My husband and I love to watch Steven Colbert (and John Stewart). We don’t currently subscribe to cable so we catch up on previously shown episodes regularly through the internet. We love the satirical commentary on current events and the way that they are covered in the media. Mostly, it’s spot-on. The other evening, though, Steven Colbert passed along this oft-heard critique:
The argument plays out this way; “If Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, that must mean it’s OK.”
There are two presuppositions that jump out at me whenever I hear this:
- The only part of Scripture we really need to pay attention to are the words Jesus is recorded as saying.
- Jesus gave a comprehensive list of what is and is not considered sinful – if He didn’t mention something specifically by name, it’s not important for us to be bothered about.
Let’s take a closer look at those assumptions, starting with the first.
What Jesus Did Say
Read and Think Over His Actual Words
I find it ironic that some will argue that Christians are being hypocritical by picking out only certain commandments to obey and leaving out others in Scripture (see “On Meat and Mixed Fabrics”), yet they will turn around and argue that one could pick out only the words of Jesus as having any relevance.
For one, if we actually take the time to sit down and just read Jesus’ words, we’ll all find things that are quite disturbing. The call to holiness, to self-sacrifice, to give beyond what you think you’re capable of doing…it’s all weighty stuff.
I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
~ C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock
Secondly, Jesus valued all of Scripture. He quoted from 24 different OT books (including a few parts that were written about Him.) He kept the commandments and as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, He actually expanded them. For the Lord knows not just the sins we commit outwardly, but our innermost, quiet thoughts. We hear often today about a growing lack of privacy in our culture. But for those of us who follow Christ, we have been living in a kingdom that acknowledges our King’s ability to hear the things we think but don’t say, and to see the things we consider but don’t actually do. The Lord can hear and see all of our inner life as clearly as if it were shown on a movie screen. Christians know that we do not have a private life, and we need to learn to live on a level of internal integrity before a holy God. (And He can and will help us!)
Thirdly – when you read it, you’ll find that there is nothing in the rest of the New Testament that contradicts any teaching of Jesus. On the contrary, the apostles are detailing the application of what Jesus taught into the practical daily life of all believers in the various works collected into the NT. The book of Acts is an historical account of the growth of the early church, the book of Revelation is an account of the vision had by John about the Last Days, and the rest are letters – written to answer questions and encourage new Christians scattered about the Roman Empire. If Jesus had said that same-gender sexual expression is just fine, and one of the apostles later came up and discredited this somehow, that would be a different story.
The second presupposition mentioned above in the “Jesus never mentioned it” argument, is that whatever Jesus did not declare specifically sinful is free game.
Well, that leaves us with a mess. Because Jesus never specifically mentioned incest, nor child sexual abuse – two rather important ones that come to mind. Now, Jesus did teach that we are not to harm children:
And whoever causes one of these little ones (these believers) who acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin, it would be better (more profitable and wholesome) for him if a [huge] millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.
Mark 9:42, Amplified Bible
And we can infer from this that sexual abuse is included as something that harms children.
In a similar manner, Jesus used a blanket term against sexual sin, as in one of the verses we looked at in the last post:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
The term “sexual immorality” as translated from the Greek is porneia, and at times it includes adultery, but here it is set apart from it, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:
(a) of “illicit sexual intercourse,” in Jhn 8:41; Act 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1Cr 5:1; 6:13, 18; 2Cr 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1Th 4:3; Rev 2:21; 9:21; in the plural in 1Cr 7:2; in Mat 5:32; 19:9 it stands for, or includes, adultery; it is distinguished from it in Mat 15:19; Mar 7:21;
This implies that there is such a thing as sexual sin outside of adultery, and we know that includes a number of things.
What Jesus Didn’t Say
The Flip Side – There is Not an Argument from Silence
The only time homosexuality is mentioned in Scripture is in a negative context, in both the OT and NT. The only option for righteous / approved sexual expression throughout Scriptures is within the context of a heterosexual marriage.
Jesus would have had to correct this – He would have had to say something if this was no longer the case, if homosexuality was now to be seen as a righteous outlet for sexual expression. He never did.
There were opportunities, times when Jesus spoke about marriage:
Some Pharisees came to Him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 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.”
I have seen arguments that sexual orientation as a permanent state of being was not fully understood in those days. But that also comes with the assumption that Jesus was not fully God, all-knowing, existing before the universe and holding it all together in Himself.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.
If Christ is ignorant about the existence of same-sex attraction, than He is not God, and no one need pay attention to any of His words.
Truth is woven through the Scriptures, and when one pulls on one thread, even meaning well, it tends to pull apart the entire tapestry. When I come across these types of arguments, I first look into the Scriptures – and again, I encourage everyone reading this blog to do so for themselves. Look to see if you can find any positive references to homosexuality, or any affirmations of same-gender sexual expression by Jesus.
And then I think about what I might be willing to trade off in order to justify myself before a holy God. I cannot live at peace knowing that I twisted the Word to suit myself. It is God who judges, and it’s through Christ’s death and resurrection that I’m justified. He has paid the highest price for me, and for you. We need not look further, for He is love, our hope and stay.