If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
The other day I came across a post on a social media site that asked a great question about Christians. It questioned why some Christians ignore most of the Old Testament laws but insist on holding to the biblical commands against homosexual activity? For example, consider the two verses above. The first one says that God's people aren't allowed to wear clothes made of mixed fabrics. Christians today certainly ignore this obscure Old Testament law, but then in the very next chapter of Scripture homosexuality is condemned. Why do Christians insist on preaching this law while ignoring the former? Isn't this hypocrisy? Doesn't this prove that these Christians really are just homophobes who use the Bible to justify their hate?
This is a great question that deserves answering. But before I attempt that, I want to acknowledge that homosexuality and the struggle that those who experience same-sex attraction feel is a very complex issue. It is much too complex for me to comprehensively handle in a format like this. So all I want to do today is to try to help answer this one question. My prayer is that this might help other believers who are struggling with what the Bible says on this topic.
First we must understand that the Bible is divided into two testaments, or covenants, between God and man. The old covenant and the new covenant. The new covenant that God makes with His people fulfills and goes beyond the old covenant. In other words Jesus was a game changer. Under the old covenant God was establishing a physical kingdom on earth through a specific ethnic group- the Jews. So he gave them laws covering everything from morality (i.e. Thou shalt not kill) to civil laws (i.e. The penalty for murder is stoning) to ceremonial or religious laws (i.e. don't wear clothes made of mixed fabrics). It's not that there is something wrong with wearing mixed fabric. It was symbolic of the holiness God was calling his people to. They were to be set apart for God and pure. This law provided for them to be reminded of that every time they put their clothes on.
Now here is the key. As I mentioned earlier, the new covenant fulfills and goes beyond the old covenant. Parts of the old covenant still apply to the new, and parts do not. So how do we determine which parts of the Old Testament are still binding on us today and which are not? If we decide based on personal preference or convenience, then we are hypocrites. But thankfully God has given us several ways we can know if Old Testament laws still apply to us or not.
Two primary guidelines are these:
- What type of law is it? The civil laws applied only to Old Testament Israel. God created an earthly kingdom in Israel. The civil laws applied to that kingdom which has now passed away. This explains, for example, why we would not advocate stoning today. That civil punishment was binding only on Old Testament Israel. We are not bound by it. Likewise the religious or ceremonial laws apply only to Old Testament Israel. These would include the laws about sacrifices for worship. They have all been done away with in Christ. He was the perfect sacrifice. We no longer need any other. The moral laws do still apply to us today, however. They tell us what is right and what is wrong in God's eyes. This does not change. So if a command is part of God's moral law, then it applies to all people in all times. The prohibition on homosexual activity appears to be part of God's moral law. (All other sexual laws from the Old Testament are presumed to be moral in nature with the exception of those that apply specifically to ritual uncleanness in worship.)
- Is the command repeated in the New Testament as binding on us? If it is, then we know it still applies today. Homosexual activity is treated as sinful in several New Testament passages. (See Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-10, and I Timothy 1:8-10).
If all of this is right, then the Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity. This leaves Christians with a decision to make. Will you accept God's Word as true and without error or will you try to get around it someway? Sadly, many have tried to get around it by inventing clever ways of re-interpreting these passages, but these just don't make sense. Others are willing to relinquish their belief that the Bible is God's true Word altogether. They speak of the Bible as being full of errors, and that frees them up to believe whatever they like about a number of issues. I still believe that God's Word is true. This choice isn't based on hate or hypocrisy but on a firm conviction that God's Word is the standard of all truth and that I don't have the right to ignore any of it.
Father, help us to cling to all of Your good Word so that we won't be guilty of the hypocrisy that some think we are.