I’m still getting bombarded with comments about the blog on homosexuality. Here is an honest question from a woman wanting to know what to make of Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Romans.
I appreciate your thoughtful explanation of the cleanliness code, as well as the reminder that Paul called the Old Testament scriptures a shadow of God’s bigger picture. However, I’m wondering how you handle Paul’s other words that specifically pertain to homosexuality within the larger arena of sexual sin? For instance Romans 1:24-28:
“24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 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. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
I don’t ask this to be antagonistic. I really do want to know how to reconcile this passage with the idea that today’s understanding of homosexuality has nothing to do with what the Bible seems (at least to many Christians) to teach against.
Excellent question, Laurie.
You answer that question by reading one more verse. The first chapter lists what various groups in the early church have against one another. He makes a long list of what the traditionalists say about the Greeks and what the Greeks say about the traditionalists. Then Paul makes his point in verse 2:1- “Therefore, you have no excuse whoever you are when you judge another, by your judgment you condemn yourself since you do the same things.”
In other words his whole point is to get the groups to stop judging each other and trust God’s grace. Anti-homosexuality propaganda has to leave that verse off to make it look okay for them to judge.
Romans is a call to move away from an ethics based on the flesh (physical rules or physical pleasure) to one based on the “spirit” (principles of our common life). The whole point of the book of Romans is to move away from legalism without losing our concern for justice. As in all of Paul’s writing the point is to leave the letter of the law and awaken to the fruits of the spirit (of love). As he says of this new freedom in Corinthians, “Everything is permitted but not everything is helpful.”
The new purity is not based on what food we eat or parts of the body we touch, but what our lives mean for others. Love will inevitably lead us to righteousness, but righteousness cannot lead us to love.