Friday, December 10, 2004

Jesus taught sexual purity

Commentary by Robin G. Jordan

A major difference between liberals and evangelical Christians is that liberals have bought into a leading premise of secular humanistic psychology of the last fifty years This premise is that it is socially acceptable even emotionally healthy to act on one’s sexual desires whatever the object of these desires as long as one is not causing harm to another or one’s self and the other party involved in the erotic activity is a consenting adult. This premise reflects the view that Judeo-Christian moral values are repressive. They discourage personal fulfillment of the individual and individual personal fulfillment is paramount. The Bible was written by human authors and reflects the cultural prejudices and values of its writers. Cultures change and with them values.

A central message of the New Testament is that personal fulfillment is achieved not through gratification of one’s personal desires - sexual or otherwise - but through obedience to God. This entails the total submission of one’s self and one’s desires to the will of God. To some extent liberals recognize this message. Hence, they seek to show that being homosexual and therefore engaging in homosexual behavior is the will of God for an individual with a homosexual orientation. It is fiercely debated whether homosexuality indeed has a genetical component and how much a genetical component accounts for not only for homosexual orientation but also homosexual behavior. Liberals assume that if God did include a homosexual orientation in an individual’s design, homosexual behavior and homosexual relationships are God’s will for that individual. No consideration is given to the possibility that God’s will for that individual is to demonstrate self control over a tendency to direct one’s sexual desires toward individuals outside the boundaries God has set for normal human sexuality, and therefore to be a model to other believers of sexual purity.

Homosexual behavior is condemned in the Scriptures. Those who seek to claim that God’s will for an individual must fall back on highly questionable arguments like "God created me this way". Or the writers of the Bible did not have the knowledge that we have today. Or the Bible says nothing about sexual activity between two individuals of the same sex who love each other and are living together in a committed, long-term relationship. As Robert Gagnon and others have shown, homosexuality was not unknown among the ancient peoples of the Mid-East or the Israelites themselves. The ancient Greeks had speculated on whether homosexuality is innate. New Testament writers like Paul were not unfamiliar with the kind of homosexual relationships we see in our society. The Bible does not address the issue of gays living in a loving, committed long-term relationship because the Scriptures condemn homosexual behavior period and therefore they do not envision the possibility of such relationships. As for Jesus’ purported silence on homosexuality, Jesus identified among the evils coming from the human heart and defiling the human soul pornia, or sexual immorality. At the time of his earthly ministry pornia, - rendered in older translations of the Bible as "fornication" or "unfaithfulness" and in more recent translations more accurately as "sexual immorality" - was understood to include illicit sexual relations of all kinds including homosexuality and lesbianism. Jesus’ audiences would have understood his teaching as referring to erotic activity between members of the same sex. Jesus in his teaching also equates the thought with the deed. It is not only sinful to have sexual intercourse with one’s neighbor’s wife, it is also sinful to look upon her with lust in one’s heart. Sexual thoughts and fantasies about a member of the same sex are just as sinful as sexual activity with a member of the same sex.

Liberals unfairly stereotype evangelical Christians as prejudiced and homophobic – having a deep-seated animosity or unreasoning fear of homosexuals. All evangelical Christians are lumped into the same category as extremist Freddie Phelps and his clan who do display irrational hate toward gays and lesbians. It is often asserted that if evangelical Christians were less bigoted and more enlightened like their liberal brothers and sisters and had more personal experience of gay people, they would be more accepting of homosexuals and homosexuality. This is rather presumptuous on the part of liberals since many evangelical Christians are well-informed on the subject of homosexuality and do know gay people. They come into daily contact with gay coworkers and neighbors, have gay relatives, and - yes - even have gay friends.

Some evangelical Christians are openly hostile toward homosexuals. But it is extremely presumptuous on the part of liberals to assume that because some evangelicals are, all evangelicals are. Indeed, liberals have not only shown a tendency to over-generalize but also to regard all views that are not outrightly pro-gay as hostile.

A number of evangelical Christians do not know how they should relate to gays. On one hand, they do not want to be seen as unloving. On the other hand, they understand that the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior of any kind is detestable to God and a grave sin. Liberals and gay activists have added to their confusion by asserting that acceptance of homosexuals goes beyond acceptance of the individual but entails acceptance of the individual’s homosexual behavior. This view is promoted by the gay community and reflects its unwillingness to view homosexual behavior as it is viewed by the Bible.

Acceptance of the sinner but not the sin is what Jesus modeled for his disciples. Jesus did not avoid sinners. He sought them out. He mingled with them and he ate with them. At the same time he did not condone their sinful behavior. He called them to repentance.

For the gay community and for the liberals who adopted their view, however, it is not enough that we must accept the sinner. They demand that we must accept the sin too. The gay community chooses not to view homosexual behavior as sinful conduct and itself a community of sinners in rebellion against God. Since the 1960s the gay community has actively sought to promote this view of itself among the general population. Modernist views of the Bible have a strong appeal to gays, as does secular humanistic psychology with its rejection of Judeo-Christian moral values. These views enable them to dismiss as outdated the moral values affirmed in the Bible.

Gay activism has its roots in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The sexual revolution can be traced in part to secular humanistic psychology and secular humanistic psychology in turn accounts for the popularity of the sexual revolution. Secular humanistic psychology itself has been strongly influenced by modernism. The relationship has been reciprocal with modernism piggy-backing on secular humanistic psychology. Theological liberalism has been open to both movements and they have greatly impacted theological liberalism.

The message of the Old Testament is that the people of Israel as God’s chosen people were called to a higher standard of conduct than their neighbors. They were expected to observe a higher standard of sexual purity and a higher standard of social responsibility including compassion toward the last and the least. They were not to live as the Canaanite peoples lived. They were called to worship the one true living God and not a multitude of gods and goddesses like their neighbors or the Egyptians in whose land they formerly lived. Orthodox Bible scholars like Craig Evans and Luke Timothy Johnson in the mainstream of contemporary Bible scholarship have shown that, despite the claims of those on the radical fringe of contemporary Bible scholarship such as the Jesus Seminar, Jesus of Nazareth stands squarely in the tradition of the Old Testament. Jesus taught sexual purity and not sexual self-expression. Righteousness – personal holiness and godliness – coupled with compassion, forgiveness, and complete devotion to the God of Israel are overarching themes of Jesus' teaching. Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of the Torah and the Prophets. Archeology, literary discoveries like the Dead Sea scrolls, and reassessment of the economic, political, social setting of Roman-occupied Palestine have done much to establish the essential reliability of the Gospels and the closeness of the historical Jesus to the traditional view of the Son of Man.

The view of human sexuality that liberals embrace is clearly at odds with the teaching of Jesus. The Nazarene taught that marriage is a relationship between a woman and a man. Sexual activity outside of marriage is outside the boundaries God has set for human sexuality. In helping forward the ordination of men and women involved in homosexual relationships, the celebration and blessing of same-sex unions, and the legalization of gay 'marriage', liberals are showing that they are really not disciples of Jesus. The cause that they are furthering is not that of the Son of Man. What did Jesus himself say, "Those who are not for me are against me..."

Yes, we are to seek out gays and lesbians, make friends with them, and invite them to our churches. Yes, we are to welcome them when they come. And at the right time, with gentleness and love, we are to call them to repentance and sexual purity as Jesus would have us do- as he would have us call the unmarried couple living together and the adulterous husband or wife. One cannot be a friend of Jesus and a friend of sexual sin.

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