“In order for churches to accept those who practice homosexual behavior,” writes counseling pastor Ben Marshall, “pastors began to reinterpret those Bible passages related to homosexuality: Genesis 19:1–11, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18–32, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:10. These passages speak either directly about the subject of homosexuality or about loving sinners.” In his insightful mini-book, HELP! My Teen Struggles with Same-Sex Attractions, Marshall spends one chapter summarizing the ways in which these key Scripture passages have been reinterpreted by the pro-homosexual church (PHC) in order to make same-sex sin acceptable in the church, which, sadly, withholds the biblical hope of the gospel from those who are struggling, or already are in bondage.
Genesis 19:1–11 – These verses give the account of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis records that the men who came to visit Lot because of his visitors said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them” (v. 5). The pro-homosexual church (PHC) states that there is no way to know for certain what the term translated “know” means. The PHC further goes on to state that the overarching sin shown in this account is that of inhospitality. Traditionally, this passage of Scripture has viewed the men of Sodom as committing the sin of homosexuality. It is clear, because of Lot’s reaction—which was to offer up his two daughters (v. 8)—that the men who knocked on Lot’s door were looking to commit homosexual acts with the two visitors. God’s response to the sin is of great importance when it comes to correctly understanding this passage. God destroyed the city filled with men who wanted to have sexual relations with the visiting men. Nowhere else in history is the sin of inhospitality treated by God with sulfur and fire from heaven, whereas death was the prescribed judgment on the part of the Israelites when one of them was found to be involved in homosexual activity.
Leviticus 18:22 – Leviticus 18 consists of a list of sexual prohibitions from God for the Israelite nation. It addresses all forms of sexual sin, including incest, bestiality, adultery, and homosexuality. Verse 22 specifically states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” The PHC does not reinterpret this passage but simply places it under the category of “culturally irrelevant.” It states that there were many different cultural standards that the Israelites were forced to keep, such as not eating rare steak, not eating pork, and others that are not followed today. These standards were put in place in order to keep the Israelite nation separate from the Canaanite nation. For centuries, the traditional interpretation of this passage has been literal, claiming that there are absolute morals that go beyond culture and time. Homosexuality is one of them, which is why it also shows up as a prohibition in the New Testament. Traditionally, this chapter has been interpreted as an ethical chapter defining what is acceptable to God and what is not in regards to sexual acts.
Romans 1:18–27 – This passage is the apostle Paul’s rendering of what happened to mankind when they ceased worshipping the Creator and started worshipping the creation. This description includes men and women committing indecent acts with members of the same sex. The PHC interprets the punishment of God, giving them “over to degrading passions,” as being caused by the people’s lack of living by faith (see v. 16). In addition, the word “unnatural” (v. 26) is interpreted to signify a person who is homosexual in orientation but does not act in accordance with his or her natural desires, instead trying to fit in with society and have heterosexual relations. The PHC believes that to go against that natural inclination is what is described as being “unnatural.” The traditional interpretation of this passage is that man started to worship the creation instead of the Creator. The ensuing punishment from God was to give them over to the passions that were flaring up within them as a result of worshipping the creation. This interpretation states not only that man ceased worshipping the Creator, but also that man inverted the proper order of male/female relations. Man has inverted God’s order by worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, and, as a sign of this error, rather like the blinking red light on the dashboard of a car which is functioning improperly, God has given man up to “‘dishonorable desires’ in the inversion of their sexual roles.” Committing homosexual acts is thus an inversion of worship, which is, in turn, punished by God by allowing an inversion of sexual preference.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 and 1 Timothy 1:10 – These passages both use the term “homosexuals” and speak to those who would be caught up in those sins, as well as serving as a warning to those who might be tempted to go down the homosexual path. First Corinthians 6:9–10 speaks of the homosexual as one who will not inherit the kingdom of God, while 1 Timothy 1:10 speaks of the homosexual as disobedient and one for whom the law was created. The PHC states that there is a wide variation in the different Bible translations of the Greek words. They claim that these words are rendered as any of the following: adulterers, homosexuals, sexual perverts, male prostitutes, sodomites, child molesters, perverts, homosexual perverts, people of infamous habits, catamites, effeminate, boy prostitutes, sissies, self-indulgent, masturbators, and practicing homosexuals. The PHC claims that there is no real conclusion to which we can come, so we must take the “best available opinion of the day.” The traditional interpretation of these two passages is that Paul was referring to any person who was practicing any sexual act with a person of the same gender. The Greek language is much more descriptive in nature than the English language is; thus what a modern-day English writer would simply slap a label on, the Greek writer would take time to describe. Therefore, it is the widely accepted interpretation that Paul was describing homosexual behavior in many of its various forms, not just picking out certain forms of homosexual behavior.
Implications of Each Translation: How we choose to interpret the Bible is extremely significant when seeking to counsel anyone battling homosexuality. A person who is trying to figure out if homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God needs to know what the Bible does indeed say about that issue. If the Bible is as ambiguous as the PHC states, the only decision that the person needs to make is whether or not he or she is more oriented toward the same sex or the opposite sex. The pro-homosexual interpretation will give much sympathy to, acceptance of, and encouragement for the person who says that he or she is attracted to people of the same sex, but who fails to deal honestly with the Scriptures. The historical interpretation of the Scriptures, on the other hand, states that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is clear in stating that homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of God and that those who practice this wickedness will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. The only option for the one struggling with homosexuality is whether or not he or she is going to obey the Word of God. Obedience is shown as trust in God’s Word as fruit of faith in Christ and the life-transforming power of the gospel. This can be of great comfort to the person who simply wants to have a clear-cut path on which to walk.
Jesus Christ came into the world not to save the righteous, but to bring sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32). Let us never forget that. Let us also remember that when the apostle describes some of the believers in the church at Corinth, who were redeemed from a life of same-sex sin, he says “such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). This is the power of Christ crucified and risen again. This is the life-changing power of the gospel. This is the hope we must not selfishly withhold from others. This is the truth that sets us as sinners free. Let us not suppress it.