But Levitcus Says ...
I do not by any means claim to be a scholar when it comes to the Bible. I fell upon this Web site while I was trying to learn more about the Bible.
I come to you to pose a question, not to arouse an argument. I was very curious to understand your point of view on the law of sexual morality that states, "A man should not lie with a man as he lies with a woman. It is an abomination." Leviticus 18:22.
Now, again, I do not claim to understand the true meaning of this, but it sounds pretty clearly to be in regard to homosexuality. This is in the same passage that states man should not sleep with animals or their daughters, not that I am comparing homosexuality to pedophiles, but I am really wondering if I should. The language in the Bible does not become bold or harsh when discussing children or animals, and it does not become meek when discussing homosexuality.
I would really love to have a response back from you. I would really like to have a complete understanding of the Bible and as a pastor, you certainly do have much more knowledge on the subject. Please respond. Again, this email is not to insult, just to understand.
Thanks for your time,
I do not take your questions as an insult, as it seems to me you are trying very hard to understand the issues. My dear child of God, let me give you a several of answers from writings, notes, teachings and my own thoughts over the years of ministry.
In Leviticus 18:22 it is written: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (NIV) That in face does seem very clear. But look at the surrounding context, and something else comes to light in this verse. Leviticus 18:6-18 deals with having sexual relations with relatives. Verse 19 says a man shall not have sexual relations with a woman during the "uncleanness of her monthly period." (How many of today's Christians actually obey this?) Verse 20 condemns having sexual relations with another man's wife.
Then, verse 21 changes directions and begins a sermon-like discourse on sexual relations that are associated with the worship of Molech. Molech, like many false gods of the day, had temple prostitutes, and Molech's followers believed that having sex of any kind in the temple would please Molech and increase the fertility of themselves, their spouses, their livestock, and their fields. Verse 21 mentions the sacrifice of children to Molech. Verse 22 should more accurately read "Do not have sex with the male temple prostitutes," which would continue the admonition in idolatry. In fact, the entire Chapter is about idolatry. Consider Chapters 17 and 19, which both speak of idolatry. Why would a writing about sex be inserted here out of the blue in between two chapters on idolatry unless it also is meant to address idolatry? If we look at Chapter 18 as a whole, and verse 22 in context to the whole chapter, then this verse must speak of idolatry and false worship in some manner. Therefore, it is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but rather a condemnation of the sexual promiscuity of the many idol-worshipping sects in the land the Israelites were coming into.
If you hold Leviticus' statements as being a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, do you also obey the rest of the old law? It is written: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it [all of the law]" (James 2:10). So a person who adheres to the law must adhere to the whole law, which is contained in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Those three books contain the core of God's laws.
So let's look at some of those laws:
If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. (Deut. 24:5)
Does anyone keep this law? Could you manage a whole year without a paycheck?
The war effort in Iraq might have a problem when a soldier comes up to his commander and says, "Sorry, sir, but my wife is pregnant and the book of Deuteronomy demands that I go home for a whole year now." Any man whose wife becomes pregnant is here told that he must stay home for a year without working or else he is guilty of breaking the law!
Do not hate your brother in your heart. (Lev. 19:17)
Don't hate your siblings, even while growing up, or else you have broken the entirety of the law.
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (Lev 19:27)
Don't shave! Ever!
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. (Lev 19:32)
If you do not stand in the presence of your elders, or get rude or disrespectful with someone older than you, you have broken the law.
No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. (Deut. 23:2)
So no one who has been born out of wedlock or born from a marriage that was not approved of may enter a church, nor may any of his or her descendants for ten whole generations after. Who checks this? Who would know? How could this one ever be kept?
This is where it becomes more interesting:
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother, and his blood will be on his own head. If a man commits adultery with another man's wife -- with the wife of his neighbor -- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev. 20:9-10)
Anyone who talks back to their parents must be killed for it according to the law!
Anyone caught in adultery must be put to death also! It is in the law!
Yet it seems Jesus attempted to change the understanding of the law as he practiced his ministry on earth. In John 8:3-11 we see Jesus show what law we are truly under:
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
But Jesus bent over and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'
'No one, sir,' she said.
'Then neither do I condemn you,' (my italics to point out she was in fact guilty but...) Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"
In this Jesus shows us that the law saves no one; all are guilty of breaking the law of Moses. The fact of the matter is simple: nowhere does Christ Himself say anything against homosexuality. He speaks of the Ten Commandments, lifting the Sabbath commandment, as it had become a yoke upon the people. Consider Matthew 22:36-40:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
So while the verse you mention and ask about appears to be devastating to gay folks, it really has nothing to do with gay people as we know them today. Further, to take this one verse or law and ignore all the rest seems just a bit hypocritical don't you think?
Finally I would refer you to this page of the Whosoever website that deal with homosexuality and the Bible.You'll find an abundance of information and links to help you in your further studies and understanding of this issue.
More Seeds of Hope Letters
Rev. Turner is Sr. Pastor at Gentle Spirit Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you are seeking guidance and pastoral care on your journey to fullness as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person, please contact Pastor Paul directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.