Righteouness and the Penis – Spiritual Responses To Marriage Equality and Homosexuality

This is just a few “first thoughts” on marriage equality. Please allow me the freedom to renew my mind at a later time. I often do. My own assessment, for what it’s worth, is that my views are probably viewed by those outside the church as conservative. But they are more liberal than they used to be. And may be viewed by many inside the church, as too liberal!

Firstly, marriage equality, or same sex marriage, is primarily a secular issue. The church is not driving this issue. Some see it just as a “storm in a teacup”, driven by the media, and expect it to fade away like all fads do. I don’t. I see it as much more significant than that.

Secondly, the issue is only about marriage. It is not illegal to be gay in Australia. The issues regarding decriminalisation of homosexuality were settled in every state and territory as well as at a Commonwealth level by the end of last century.

Thirdly, if you want to get married in Australia, no matter how spiritual or “righteous” the couple, it is ultimately a legal issue, not a church issue. You can’t do it without a government issued licence and a government approved official to “solemnize” the marriage. It’s about what is legal now and changing those laws.

Having said that, if this is an issue the church wants to fight, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the secular battlefields (e.g. parliament, courts, media etc). Paul talks of mighty weapons that can destroy strongholds; imaginations, thoughts and knowledge. (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Since these weapons are largely about thinking (imaginations, thoughts and knowledge), I thought I’d do some thinking!

I’d love to tell you what Jesus said about homosexuality.

But Jesus didn’t say anything at all. So that was a short conversation!

Some people have criticised various church leaders of our time for being “evasive” on the subject of homosexuality.  Seems they are in good company.

I think that Christ’s silence tells us a few things.

  1. Major on the Majors – Jesus majored on the majors. And homosexuality is not a major issue in the kingdom of God. There are about 200,000 words in the New Testament, and only about 40 of them relate to the topic. In other words, there are about 5,000 other “slices” of the New Testament that we could choose to focus on. Jesus didn’t say anything about it, Peter, James, John, and Luke didn’t write anything about it.
    Only Paul even mentions homosexuals – and it certainly wasn’t a major theme. We are misrepresenting the whole message if we continually focus on only the minor issues. Paul’s main themes were grace, faith and righteousness – how to be right with God. And he was very clear that what you do with your penis has nothing to do with righteousness now, and didn’t even way back as far as Abraham’s time. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
  2. Preach The Good News – Jesus did talk about sin and about how he came to take away sin. But He never personally called anyone a sinner. In John 9 the disciples wanted to label someone who was born with a visual impairment. They asked whether it was the man himself or his parents who sinned. Jesus avoiding an awkward conversation about in vitro sinning, quickly said “Neither”. Then He redirected their focus “so that the work of God might be displayed in his life”. Some Christians like labelling sinners the way that Oprah likes giving away new cars “You’re a sinner, you’re a sinner too, everyone’s a sinner!” Jesus never called anyone a sinner. Preach the good news, not the bad news. Everyone can have the work of God displayed in their own life.
  3. Expand The Kingdom – In Matthew 23:13 Jesus gets His cranky pants on because the religious leaders weren’t letting those who wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven get in. If you look at what Jesus did, and later Peter and Paul, it was all about expanding the kingdom – women, lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans, prostitutes, Italians – almost anyone! Jesus told us that God’s will is that none should perish (John 3:16). It is my feeling, (and again, I could change my mind on this) that we are at the precipice of a great expansion of the kingdom of heaven, similar in significance to the days of Jesus, Peter and Paul.

So nothing on homosexuality. Lots of good news on the kingdom; faith, love and mercy.

But what did Jesus say when he was asked about marriage (Matthew 19)? I like the fact that this was not a sermon inside a synagogue, or a letter dealing with every matter related to the subject. It was just a conversation and it was in public. And Jesus engaged rather than evaded the topic.

Lately, a lot of people want to start these kind of conversations with me in person and on facebook, twitter and other public forums. Here’s how Jesus handled it.

Haven’t you read?” If you’re going to have a position on it, make sure you’ve done some reading! I find a lot of people who are talking about the bills being introduced to parliament haven’t actually read any of the bills. Even if you haven’t read any of the bills, at least make sure you’ve read what Jesus had read – the word of God concerning marriage.

that at the beginning the Creator ‘made the male and female’ and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Jesus firstly points out that times have changed. He defines the correct time to assess something is to look at God’s original intent – how it was in the beginning. He points people to the ideal scenario. He also makes it clear that if God’s intent is to join people together, man’s intent should not be the opposite of that.

He is then asked why Moses provided a certificate of divorce for men to separate from their wives. Great question! Moses was a man, but he was also God’s highest representative on earth. He effectively changed the nation’s laws to facilitate the opposite of God’s original intent. Here’s how Jesus explained that.

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” Notice that Jesus didn’t condemn Moses. What Moses did was radical – it was not reflecting the original intent for marriage. It was recognising that times had changed, and it was reflecting the nature and character of God.

  1. Provided – Moses provided for the people who found themselves in a situation they didn’t want to be in. When we respond to people, we should respond out of a heart of Jehovah Jireh, the Provider. Don’t try and withhold something from people, try to give something to them.
  2. Certified – Moses gave approval. Not just turning a blind eye, but written, legal, authority, to do the opposite of what God originally intended. When we respond to people, we should respond out of a heart of Jehovah Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness. Let’s find a way to make people morally right and guiltless, not shamed, sinful and wrong.

Also, I find it interesting that Jesus diagnoses the problem “your hearts were hard”. He makes it their problem and makes it clear it is a heart issue.

There’s three things I find instructive about that.

  1. Legal Solution – the prescribed solution was a written, legal one that certified their problem, not removed it.
  2. Leadership Solution – the solution came from God’s leadership, under His law, not by making the person change themselves.
  3. Love Solution – the solution allowed the heart to stay hard towards their ex-wife but also gave them freedom to find a new wife that they could be soft-hearted towards. There was hope for a new beginning and a new result.

Again, though, Jesus starts telling us the time. This solution, He reminds us, was not the “ideal” that God created in the beginning, it was just dealing with the “real” – hardness of heart. The Voice bible translates this verse this way “divorce was an innovation, an accommodation to a fallen world”.

Jesus then defines an even newer solution, for a new time – His time. “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Jesus explains that adultery is divorce – and remarriage is adultery. If you break the bond of marriage, even if it is done legally under Moses’ national law, it’s not necessarily legal under Jesus’ law that He just made up.

This totally freaks out the disciples. And so the disciples do, what a lot of people do when they are freaked out. They make up their own Disciples’ law. Their new marriage rule is “It is better not to marry” (note, that some of the disciples, like Peter, were already married).

This is where things get really interesting. Jesus doesn’t condemn even this innovative extreme view. He helps us understand how to respond to people, who have their own views that are not based on either God’s original intent, or Scripture, nor the words of Jesus.

Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” There’s a clear distinction here. If you can’t accept this word, it hasn’t been given to you. We respond individually. Some may accept it, some may reject it. And that’s okay. Don’t expect to be able to accept everyone else’s standards for your own personal life.

Then Jesus goes on to illustrate this important point by talking about a new subject – eunuchs. Eunuchs are those men who had been castrated – i.e. their testicles had been removed and/or they had lost the desire and/or ability to have sex or reproduce.  Jesus introduces a topic about sexual behaviours, and, it has to be said, unusual sexual behaviours, into His response to marriage.

For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.

Jesus doesn’t link any of these three paths to sexual behaviour to sin or righteousness. Obviously, Jesus was a man who had personally chosen not to marry. But He didn’t impose this standard on everyone – only those who can accept it.

So how do you know if this word is acceptable for you? How did you get this way? If it was because you were born that way (naturally) or because you were made that way by other men, it’s probably not a standard that applies to your own personal life. If it was because you made a choice for the kingdom of heaven, i.e. voluntarily, and for spiritual purposes, it is a word that are you are free to accept or reject, and if you choose to accept, then it is probably a standard given to you.

Summing up, Jesus steered the conversation to a few essential points about changes to God’s original intent for marriage:

  • It’s not ideal
  • It’s a different time
  • It’s a heart issue
  • Let’s provide
  • Let’s approve
  • Let’s innovate
  • Not everyone can accept it

Changes to God’s original intent for sexual expression

  • Some born that way
  • Some chose that way
  • Some made that way

What time is it now? It’s not the beginning, it’s not Moses’ time, it’s not Jesus’ time, it’s not Peter or Paul’s time. It’s certainly not Abraham’s time when he was rescuing Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. It might sound obvious, but Jesus made timing an obvious point in His repeated responses – so we should be mindful of it, too.

None of them dealt with twitter or facebook or blogs or media agendas.  As I write this, the number 3 trending term in Australia on twitter is #ThingsJesusNeverSaid. Some of them are quite funny. Some of them are political. And yes, many of them are about sex and marriage. People want to talk about this.

last supper tweet

It’s our time. What are we going to say to our community?

When we are responding to people, especially the conversations we have in public, let’s be open to new ways of doing things. For some people, that might even mean taking the lead on changing national laws, instead of fighting against them.  For all of us, it should mean we help people manage the real, whilst still reminding them of the original ideal.

For us as followers of Christ, the ideal, is not just about sex and marriage, it’s about keeping the main thing, the main thing – preaching the good news and expanding the kingdom by letting people in not shutting them out.

Finally, a lot of people quote the Apostle Paul and his writings, particularly those to the churches in Rome and Corinth. I have no problem with people quoting these passages. Like Jesus, it’s good to read God’s original intent, as well as what God’s leaders, like Moses, and Paul have historically decided.

But we should keep in mind, that unlike the conversation Jesus was having, these were writings to the church, to tell us how to behave, not modelling how we should respond to others’ behaviour. For example, in Romans chapter one, when Paul points out how homosexuals are without excuse. He is just setting us up for an object lesson in chapter two that every time we judge others we are actually making ourselves guilty and showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience. And that’s important, because God’s kindness is the only reason that we were lead to repentance. Don’t forget, where sin abounds, our role is not to make sure judgement and criticism and punishment abounds. Our role is to promote the kindness of God and the availability of grace that abounds.

Remember, that unless you were born a Jew, the way you got to be part of the Church, was largely based not on a solid sheet of Scripture, but an imaginary sheet in a hungry fisherman’s dream about food. This tenuous vision was followed up with a disembodied voice that told him to eat from the sheet. Peter replies “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean”.

The voice speaks to Peter a second time and says “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”. (Acts 10:15) The flimsy sheet thing happens three times. It’s really quite ridiculously comical when you think about it!

But from this Peter changes from his “Surely not” self-righteousness to get the revelation that only God can make us clean; “I should not call any man impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Of course, the believers criticised him because he ate with people whose penis wasn’t circumcised.  (Paul hadn’t written Romans yet 😉

As radical as it seems, and it is, our entry into the church, was not based on anything Moses had said, or Jesus had discipled them in. We only got in literally between the sheets! And it led to the majority of people who are inside the kingdom now, coming from a place where they were outside of the kingdom before the whole floaty sheet incident.

We are called to be disciples of Christ, not disciples of Paul. So, especially when we’re responding to those outside the church, it can’t hurt to start thinking and talking as Jesus taught and modeled in the marketplace (rather than what Paul wrote, briefly, to those inside the church, who only got in by the skin of their sheets).

Let’s seize the opportunity to provide freedom, grace and God’s kindness to people and invite them to start their own journey of faith into the kingdom, rather than shutting them out. And let’s thank God, no-one shut us out at the sheet stage.


2 Replies to “Righteouness and the Penis – Spiritual Responses To Marriage Equality and Homosexuality”

  1. Hi Sharon,

    Whilst I recognize that these are ‘your thoughts’ allow me to add some of my own on this divisive subject.

    You mention that marriage is a secular issue and that the church is not driving this. Whilst there is an element of truth in the natural regarding laws of the land, the church has always been called to be ‘salt and light’ in society. As we look back in history we can see that in fact praying and active Christians and the church have indeed made a difference in the world in which we live by stepping into these arenas. Obvious examples are Sir William Wilberforce who tackled the slavery issue and Martin Luther King is another example in the civil rights movement.

    Looking further back to the book of Genesis when God placed Joseph in Pharaoh’s court and Daniel in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar and Esther in Persia, we can see that God has His people everywhere and required them to step up to pray, speak and act into governmental decisions.

    If this were a blanket statement then no Christians would ever get involved in government, business or any other area of secular life. As citizens of this world and our particular country, as well as citizens of heaven, it is indeed necessary for Christians to be involved in these affairs. Abdicating responsibility to secularists should never be an option.

    Secondly, as you say, homosexuality has been decriminalized and therefore people are free to do what they want, love who they want, without the state having to get involved in these personal affairs. The reason of course the state is doing so, is because of the push not only by decriminalization, but for homosexuality to be normalized and celebrated and thus insist on marriage. The state has an abiding interest in marriage because it is a structure of society. Healthy families and marriages make for healthy societies. Biologically, physiologically and the complementarities of the sexes of male and female contribute towards this. Nature and creation decreed this obvious fact that only male and female can procreate and bring forth life. All other relationships are by their very physical nature, sterile. When couples choose, or cannot have children, these exceptions do not change the obvious rule. Children’s rights are important in this issue.

    Thirdly, whilst marriage ultimately needs legal permission to do so and not necessarily through the church, the current push to redefine marriage will very much affect those who through conscience and religious objections will resist. It is no good saying that the current bill proposes for chaplains or ministers of religion to be able to refuse.. Unfortunately, numerous experiences and observations from overseas show this to be untrue. Indeed, if the argument is discrimination, then by it’s very nature the current definition of marriage is discriminatory and is meant to be so. Same rules apply to all citizens and discrimination is based on not marrying a child, a close relative and same sex person etc.

    Churches therefore, are subject to charges of discrimination if they uphold their current teaching on marriage and gender complementarities and differences. Private citizens who uphold their beliefs and practice them in the secular society will very quickly find they are unable to do so without litigation and even demonization. Rodney Croome, a gay rights activist has currently challenged the Catholic teaching on marriage and has threatened to bring the Catholic Archbishop Porteous before the Anti-Discrimination Commission and has also urged teachers and parents with children at Catholic Schools (who I suppose would be fully cognizant with Catholic doctrine) to make their own complaints to the State’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

    This has all happened (and many other cases) within the current legal status of marriage and bodes ill for freedom of religion, conscience and speech if marriage should be redefined and laws changed. The church and Christians will be very much affected. There will also be a push to have the tax exempt status of churches revoked because of ‘discrimination’. Any current teaching on marriage and relationships between male and female would be deemed ‘hateful’.

    I can assure you that faith and action, spiritual and natural weapons are both to be utilized in this situation. Many of us are fighting in prayer having been led by the Holy Spirit in understanding the seriousness of this issue and it’s affect on society.

    I find your stand of arguing from silence on the issue of whether Jesus said anything about homosexuality as a really tenuous position. Jesus was silent also on slavery, abortion, the death penalty, rape, racism and pedophilia. Does that mean that we should argue that Jesus was implicitly endorsing each of these? Of course not! If you want to argue from silence, then it would have to be noted that Jesus was a Jew and therefore would have been fully cognizant with the Torah and Jewish teachings on this subject. He would have understood the difference between ceremonial laws and moral laws. (Just in case the ignorance of the shellfish, mixed fabric argument is touted!)

    As you say, he definitely spoke on marriage as decreed ‘from the beginning’. The ‘principle of first mention’ is always useful in hermeneutically interpreting a passage. There is a saying ‘text without context is pretext’ when interpreting the scriptures. Jesus was pointing out that ‘hardness of men’s hearts’ had been why Moses (not God) allowed for this situation. This was of course about marriage being also between a man and a woman, and the breaking of a covenant relationship because of sexual unfaithfulness. No change of definition there.

    Whilst the mention of the penis might make for good shock value, God’s word is very clear that we are to “present our bodies as living sacrifices to God”, that we are not to use our members for unrighteousness but to live holy and pure lives, fleeing from even the appearance of evil. Sexual sin has particularly grievous consequences. I find it interesting that in the OT the tribes and nations the Israelites were to dispossess were those who were heavily into worship of Ashteroth, and Molech. God’s to whom the people sacrificed their children and which were represented by phallic symbols and they were the male and female fertility gods. Also you have misused the point of circumcision of the penis in this passage. It was in fact a picture of ‘the rolling away of the reproach of sin” and dedication to God, an outward sign of a person ‘set apart’. This was of course done away with as a physical requirement under the NT, hence Paul’s admonishment that there is no difference but we are all one in Christ and must all come by grace through faith. To use the penis as an illustration of this, to me, completely changes and misses the point of the passage.

    This brings me to the point that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We all must come the same way; through repentance and faith and laying down our sins. Not holding on or celebrating sin or idolizing, but through surrender.

    Eunuchs were castrated males, those unable to have children, or those who had determined to live their lives unto God in chastity and celibacy. Not everyone can do this, so therefore people are free to marry, which is clearly shown to be a male and female union.

    From Genesis to Revelation God’s picture of sexuality, male and female complementarities, sexual purity and the picture represented by marriage of Christ and His Church is far more than a legal precept. It is indeed a spiritual truth, played out in the natural and the spiritual. We overlook this to our own peril, even in a secular society. These things have not changed, and times do not change these eternal truths regardless of our societies view. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He knew the times which would lie ahead; they have not caught him off guard. To hear some treatises of scripture by some people today, it would seem we have an ineffective and powerless God caught out and surprised by the ‘wisdom’ of humans and changing times.

    It is a clear sign to me that people who have been influenced by the spirit of the world will believe that those who would speak truth are not influenced by love but by negativity and hate. People of good faith have good and sound objections to the changing and redefining of marriage laws. They do not hate people. They see a day around us of persecution of those with another viewpoint. No matter how winsome, loving or kind people may present the gospel; sooner or later the issue of sin must be dealt with, or I seriously question whether the gospel has in fact, been preached and whether we are in fact, being loving.

    Love is not always fluffy; love is courageous and often tough and takes a chance on speaking truth. Jesus said it was the truth that would set us free. Clear evidence of being His disciples was to hold to His teachings in love. The best day of my life was the day I realized that I was indeed a sinner and it was then I truly understood what His amazing grace and love was about. If we do not understand we are sinners, how do we understand we need a Saviour?

    Obviously the way our message is presented is important. Speaking truth and showing love go hand in hand. Truth is the basis of trust, trust is important in all relationships. Without this foundation, there can be no real love, but only a secularized, sexualised, romantic Hollywood version of it.

    I for one want the real thing. I believe this is the cry of every human heart. We will only find this in Him, by doing it His way. The ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross.

  2. Thanks for engaging in conversation Sandy. You obviously put a lot of time into that. And I think that it is really important for us to hear different perspectives. As I said, I believe it’s a significant time, and we need multiple counsel to steward this time wisely.

    Just to clarify a few things, I didn’t say that marriage was a secular issue. I said that marriage equality or same sex marriage in Australia is.

    I obviously believe that marriage was God’s idea about two and a half thousand years before there even was the Law. During that time, marriage looked a bit different to how we view it today, with multiple wives and concubines etc. Even after the Law there was Solomon who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. David, called “a man after God’s own heart” had more than eight wives, including one famously via both adultery and murder.

    But in Australia today, marriage is only between one man and one woman, and it is a legal issue. Even the head of a church in Australia can’t marry anyone without legal authority – otherwise some of them would have probably already been marrying gay couples.

    I absolutely agree with you that we should not be passive. The only way that the laws around marriage, sex, homosexuality and divorce were codified was by Moses, a leader called by God, who actively drafted national legislation. The point is that part of that law, which is not just law but now also Scripture, was to achieve the exact opposite of God’s original intent. He was not just active. If you think about it, he was really radically active! He’d probably be called a divorce “activist” today.

    Jesus pointed out the difference between God’s original intent, and the new definition of marriage, without condemning either one. He just repeated that they were instituted at different times and for different reasons. And Jesus wasn’t passive either, He made yet another amendment to law/scripture redefining remarriage as adultery.

    Paul also redefined the way marriage worked not nationally, but internationally within the church,giving instructions about unbeliever married to believers. He was pretty radical too saying that an unbeliever can stay an unbeliever and be sanctified!

    So God’s original intent stays the same as an ideal that I absolutely believe in, and have public conversations about, whilst at the same time being open to public discussions of legal redefinitions – as shown in Scripture by both Jesus and Moses.

    I certainly didn’t connect the silence of Jesus on the issue with His endorsement of homosexuality, let alone an extension to rape and pedophilia. I absolutely refute that rhetoric.

    My point was simply that as a follower of Jesus, if Jesus didn’t feel the need to condemn it in public conversations, then I should at least ask myself why not? Surely, I’m in good company if I also choose the same.

    I definitely agree in doing things His way. I hope my life shows that. And that’s all I’m trying to explore. That’s why I didn’t (either in my original blog or in this reply) quote sources of proposed legislation, possible or actual ramifications or other people’s experiences or opinions or church history or look to anything other than His wonderful, radical word!

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