dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label adultery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adultery. Show all posts

Friday 3 May 2013

Chris Broussard, the Church, and Homosexuality

I was already planning to write about homosexuality and the church this week, but the topic has now taken on even greater poignancy. On Monday, professional basketball player Jason Collins became the first athlete in one of the USA's four major professional sports to announce he is gay.  Asked for his opinion of this announcement, TV sportscaster Chris Broussard, a born-again Christian, caused a national uproar by stating that living as an unrepentant homosexual is open rebellion against Jesus Christ. Jason Collins noted in a subsequent interview that he too is a Christian, but denies that homosexuality is sinful. Which position is aligned with the will of God?

Before turning to this question I want to make a couple of disclaimers. First, I realize that the church has often treated homosexuals very badly. The heterosexual majority know we haven't committed homosexual sins, which makes homosexuals a great scapegoat, a way of turning the focus away from our own failings.

On that point, I myself am a sinner, and one who has lost battles against my own sexual desires. However, God's forgiveness is available to me on the basis of my faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22-23). The same forgiveness is available to any sinner, but is conditional on repenting and confessing our sins (Luke 24:47; 1 John 1:9-10). We cannot confess our sins if we don't think they are sins; hence the need to seek God's will concerning homosexuality. We cannot simply err on the side of approval, because justifying evil is just as wrong as condemning good in God's sight (Prov. 17:15).

Thirdly, I realize this is an extremely sensitive subject, and I regret any offense it may cause (but cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-10).

My previous blog concluded that Leviticus 18:22 was a general prohibition of homosexual acts. However, does this commandment apply in the church age? Several issues arise in answering this question. First, does the Bible convey the will of God concerning sexual morality? Non-Christians would answer no, and some Christians (such as Bishop John Shelby Spong) would too. However, since this issue is beyond our scope, it will be assumed that the answer is yes.

Second, are Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 moral laws or ritual laws? Some Old Testament scholars claim that these texts reflect the cultural circumstances at the time, where homosexual acts were part of foreign worship rituals. Since homosexuality has no idolatrous connotations today, the commandment no longer applies. However, there is no indication of such nuances in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. Furthermore, this view incorrectly assumes that ritual and moral laws are wholly distinct. Adultery and child sacrifice are also prohibited in Lev. 18 but, while these may have been associated with idolatrous worship, their prohibition is also moral in nature (cf. Matt. 19:18).

Other scholars claim that the Levitical laws were done away with by Christ, so the law against homosexual acts is no more applicable for the church than the dietary laws (Lev. 11) or the prohibition of mixing fabrics (Lev. 19:19). However, while these symbolic laws were fulfilled and done away with by Christ, there is no symbolic fulfillment of homosexuality in Christ. And, as will be seen, Levitical laws concerning sexual morality are upheld in the New Testament.

The best explanation of the sexual morality laws in Lev. 18 and 20 is that they are simply an elaboration of the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") and are thus moral absolutes for all time, preserving the family in the way God designed it as the core social unit.

The New Testament confirms that these commandments are still in effect. As recorded in Acts 15, there was a great controversy in the apostolic church about whether the Law of Moses was binding on Gentile Christians. In the end, it was decided that it was not, but they were required to "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:29). The first three prohibitions come from Leviticus 17, and so the fourth must refer to the sexual morality laws in Leviticus 18. Thus we have it on apostolic authority that these laws (including the prohibition on homosexual acts) do apply in the church age.

The same idea can be found in Paul's writings. In 1 Cor. 5:1, Paul writes, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife." Paul has taken the description of incest from Lev. 18:8 and Lev. 20:11. He orders the Corinthian church "not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 5:11). Based on the prior allusion to Leviticus (and the quotation from the Law in 1 Cor. 5:13), we can only conclude that Paul is taking his definition of "sexual immorality" from the Law of Moses.

Paul then mentions homosexuality directly in the following chapter:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NASB)
The two bold words here are translated from the Greek words malakos and arsenokoites. This is the earliest known use of the Greek word arsenokoites, and scholars believe that Paul either coined it himself or borrowed it from Hellenistic Jewish contemporaries. Some have conjectured that the word means something more specific than homosexuality, such as pederasty or homosexual prostitution. However, the most likely source of the word is again Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, where the Greek Septuagint translation used by Hellenistic Jews uses the words arsenos (male) and koite (bed). The highly respected lexicon of New Testament Greek, BDAG, defines arsenokoites as the active partner in a homosexual relationship. Malakos (which literally means 'soft'), is defined by BDAG in this case as the passive partner.

In view of the reference to the sexual morality laws of Leviticus 18 in the previous chapter, and the Greek translation of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 as the likely source of the word arsenokoites, it is difficult to dispute that Paul is upholding the Levitical prohibition on homosexual acts.

Space prevents us from looking at other significant texts such as Romans 1:26-27. However, the evidence we have looked at demands the conclusion that the Levitical prohibition on homosexual acts represents the will of God for all times and cultures (note that I have emphasized "acts": it is the behaviour and not the orientation that is sin).

Chris Broussard spoke the truth. It is a very inconvenient truth in 21st century Western society. However, it is my hope that some will realize that Jesus does not want to condemn anyone (John 3:17). The Lord desperately hopes (2 Peter 3:9) that practicing homosexuals will recognize the error of their ways as the all-important first step on the road to redemption. This is the same response required of a heterosexual sinner, and the church should be equally emphatic in reaching out to all people with the message of repentance unto salvation.

Friday 13 April 2012

You shall not commit adultery

The Seventh of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The Commandment does not define or qualify what adultery is; nor does it prescribe a penalty for the offence. Elsewhere within the Law of Moses, however, we find both a definition for adultery and the penalty:

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10)

In the Book of Deuteronomy the definition of adultery is extended to include sexual intercourse between a man and another man’s fiancée (Deuteronomy 22:22-24), which was likewise a capital offence.

Some have claimed that the term ‘adultery’ in the Seventh Commandment refers collectively to all forms of sexual sin. However, this is not strictly correct. The Hebrew word na’aph used here refers to the breaking of wedlock by having sexual intercourse with the wife or fiancée of another man. The law did not even explicitly cover the case where a married man cheats on his wife with an unmarried woman.

This is by no means to say that other forms of sexual behaviour were permitted under the Law of Moses. Leviticus 18 and 20 prohibit a number of other types of sexual act, including homosexual sex, bestiality, various forms of incest, and sexual intercourse with a menstrual woman. All of these were punishable by death except the last (which was punishable by exile).

Premarital sex is dealt with elsewhere in the Law of Moses. Exodus 22:16-17 states that if a man seduced a virgin who was not engaged, he had to pay the bride-price for the woman and marry her. If her father refused to let him marry her, he had to pay the bride-price anyway. Deuteronomy 22:13-21 further prescribes capital punishment for a woman who was not a virgin at the time of marriage if her husband chose to formally complain.

The Law of Moses had strict and detailed statutes regarding sexual behaviour; however the Seventh Commandment concerned only one specific aspect, namely sexual intercourse of an engaged or married woman with someone other than her husband/fiancé.

Having clarified the meaning of the commandment, we must ask how to apply it today. As with previous commandments, the key is to be found in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ day, the Jewish religious leaders had established loopholes that were not fair to women. A man could divorce his wife for any reason (Matthew 19:3) and take another wife. The bonds of marriage could be easily broken and reformed to prevent adultery from occurring by the letter of the Law.

Jesus’ teachings brought out the spirit of the adultery law:
“27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:27-28,31-32)
As we saw with the commandment against murder, one need not commit the physical act in order to bear the full guilt of the offence. The desire to commit the act is enough. Furthermore, to divorce a faithful wife in order to take another, or to marry another man’s wife who had been so discarded, is adultery in Jesus’ eyes. There are no loopholes with Jesus; he sees straight to the heart of the matter.

Jesus also made it clear that there was no double standard between men and women. For a man to sleep with a woman other than his wife was just as much adultery as it was for a woman to sleep with a man other than her husband (Mark 10:11-12). Both husband and wife are to honour the sanctity of marriage (Hebrews 13:4).

Jesus’ judgment of a situation where a woman was caught in adultery showed his mercy and wisdom (John 8:3-11). He had mercy on the woman, preventing her from being stoned to death although this was the punishment called for under the law. He saved her from being another victim of the gendered double standard: she had been “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:4), which means a male must also have been present; yet no male had been apprehended.

Jesus’ mercy on this woman showed that there is hope for those who get involved in sexual sin such as adultery. However, it is still a very serious sin. We in the Western world have forgotten how serious it is, because it is no longer a crime in most Western countries (unlike “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness”). Yet adultery can irreparably damage relationships and destroy families.

“Do not be deceived,” wrote the Apostle Paul, before mentioning “adulterers” among the unrighteous who, apart from the cleansing that God offers through Jesus Christ, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).