What Jesus Said   Leave a comment

It’s popular today to say that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, so it must be just all right with Him.

For we, as Christians, pay particular attention to the words of our savior. Jesus said nothing regarding homosexuality, and in his ministry spoke more about the sins fo the spirit than the sins of the body. …Our reading of the Bible in its entirety is one of a loving, forgiving and nurturing God who wants us to help create a world that accepts and empowers us all.” (Letter to the editor, (Episcopal) Rev. Penelope Duckworth, Stanford Daily March 1990).

That’s true. Homosexuality is not specifically addressed in the four gospels. However, to assume that Jesus was neutral on the subject ignores a mass of indirect evidence to the contrary. It is Biblically sound to say that God’s love and grace is available to gay men and lesbians. Jesus extended mercy and forgiveness to men and women from all walks and circumstances of life. For example, turn to John, Chapter 8.

“Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.'” (John 8:1-11)

A few things are clear here. Jesus released this woman from all past and future condemnation while at the same time silencing the self-righteous, prudish arrogance of the Pharisees. But don’t ignore His last statement to the adulterous woman: “go, and do not sin again.” The gift of forgiveness and reconciliation Jesus granted to this woman required that she mend her ways and lead a different lifestyle thereafter. It wasn’t that she hadn’t sinned. It was that He forgave her sin upon condition that she in faith did not continue in sin.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)

Jesus demonstrated a similar depth of compassion regarding divorce, but He firmly endorsed the central importance of marriage in society:

“Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.’

“The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.'” (Matthew 19:1-12)

Jesus implied marriage was for life and divorce only permitted under the exception of adultery. The disciples were startled at the standards Jesus indicated when He quoted Moses as authoritative. A single life might be better, they said. Jesus responded that a celibate, single life, “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” was acceptable.

Jesus made no mention of homosexuality as a third option for those who might have been “born that way.” He didn’t suggest that all have a right to choose their own “sexual preference.” He did not give us the slightest reason to believe that every individual has a God-given “right” to his or her body, to do with it what we wish. Instead, he presented a picture of marriage which is at times difficult and demanding, but is the only relationship where sexual expression meets with God’s approval. Those who prefer to remain single are to live as “eunuchs,” that is without expressing their sexual desires.

One reason Jesus said nothing specifically about homosexuality is that “gay lifestyles” were virtually unknown in Israel in His day. It’s always important to remember that Jesus lived in a culture. While God was certainly aware of the larger Greco-Roman cultural practices, Jesus’ audience was not. Everyone knew and understood the acceptable standards of their culture. Even suggesting heterosexual activity before marriage was scandalous enough that Joseph almost put Mary away for becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-24)

Despite what some folks want to believe today, Jesus didn’t come to set aside the Old Testament and the Law of Moses. When He argued with the Pharisees and scribes, it was always over their extra-Biblical rules (a complicated web of taboos and strictures that circumscribed every action of daily living), not the actual Law of Moses. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

Jesus invariably upheld the authority and applicability of the teachings and Law of Moses. In fact He interpreted Moses in a manner which intensified the demands of the Law, that moved it from being a physical morality to being an inward holiness. It’s important to understand that the Law reveals the moral character and the holiness of God, attributes which do not change. The purpose of the Law of Moses was not and is not to produce good moral behavior, but to call all of us to understand our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness:

“…a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

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