WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ON HOMOSEXUALITY

Perhaps the title of this article is a bit deceptive, because the Gospels don’t actually record Jesus specifically addressing the issue of homosexuality. This is not surprising, because Jesus was a Jew who ministered predominately to Jewish people, and the Hebrew Bible was very clear in prohibiting homosexual practice (Leviticus 18.22; 20.13).

It is no coincidence that Paul, who worked primarily in a Greco-Roman context, was the one who addressed homosexuality (Romans 1.18-32; 1 Corinthians 6.9-11; 1 Timothy 1.8-10), because a wide variety of homosexual practice was common in the ancient Greco-Roman world and would have been well known to Paul.[1] It was not a widespread cultural practice of the Jewish people, however, and thus, was not something Jesus specifically addressed.

Having said that, we know enough about Jesus’ life and teachings to make some confident claims about what Jesus would have taught about homosexuality.

Jesus would have emphasized God’s design for sexual intimacy.

One of Jesus’ more unpopular teachings comes in Matthew 19.1-12, where He discusses marriage and divorce. There, He greatly limits the practice of divorce, saying that sexual immorality is the only basis for divorce and remarriage. Furthermore, Jesus roots that teaching in God’s plan at Creation: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Jesus’ appropriation of God’s original ideal displays His understanding of the only appropriate context for sexual relations: the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. That context excludes all other contexts and steps on the toes of a lot of people. In a culture of serial divorce, it emphasizes the commitment and faithfulness of the marriage relationship. In a culture characterized by rampant premarital sex, it reserves sex for marriage. And yes, in a culture that increasingly accepts and even advocates homosexual activity, it limits sex to married husbands and wives.

Jesus emphasized God’s design for sex and marriage, and because of that, He would have condemned widespread divorce…and extramarital sex…and homosexual behavior.

Jesus would have understood the reality of temptation.

Jesus knew about temptation. Hebrews 4.15 says that He was tempted in every way as we are, and Matthew 4 and Luke 4 both recount a 40-day period that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Those temptations yield a couple of important theological truths. First, since Jesus was tempted but was also sinless, that means that temptation itself is not inherently sinful. Second, since Jesus Himself was tempted, that means that He understands what temptation is like; He sympathizes with our weaknesses.

These truths are of great comfort to those who struggle with homosexual feelings and temptations, but desire to live according to the teaching of Scripture. Temptation is not sin; it is giving into that temptation that is wrong. Furthermore, although Jesus does not excuse sin, He does understand that people—even those who are striving to follow God’s will—will succumb to temptation from time to time.

Jesus understood the reality of temptation, and understanding that reality, He would not have belittled people, shunned them, or made them feel inferior because of the temptations they struggle with.

Jesus would have loved those caught up in sin.

In John 4, we see Jesus interact with a Samaritan woman who had been married multiple times and was currently shacking up with a guy she was not married to. Despite the woman’s despised ethnic background and dubious moral character, Jesus does not shun her: instead He takes the time to engage her in real conversation and addresses her real needs in life. In John 7.53-8.11, Jesus refuses to lead the charge to execute a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. Instead, His words to her accusers lead to her pardon, and He then tells her to go away and sin no more. In both situations, Jesus showed genuine interest in the sinful women. In no way did He offer approval of their sin, but neither did He leave any doubt of His love for them.

Too often, in the case of those who practice homosexuality, we let our fear of giving the impression that we approve of sin prevent us from forming real relationships with them and showing them that we love them.

But Jesus didn’t fear that. He loved those who were caught up in sin, even when it brought criticism upon Him. He showed that it was possible to love people without approving their sin.

What Jesus would have done tells us much about what we, as His followers, should do:

(1) We should emphasize God’s plan for sexual intimacy, and consistently speak out against those behaviors that ignore that plan, including divorce for any and every reason, extramarital sex, and homosexual practice.

(2) We should understand that the temptation to sin is to be distinguished from the practice of sin. We should not belittle nor alienate people because of the temptations they feel.

(3) We should love those who are caught up in sin. We don’t approve of sin, but neither do we let the fear that others might think we approve of sin prevent us from loving people.

[1]Mark D. Smith, “Ancient Bisexuality and the Interpretation of Romans 1:26-27,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 64 (1996): 223-56.

Luke Dockery serves as the Associate Minister for the Farmington Church of Christ in Northwest Arkansas and is also a student at Harding School of Theology, where he is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree. Luke loves teenagers and is devoted to helping them come to deep and mature faith in Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Caroline, have been married since 2006, and they have two young children, Kinsley and Seth. In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his family, reading, playing ultimate frisbee, and cheering for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

8 Comments
  1. Reply
    Don Wilkerson November 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Thank you, Luke. We need to talk about this topic more. In no way is the homosexuality way of life approved in the Blble. We must love souls, but not their sins. The world may approve of sin, but we must remember who the Prince of this world is.

  2. Reply
    Don Wilkerson November 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Amen!

  3. Reply
    Greg Carlton November 10, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    That was a good analysis, only you should know that Christ did directly address homosexuality thru revelation of his word to Paul. There is no speculating on what Christ might have said, rather His revelation to Paul states what his opinion on this subject was.

    • Reply
      Luke Dockery November 13, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Hey Greg,

      I certainly did not intend to give the impression that Paul’s words on the topic are not authoritative; sorry if you took it that way.

      There is a sizable contingent of folks (some who would classify themselves as believers, others not) who will argue that Jesus never condemned homosexuality and thus, it is not wrong. It was that argument that I had in mind when I wrote this article, and most people who make that argument would not agree with what you said (although I would—Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus, I believe he shows us the perspective of God on this issue). So while I don’t disagree with you, the entire focus of my article was to look specifically at the teachings and character of Jesus and address the issue on those terms.

  4. Reply
    Luke Dockery November 10, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks, Don!

  5. Reply
    Darrell November 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    I appreciate your well written article, Luke. As a christian man, experiencing and daily struggling with SSA, (same sex attraction) or homosexuality, I find your writing concise, refreshing and badly needed to be read, understood and shared by many. It’s refreshing to have an understanding between the attractions/temptations and actual sin. Feeling like I did not fit in, and afraid of men, I can’t easily reconcile the struggle between my spiritual life, faith, and attractions. Yet, I feel uncomfortable sharing this cross. This results in spiritual stifling, as I’ve had a difficult time even attending church due to the shame and hopelessness that accompanies the sin. Yet, I pray for and crave for the affirmation and healing that God can do through healthy relationships with other Godly men. Good job, Luke. Thank you for opening the door for this discussion. May God bless you.

  6. Reply
    Darrell November 10, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Luke, thank you for the well written article. As a man suffering and struggling with SSA, same sex attraction, or homosexuality, i find it refreshingly educational that you distinguished the attractions/temptations/feelings from the sin. Your ascertation of how Jesus would’ve conducting himself is helpful and revealing. Having suffered spiritually, as a result of the shame, and hopelessness this “cross”, I often feel like I don’t fit in, esp. with other men. God, however, is faithful. He has and will provide Godly, healthy friendships with trustworthy men enabling me heal and grow spiritually. Your article has provided excellent advice for the church in mentoring those with unwanted ssa. Thank you, and may God bless you.

    • Reply
      Luke Dockery November 13, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Darrell,

      Thank you for your comment. I am sorry for the spiritual suffering and shame you have endured, and am thankful for the friendships you now have in place to help you with this.

      I think there are more people who struggle with this than we realize, and until we are willing to show mercy, compassion, and support, it will be hard for people like yourself to admit these struggles and for the church to surround them with love and support in response.

      Blessings to you!

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