After studying Romans 1:18-32 and being in relationship with a significant number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Christians, I have changed my view on the meaning of these verses in Romans. Some may want to discount me because my theology differs from theirs. I get that; I was an adherent to the traditional view for almost twenty years. But, the likelihood is, until you’ve invested time into looking into these Scriptures for yourselves with a Bible, concordance and Holy Spirit wisdom, you are probably just repeating what you’ve been told .
I contend that there are severe cultural and fear based biases applied to the traditional view Christians have been taught in the last several decades. We didn’t used to be this mean or focused with venom on the GLBT community. The 1990′s ushered in a new era of homophobia in the church. Bible translations changed the words to reflect “homosexual” and “homosexuality” as the worst thing a person could be. I bought it all, until I got into a close friendship with a lesbian. The rules change when you like someone and I needed to look at the verses for myself.
I cover my interpretation of these verses in Romans in “Romans 1: 26 – 32 | To Whom Was This Directed?”. This post is an appeal to Christians to consider the impact of misapplying those verses. And to parents of gay/trans youth, I actually hope my words make you cry.
When the lives of so many people are in the balance, being lazy about personal investigation won’t cut it. Not your problem, don’t care, already settled on the issue? Well, the GLBT population is at about five in one hundred. We need to care. Seventy percent of GLBT people say a relationship with God is “very important to them” (Barna) And further, 58% say that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus. So why aren’t we seeing those gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our churches? If God is as important to them and they have made personal commitments to Jesus as the statistics tell us, where are they?
Please read my postings on Romans 1:26- 32 first if you have the time. You will understand the position I am taking in these verses. Context, original language, audience, writer. All this matters. It was not written to a group of homosexual people today. But, that is how we often read it. It was written to a group of Romans, in the first century about a specific issue. Take a few minutes to read “Romans 1: 26 – 32 | To Whom Was This Directed?” for more details. In the NIV,we read:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Quick recap: Romans was written to people who once knew God and had made a profession to follow Jesus as the Christ. The audience was new believers, left behind in Rome after the Jews, Christian Jews and Gentiles ” that lived as Jewish Christians” were evicted for infighting. Left behind were the weaker, new followers: Romans who were steeped in legacies of idol worship and surprise, surprise, they fell right back into it when their mentors left town.
We can see in reading Romans 1 that there are God-ordained consequences for having once known God, made a profession of faith in Jesus and then ,rejecting Him. These consequences are meted out on ALL people, not just homosexual people. The incredible injustice however is, however, that in the traditional view of Romans 1:26 – 28, it is the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to whom the verses are directed.
We , as a church, have rejected GLBT people who once made a profession of belief in Jesus. or even those that are interested in getting to know what He is about. We demand that they change, demand that they not be gay, lesbian, bisexual or trangender. And the common response? They leave our churches or dare not walk in them. Not only do they leave our churches, but they are deeply wounded and hurt by Christians. Damage done in the name of Jesus. Many turn their backs on Him and permanently reject Him because of the non-loving treatment of Christians.
So, what do Romans 1 , Matthew 12 and Mark 3 say happens to those people who professed faith in Jesus/God/ Holy Spirit and turn from this knowledge? God leaves them and their lives get worse. Remember, this applies to heterosexual people too.
Have the consequences of your imposed rejection of the lives of others convicted any of you? There are people that once knew Him and they now hate Him because His followers have twisted Scripture to say it is God Who hates who they are, how they were created. And, who is it that pushed them away? God? Or well meaning people using verses they think they understand? People with the best of intentions to ensure that ” none should perish”, telling the gay community that they need to change their orientation or God will never accept them.
Let me make it more personal and very painful, especially to parents who have done this to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids. Many Christian parents have raised their children in the faith. They know that their child once made a profession of belief in Christ. Even before these children hit puberty (uasually 5 to 8 when there are NO sexual thoughts going on), the child started to realize something was different. They wrestle, and eventually come to understand that they are gay. All the while, they are hearing that gay people are outside God’s will, that gay people will go to hell, that gay people are abominations, that gay people need to and can change, that gay people cannot please God. Whoa! Imagine being in the stage of your life when you are struggling to even figure out who you are , as all teens do, then, add onto that the suspecting that your own sexual orientation is different. Parents, pastors, youth group leaders will add to the struggle and now let them know that not even God likes them.
I hear horror stories of parental responses. Parents, in their efforts to force their children to be straight, will actually push their children FROM the faith. Most GLBTs raised in the church will come to a point of choosing between faith and orientation. Because we make them choose. Gay or Christian? As if they can choose not to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? I have one friend who says, “I did not choose my orientation, but I did choose Jesus.”
So back to Romans . . what do the verses tell us will happen when people, having known God, turn their backs on Him? God will abandon them to themselves and their lives will get worse. Repeat, worse. This is that one really bad sin we have all heard about since childhood “blaspheming the Holy Spirit”: having known He exists and now denying that He does. THAT is the thing spoken of in Romans. THAT is what the recipients of the Letter to the Romans had done- they turned from God. They weren’t gay; they were people who turned back to their old ways of idolatry, part of which was same sex behavior in their temple rites an in prostitution in their worship experiences.
And many of us will take these verses and lay them on the backs of an entire class of people. And, this the a question to Christian parents with gay, lesbian, bisexual or trangender children: have you pushed your child from Jesus, from church, from your family because you have misused these verses? Weep. Weep, not only for what you imposed on the back and spirit of your child, but also for the consequences you are going to be held responsible for.
Do you realize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens are 8 times more at risk of suicide, 4 times more apt to abuse substances and 6 times more likely to suffer depression than their heterosexual counterparts? Did you know that? And, why do you think this is? Sexual orientation, “reprobate minds”? No. Rejection, non acceptance, hopelessness . The struggle and the knowing that they cannot change orientation. Pile onto that parental pressure, church pressure, societal pressure. Pile it on. On some city streets, up to 40% of the teens are gay and trans youth, yet, they are only 5% of the population. Parents are kicking them out; parents are making it uncomfortable for these gay and trans youth to be at home. Want to destroy your child? Burden them with Romans 1, reject them and tell them they are not good enough the way they are. Tell them they are not pleasing to God.
The “pray the gay away” movement was started in the 70′s, during the “name it and claim it” era of Christianity. The most widely known of all of the “pray the gay aways” is Exodus. These statements are from their own website:
- heterosexuality is God’s intent for humanity and thus homosexuality is out of God’s will
- homosexuality can be broken by breaking the sin of it in a person’s life
- reorientation is possible
Stories of familial dysfunction and sexual abuse, common in the lives of heterosexual and homosexual people, are re-written in the Exodus experience to support the “this is why you are gay” storyline. To the father who recently told his 20 year old lesbian daughter that it would have been better for the mother to have had an abortion than she be gay: if you push your child from Christ, you will be responsible. Matthew 18:6 is clear, “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Pretty clear what Jesus would say to you.
I am daily amazed to hear the stories of gay/trans Christians finding their way back to God and by those that somehow stay in His grip with all the opposition the church places in their paths. To those of you GLBT Christians who are in relationship with the Father, you have my absolute respect. I apologize for the pain caused by the people of God towards the “other” children of God. This never should have happened and it does need to be corrected.
We, the traditional church, in our arrogance of “knowing” what the heart of God is on this issue of sexual orientation, have let many in the gay and trans community suffer the drastic consequences of Romans 1: 28-32 and then, we ridicule them. Rejection has consequences.
We have taken verses about any person who knew God and now reject Him and used them to target gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Please, please, please, use your own Bible and a concordance, not the translation of the words you read, but the original words and study. Read some history; see what was going on at the time for yourself. Reading the Bible in context of today and in context of our own culture is foolish.
Finally, I get letters, comments and messages every day, every day, from people who have been rejected by the people of God and, of course, translate that as a rejection by God. If you have caused damaged to a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person with your interpretatio n of Romans 1, get down on both your knees and beg God for the wisdom to correct this offense. You may be the reason that som eone has walked away from God. We can differ on the interpretation of these Scriptures, but , if your theology in any way subjugates, eliminates, oppresses or lays extra burdens on any group of people, you are missing the message of the Good News. And, that is a problem.
“Was Sodom Really Destroyed Because it Was a Gay City?”
“Hello, I’m a Detestable Abomination | Looking at Leviticus & Deuteronomy”
“Romans 1:26-32 | To Whom Was This Directed?”“Are You In or Out? I Corinthians and I Timothy”
“Words on My Heart”
No part of this original work may be quoted in part without permission. Entire article with author name, Kathy Baldock, must be linked or appear with text. www.canyonwalkerconnections.com