Jesus on Homosexuality

Posted by Pastor J.D. on January 31, 2011

We can be sure that Jesus viewed homosexuality as a sin. How do we know? 3 ways:

1) Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but fulfill it. There were dimensions of the Jewish law that do not carry over into Christianity. But Christ told us He fulfilled the law, not reneged on it. As He explained, He heightened its morality (Matt 5:17-20); fulfilled its signs, made good on its promises and gave substance to its shadows (Luke 24:46-47). He did not come hat in hand conceding that Old Testament God was backwards and uninformed. Leviticus says that God finds homosexuality “detestable” (Lev 18:22). God did not change, morally, in the New Testament. What God finds detestable one day He does not suddenly find agreeable the next. Now, if anything, Jesus says, we have a morality that now supercedes, and not contradicts, the moral law (Matt 5:17-21). Certain ceremonial shadows and social codes were fulfilled in Christ, but He did not, in any way, come to revise the God behind the law.

But why, you ask, didn’t Jesus speak directly against homosexuality? Simply put, He assumed the moral tenets of the Mosaic law, as did the people He spoke to. He also didn’t directly speak against bestiality, genocide, child molestation, or gang rape because these things were assumed, based on the Mosaic Law, to be sinful. You cannot separate His teaching from its Old Testament backdrop. His every word, He said, has its anchor and meaning in the Old. It is true that Jesus said that the Great Commandment was to “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:37-38) but note that He said in that same passage that that “Great Commandment” was the summation of the OT law. In other words, the OT law was an expression of what it looked like to love God and love others. “Love God and love others” was an abbreviated version of what the OT law gave in longer form.

To say that because He never mentioned it we should assume He’s ambivalent about it is the logical fallacy of “argument from silence,” and in this case its a really bad one that completely ignores Jesus’ context.

2) Positively, Jesus affirmed the Mosaic on marriage as between a man and a woman (Matthew 5:32ff; Mark 10:7-11, et al). Jesus’ morality was more a positive assertion than a negative delineation. Jesus gave us a positive vision of sexuality and marriage, which is a man and woman in consensual, lifelong commitment. What falls short of the positive ideal is “sin.” In fact, that’s literally what the Greek word for sin (hamar) means: “to fall short of the mark.” Thus, any form of sexual deviation from that (polygamy, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage) is considered sinful.

3) Jesus’ followers, to whom he committed the job of explicating his teaching (John 14:26), were more than clear on the issue when it became relevant to address. As opposed to Jesus’ Palestinian context, in Paul’s context, the Greco-Roman world, homosexuality was a real issue. So we should not be surprised Paul was clear on it. He called “women giving up natural relations and burning in lust for one another,” and men doing the same, a sign of God’s judgment (Romans 1:26-27; cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11 and 1 Tim 6:10).

Thus, what you see is that ANY place where homosexuality is an issue, whether in Moses’ time (the Canaanites) or Paul’s time (the Roman world), homosexuality is explicitly called sin.

For this reason, we do not believe this is an issue Christians can divide over and still stand together in fellowship like they can on so many other issues. If we are correct that Romans 1:26-27 is indeed talking about homosexuality, then there is no way it can be an inconsequential issue to us. The God we claim to love says it is an abomination to Him, and we can’t say that we love God and have fellowship with what He finds abominable. Think of it this way: What do you personally find abominable? Could you be in open fellowship with someone who practiced that very thing? We love both God and the homosexual too much to turn our head to what angers the one and destroys the soul of the other.

This does NOT meant that we can’t be friends with people who are homosexuals. As the Apostle Paul explains, Jesus was the friend of sinners, starting with us! Our sin was an abomination in God’s eyes, and we were ourselves worthy of His judgment (Romans 6:23), and He loved us enough to come to earth to live among us, befriend us, and die for us. This means that we can’t stand together with someone who claims to represent Christ and openly embraces what we believe put Him on the cross (1 Cor 5:1-13). We welcome people to our church, and into our lives, who are homosexuals, but we can’t embrace anyone in a ministry leadership capacity who lives in what we believe to be defiance of His word.

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If this makes you really mad, let me remind you that sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity. The gospel is. If Jesus’ teaching (or my explanation) on this really bothers you, punt it for a while. Jesus’ central message was not instructing us in a political platform, but saving us from ourselves. Study Jesus; and, if you conclude, as I have, that He is Lord, then you can and should surrender to Him in all things He teaches, whether you agree with Him or not. So take time to consider that first, and don’t be segued by secondary issues. Sexual mores were not the center of Jesus’ message, and so they are not the center of our ministry, either. The cross and crown of Jesus are the center. Start with His cross, undertaken for you, and then move your way out to the less important matters. Jesus of Nazareth welcomed into His presence all manner of people struggling to figure out who He is, and we welcome you to our church, as well.

There are many things I still find offensive about Jesus, but the more that I know Him, the more I become convinced that His way is the right way.

And, on this journey, you are welcome at our church… not to use a cliche, but it is a “safe” place where you can suspend the questions about sexuality and just learn about Jesus. We are committed not to isolating or judging anybody. Come and learn about the beauty of Jesus, and let Him lead you.

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

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  1. Biblically Understanding Homosexuality « Brandon Nichols' Blog - October 20, 2011

    [...] Jesus On Homosexuality: Another great blog on what Jesus taught on homosexuality. This one is written by JD Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, NC. [...]