Is It True Jesus Never Addressed Same Sex Marriage?

[Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on August 8, 2012.]

Today it is popular among those promoting same sex marriage to say that Jesus never addressed the issue, that He was silent on the subject.  Those who affirm the historical and traditional understanding of marriage between a man and woman often are admonished to go and read more carefully the Bible.  If we do so we are told we will see that Jesus never addressed the issue.  So, the question that I want to raise is, “Is this assertion correct?”  Is it indeed the fact that Jesus never addresses the issue of same sex marriage?

When one goes to the gospels to see exactly what Jesus did say, one will discover that He addressed very clearly both the issues of sex and marriage.  He addresses both their use and misuse.  And, as He speaks to both subjects, He makes it plain that issues of the heart are of critical importance.

First, what did Jesus say about sex?  Jesus believed that sex is a good gift from a great God.  Jesus is pro-sex!  He also believed that sex was a good gift to be enjoyed within a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of marriage.  On this He is crystal clear.  In Mark 7 Jesus addresses the fact that all sin is ultimately an issue of the heart.  Jesus was never after behavioral modification.  Jesus was always after heart transformation.  Change the heart and you truly change the person. Thus when He lists a catalog of sins in Mark 7: 21-22, He makes it clear that all of these sins are ultimately matters of the heart. It is the idols of the heart that Jesus is out to eradicate.  Among those sins of the heart that often give way to sinful actions He would include both sexual immorality and adultery (Mark 7:21).  The phrase “sexual immorality,” in a biblical context, would speak of any sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage between a man and woman.  Therefore, Jesus viewed pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior as sinful.  And, He knew that the cure for each is a transformation of the heart made possible by the good news of the gospel.  The gospel changes us so that now we are enabled to do not what we want, but what God wants.  Here we find real freedom and joy.

Second, what about the issue of marriage?  Is it truly the case that Jesus never spoke to the issue in terms of gender?  The answer is a simple no.  He gives His perspective on this when He addresses the issue in Matthew 19:4-6.  There, speaking to the institution of marriage, Jesus is clear when He says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  That Jesus was committed to heterosexual marriage could not be more evident. A man is to leave his parents and be joined to a woman who becomes his wife. This is heterosexual marriage.  That He also was committed to the permanence and fidelity of marriage is clear as well.

So, how might we sum up the issue?  First, Jesus came to deliver all people from all sin.  Such sin, He was convinced, originated in and was ultimately a matter of the heart.  Second, Jesus made it clear that sex is a good gift from a great God, and this good gift is to be enjoyed within heterosexual covenantal marriage.  It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God’s design and plan.  Third, Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful.  Fourth, it is a very dangerous and illegitimate interpretive strategy to bracket the words of Jesus and read into them the meaning you would like to find.  We must not isolate Jesus from His affirmation of the Old Testament as the Word of God nor divorce Him from His 1st century Jewish context.  Fifth, and this is really good news, Jesus loves both the heterosexual sinner and the homosexual sinner and promises free forgiveness and complete deliverance to each and everyone who comes to Him.  John 7 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery.  The religious legalists want to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and prevents her murder.  He then looks upon the woman and, with grace and tenderness, He tells her that He does not condemn her.  Then He says to her, “go and sin no more.”  In Matthew 11:28 Jesus speaks to everyone of us weighed down under the terrible weight and burden of sin.  Listen to these tender words of the Savior, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  This is the hope that is found in Jesus.  This is the hope found in the gospel.  Whether one is guilty of heterosexual or homosexual sin, one will find grace, forgiveness and freedom at the foot of the cross where the ground is always level.

When I came to fully trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 20, I determined that I wanted to think like Jesus and live like Jesus for the rest of my life.  When it comes to sex I want to think like Jesus.  When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus.  That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage.  It also means loving each and every person regardless of their lifestyle choices.  It means, as His representative, proclaiming His gospel and extending the transforming grace of the gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there.  That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

Apples and Oranges?: Why I Have Not Changed My Mind on Homosexuality

By: Dr. Chuck Quarles (Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, SEBTS)

On February 11, Danny Cortez preached an hour-long sermon to the congregation of the New Hope Community Church. The title of the sermon was “Why I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality.” In the sermon, Cortez argued that the clear prohibitions of homosexual conduct in the New Testament do not really apply today. He claimed that he attempted to immerse himself in ancient homoerotic literature “with a latte in hand.” In the process, he discovered that ancient homosexuality involved violence, abuse, and domination of a subordinate (boy, slave) by a superior (older man, master). By contrast, modern homosexuality is genuinely loving and does not involve such abuse. Using the New Testament to condemn homosexual conduct is wrongheaded. It is simply comparing apples to oranges.

Cortez is certainly right to oppose abuse. But he is wrong in claiming that this is the driving concern of Romans 1:26-27 and terribly wrong is his charge that the traditional Christian rejection of homosexuality is paramount to the very abuse that Paul condemned.

I am puzzled by Cortez’s portrayal of ancient homosexuality and by his interpretation of the New Testament. I admit that I have not chosen to immerse myself in ancient homoerotic literature like Pastor Cortez says that he has. On the other hand, I majored in Classics at a state university and remain a student of the history of the New Testament era preserved in the writings of the ancient Roman historians like Tacitus and Suetonius. Many ancient texts and quite a few ancient artifacts portray homosexuality in Paul’s time quite differently from what Cortez would lead us to believe.

To find an example of a homosexual who willingly adopted both dominant and passive roles in homosexual relationships, one need look no further than the infamous emperor Nero. He castrated a boy named Sporus (not to torture him but to prevent the onset of puberty and thus preserve Sporus’ femininity) and then publically married him in a ceremony with dowry, bridal veil, and all the trappings. After the wedding, Nero had Sporus dress as an empress and treated him in every way as one would a queen. But this is not the entire story. Later Nero later fell in love with an adult free man named Doryphorus and publicly married him. Yet this time Nero chose to act as the bride and have Doryphorus act as groom. Then Nero played the feminine role in their homosexual acts (Suetonius, Nero, 28). Suetonius portrays Nero’s relationship with these two men as characterized by genuine affection. Nero’s willingness to marry the men publically and confer royal privileges on them suggests that the relationship had remarkable similarities to the relationships of gay couples today. It certainly shows the fallacy in Cortez’s claim that in ancient homosexuality “The dominant would penetrate the passive, but it would never be reversed” (c. 36:00 mark).

One might also mention Aristotle’s description of the relationship between two Corinthian men. Aristotle described Philolaus, a famous philosopher and political thinker as “a lover of Diocles, the Olympic victor.” The two homosexual men lived together until the day that they died. They even chose to be buried side by side (Politics, Book 2). These are only two of a plethora of ancient depictions of homosexual relationships in the Greco-Roman world demonstrating that Cortez’s portrayal of such relationships is mistaken.

The error of Cortez’s argument should be obvious to any careful readers of Romans 2, even if they are not familiar with ancient descriptions of homosexuality. Cortez interprets the text as if Romans 1:27 referred to men committing shameful acts with boys or abusers performing shameful acts on victims. But Paul actually wrote: “Males committed shameful acts with males” (HCSB). The translation in the HCSB is very accurate and precise. The sexual act was a shameful act because it involved two people of the same gender, two males, and was thus a perversion of the Creator’s intention for sexual relationships (Gen. 2:24). Paul was not making assumptions about the act involving violence, abuse, or domination. The preceding statement in the verse actually implies that one male was not imposing his desires on another male, but rather the males “were inflamed in their lust for one another.” The reciprocal pronoun translated “for one another” implies mutual desire and reciprocity rather than violence, force, and abuse.

I share Cortez’s concern for comparing apples to oranges. Things that are vastly different should not be equated. When I consider Cortez’s interpretation of Romans 1 and then read what the Apostle wrote under the inspiration of God–that’s when I see apples and oranges. Cortez’s interpretation is vastly different from what Paul wrote. I suspect that the Apostle Paul would be appalled by it. I hope Southern Baptists will be too.rpg mobile online

Defining Terms for a Defining Moment: Homosexuality in the New Testament

By: Charles L. Quarles (Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, SEBTS)

Most readers of this blog are likely aware that Southern Baptists are facing yet another defining moment. On February 11, 2014, Pastor Danny Cortez announced to the congregation at New Hope Community Church in Los Angeles that he had changed his position on homosexuality. Cortez delivered an hour-long message explaining why he no longer believed that the New Testament condemns homosexual behavior. On May 18, the majority of the members of this Southern Baptist fellowship voted to become a “Third Way church” in which members agree to disagree on the issue of homosexuality and exhibit openness to a variety of positions on this moral question.

In his defense of his new position, Cortez raised a few linguistic arguments that I believe require a response. Cortez argued that those who believe the New Testament condemns homosexual practices are misreading the New Testament. They misread the New Testament because they improperly define the key terms.

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