Q: Is there really a right or wrong for sexual orientation / gender identity?
This question is probably on the minds of many people. I wish I could answer this question in a live forum without being recorded, because there is a very good chance that I may offend somebody or even divide the church if I don't answer this question carefully. Posting something of this nature on the internet is probably not the wisest thing for anyone to do.
I don't consider myself an expert on this topic, so I'm asking for some grace on this post. So, for the sake of being safe, I will list the Bible verses used to argue against (A) and for (B) homosexuality. Yes, you read this correctly - contrary to media perception, not all Christians have a common stance on this issue. After I list both sides of the argument, I will simplify the entire argument into one question. Unfortunately, there are no verses about gender identity (or transgender), but the question at the end should apply to this category as well.
Before we dive in, I want to be clear about one thing - we are not talking about gay marriage. That is a discussion that should take place on top of the outcome of this discussion.
God created man and woman.
A: This is a story of the first marriage. Thus, this gives a formula for a healthy family unit. Any deviation from this formula is unacceptable by God.
B: This is a story about God setting up the world for a flourishing creation. We all know that two men or two women cannot procreate. While marriage is mentioned, this is not the point of this passage.
The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two men walk into Sodom, and the townsmen want to gang-rape them. God destroys the city as an act of judgment.
A: This is a story of God's judgment on same-sex relations. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a tale of a civilization that has gone so astray from God that they nonchalantly partake in immoral acts such as homosexuality.
B: In Ezekiel 16:49, the prophet assesses Sodom's sin as the lack of hospitality. In that culture, man raping another man is a form of showing dominance, which is the opposite of hospitality.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
"Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable."
"If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
A: The verse is very clear. Homosexuality is a sin. The best way to read these verses is literally.
B: If you look at its context, this verse is placed in the middle of a list of rituals. Therefore, this verse is pointing to idol worship rituals that involve homosexual behavior committed by heterosexual people. This does not point to people who are gay.
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
A: This verse is important because many claim the Old Testament laws have no weight since Jesus "fulfilled the Law." Here we have a New Testament verse about same-sex relations that is labeled as "unnatural".
B: In its context, Paul is stating that the people who stray away from God will eventually adopt their own moral code. Some have argued that Paul is actually referring to a Roman religious group where adult men (who were already married to women) slept with adolescent boys as an act of worship. Like the Leviticus setting, this is referring to heterosexual people engaging in homosexual behavior.
1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10
"...do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men..."
In a long list, Paul the Apostle lists "...for those practicing homosexuality..." as a sin.
A: Yes, the word for homosexuality in the Greek (malakoi) is not a definitive translation, but we have to put our trust in these translators - they are more qualified to make these educated guesses than us.
B: Some scholars would translate malakoi as "dirty old men."
A: Yes, there are many ways to justify these verse. But if you look at the bigger picture (from the Old Testament to the New), same-sex relations are never put in a positive light.
B: Bible study should inform theology. If there isn't one definitive verse that says being homosexual is a sin (as opposed to practicing homosexuality as a heterosexual), there is no reason to label it as a sin.
The bottom line is, there are great arguments for both sides. Whichever you choose, I don't think this issue should break up the Body of Christ.
According to Bishop Desmond Tutu, there is one question that can determine whether homosexuality is a sin or not:
"Do you believe God created people as homosexual?"
These are Tutu's exact words:
"[Imagine if God said,] 'I punish you because you were born homosexual. You should have been heterosexual.' I can't for the life of me believe that that is how God sees things."
In essence, he is saying that if God created you to be gay, then it's not a sin. It was part of God's plan for that person's life. On the other hand, if God created the person heterosexual, and the person became homosexual due to the circumstances in our lives, then it is not a part of God's plan for you, and should be labeled as sin.
In conclusion, whichever side of this debate you fall on, I hope we can all agree on one thing - we are to love our neighbors. This topic is not worth causing divisions in the church.