Is homosexuality OK in Jesus’ eyes?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller, 

I have a question about something that was brought up at Judy Shepard’s recent presentation on her son Matthew’s death. Her son was gay and was killed by two other young men out of hate for homosexuals. Judy is a Christian, and with a son whose sexual orientation is by the Bible’s definition a sin, this woman is caught between love for her son and the truth of the Bible. At one point in her presentation a question was voiced over how she felt about this contradiction. Her answer confused me. She said, “the New Testament gives us permission to move away from the teachings of the Old Testament.” She believes that Jesus’ call to love our neighbor regardless of their sins makes homosexuality OK. What are your thoughts on this? I’m a bit confused on how to feel about homosexuality and how to love these people without accepting their way of life as one approved by God. 

Thanks for any insight on this issue, 

Travis

Dear Travis,

Dr. Karin Heller

Your message raises a question on the way we very often come to a conclusion on biblical texts. Is it my personal experience that determines how we should interpret texts? Or does a right interpretation of a biblical text depend on interaction between the author of the text, its reader and the larger Christian community? Martin Luther went with the first option. Only personal experience counts. This choice led to the Reformation and a splitting up of Christians in thousands of different denominations.  The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches continue to stick to principles of biblical interpretation represented by the second option.

It’s not my goal to displease the lady whose son died in such horrible circumstances. But the harshest words on homosexuality can be found in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27). Yes, according to God’s law and Jesus’ new commandment (John 15:12), we are called to love one another as Jesus loved us. Now, what does “to love” mean? It does not mean to disregard sin, any sins, including homosexual acts. Homosexuality is a human condition just as heterosexuality is. Both, homosexuals and heterosexuals, have a sinful nature; both can sin. To love people is not to accept whatever they do or hold. To love as Jesus loved is to show homosexuals and heterosexuals a path to life where all are offered healing from sin, including homosexual acts and sexual sins related to heterosexuality.  This lady just wants homosexuality to be OK! Does she want she and for her son to be totally healed from whatever sin? That’s the ultimate question.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

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15 responses to “Is homosexuality OK in Jesus’ eyes?

  1. Well said. The issue of homosexuality and sexual sin is a much broader discussion than interpreting a few texts. To reduce the moral law, holiness and righteousness down to a few Hebrew or Greek words is dishonest exegesis as well as attempting to flip past 3/4 of scripture to read the last 1/4. I’m convinced that for most people the issue isn’t homosexuality being a labeled a ‘sin’ but the whole concept of sin. We are living in a culture that wants to ignore moral boundaries and consequently any God or scripture that would define them. We are dead center in the redefinition of many things these days, this is just one. Thanks for daring to define…it’s a lost art in spirituality these days and requires much courage.

    • you know, there are people out there who are ineoltrant and dont love their fellow man? I hate people like that. (paraphrasing To Lehrer. *winks*

  2. There was no such thing as committed homosexual relationships in the ancient world. “Homosexuality” back then meant institutional pederasty — a bad thing then, and a bad thing today. (It is still practiced today in some backwards cultures such as rural Afghanistan.) It is not, perhaps, that love between two people did not exist in that world, but that it was not thought of as part of the prescribed way of life in that time.

    So it is highly anachronistic to single out a group of folks and apply to them ancient standards — which don’t reflect real, modern human behavior. Many of things considered sin in the ancient world, we no longer do. Going to the temple with a disability, doing dishes while menstruating, failing to impregnante your dead brother’s childless wife were all considered sins back then. Do we really need to keep hanging these stones around the necks of people who want to live out their private lives in dignity? We truly are in a more advanced age in many other ways. Let’s make sure we keep progress moving forward.

    • Sam, why is pederasty wrong? What makes it ‘wrong’?

      • I would think it’s obvious but okay — it is using a child as a means to an end (one’s own selfish pleasure) when, as we all acknowledge, a child is incapable of truly making that choice of themselves. It is the clearest and most defined sense of the word “rape”.

      • Sam, thanks for indulging me on my ignorant question but determining why something is wrong is a very important question in determining and legislating morality. What one culture claims is ‘backwards’ doesn’t always cross cultures. Age of consent is very different issue in various cultures. Working with refugees has opened my eyes to the very different ideas about family, marriage, sexuality.

  3. The notion that one can be “healed” from homosexuality is also questionable, at best. The “ex-gay” movement and conversion therapy has been implicated in multiple suicides as well as degraded life quality for those upon whom it has been administered. Many groups, including the American Psychological Association, have condemned the practice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_therapy

  4. @Eric I’d prefer not to legislate morality at all. I think the utilitarian approach is generally good, and the approach of not using others as a means to and end is usually good. Qualitatively defining a behavior or group of people as “immoral” in our legal system has, in my mind, led to nothing but bad laws.

  5. Great conversation fellas!

  6. Dr. Heller, I appreciate your response, and also Eric Blauer’s first comment. And as Tracy said, great conversation, everyone involved.

  7. @Sam…yes, the APA has voted for what they voted against. As for legislating morality….do you really mean that? You are against age limits on alcohol and cigarette use and consumption, pornography laws or laws that touch on violence, murder? I’ll stop hyjacking the thread and just agree to disagree, but I really can’t seem to get a grasp on that line of thinking.

    • I am against limits on alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, in fact. I am against laws against what consenting adults do in their bedrooms (or on video). Addition is a disease, not a crime. People’s sex lives (mine and yours included) are none of my business, or yours! We can find that sex abuse of children has a rational, non-qualitative basis. Prohibition laws haven’t done one thing to stop people’s lives from being ruined from substance abuse — but they have prevented people from being able to indulge safely, or to find truly effective, non-stigmatizing treatment.

      And murder? That’s a moral issue? I thought it was a law regarding my right and your right to not be killed. I don’t accept that we collectively need to accept a qualitative, faith-based legal system in order to have a functioning society. Faith and religion are great — I am very religious myself — but I certainly do not want any one particular group’s belief to rule my fate as a citizen.

  8. Sam – You would prefer not to legislate morality? So lawlessness would be okay then. Many of our laws today consist of morality. Most penal code for a start. I don’t believe that is what you meant “I’d prefer not to legislate morality at all.”

  9. I am deeply disappointed in WHITWORTH UNIVERSITY! Time to rethink your BIBLICAL discipline, its not too late!!

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