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Dec. 14, 2022

Bonus Episode 58: The Bible's Blessing Of Same Sex Marriage

Have you ever wondered if you could be Christian and gay? Or if you could be Christian and support and love people who are gay? The answer is YES. This episode digs into the scriptures to reveal God's acceptance and blessing of same sex relationships and marriage.

Have you ever wondered if you could be Christian and gay? Or if you could be Christian and support and love people who are gay? The answer is YES. This episode digs into the scriptures to reveal God's acceptance and blessing of same sex relationships and marriage.

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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

Melissa Ebken  0:00  
Hi friend, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. Today is a really important episode. I want to talk about a topic that's difficult for so many people. The question, can I be Christian and be gay? Or the question, can I be a Christian and welcome and support and bless other people that are gay? These two questions, divide our society and divide our churches, battles are being waged in Washington, DC over these issues. They're being waged in churches. They're being waged in the social media space all over.

So let's take a look at what the Bible has to say. Now, as you know, the Bible has a lot of passages that would seemingly condemn same sex marriage and partnerships. But that's not a deep understanding of what the Bible says the Bible has a lot of passages that don't make sense when we lift them out of their historical context and read them literally. So if we approach the Bible as a literal book, where we had to look at every single passage, read it literally, and base our life on that literal reading, we wouldn't be able to do it. There's too many things in the Bible that are specific to a certain historical context. So today, I want to take some time and talk about how to read the Bible, how to understand what the Bible is saying. How to look at contextual clues. And do you have an understanding of what the biblical authors were saying in their time how the people who read those passages or more accurately since it was an oral tradition to begin with, how the people who heard those teachings would understand and interpret them. And this is important, because we tend to put a modern day understanding on an historical record and an historical document.

To start off with, the Bible isn't just one book. It is a library of books. The Bible consists of a plethora of books in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures, or First Testament. And the New Testament, the New Testament is specifically written to talk about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and how the church uses those teachings. So we have a lot to go through. And there are a lot of different people in a lot of different places and a lot of different contexts that are receiving these teachings and understandings. So I want to break down how to approach the Bible for a greater understanding. And my premise is that the Bible not only allows for same sex, marriage and relationships, but provides a blessing for those loving relationships.

Now, as we do our investigation, here are some goals that I have in mind, one, all of the Bible is to be considered. If there's one aspect or one verse of the Bible, after using these methods that would condemn this relationship, then we have to honor that. So the main goal is a reading of the entire Bible, there will be no disregarding any passages that we don't like or disagree with, all of the passages get included. That's the primary goal. And the second goal is that we are going to use accepted methods of biblical scholarship to do this study. What does that mean? Well, no passage will be ignored or disregarded. Scripture will be used to interpret Scripture. What we mean by that is, when there are difficult passages, we're going to look to other parts of the Bible to guide us in our interpretation and understanding of those scriptures. And the acceptable practices for biblical scholarship include using literary criticism tools, for instance, form criticism. Form criticism is what type of writing is it? We use this daily in our lives? If you read a newspaper, and we don't these days, but it's still a great example, if you look at a newspaper, there are editorials, there are news articles, and there are comic strips. We understand that each of these are written and interpreted in different ways. So if we read the editorials as if it were a news story, we're going to be reading opinions as fact. And that's an important distinction to know. So we read those with a different lens, so to speak. The comic strips, we would not read the comic strips in The same way we would read a news story. That's called form criticism. Literary Criticism, there are so many different types of, of tools that folks in literature use to read and understand different books and writings. The Bible. If it is the Bible can withstand any of these filters. A lot of people say it's the Bible, you can't look at it askew, you can't look at it as you would read any other book, I would say because it's the Bible, because it's a religious and sacred text, it has to be examined. If it can't stand up to any type of scrutiny, then it would not be a sacred writing, it would not be truth, truth can withstand any type of criticism thrown at it.

So to discern the truth from the Bible, let us put all of our tools to work. And specifically, the one I want to use today is historical criticism. What that does is it looks at the setting and the context for when something was written. We're looking specifically at the Bible, we're looking at the people who heard it, who said it, and who interpreted it at its time of inception. And then we are going to see how that is applicable to our life today. So those are the goals to unpack the Bible and see what it says about same sex marriage and relationships. We're going to look at all of the passages. I'm not going to read the whole Bible today. But we're going to consider all of the passages. And when we're done, if even one remains that condemns homosexual activity, then we've got to say, no, the Bible does not stand for it. We're going to use the entirety of Scripture. And we're going to use approved and time tested methods that scholars have been using for hundreds of years to approach the Scripture.

Now, we're going to begin with another method. But before we get there, let me say a little bit about myself. I am Melissa Ebken. I am a pastor in the Christian churches, Disciples of Christ Tradition. I received my training my master's degree training at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. This is a Disciples of Christ related seminary, I studied under Dr. Lisa Davidson, and Dr. Jerry Sumney. Those were the Bible professors who taught these methods who are published, well published in respected in biblical scholarship circles. Today, I'm going to use the tools that they have taught and they use and that other academics use in this pursuit. But also, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. Mark Achtemeier wrote a book entitled The Bible's Yes To Same Sex Marriage. And in this book, he has used these tools, and he has done the scholarship. So instead of reinventing the wheel, I'm going to go through his conclusions and examples that he gives, to give a demonstration of how to approach and read the Bible for greater understanding and for faithful living. Again, if you take the Bible, literally, you cannot uphold all the verses. If you try to live with a literal understanding of the Bible. You can't live faithfully, it just can't be done. And that'll become clearer as we go along. However, when we use historical criticism to understand these passages have their roots in the ancient context, that gives us a clearer idea of how God approaches all of us through the biblical writings.

Why is it important to use a historical critical approach to reading the Bible? If we try to read the Bible, literally, we can't live faithfully. Here are just a few examples. First, from Leviticus 21:18-21. It says anyone with physical flaws and disabilities cannot come to the temple and offer sacrifices. So those verses would say anyone that has any kind of disability lies outside of the care and worship and acceptance of God. Does that hold true for you? For me, neither. I think there needs to be an investigation of the context for this passage. Likewise, in Leviticus 26:27-29, the punishment for disobedience to God is that we will be required required to eat the flesh of our sons and our daughters. Let's not take that verse literally, let's look, let's not throw it away. The point of this is not that we throw out verses that we disagree with. The point is we need to embrace the entirety of the Bible. But we need to look further into the context of why these verses exists, what they meant to the people who heard them and understood them, so that we can derive meaning for today.

In the New Testament Ephesians, 6:5 and Colossians 3:22, these verses, uphold and affirm the practice of slavery. We are wholeheartedly aware in this modern day and time that the practice of slavery is abominable, it is abhorrent, slavery is not acceptable. But if we are to take the Bible, literally, then we would have to uphold all of these verses, we can't pick and choose, if we're going to have a literal interpretation of the Bible, then we have to enact and uphold every verse of the Bible. And we cannot decide which ones we will and which ones we won't. So to live faithfully, we need to dig deeper so that we can embrace the entirety of the Bible. That's why it's important to apply historical and critical methods to understand the context of these verses. Otherwise, you're not living faithfully. If you pick and choose the scriptures you will use and throw out the others, then that is not a life based on the Bible that is a life based on what feels good and sounds good to us, not on godly instruction. And that's what happens when we take the Bible literally.

So let's dig deeper, and build and cultivate a biblical foundation for our faith. First, I want to talk about John Calvin. Is there a precedent for looking for a greater understanding a modern understanding from a biblical context? Yes, John Calvin was a reformer in Europe at the time of reformation. And his question was, how can we look at the biblical abominations? Or how can we look at the biblical abolitionists against charging interest to support a modern day society? Clearly, the Bible says, You cannot charge interest. So we live in a society now where interest is just part of life. If you are watching this video, if you are living in this society, you are participating in the using of interests and charging of interest. If you have a retirement account, if you are contributing to Social Security in the United States, or if you have a loan or have any money in a bank, anywhere, you are participating in charging and receiving interest, the Bible is clearly against that. So how can we be faithful Christians, and live in a society with these parameters? We have to look at the Bible through a historical critical lens, or we would stand in condemnation. The Bible says it is against God's teachings and law to charge interest. And yet we do. So how do we get to that conclusion?

John Calvin was the one who did scholarship on this particular matter. He looked at the Bible to understand who was saying that interest can't be charged. And that was clearly command from God that that could not happen. And he looked at the context for how that was. And in the ancient world, there were rich people, and there were poor people. The concept of charging interest came about when the poor people could not make it through the the winter seasons or through the difficult season, they would need to get a loan to survive that last little bit until they could continue to get the resources they need. So there was an abolition against charging interest to poor people because that would compound their problems and not help them. So the Bible is very clear. One cannot charge interest. It is unlawful, biblically speaking to charge interest, because it was a cruel practice. It would keep those who were seeking relief, it would keep them from getting what they needed, and it would send them into a worse situation. Now, what Calvin realized is, there was no concept of a merchant class in that society. In the society he lived in, there was a growing middle class of people who were wealthy, wealthy people wanting to borrow money. That was unheard of why would a wealthy person in the ancient world need to borrow money? They would not. But as there's an emerging merchant class and middle class, this became a need. The economy could not grow, unless there was an opportunity to borrow money. And interest became a part of that. Now, it was still unlawful Calvin concluded to charge a poor person interest in that situation, but for a middle class merchant person, a wealthy person, to get a loan to start a business and to expand that business from other wealthy people. That was not against God's teachings. So Calvin concluded that interest practices practices of charging interest on loans and benefiting from interest on loans that others are taking out, was an acceptable practice for that situation.

So we have an example there, of how a biblical scholar looked at the ancient scriptures. And the context within there, understood the background of what that what that scripture was about the context for the people it concerned, and then looked at our modern day context, and made an application. So there is precedent for doing this work. That's where we're going to jump in and start looking at these passages.

Let's talk real quick about the goals of marriage. In the Bible marriages introduced in Genesis, when Adam and Eve were the first ones that the Bible mentions, the ideals of marriage come from that first encounter. So the goals of marriage, the ideals of marriage, is that two human beings form a loving relationship, where in that relationship, they come to a more deeply profound understanding of God. So the marriage relationship was always designed for people to grow in their knowledge and understanding of God. It is through self giving love, that we come to this understanding. Do marriages, do heterosexual marriages, let's just start there, measure up to this ideal? Rarely, if at all. We don't meet the ideal, but that is what we strive for. In marriage, we have a partner with whom we commit to, to live this life with. And through that partnership, the ideal is that we learn how to, to self sacrifice for the other, not demand a sacrifice from the other. But it's through self giving love, that the marriage ideal, that growing in relationship and understanding of God, that approach to the image of God grows within us. So the goal of marriage is to grow in that understanding and ideal of approaching that image of God and understanding of God.

So does that require two different genders to do so? No. Two people of the same gender, or one of each gender can be in a relationship of self giving love, in order to grow in a relationship to understand that ideal image of God. Now, some people might say, Yeah, but what about having kids? Okay, well, let's read the scriptures. Again, having kids isn't the path of redemption. Having kids is a wonderful possibility. Yes, Be fruitful and multiply. But the Bible does not condemn marriages that don't produce offspring. In fact, the Bible blesses marriages that don't produce offspring. There are many examples in scripture of marriages that are childless. So that does not bring condemnation. So you can have a partnership, a relationship, a marriage, of self giving love that works towards that ideal of understanding that image of God and not have children. So those two understandings right there the goals of marriage. So far, we're in a good place with the promise of same sex marriages. So far, so good.

As we consider these goals of marriage, it's also helpful to think about other issues with the command to be fruitful and multiply and have children. There's also an issue of adoption. For that, let's look to Jesus Himself. Jesus was adopted. Matthew, the first book in the New Testament gives a genealogy through Joseph, Jesus' father. Joseph adopted Jesus, and he becomes part of that family. So right there, we see how adoption is a valid entry into populating the earth to being fruitful and multiplying. Along with being childless, there is also adoption, these are both well within the parameters of what God not only allows, but blesses.

So if you're still hung up on the same gender aspect of these, let's look at how God interacts with the, with patterns that aren't, let's just say normative or mainstream. So of course, the normative pattern would be the man and the woman entering into the marriage. That's what we're going to look at. But let's look at other places in scripture where God considers other pathways of blessing that are in addition to the normative, if you will. And the biggest and most significant of this would be the inclusion of Gentiles into the overall plan of salvation that God presents in the Bible. When Jesus came, was crucified, was resurrected, this was all within the Jewish community. In Acts we read, where Peter has a dream about what God had made unclean, God now declares to be clean. In Acts chapter 10, Peter goes to a home of Cornelius, he was a Roman centurion, he was Gentile. He had asked Peter to come to his home, because he and his family wanted to be baptized, and become a part of the faith of Jesus Christ.

And this was huge. This may seem insignificant to us now. But this almost rocked the the church, the early church to its core. Jews and Gentiles were bitter enemies. They did not mix at all. Gentiles were looked down upon, they were not included, they were outside of redemption, they were a not a part of the faith, that of God. So for Gentiles to be included into the faith, completely turned upside down. All that they knew all that they understood all that they had been taught, generation by generation by generation, for hundreds of years, they were taught to be separate from the Gentiles. And now God is undoing all of that, to include the Gentiles. This was huge. But they saw that this was how God's Spirit was moving. The people that in the Gentile household exhibited the same gifts, the same Holy Spirit that they themselves had. And so they only could conclude that God, God was working in ways beyond what they imagined, and Gentiles were included then, in the covenant in the blessing of God. So God takes what is the normative pattern, and also provides other pathways for redemption. And what's important to note in that example is the Gentiles were not made to repent of being Gentile, they were not required to become Jewish in order to be accepted. They were accepted as Gentiles. Now it wasn't an anything goes. There were patterns of or there were requirements to behave well to love God to love people and to treat people as they should be treated in a godly way. But they could allow that for Gentiles.

Another example, are would be people who are born deaf. Hands were made with fingers and opposable thumbs for grabbing, and grasping and manipulating items. Hands were never made for language. That's what our mouths are for. However, those who are born without the ability to use their voice, they use their hands to communicate. Not what hands were made for. So why aren't we excluding them because they're obviously using parts of their body in a way that they were not designed to operate in order to live and contribute in this world. God provides a blessing, that is an acceptable path, you can be deaf, and use sign language, and not be excluded from blessing. That just kind of makes sense to us. But yet, we would hold a different standard for other parts of our bodies. But let's just keep an open mind there for a little bit, that when there's a normative pattern, like using our voices to communicate, and others cannot follow that pattern, that God provides another pathway of acceptance and blessing.

So with all of that in mind, now let's turn to these troubling passages and see what we can learn. Let's begin our scriptural analysis with the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis. The story begins in Genesis 18, when the Lord said, how great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin, I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me, and if not, I will know. So in chapter 18, of Genesis, God is sending dispatching messengers to go check out Sodom and Gomorrah and see what the deal is, what is going on there. Now, what we need to know is that hospitality was huge in the ancient world. Stick with me here, I know how that sounds, hospitality, whatever. But we're talking about a time and a day, when there was no recourse there wasn't a police station to go to, there was no central authority, you could turn to you if you were wronged. The only response you had, if somebody stole something from you or somebody committed a crime against you is you would round up all of your family and you would go out and wipe out all of them. By the way, that's where the eye for an eye and tooth for tooth admonition came in from that was to limit the carnage. If somebody stole some apples from you, you did not go and kill their entire family, you would keep your justice on the same scale. But this was the world they lived in. They were completely dependent upon their people in order to survive. So if you were a traveler in the ancient world, good luck.

So hospitality was a hugely important principle. You were to be hospitable to the people that came your way. So let's move to our story now of Sodom and Gomorrah. God sent two angels to go check this out. They approach the town of Sodom. Abraham's nephew, Lot, is there to greet them. And Lot, as is his requirement is to open his home to receive these guests. That is what godly hospitality was all about. Now, everyone else in town, smelled out a foreigner in their midst and wanted to punish them. No foreigners will be here. Nobody who is not one of us is allowed in our city. That was the big crime of Sodom, and its neighboring city Gomorrah. So these two messengers, these two angels, get to Lot's house. Lot welcomes them in and the others in the city surround the house, and demand that the visitors be turned out to them for them to punish, sexually. They are going to gang rape these visitors to teach them that nobody comes into their city that doesn't belong there. That does not seem godly to me. Whether that is heterosexual or homosexual, that is not acceptable. Punishing gang rape is not a part of God's plan. It does not matter if it is homosexual or heterosexual it is not acceptable.

So from this, let's go a little further. Lot pleads, on behalf of his visitors, he says, Hey, I can't give you these visitors. I have some daughters. Why don't you take some of them? Here we have two different possibilities. These Angel messengers, first of all, they were angels, but they were visibly male. Lot offers his daughters visibly female, the condemnation is the same, punishing gang rape is not acceptable. That is the crime in Sodom and Gomorrah. From that we don't outlaw sexual relationships between heterosexuals. So we cannot say that we need to outlaw homosexual relationships based on that story. It was punishing gang rape, gang rape, punishment, torture that was at stake here. So far, we cannot say this passage condemns healthy homosexual relationships. If so, then we also have to say it precludes healthy loving heterosexual relationships. There's nothing in this passage that would say otherwise. So there is a plea from the townspeople that said, those guys had strange skin. Well, of course they did. They're angels. They're not human beings. So they flee from the city. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by hellfire, and so forth and so on.

This passage does not give us any kind of license to say that healthy homosexual relationships are not acceptable. If so, we also have to condemn healthy heterosexual relationships based on that passage. And there's nothing in the passage that would indicate the abolition or restriction of either, it does say, however, that gang raping, punishable, punishing gang right behavior is not acceptable. That's the lesson we get there.

So let's look a little further into this. Let's go to a similar passage from Judges. Let's consider this next fragment passage from Judges 19:1-30. This passage makes me sick to my stomach. But in this passage, there was a man who had a concubine, a female slave that he used for his sexual pleasure. She ran away from him and went back to her father. He chased after her, went and got her and started the trip back to his home. It was a long journey. So he had to spend the night in this town. And the Bible tells us that it was Benjamites, who lived there. So people from the tribe of Benjamin lived in this place. He went to the city square, and no one would take him in. Finally, there was an older man who took him into his house and provided for him to spend the night. And again, the same story people of the village surrounded his home, and demanded that the foreign man that was in his house be sent out so they could punish him by gang raping him in a punishing way. Because they would not tolerate foreigners in their midst. And the man pleaded with them and said, No, I have a daughter, take her, I have a virgin daughter, take her and take this concubine instead. And the men said, no, they live here. We want that man that foreigner we will punish him. Well, the man of the house, took hold it the concubine and threw her out on the streets. And they raped her and abused her badly, to the point where they threw her back on the threshold when they had finished with her, and she was dead.

So when we have this passage, and have that next to the Sodom and Gomorrah passage, we can see the brutality that was present. These passages aren't about loving homosexual relationships. They're about brutal sexual punishment. And then the Judges passage, we see that it was a heterosexual punishment. In Sodom, it didn't happen they fled. So from these, if there's any conclusion to draw any admonition to draw against a sexual relationship, we again would have to say that no sexual relationship, heterosexual or homosexual would be allowed because these passages show a brutality that is, makes you sick to your stomach to consider.

So from this we don't have any admonition against either healthy heterosexual marriages and relationships or homosexual marriages and relationships. What we do have is a brutal depiction of a central place that would gang rape foreigners punishingly so that they would not be in their city. So from these passages, we cannot conclude that there's an admonition in the Bible against homosexual marriages and relationships.

Well, let's continue our investigation. Let's look at Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13. So the first one from Leviticus 18, it says, you shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination. And look at Leviticus 20:13, if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination that shall be put to death, their blood guilt is upon them. Okay, so when this is lifted out of Scripture, it sounds pretty condemning of homosexual relationships. So let's look at the context and break down what is happening here. In the Sodom and Gomorrah, passages, we saw that there was a condemnation against rape. And that isn't an abomination against healthy relationships, be they heterosexual or homosexual. So can the same kind of thing be happening in these two Leviticus passages? Let's take a look. Now to do this, let's take into account the rest of Scripture. What other scriptures are there in the Old Testament that refer to same sex relationships? And the only unambiguous description in the entirety of the New Testament other than what we've discussed so far, is the idea of male cult prostitutes. And these activities played a role in the idolatrous worship rites of pagan tribes surrounding the nations of Israel. And reference to these cult prostitutes can be found in Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46, and 2 Kings 23:7. So the only other reference in all of the Old Testament is to cult practices involving male prostitutes. So let's look at that. And what that means because that's the context for this passage. When we dig into this, what we find is that the only context for male and male sexual relationship, is pagan cult practices. It would be a misreading of the scripture to read this as happy and healthy homosexual male relationships. Those did not exist. There was no concept of that in the ancient world.

We have ideas of what marriage and romantic relationships are today in our modern world. But those did not exist back in that day. Marriage was not a coupling of two happy people who decided they fell in love and wanted to build a life together. Marriage was a contract. It was it was absolutely necessary for women to get married in order to survive. Women could not own property, they could not own anything, and they had no rights in society. The only way for women to survive in the ancient world was to have a husband and or a son. Both are preferable because that husband is going to die. So marriage was a contract for women to survive in those days. Also, it was a contract that allowed people to gain wealth. It was nothing to do with loving relationships. So there's no way we can take our modern day understanding of what marriage is and apply it to those times. It just didn't exist.

Let me show you a ridiculous example of this. We could look at Acts 15:25. And that verse says it seemed good unto us being assembled with one accord to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. Now if we look at that passage through a modern lens, it might say that Honda Accords are the only acceptable vehicles because they are being assembled with one accord. That's ridiculous, right? Obviously, they had no concept of cars at all, let alone Honda Accords. So it would be ridiculous to read that modern understanding into that ancient scripture. It is the same way, when we take any kind of modern understanding and read it into the historical situation. Marriage built on that kind of love just wasn't what happened in the day.

The only same sex relationships that happened in that time were the cult practices of pagan tribes. So these were tribes that are that were not a part of the covenant. These were pagan festivals, pagan practices, and pagan practices were outlawed by God. There's a good reason for this, because also a part of those pagan practices included child sacrifice and human sacrifice at large and many other practices that are obviously not a part of a godly life. All of these were outlawed to do anything tha Throughout their history, they had a problem with allowing pagan practices into the temple itself even. And that's why they were harshly judged because they would turn away to God and start practicing the religious practice of these other neighboring countries and their cults.

So as we can see, these Leviticus passages refer to the cult practices of these other Gentile pagan tribes. It's not speaking about healthy homosexual relationships, that concept didn't even exist at the time and a homosexual relationship or a heterosexual relationship. There were heterosexual marriages, obviously. And I would like to hope that maybe some of them were happy. I don't know. But that's not what they were built on or why they existed. So we can't apply a modern day understanding and read that into an historical document. These Leviticus passages then refer to cult practices outside of the scope of the covenant people. Here again, we don't have a ban on healthy homosexual loving relationships. Nor do we have anything that would have a ban on healthy heterosexual marriage relationships. We have a ban on rape, punishing rape, or not the punishment of rape, but a punishing rape, that is admonished and outlawed, thankfully. And also an admonition on practicing the cult practices and religion of other neighboring countries.

So far, we have no evidence in the Old Testament fragment scriptures of anything that would ban this understanding of healthy and loving homosexual relationships.


In other places, in the Old Testament scriptures, we have three kind of far out examples that people might look at, to say that this is restricted behavior. The story of Noah and his son Ham, after the whole Ark story, Noah was a drunk, and Noah was passed out drunk, his son Ham came in and violated Noah. And some people say that is the condemnation of Ham. There is evidence that homosexual relationships and marriages are not allowed. Okay. I would say that perhaps the violation here is a drunken violation of an unconscious father. So I think that's a pretty far fetched story to try to use to justify a condemnation on on a loving homosexual relationship or heterosexual relationship. But again, the sex in the story is a violation. It's not consensual or self giving. It's not within any kind of normal bounds. It's an incestual, again, rape because Noah it didn't give consent. He was passed out drunk. So I don't think that example will really meets the criteria for a judgment against homosexual relationships.

Others might point out the relationship between Naomi and her daughter in law, Ruth. These were two women who traveled from Moab to Israel back where Naomi was from during a time of famine. And they were very close. But there's no mention of sexual activity between the two of them.

Another story is David and Jonathan. Again, they were very close friends. And the biblical narrative describes them as loving one another profoundly, but no mention of sex. So yeah, in these two stories, I see examples of great friendship. And there's no condemnation of this friendship relationship anywhere in the text. So those also don't pass the muster of a ban against homosexual relationships in marriage.

As we began our discussion in the New Testament passages, these scripture fragments that would have been used to justify a judgment against homosexual marriage and relationships. Let's look first to Jude five through seven. These chapters in Jude refer back to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. And in the story, I think we can altogether conclude that the punishment was just there, that city should have been destroyed, that the crime was rape, and punishing rape. Rape meant to send a message to teach a lesson to harm and destroy anyone who was foreign. Absolutely. That is condemned. Absolutely. That is condemable behavior, and has no place in a godly life. So that reference from Jude again, refers back to this discussion that we've already had about the behavior in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now, it's also important to note as we go through these New Testament passages, that there was no concept of sexual orientation in the ancient world. That's, again, is a modern day understanding, reading into ancient scriptures. Let's look at what sexual practices were happening and in relation to the passages that referenced them.

Let's move to Paul's discussion in Romans 1. In Romans 1:24-27, these verses are often used to condemn homosexual behaviors and relationships. And they're pretty explicit. It says, for this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions, their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural in the same way also the men giving up natural intercourse with women were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons that due penalty for their error.

Okay, this seems pretty condemning. So let's unpack this and see what's going on in this passage. First of all, in this part of Romans, Paul is building an argument that self righteously passing judgment on pagan neighbors, is not a godly practice, that God alone is the one who provides and passes judgment. You know, it's kind of a really, we're gonna use the passage that talks about you're not allowed to pass judgment on others to pass judgment. I don't know that that raises to the level of that we're looking for here. I don't think it does. So we need to look a little further. Because these verses seem pretty straightforward and convincing that there is judgment here and that it's not allowed. I don't think this rhetorical bit rises to the level of interfering with that. So let's look again, at the historical context of what was going on.

As we've discussed previously, with the Old Testament passages, the cult practices had had prostitutes, that practice different sex, same sex practices, all of that, and we've discussed already the condemnation there that you don't do the cult practices, you don't practice in any way the religions and practices of other pagan communities. So there's that.

The only other place in that society where same sex sex was happening was in these relationships, this Greek system of pederasty. What is that you ask? Well, let me tell you. Pederasty was a practice where adult men would quote unquote, mentor young men in return for sex. Yeah, really disgusting. This was pedophilia. This is where men that were adults would basically pay for sex with kids with male children, not acceptable today, not acceptable, then, although it happened, it still happens today, it still happened then. And that was the only other reference for same sex activity other than the cult practices. So when someone heard about same sex relationships, they had two understandings of what that meant. That meant worship that was practiced by other countries that included all sorts of horrid things that were banned by God, and not being loyal to God. And the system of pederasty where adult men paid for sex from young men. Do either of those sound like a healthy marriage relationship? No, they do not. But again, these passages do not cut the mustard for banning healthy, same sex relationships or heterosexual relationships. The sex that was practiced in these passages were disgusting, even today. And it has nothing to do with consensual, self giving love found in marriage, whether it be homosexual people or heterosexual people. Again, we have nothing in Scripture in these passages that refer to a prohibition of these acts.

Let's turn our attention to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. And in these two verses, we have a list of vices that are not allowed. They say do not be deceived. Fornicators idolaters, adulterers, male prostitute, sodomites, thieves, the greedy drunkards, revelers, robbers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Okay, the original Greek language here has two words that have reference to same sex behaviors. And again, those are like we've discussed before, to cult practices that were outlawed, and to the Sodom and Gomorrah type behavior, which we've already discussed pretty in depth. So again, neither of these passages talk about same sex loving relationships. There's nothing new here that we haven't covered already, that would provide any condemnation.

And looking at 1 Timothy 1:10, we see another vise list, a list of behaviors that would leave one outside of the blessing of God. And once again, just like the previous passage, we see references to the sex trafficking that was happening, and to worshiping the practices of worshiping other gods, which we've already discussed. No references at all to healthy, committed same sex relationships, and partnerships, nothing rising to the level of condemnation. And again, a loving homosexual relationship wasn't even conceived of during these days. It wasn't even something possible or real real that just they didn't exist at this time. And all of these references refer to practices that were contrary to being a good human, to practicing the worship of other gods, to gang rape. None of these things are acceptable. None of them have any word or consideration of loving self giving marriage relationships, be they heterosexual, or homosexual.

Going back to our original goals, one of them was to use scripture to understand and interpret other scripture. When we read the scriptures, we see that God came to us in Christ, to teach us what we were to strive for, what God's intentions were. And that intention is to have a life of self giving love. Jesus gave his whole self, for the church, for all of those people, for all of us, for you, and for me, and for everyone else, so that we would be reconciled to God. Marriage is an opportunity to to grow in that capacity. It's an opportunity to give of ourselves in a way that we sacrifice as self sacrifice, that we grow in understanding and imitation of Christ. So far, there's nothing in these scriptures and these fragments that are often used to condemn homosexuality, that would indicate that a loving homosexual relationship, a relationship built upon consensual self giving love is under any condemnation.

And in fact, we see many patterns throughout scripture where God acts in ways that are not consistent with human thinking, to provide blessing. We briefly discussed how God works outside of normative behavior to provide another path of blessing for others. And throughout Scripture over and over again, we see that God provides a blessing, I have found nothing in my study of these passages that would condemn homosexual behavior.

And what I do see in Scripture is a story that includes, a story that loves, a story that provides blessing, a story that that demands of us that we love God, and that we love people. And the highest form of love, is consensual self sacrifice.

Now, that is available if you were single, as well. And in fact, the Bible offers some passages that says that you are equally acceptable and blessed by God if you were single. And Paul also talks about some of the merits of being single. But if we place that command on people to have to stay single, that is outside the biblical interpretation as well. Paul argues that only a few are called to that life, that only a few are called to the chaste life. And if you're not in God's will, if you're not in God's calling on your life, then that does not lead to a life that bears fruit, for God and for people.

And that can come in many ways. If you are called to be, let's just say a teacher or a preacher, and you are not following that calling on your life, then your life isn't going to be one that bears fruit. To conclude this discussion, I would like to consider some of the characteristics of a godly life as described in the scriptures. We are told in John from Jesus himself, that He is the vine and we are the branches. That to abide in him is to abide in the vine, and that apart from that vine, we cannot thrive. So there is some sense of power that comes in some sense of blessing that comes from living within God's will for us. And there's also an understanding that when we are outside of that will, that we won't have that spiritual flourishing. To have a flourishing spirit requires that we are living within God's will for our lives.

So I invite you to consider those who are gay and try to live by a fundamentalist teaching that they are condemned, that they have to stay single, that they cannot have love in this life, do not flourish spiritually. In fact, the opposite is true. They're often depressed, and there are high rates of suicide among that group of people. People who were told that homosexuality is a sin and they are condemned and they're outside of God's blessing, have miserable spirits. Now, if that was in accordance to God's will and plan, that would not be the case. There are a significant number of gay men and women who have tried to live faithfully according to the church's the fundamentalist Church's teaching, because not all churches teach this and it's not fair to lump it all together. But there are a number of churches that preach that it is a condemnation to be gay. That you are outside of God's blessing and will for your lives and that you have to be single, you have to either be in a heterosexual relationship or none whatsoever. And the number of folks who try to do that are miserable. Their spirits do not flourish. Their spirits dwindle and die, as if they have been cut off from the source of their sustenance, which indeed they have.

However, there are folks who are gay, that who live in godly ways. They live with mutual love for each other. They love God. They love people. They respect others in their lives. They uphold commandments. They live lives of vitality. Their spirits flourish. They prosper in ministry and in other aspects of Christian community. So who's to say that they aren't in the will of God, because all of the evidence would say that their lives are bearing fruit. And Scripture tells us that to bear fruit, we are living in God's will. And in fact, if we are living apart from God's will, we will not bear spiritual fruit.

So all of these things, the study of the Scriptures, the understanding of Scripture, interpreting scriptures, all of these things would lead us to an understanding that it is indeed a godly act to be in a mutually consenting, self giving relationship, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual.

And let's make no mistake here. There are a whole lot of heterosexual relationships that are not godly relationships. It is how we act in those relationships. It's how we regard the treasure that is ourself, and the treasure that is the other person. It is a way that we honor God and seek after God and put God first and all things that in relationships, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, when we have mutual consent and self giving love, we grow in the image of God within us, and then our understanding of blessing.

I have provided an overview of how to approach the Bible and to read the Bible for greater understanding. I would strongly encourage you to investigate this further. Grab a copy of Mark Achtemeier's book, The Bible's Yes to Same Sex Marriage. There he goes into detail in all of these fragments, passages, and other scriptural understandings and concepts that we've discussed. And then ask questions of yourself. Does this make sense? How is God speaking to you in this process?

I thank you've for taking the time to listen to this podcast, I would invite you to share it with others for whom this would be a blessing. Thank you.

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Melissa EbkenProfile Photo

Melissa Ebken

Pastor, Author, Coach, Consultant, Podcastor

Melissa is at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to walk with those who struggle and suffer. She is a trained coach and has consulted with churches in conflict. Her current pursuits include founding a Virtual Assistant training academy, forming a ministry co-op to better serve small churches, supporting nurses to thrive in stressful climates through building emotional intelligence, and guiding people who are ready to lean into and overcome difficult challenges and experiences in their lives.
She authored a book Teach Us To Pray: An Ancient Model For a Modern Day, and hosts the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.