For the last several weeks I have been writing on the subject of the Bible and Homosexuality. This study is for Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s Word and who desire to submit to its authority. Thus our main concern isn’t whether a person can be born again and gay, but whether the homosexual lifestyle is right or wrong from a biblical perspective. The issue isn’t whether gay Christians can worship God, but whether that experience is based upon Spirit and Truth. The issue isn’t whether a gay Christian couple can have a monogamous relationship, but whether that relationship conforms to the Word of God. The issue isn’t whether gay Christians can change, but whether we are all willing to be obedient to God whether He changes us or not.
Let’s look at our next passage and state how it has been traditionally interpreted, see how it has been reinterpreted, and the assess the reinterpretation: LEVITICUS 18:22; 20:13
Traditional Interpretation: This section of Scripture deals with unlawful sexual relationships and the punishment of such sin within the Covenant community. Homosexual relationships are included in this list of those activities which were an abomination to God and punishable by death.
Reinterpretation: In a pamphlet published by the Metropolitan Community Church, Homosexuality: Not a Sin, Not a Sickness, it says that the Hebrew word for abomination found in Leviticus is usually associated with idolatrous practices. Therefore, the issue addressed in these verses wasn’t homosexuality per se but the idolatrous practices of the surrounding nations that included homosexual and heterosexual prostitution. So what was being called abominable and punishable by death was not the kind of homosexual relationships we see today but those practiced as a part of idol worship.
Another interpretation along this same line essentially says, that the prohibition here against homosexuality is a part of the ceremonial law having to do with ritual uncleanness. It is to be treated on the same level as the prohibition against having sex with a woman during her period, the eating of uncooked meat, and the ritual uncleanness of a man who has a wet dream, etc.
Appraisal: Let me take the last interpretation first: It is true that there are many things in this section of Leviticus which were part of the Ceremonial Law and are no longer in effect since they prefigured the grace of God in Jesus Christ. He is the One who would in his own obedience and death make us clean from the inside out; “The blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13, 14). However, we understand that the prohibition of homosexual activity is part of the moral law (not ceremonial) because it is included in the context with other sins of a definitive moral nature e.g. incest (18:6-17), bigamy (18:18), adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21), bestiality (18:23). Another reason why we believe that the prohibition against homosexuality is a part of the moral law is that it is repeated in the New Testament, whereas the ceremonial law is not (Rom.1:26, 27; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10). As to the practice of the death penalty for the sin of homosexuality (or any of the others just mentioned), it has been served by Christ. Even Christ himself doesn’t enforce it on the woman caught in adultery.
As to the interpretation which considers that the type of homosexuality mentioned in Leviticus a form of idolatrous practice and not what we have today: the word for abomination (toevah) is not always used to describe idolatrous practices. Prov. 6:16-19 “These six things doth the Lord hate; yea seven are an abomination unto him…a proud look, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, swift feet in running towards mischief, a false witness which speaks lie, and he who sows discord among the brethren.” So, if these practices mentioned in Leviticus 18 are condemned because of their association with idolatry, then could we say that these same practices are acceptable if committed apart from idolatry? I don’t think any serious interpreter of Scripture would ever allow that incest; adultery, child sacrifice and bestiality could ever be permissible. Therefore, contextually, why should homosexuality be permissible?
Next week: ROMANS 1:26, 27