by 1994 it dropped to 39%. (These statistics were reported in National Review 9/1/98, p.24.) By 1995, 29 states had repealed sodomy laws for consenting adults. As we enter the 21st century, Americans are being told by the news media, educational institutions, entertainment productions and performers, and government officials that homosexuality should not just be tolerated, but should be affirmed and embraced as an acceptable lifestyle. Even the nation's churches—held to be society's most conservative social institution—are divided over the issue.
Why is our society going through these controversial changes - in perception and attitude - toward people who feel homosexual attraction and engage in homosexual behavior? Part of the answer to this question, is that the issue of homosexuality involves moral, social and psychological factors which are intertwined and have converged to create the controversy we see in our modern society.
How should Christians view homosexuality, and treat homosexuals? To answer this question, we will focus on the moral and psychological factors of homosexuality. Since the moral authority for a Christian is God's Word—the Holy Bible—this Bible study discussion guide will begin by examining what God has to say about the moral aspects of this subject.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "homosexuality" as "erotic activity with another of the same sex." That is the definition used in this guide, so the term does not refer to males exclusively as it sometimes does in popular usage.
Evidence from Scripture
Let's examine six primary Biblical passages that deal directly with homosexuality. We begin with the scriptural account of the events described in the ancient city of Sodom.
COMMENT: The ancient city of Sodom existed several thousand years ago. The city was located in the area now known as the Middle East. Sodom was a prosperous city, and many of its people enjoyed an affluent lifstyle. Over time, the social ethics and morals of the people of Sodom began to degenerate into immorality... and the residents of the city drifted into many different kinds of grievous sins... including sexual sins.
GENESIS 19:4-11: "Now before they lay down … the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.' So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, 'Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.' And they said, 'Stand back!' Then they said, 'This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.' So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door."
1. What were the residents of Sodom demanding?
COMMENT: Some theologians say that the sin of the Sodomites in this passage is being inhospitable to strangers. According to them, the Sodomites wanted to question the angels to find out if they were spies. The Hebrew word translated "know" has many uses, one of which means to know a person sexually.
2. Lot offered the men his virgin daughters instead. From this fact, what can we deduce that the Sodomites wanted to "know"?
3. Others assert the sin of the Sodomites was rape, not homosexual relations per se. How does Lot's speech to the men prove that theory false? Compare this account with the occurrence in Judges 19 (particularly verses 16-25). Note how the act the men want to commit is called an "outrage" and "vile" (verses 23,24).
COMMENT: Later in time, God led the Israelites out of ancient Egypt to begin the nation of ancient Israel - a new nation to be based on strong, loving families. He instructed the people about His civil law and moral code which was to be used as their constitution for building and maintaining their new society for the new nation. Included in these laws were instructions concerning sexual behavior...
LEVITICUS 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination."
LEVITICUS 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.. Their blood shall be upon them."
4. What is an "abomination"?
5. What was the penalty for homosexual acts under Israel's civil law?
6. Does the same penalty apply in Christianity? Why or why not?
7. Some claim Jesus did away with these laws. What did Jesus say? Read Matthew 5:17-19.
8. Theologians who approve of homosexuality teach that the context of these verses concern idol worship practices. Check the contexts by reading both chapters. Do the passages refer to ritual cult activity or do they list specific sins, most of which are sexual in nature?
COMMENT: Note verses 18:5 and 20:7-9. Even pagan cultures did not approve of dishonoring one's parents by cursing them.
Much later in time, the apostle Paul warned against promiscuous, immoral behavior occurring during the time of the early first century Church of God...
ROMANS 1:21-27: "…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
9. Beginning with verse 21 through verse 25, list the characteristics of the people Paul refers to. Are these traits good and commendable?
10. What was God's response to their behavior? What does it mean "gave them up to"? Does the scripture indicate that the behavior which follows is a step up or a step down?
COMMENT: Some theologians claim that this behavior was related to idolatrous religious practices. What is clear, however, from the scriptural account, is that these people were engaged in very promiscuous and lustful sexual practices. Note that God said their lustful desires were "vile" and their promiscuous acts were "shameful."
11. What effects did their choices have on their mind? Read verse 28 and comment.
12. In what way is homosexuality "against nature"?
13. Who created "nature"?
14. Knowing who created nature and that homosexuality is against nature, what logical conclusion can one make about God's approval or disapproval of homosexuality?
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."
15. Can one be an active homosexual and inherit God's Kingdom? What answer does this passage give?
COMMENT: The word translated "sodomites" in the NKJ means men who go to bed with men. The Complete Word Study Dictionary - New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates defines the Greek word translated "homosexuals" this way: "Figuratively it means … a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature." So it appears Paul says neither active ("sodomites") nor passive ("homosexuals") homosexual behavior is acceptable.
16. How is it possible for anyone guilty of any of the sins listed in these verses to overcome and change? Read verse 11 and then answer.
COMMENT: Homosexual acts have no greater ultimate penalty (i.e., eternal death) than any of the other sins listed, and God is just as willing to show mercy and forgiveness toward homosexuals for repentance of their sins, as He is for fornicators, drunkards, etc. to be forgiven upon repentance for theirs.
1 TIMOTHY 1:9-11: "… the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."
Why Does God Forbid Homosexual Activity? (Why Is It Wrong?)
We have examined scriptures that make it clear homosexual acts are forbidden by God. But why is it forbidden? Why is it so wrong in God’s eyes?
1. Why did God create the male and female sexes of the human race?
COMMENT: Both men and women are created in the “image and likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26). Simple reproduction is not the only reason God created the two distinct sexes of the human race. God created humans for a far, far greater purpose, destiny and potential than animals. Genesis 1:26 begins to hint at the incredible truth that humans were created to one day enter in the eternal, spirit family of God—the God Family!
2. What does Ephesians 5:31-32 reveal about the parallel God created between human male-female marriage, and the marriage of Christ to God’s people?
COMMENT: Men and women are not animals. Animals do not marry, they are not under judgment, and have no potential to enter the Family of God to live forever therein. Human men and women, however, were created for that very reason. God is the One who created the institutions of human marriage and the family. Human marriage and family life are the very ‘type’ (i.e., the picture or human-plane representation) of the coming marriage of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, to His bride—which presently is comprised of humans in the Church of God. Human marriage includes the close, intimate relationship between a man and a woman…two similar—yet very different—genders made in God’s image. This intimate relationship is allowed by God ONLY within the marriage relationship, and ONLY between a married man and woman… because of what it is all picturing and foreshadowing in God’s plan and creation.
Psychological Factors of Homosexuality
What are the psychological factors involved in homosexuality? Why do some people develop homosexual attraction? Part of the answer involves the need for love, affirmation and acceptance through same-gender bonding - especially between parents and children.
Although the scriptures do not discuss the psychological causes of homosexuality, the Bible does discuss the natural need for same-gender bonding, through its scriptural accounts depicting non-sexual, yet loving and close same-gender relationships including these accounts:
1. The love of Jacob for his son Joseph, their separation, and tearful reunion (Gen. 36—Gen. 47:30)
2. The deep bond of friendship between David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18—I Samuel 20)
3. The account of the life of Ruth, and the bond of devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 1—4)
4. The parable by Jesus about a father's open emotional love for his returning "prodigal son" (Luke 15)
5. The accounts of bonding between Jesus and his disciples, including the special bond with the "disciple that Jesus loved." (John 13:25, John 21:20)
Why Is Homosexuality Gaining Acceptance Today?
With the preponderance of evidence from God’s Word obviously forbidding homosexuality, why is it gaining acceptance and justification within our society today?
As mentioned previously, there are moral, social, and psychological reasons for homosexuality. It is for all of these reasons, that homosexuality has become one of our society's most controversial and openly discussed issues.
Rejection or ignorance of God's Laws is the foundational reason for all of our society's relationship problems—including homosexuality. Rejection or ignorance of God's Laws is leading people into many different sins... which harm the family structure and affect the development of interpersonal relationships. As a result, some people in stressed families, develop homosexual attraction, and try to fulfill their needs through homosexual acts.
Society is more accepting of homosexuality, because God's Laws - explaining the way for human beings to meet their physical and emotional needs—are not properly understood or believed. This rejection of God's instructions is partly due to the false teaching of evolution—leading society away from understanding and respecting God's supreme authority.
Another reason for acceptance, is open discussion about homosexuality, which has led to an increased awareness of human distress. Over time, society has responded to this distress by tolerating homosexual relationships.
Source of Deception
What is the fundamental reason for people deciding not to accept the authority of the Bible? Why has the theory of evolution been gradually accepted instead?
Romans 8:5-7: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh... for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot.”
What do the scriptures reveal about Satan's influence on mankind? (Eph. 2:1-3,2Cor. 4:4, Rev. 12:9)
Coping With Temptation and Reaching Out for Help
JAMES 1:13-15: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death."
1. Where does temptation to do evil originate?
2. Who is accountable? Consider also the last part of Leviticus 20:13 which is quoted above.
3. Must one yield to temptation? Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 before answering.
For some people, resisting homosexual temptations can be very difficult, and also can involve emotional pain. Homosexuals struggling to overcome and live as Christians need the encouragement and support of other Christians, including counsel with caring ministers, to help them to build strong Christian bonded friendships, in order to successfully make changes in their lives. God designed all humans beings with the need for love and affirmation. He does not want people who struggle with homosexual attraction to have to live in isolation, pain or social distress. The Bible reveals that God has a long term compassionate plan that will ultimately make possible, through Jesus Christ, the chance for salvation for all human beings who were ever born. From scripture, it is indicated that the vast majority of human beings will ultimately learn to trust—and experience the kind of loving and fulfilling relationships that God wants for everyone. God will ultimately teach all people—including homosexuals—what His great plan for humankind is. All people will someday learn to fulfill their needs in the way that God will teach them.
1. What do the cultural institutions (schools, colleges, newspapers, churches, etc.) in your community proclaim about the acceptability of the homosexual lifestyle?
2. How do your peers look upon homosexuals?
3. How does God view homosexuality? Is it the same view that your peers have?
4. How should a Christian treat homosexuals?
5. Some say a homosexual cannot change his or her sexual orientation. Do you agree? Why or why not?