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An open letter to my gay brothers and sisters

I am sorry

I am sorry.

Far too often and for far too long you have been treated as a leper among us. You are marginalized and ostracized. Our actions and attitudes have communicated to you that your sexual orientation trumps your identity in Christ. We’ve led you to believe your homosexual sins were more grievous to our Lord than our heterosexual sins. Out of our own fears and insecurities we tolerate and at times even participate in making snide comments, telling crude jokes and nodding approvingly of disparaging innuendo. When given the opportunity to guard your dignity, we remain silent. By our silence we give our assent. It must seem a terrible betrayal. We, your brothers and sisters, have sinned against you and against God. I am sorry.

Sadly, our failure to love you like Jesus has no doubt made it difficult, perhaps even impossible for you to hear, much less accept truth from our lips.

However, I ask you, please, do not allow our hurtful words to silence God’s Word. Please, don’t let our failure to be like Christ muffle what almost every Christian in the last 2,000 years has agreed is the clear, life-giving teaching of Christ.

“But that’s just it,” you say, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, much less condemned it.” You are right. Of course, neither will you find any red letters of Jesus addressing incest or bestiality, yet no one confuses his silence on these issues as permission. Could it be that the reason for the Master’s silence and the relatively few biblical passages on homosexuality is because it was an undisputed sin? Indeed, the few but significant passages that do address the issue seem to bear this out. 

Given the painful wounds inflicted by the church – your church – I can only imagine how encouraging it must sound to hear church leaders and biblical scholars offer new, alternative interpretations that affirm and even celebrate committed, monogamous same gender sexual relationships. But for God’s sake and yours, I beg of you to consider with me a plain reading of even just a few of these key passages – the truth is, in every Biblical reference to homosexual intercourse, it is condemned.  

Our actions and attitudes have communicated to you that your sexual orientation trumps your identity in Christ. We’ve led you to believe
your homosexual sins were more grievous to our Lord than our heterosexual sins.

Is the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah really about same-sex sex?
It is now argued that God destroyed the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their failure to show hospitality, not because of their practice of homosexuality. This argument claims that what the NIV translates as a request for sex (Gen. 19:5), is actually a mistranslation of the word yawdah which Hebrew lexicons define as “to perceive, to be aware of, to get to know.”  Proponents of this new argument say the NIV misinterprets the mob’s advances as sexual when in fact they simply wanted to meet Lot’s guests.

However, as Genesis 19:8 makes clear, yawdah is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Using the same yawdah, scripture indicates that Lot, horrifying as it is, offered his virgin daughters to appease the lustful mob, presumably not for a casual “meet-and-greet” but for sex.  

If this really is about homosexuality, then why doesn’t the prophet Ezekiel say so when given the opportunity? He writes, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ez. 16:49).

Certainly, inhospitality was one of the sins of Sodom but it wasn’t the only sin. Just a few verses earlier Ezekiel writes, “You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practice, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they” (16:47). The Hebrew word to’ebah, translated as “detestable,” is the same word used in Leviticus 18:22 which strictly forbids homosexual practice – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” It follows logic that the sin of Sodom was, at least in part, sexual. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, thought so – “Sodom and Gomorrah . . . gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 7).

What about Leviticus 18:22?
So, are we just cherry-picking laws that make us uncomfortable? For example, we make little of the law against a husband approaching his wife during her monthly period (Lev. 18:19) yet we use Leviticus 18:22 to condemn all homosexual practice! 

Again, let’s look at the context. Leviticus 18 is God’s prescription for holiness as it relates to family and sexual activity. Without qualifying the nature of the sexual unions described, God says that incest, adultery, child sacrifice and bestiality are wrong in every case. For example, there is no indication that bestiality is appropriate so long as no animals are harmed in the process or that incest is to be celebrated if it occurs between two consenting adults in a committed, monogamous relationship. To suggest homosexual intercourse is, under certain circumstances, permissible, is inconsistent. Notice how God carefully delineates all the various sexual relationships as sinful (18:7-18), yet does not see a need to qualify same-gender sexual relations. Same-gender sex, regardless of the affections and commitments of those involved, is always prohibited, not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. Aside from the law that forbids a husband from having sex with his menstruating wife, the sexual ethics of Leviticus 18 are affirmed in the New Testament.

Romans 1 and unnatural sex
Is recent scholarship right in suggesting that the “shameful lusts” of those who exchanged “natural relations for unnatural ones” of Romans 1:26 does not refer to a homosexual’s desire for the same gender but rather to heterosexuals who are having same-gender sex? This argument purports that Paul is condemning those whose sexual behaviour is opposite their own “natural” sexuality, whether hetero or homo.   

The problem with this interpretation, however, is that Paul himself seems to disagree with it. He writes, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Rom. 1:27). A heterosexual man is not “inflamed with lust” for another man. If he was, he’d be homosexual. It seems Paul is condemning all same-gender sex, not just that committed by heterosexuals.

Can we celebrate together?
So what now? Can we celebrate your same-gender, committed and monogamous sexual partnership? Will we show our rainbow colours of solidarity on Facebook or march in our local pride parade? No. We cannot do this any more than we can celebrate pornography, adultery or any other sexual sin. But make no mistake, we will celebrate with you. We will celebrate with you and all the angels of heaven when you or any one of us comes to repentance of our sexual sins. We will celebrate with you and also with the deacon who resists daily the allure of pornography, the single adult who battles and wins against pressures of this world to enjoy the occasional “hook-up,” and the husband who hungers for affection from his wife yet declines the sexual advances of his female coworker who is all too eager to give him what his wife will not. Yes, we will celebrate. We will celebrate, side by side, hand in hand, hetero and homosexual alike, the grace of God in our lives that “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

Ben deRegt

  • Ben deRegt, a Canadian, is the pastor of Second Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, where he lives with his wife, Kate, and their two sons.

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