Yesterday I attended a Minister's Fraternal in Devon. The guest speaker was Peet Botha, a South African New Testament scholar. He addressed us on the controversial subject of homosexuality. Botha has devoted scholarly attention to the issue because the Dutch Reformed Church is South Africa has been trying to adopt a more accommodating view of homosexual relationships. The controversy led Dr Botha to examine homosexuality from biblical, theological and biological perspectives.
Botha's essential proposal is that biblical sexuality is rooted in the creation of human beings as male and female in God's image. The foundational texts are Genesis 1:26-28 & 2:18-25. The male/female marriage relationship is an expression of unity in diversity as each embraces the otherness of the opposite sex in a union of love. As the Bible's plot-line unfolds, all deviations from this basic model of human sexuality are condemned. This includes pre-marital heretosexual sex, adultery and homosexual acts. It is in this context that we are to read the Old Testament ban on same-sex intimacy in Leviticus 18 & 20.
Jesus reinforced the Old Testament's teaching on the uniqueness and sanctity of marriage in Matthew 19, when he dealt with the issue of divorce by taking his interlocutors back to the Genesis teaching. He did not specifically address the matter of homosexuality because it was not a live issue in the religious and cultural context of Palestinian Judaism. All regarded such sexual expression as forbidden by the law of God. When the apostles of Christ took his message to the Gentile world, they were faced with a culture that tolerated homosexuality. The apostles regarded same sex intimacy as contrary to God's pattern for sexual expression and therefore sinful. Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles" was especially vocal on this, Romans 1:18ff, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 etc.
It cannot be objected that Paul knew nothing of long-term homosexual relationships such as we see in the modern world with "Civil Partnerships". Nero, the Cesar of Paul's day "married" two men. When Paul denounced homosexual acts in Romans 1, he was confronting head-on the immorality than characterized Roman society from the top down.
The churches need to hold fast to the Bible's teaching on sexual purity within marriage. We must resist pressures from the world and from within the church that would undermine the clear teaching of Scripture. People struggling with homosexual tendencies must be treated respectfully and with pastoral care. However, their sin cannot be condoned any more than that of an adulterer. But there is hope. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. In Christ, there is forgiveness and new life for all sinners. As Jesus said, "If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:32).