This blog entry was written a few years ago privately. It is my answer to a stranger on Facebook who happened to be commenting on a Christian site that advocates acceptance of LGBTQ. She reached out to me and asked how I have reconciled my faith with my sexuality and how it involves relevant verses in Romans and I Corinthians. I have other blog entries that touch on this subject, and just yesterday read this shocking article, so I thought I’d share both here today to answer some possible questions one of my 2.78 readers may have. And, for what its worth, the woman who reached out to me had no further questions. 🙂
Response to said FB Person
First, I have not been called to convince anyone of anything. I choose not to debate. I am merely trying to answer, as clearly and honestly as I can, your question. Therefore, I would appreciate if you respect me in that, if you do not agree with what I share, you leave it at that. I appreciate that you may not agree and may even think I am completely wrong. I am cool with that assessment, if it should occur. But it will do me and you no good in sharing it, if it happens to be the case. I do not ask this in arrogance or to belittle your beliefs or even to be intolerant of them; I do it in the spirit of not debating or arguing. Thanks for working with me in that regard.
However, and I want you to be free to do so, I don’t mind questions. If you are sure in your heart that your questions aren’t to lead me to some point you think I should be lead, that’s cool. And I guess I don’t want to set you up to fail, so ask away and if I am uncomfortable or feel like it leads to a debate, I will just say so. Maybe that’s better.
Second, I’ve spent decades getting to this place and it’s hard to summarize it in bullet points and show all the facets, prayers, soul searching, and time with the Lord this encompasses. I know you must appreciate your own life as a Christian and even leading up to your decision to accept Christ – there is so much involved. Even when considering such expansive and yet so simple ideas as Grace, how it applies to the law, and other items that can be such long journeys and one day you get to a point where a light turns on and BAM! And yet others are next to you and are not there yet. I don’t knock those who don’t see things the way I do – that is between them and the journey they are on with the Holy Spirit – and I respect that my views and life and experiences with the Holy Spirit are hard to articulate. Where some scriptures speak so clearly to me that I can do nothing but nod in agreement, I also know others look at the same words and scratch their heads. Predestination is a great example, and I’ve watched “tennis matches” many times between amazing theologians who can prove their respective sides of predestination and free will with tons of scriptures. Alas, I am off topic – thanks for allowing this sidebar.
So, let’s break this down. I apologize, I am very clinical in this area at times, and I am sorry if this is dry.
In a general sense, translation of the verses is a big issue. The original text was written in Hebrew (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament) and only later translated into English. And it was VERY much later; the first English version of the Bible that gained a relatively wide distribution was the Tyndale Bible in 1534 and later still the King James translation in 1611.
In many cases, the ‘old’ English word used in the King James and other early translations had little or no meaning to us today (such as the word “catamite”) or has totally changed its meaning (“effeminate”). Another problem is that in many cases the original text was meant to be used as an example, or in a figurative rather than in a literal sense. For example, we may say today “all eyes on the chalkboard”; in the literal sense the statement asks us to physically place our eyes in contact with the chalkboard. In the figurative sense, this phrase means, “look up at the chalkboard and give me your undivided attention”.
However, to me the biggest challenge is that the English language is very limited when compared to the Greek dialect. This problem can be highlighted with the word “love”, which has three versions in Greek but only one in English. This is not very descriptive and cannot begin to convey the levels of intensity involved. With this in mind, I came to realize that there is a real and logical case that inadvertently during translation, verses have taken on meanings that were never intended. Despite fighting this realization for years, it’s very possible that God’s perfect word may have gotten muddied with man’s attempts to give the Lord a hand in translating His book! I believe this is apparent with the scriptures that many attribute to homosexuality.
I should add that, through this journey, I’ve been given a filter of sorts from the Lord; every interpretation must ‘line up’ with other Scriptural truths and commandments (aka, the law of love). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and “every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Basically, I have relied on the fact that scripture will interpret scripture and my conclusions should make logical sense. If they don’t then I acknowledge I have missed it and need to start again.
Romans 1:26-28 NIV
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
This is the only place where women are noted in the homosexual sense directly in the Bible, so I do take specific and detailed notice of it. First, it is historically proven and universally accepted that the Romans during the time Paul wrote this epistle were very much involved in temple and other sexual activity. This included orgies, temple prostitution, and often involved young boys who were not willing participants. Most of these sexual activities were religious in nature and also included temple prostitutes and pagan rites. In that analysis and context, the texts become a condemnation of pederasty and prostitution, things of which most Christians (conservative or liberal) disapprove even today. There is also the perspective that Paul’s pointing to same sex intercourse as being idolatrous could be referring to the practices of priests and priestesses of Mediterranean fertility gods who regularly practiced that type of prostitution and elevated it, within a religious context, to the state of idolatry. Those approaches are valid and mostly convincing perspectives, but they do require a small leap of logic to arrive at their conclusions. Much less of a leap of logic, mind you, than believing that these texts are about something of which people at that time had absolutely no comprehension, but slight conjecture all the same.
But the real concern and focus for me is, what is “natural”? It’s clear that this scripture talks about “natural” and “unnatural”. Most use this scripture as a very clear condemnation of homosexuality. But when looking at the original Greek, the word here (physikos) doesn’t mean “natural” or “nature” so much as it means “produced by nature.” Those who use these verses as clobber verses tend to understand “natural” to mean something closer to “normal” than “produced by nature.” I know for years I viewed it that way, and was one of the reasons I struggled feeling so guilty about who I am. It is easy, as humans, for us to define what is and isn’t “normal” based on our personal biases rather than on science or the reality of the world around us (“I think gay people make me feel creepy, so that must mean homosexuality is an unnatural act.”).
But feelings aside, the meaning is misused in this verse, in my opinion. The Greek work physikos has more to do with how things naturally occur in God’s Creation. I believe the way Paul used physikos here in Romans, also means something very similar to “the realities of nature.” It is concerned with what is of our nature and not with what is defined as acceptable. That is to say, Paul is concerned with how God created something or someone to be. He is concerned with people going against their nature or in the words of Lady GaGa herself, if they are “born that way” he’s concerned with them behaving as if they were not. Let me tell you, I have 35 years under my belt living in the “unnatural”, trying to appear to be a straight woman in America.
I believe THAT is the real sin noted here in Romans – that I was acting against the very nature of who God created me to be. Or, for a straight man or woman to have sex with a same-sex person! In this case Paul seems to be addressing the idea of a same-sex sex act in which at least one of the two are not attracted to someone of the same sex; they just are not born that way.
Finally, immediately following verse 28, Paul provides an extensive list of sins. It is so extensive that we all fall into at least one of the categories. “So there you have it,” says Paul, “we all sin. Don’t try to deny it.” And let’s face it, we all go against who we know we were created to be. How many times have you done something, felt guilt or shame, and then said, “I shouldn’t have done that. That’s not who I am.”? As Paul says in the very next chapter, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As he also says to start that chapter, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”
1 Corinthians 1:9-10
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians uses a particular Greek word in a particularly way. The word is arsenokoitēs and it means “male prostitute.” Well, that is what some experts have explained. Others have noted it could mean “the customer of a male prostitute,” or “boy molester” or any number of translations or arguments or even insertion of agendas, but who am I to accuse?
So, the word that is frequently interpreted as “homosexual” (which I’ve decided is absurd because, in Greek, it is clearly only a word referring to men) or “sodomite” (which I’ve also relegated as absurd, among other reasons, because the sin of Sodom was lacking hospitality, not being just, bullying, hating strangers, not caring for those marginalized.), is really difficult to translate. Why? In part, because it is only found in two places – 1 Cor and 1 Timothy 1:9-10. And also, in part, because it is entirely possible that it is a made up word. It is very likely that Greek speaking Jews created this word to port a Hebrew word to Greek and over time the meaning has been lost. So, it is just hard to translate. So difficult, in fact, that scholars can’t agree on a single best translation. What most biblical Greek scholars can agree on is that it is not meant to be a blanket statement about a male-male sex act.
For example – of the many translations out there – the above NIV translation “men who are having sex with men” is not exactly accurate. The KJV doesn’t say that at all, it says “effeminate”. The NASB (translated hundreds of years after the KJV in the 20th century) was the first translation that used “homosexual”.
There is another word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9: malakos. The good news about this word is that it is found in lots of literature, so there are plenty of references about its typical intended meaning. It literally means “soft.” Some say it means “soft” as in “effeminate”, but not in terms of sexual orientation. Others, say it is connected with being wasteful of sexual and financial resources. Still others convincingly point to it singling out a particular type of male prostitution involving young boys. Also in the list of contenders: sexual perverts, sodomites, weaklings, the self-indulgent. Malakos was a word that could be used to refer to things as diverse as men who were weak in battle (or who were “soft”), to men who lived extravagant and pampered lives (or who were… well, “soft”). It was not specifically about sexual relationships. If Paul was actually trying to describe something about a submissive male in a male-male relationship (which is still not the same as homosexuality as we understand it today), it’s very likely that he would have used kinaedos, which was frequently used to describe that very relationship. But he didn’t. So, I stopped reading these verses like that was what he was trying to communicate.
In summary, if you want to call homosexuality a sin, go ahead. However, I don’t. And it’s not just my way of justifying my life, it is something I understand intellectually with these studies as well as spiritually over years with my Lord. But mostly, I personally don’t try to convince people of what the Bible says. Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, they are guided by our Lord and He will work it out. I do not want to use the Bible to thump on anyone, to demand that it be viewed as I do nor to use it to suggest gluttons are sinning, those who practice premarital sex are hopeless, or anything else. Even non-Christians have a right to not be brought to alignment with the Bible; Paul is clear that we cannot hold non-believers to the Biblical precepts we observe. While many of these things in life totally make me sad and there are real earthly consequences, that is NOT my job. My job is to love – my neighbors, my enemies, everyone. There are tons that are sure to get it wrong, just like I often do, but I pray for people, wish them God’s great blessings, and go on with my life. And if/when they don’t see things my way, I smile because I KNOW that I am crucified with Christ. I know He holds me in his hands and nothing can snatch me out of them.