“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”
Romans 1:25-27 NLT
These are difficult and painful verses to write about, and expound on. There are not many sermons preached on these words of Paul. His words are hard-hitting and uncompromising. And they explicitly destroy at a stroke the direction society is going in. But at the time of writing, I can put down a few thoughts, though soon, perhaps even in my lifetime, by doing so I will be committing a criminal act, if certain lobbyists have their ways. Scripture verses such as we are looking at today are at the cutting edge of 21st Century morality. Most people will concede that the Bible’s teaching on sins such as murder or theft, are proper and acceptable. In fact many of the laws underpinning our society are based on passages in the Bible such as the Ten Commandments. But when it comes to God’s laws that apply to sexual sins, then a storm of protest and derision erupts.
In recent years I have encountered people who are questioning the veracity of God’s Word, the Bible. Yes, as blunt and uncompromising as that. One person went to the extent to say, “The Bible is wrong then”. But I should pause and explain the background to this extraordinary statement and the other issues I have encountered. The people concerned have encountered the Bible’s uncompromising position on same sex relationships, and the verses we are looking at today are just one example of several that we can find in Scripture. A person I know, a new Christian, had a nephew in a same sex relationship and had no problem with it. Their justification was that as long as the two people were “in love” then there was no harm in the relationship. At a subsequent Bible Study a passage of Scripture similar to what we are reading today spawned a discussion about homosexuality, resulting in the person’s rejection of God’s Word. They were unable to reconcile the fact that the life style chosen by their relative was not acceptable in the Kingdom of God. In another situation a person in a church congregation, who has a child transitioning from one sex to another, adopted a similar position. In both cases, the uncompromising Biblical position was directly and firmly counter to their own beliefs.
In the Old Testament, God, through Moses, provided a list of forbidden sexual practices and we read in Leviticus 18:22, “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin”. And there are many others. God’s position on forbidden sexual relationships is clear, and the violation of His laws in the Old Testament was dramatic – stoning to death if discovered. In the New Testament, as Paul wrote in Romans 1:26a, “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desire…”. Being abandoned by God is a terrible place in which to find ourselves.
Before we pilgrims try and claim the moral high ground, there are many other instances of sexual sins that we might be guilty of as well. We may well tut-tut if we see or come across a homosexual couple, but what about the adulterous or sexual relationships outside of marriage? What about the lustful glances at a woman/man, as exposed by Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”? There is no sin grading system. Some sins are not worse than others, because all sins are still sin. Are we pilgrims all totally pure and innocent of sexual sins? We have to remember what Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. But thankfully, Paul continued in the next two verses, “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past”. Through Jesus we have a way to forgiveness.
So how do we pilgrims deal with verses such as the ones today? We have on the one hand traditional, Bible-believing, Christians, for whom the principle of the inviolability and infallibility of Scripture is beyond discussion. On the other hand we have liberal Christians who claim that the Church has to move with the times and be more accepting of the practices in the world around us. And we have a whole raft of sexual sins, not just those listed above, that are emerging into the Western society’s public domain, into the light of acceptance by both society and certain church denominations. A counter-cultural clash that, I fear, will not end well for those following, and believing in, the Word of God. In recent years legislation has been introduced to formally legalise same sex marriages, and ministers in certain denominations are being instructed to officiate at same sex weddings by their church hierarchy. And although at the present time, a person’s faith is protected legally, it will probably not last forever. Already in parts of Australia, legislation has been introduced making it a crime even to pray with homosexuals, if their sexual orientation is the subject of the prayers.
We pilgrims approach all sinners the same. Without judgement and condemnation. What the nature of the sin is, is not the issue. What is the issue, however, is how willing we are to extend the message of God’s love, grace and forgiveness towards all sinners, accepting the person, and praying for the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. And always remembering the words of Paul to the Galatian believers, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself“. (Galatians 6:1).
Dear Lord. We pray, and keep on praying, for our government, for our educationalists, our churches and all who stand on Your Word in their lives. And please help us to stand up and be counted for the inviolability of Your Word, Holy Scripture. In Jesus’ name. Amen.