A Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion

1.     Condemning same-sex relationships is harmful to LGBT people. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that good trees bear good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), but the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships has caused tremendous, needless suffering to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

2.     Sexual orientation is a new concept, one the Christian tradition hasn’t addressed. Many Christians draw on our faith’s traditions to shape our beliefs, but the concept of sexual orientation is new. Before recent decades, same-sex behavior was understood along the lines of gluttony or drunkenness—as a vice of excess anyone might be prone to—not as the expression of a sexual orientation. The Christian tradition hasn’t spoken to the modern issue of LGBT people and their relationships.

3.     Celibacy is a gift, not a mandate. The Bible honors celibacy as a good way of living—Jesus was celibate, after all—but it also makes clear that celibacy must be a voluntary choice made by those who have the gift of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Matthew 19:11). Requiring that all gay people remain celibate because their sexuality is “broken” is at odds with the Bible’s teachings on celibacy.

4.     Sodom and Gomorrah involved an attempted gang rape, not a loving relationship. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is commonly assumed to have been the result of God’s wrath against homosexuality, but the only form of same-sex behavior described in the story is an attempted gang rape (Genesis 19:5)—nothing like the loving, committed relationships that are widespread today. The Bible explicitly condemns Sodom for its arrogance, inhospitality, and apathy toward the poor, but never for same-sex behavior.

5.     The prohibitions in Leviticus don’t apply to Christians. Leviticus condemns male same-sex intercourse (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13), but the entire Old Testament law code has never applied to Christians in light of Christ’s death. Leviticus also condemns eating pork, rabbit, or shellfish, cutting hair at the sides of one’s head, and having sex during a woman’s menstrual period—none of which Christians continue to observe.

6.     Paul condemns same-sex lust, not love. Like other ancient writers, Paul described same-sex behavior as the result of excessive sexual desire on the part of people who could be content with opposite-sex relationships (Romans 1:26-27). He doesn’t have long-term, loving same-sex relationships in view. And while he describes same-sex behavior as “unnatural,” he also says men having long hair goes against nature (1 Corinthians 11:14), and most Christians read that as a reference to cultural conventions.

7.     The term “homosexual” didn’t exist until 1892. Some modern Bible translations say that “homosexuals” will not inherit the kingdom of God (depending on the translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10), but neither the concept nor the word for people with exclusive same-sex attraction existed before the late 19th century. While the Bible rejects lustful same-sex behavior, that isn’t close to a condemnation of all gay people and relationships.

8.     Marriage is about commitment. Marriage often involves procreation, but according to the New Testament, it’s based on something deeper: a lifelong commitment to a partner. Marriage is even compared to the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:21-33), and while the language used is opposite-sex, the core principles apply just as well to same-sex couples.

9.     Human beings are relational. From the beginning of Genesis, human beings are described as having a need for relationship, just as God himself is relational (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:18). Sexuality is a core part of what it means to be a relational person, and to condemn LGBT people’s sexuality outright damages their ability to be in relationship with all people—and with God.

10.      Faithful Christians are already embracing LGBTQ members of the church. From denominations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (USA) to increasing numbers of evangelical churches across the country, Christians across the country are already putting their commitment to LGBT equality in action. They’re showing their fellow believers what it looks like to be a faithful Christian who fully affirms LGBT Christians.

For more details, buy a copy of The Reformation Project's booklet "How to Talk about the Bible and LGBTQ Inclusion."

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