The issue of homosexuality was brought to the forefront of the national stage via the decision of the United States Supreme Court when it handed down a ruling declaring that homosexual “marriage” was a right hidden in the Constitution.
Within a short time, many articles were written and circulated concerning how Christians should respond to this ruling. One such online article that seemed popular among some was titled, “What Would Jesus Say to the Gay Community?” It contained such observations as Jesus would say that He loves all people, understood rejection, and would be there for homosexuals when they chose to try the life he offered.
While well meaning, the article suffers, as articles of those kinds always do, from the attempt to put words into the mouth of another. Often, such attempts become little more than projections of the author’s own viewpoints.
Of more relevance to the Christian is the question, “What did Jesus say?”
Some suggests that Jesus never addressed homosexuality, but, while it is true that He never singled it out by name, Jesus had much to say pertinent to the subject. So let’s look, not at what Jesus would or might say, but at what He is on record as having actually said.
Jesus addressed homosexuality in two ways. First, He addressed the topic through synecdoche, that is, a figure of speech where a part signifies a whole or the whole represents all the parts. In this case, the whole of the Law of Moses stands in for those parts that address homosexual conduct. The Law of Moses condemned the action in no uncertain terms (cf. Leviticus 20:13).
Concerning the Old Testament, Jesus said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19). He also said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do,” (Matthew 23:2-3) giving further weight to the authority of the Law, adding elsewhere “The Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35) Moses condemned homosexuality and Jesus agreed with Moses’ Law as Divinely inspired.
Secondly, Jesus argued that God had created a pattern for sexual relationships within marriage saying, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-5)
Jesus’ view on marriage was that it was a divinely appointed institution for all men, and a pattern that man should not seek to corrupt. (cf. Matthew 19:6) The pattern being authoritative for all men, it therefore logically excludes all other possibilities. This would include homosexuality, but also adultery, premarital sex, multiple spouses and most divorce. All those things that fall outside the marriage pattern are sin, and Jesus condemned sin as that which would keep men out of heaven, saying, “You will die in your sin. Where I go [ie. Heaven] you cannot come.” (John 8:21)
The message of Jesus to homosexuals today would have been the same message Jesus preached to those homosexuals of His day. It was the same message He preached to prostitutes, tax-collectors, drunkards, adulterers and thieves. Jesus told them, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17) and warned, “unless you repent, you shall surely perish.” (Luke 13:3)
He wanted His followers to preach a similar message, telling them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47) And repentance was indeed the message preached by the apostles (cf. Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 26:20, etc).
Jesus was a man full of compassion. We note the tender way in which He handled the woman who was caught in adultery. But we should also recognize that His last words to her were, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) His message today remains the same — sin, in all of its forms, must be renounced if men are to be saved.
The church of Christ is committed to the words of Christ, regardless of what other men teach or do, and we invite you to come study and worship with us as 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.