Throughout the world, there are discussions in churches regarding the biblical stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. This debate has spread throughout denominations, and there are differing stances being taken on the topic. This debate happens not because the Bible fails to mention homosexuality, but because the interpretation of verses surrounding the topic is different between churches; some argue that the rules were contextual, while others argue that the rules were ordained by God for all Christians. It is out of this debate over interpretation that the questions of gay marriage arise.
What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?
There are numerous Bible verses dealing with homosexuality. The Bible pointedly states that homosexual relations are not acceptable in the eyes of God.
Leviticus 18:22 – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (NIV)
This verse is sent as a scriptural law to the Israelites. These scriptural laws were given to the Israelites for two reasons: to keep them safe (health laws) and to set them apart from other nations in their region. In the region during this time, there were many pagan temples that included sex as a worshipful activity to the pagan gods; this included the use of homosexual prostitutes. This condemnation is mirrored in the New Testament, where Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)
These verses in 1 Corinthians delineate the homosexual category into two distinct groups. The male prostitutes are stated directly, and then the homosexual offenders are also included. This group is usually interpreted to be made up of the men who are using the temple prostitutes, and those who are living in homosexuality outside of the pagan worship.
However, understanding the historical context, there would be very few – if any – men who would be openly homosexual in the community. In the Jewish communities, those who were not Christians would still be following levitical law, and thus applying the first verse mentioned to their societal views.
Some Gentile communities had different expectations regarding homosexuality’s practice, but the idea of a committed homosexual relationship was not prevalent in the area. Still, the mention of both the male prostitutes and the offenders would indicate that all groups of gay men are covered and judged to be unrighteous based on their practices.
But what about gay marriage?
One of the most prevalent arguments, which was touched on above, is that the Bible was condemning temple prostitution rather than homosexuality. While the argument above stands, there are some logical conundrums that would arise from this statement.
The first problem would be that the Bible only ever refers to marriage as between a man and woman. This is emphasized in the Genesis account (Genesis 2:24), and also is repeated by Jesus in the Gospels.
Matthew 19:4-6 – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. (NIV)
The fact that Jesus re-emphasized this statement is indicative of the intended Scriptural stance on the issue. The idea that God joins the male and female together into “one flesh” shows that he approves of the union; in fact, it explicitly states that he designed male and female to be joined, with the intention being founded with Creation.
This is reiterated by Jesus, who then goes beyond merely reciting the Old Testament Scriptures, to also approving them based on the fact that God joined them together.
This argument is often followed by a statement that the Bible never directly states that gay marriage is wrong, therefore no one can know. However, the homosexuality is seen as detestable in the eyes of God throughout the Bible, and specifically in the Old Testament, where God tells his chosen people not to take part in it.
Even if it is assumed that the passage in 1 Corinthians is referring specifically to temple prostitution, it does not negate the evil of the act as mentioned in Leviticus. Often it is argued that Jesus came to fulfill the law, and therefore the Law no longer applies. However, Jesus states the opposite:
Matthew 5: 17-20 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will 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.” (ESV)
These verses state that though there is freedom in Christ, it does not change the moral expectations of the participant. Essentially, Christ releases us from the punitive sacrifices and punishments of the law through his single act of sacrifice which brought free salvation, but the expectations remain. Thus, the Old Testament laws still stand as viable markers regarding the Bible’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.
The Bible openly states that homosexuality is wrong, and is clear throughout the Old and New Testament that this standard remains in the eyes of God. As such, gay marriage is also wrong, and is a bastardization of God’s intended use of the institution. However, it is important to remember when dealing with this issue that God’s grace is sufficient to cover all sins, and that Christians are expected to live out the Great Commission and Great Commandment to all.