God's Plan For Marriage

Bible Book: Genesis  2 : 18-24
Subject: Marriage; Sex; Homosexuality
Introduction

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Some things in life just seem to GO TOGETHER—because you can’t think of the one without automatically thinking about the other. To show you what I mean let’s begin today’s sermon with a little word association game. I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that comes into your mind. We even have pictures to help. Here goes:

* Peanut butter and…[Jelly] 

* Socks and….[shoes] 

* Soup and…[sandwich]

* Hugs and…[kisses]

* Salt and…[pepper]

* Love and…[marriage]

Great! Okay….let’s do one more: Conviction and…[COMPASSION].

We may not sense this LAST combination as easily as we did with the other pairs…but I want us to understand that for a Christian—especially a grace-driven Christian—conviction must ALWAYS be combined with compassion. They DO go together…like socks and shoes, peanut butter and jelly, hugs and kisses, William and Kate…etc. In fact, if you only have ONE of the two, you’re imbalanced and headed for trouble. For example if you are a person with great CONVICTION but no compassion—well you’ll become just like those love-less Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day—people who were so judgmental that their hearts became hardened to the point that they were no longer sensitive to the hurts and needs of others. Scripture warns of this imbalance in 1st Corinthians 13 when it says that if we “…speak in the tongues of men and angels…if we have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries…and all knowledge and if we have the faith to move mountains…[in other words….if we have all this CONVICTION] …but have no love [or COMPASSION]…then we are NOTHING.”

On the other hand…if we are people of ONLY COMPASSION with no real beliefs…no convictions…then we become people who are merely sentimental…people with no conscience…no moral base…people like those described in Romans 1 who “suppress the truth” and as a result have, “depraved minds and DO what ought NOT to be done.”

So you see, Christians must be BOTH people of CONVICTION—living their lives according to the unchanging truth of God’s Word—and at the same time people of Christlike COMPASSION, whose hearts break for fellow sinners.

I believe that this is especially true when it comes to the way we deal with people who embrace the same sex lifestyle.

And if we were honest I think we would have to admit that many Christians have been somewhat lopsided in their response to this heated issue. We have been VERY good at communicating our CONVICTIONS but VERY POOR at showing Christlike compassion for people who, for whatever reason, embrace this behavior.

If you were with us last week, then you know that one thing I said is that preaching is not an easy thing to do…because when we teach the Bible to fallen people like you and me it’s inevitable that feelings get hurt…friendships damaged—and as necessary as this kind of message is, it is not easy nor is it pleasurable.

But there’s another reason that preaching can be difficult—and it’s because sometimes it’s very hard to cover everything on a particular subject in one message. And the topic of God’s guidelines for physical intimacy or SACRED SEX is a perfect example. In fact, I want you to think of my message as sort of a part two to last week’s sermon…in which we began to talk about the Bible’s teachings when it comes to sex. As you just heard we are using the same basic text and it clearly says that God’s plan for MARRIAGE—is for it to be a life-long commitment between a man and a woman. God invented sex and He designed physical intimacy so that it work’s best only within these boundaries. Anything else is a clear departure from God’s loving commands.

Of course these days this DEFINITION of marriage is being questioned. Like our own state of Maryland—more and more states in our nation have groups who have successfully lobbied or are even now lobbying—to change the definition of marriage from the Biblical one that our nation has embraced for nearly two and a half centuries. As a result, more and more states now allow marriage between two people of the same gender.

Well, the question I want to deal with this morning is basically what is a Christian to do? How should a grace-driven believer who embraces both Biblical CONVICTIONS on this issue and Christ-like COMPASSION respond to all this?

My prayer is that this message will give you the information you need to help you answer that question. And you WILL be forced to answer it—not just in the way you decide to vote on the referendum here in Maryland this fall but also in your interactions with friends and loved-ones and co-workers who embrace the gay lifestyle. Now…before we go any further, let me share some ASSUMPTIONS that I bring to this message so that you can see where I come from in all of this.

First of all, like many of you, I know someone who has made this lifestyle their choice.

There is an individual who is VERY near and dear to me who has willfully disobeyed God’s clear teaching and embraced the same sex lifestyle. I love this person. I even love their partner. They are both great people…but I don’t endorse the lifestyle they have chosen. And I know this person well enough to know that they know this. They know I love them…and they know I don’t love their lifestyle. In any case, I share this first bit of info to let you know that I am not what you would call homophobic.

The second thing I want you to know is that I am one who believes that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL of life, not just part of it.

In other words, I feel that growing disciples of Jesus do not compartmentalize their faith. In EVERY area of their lives…including their sexuality…maturing Christians will seek to conduct themselves in ways that please our Lord…which leads me to a third assumption…

You see, I believe that the main way we KNOW how God wants us to conduct our lives is by reading the Bible.

God’s written Word—not culture, not personal experience—no, the Bible…is the ONLY trustworthy guide for faith and practice. Scripture then, is the MAIN source of MY convictions when I say that I believe sex and marriage between members of the same gender is clearly contrary to God’s will.

I’ve done a great deal of prayerful study on this issue over the past few months and I’ve collated my discoveries or CONVICTIONS…I’ve arranged everything I want to share with you this morning…under four two-word statements that describe how I believe God responds to all this. Here they are:

(1) First, God GRIEVES,

Like any parent who knows their children have made choices that will cause them pain—God grieves for men and women who embrace a life-style that is clearly not part of His loving design.

Listen. God knows that sin—disobedience—rebellion—whatever you call it…God knows it ALWAYS hurts us—and He grieves when we use our free will to sin and therefore hurt ourselves—and many times others.

Remember, the Bible clearly teaches that our Heavenly Father loves people—ALL people—unconditionally. Because of His great all-encompassing love God takes no pleasure in the pain we endure—even the pain we endure because of our own sinful behavior. Don’t get me wrong. God is not soft on sin—but He has a soft spot in His heart for sinners—ALL sinners. And—I have to say, when it comes to this issue I think our Heavenly Father grieves over something else. He grieves over the painful words and the overall mistreatment directed toward people who have embraced the same-sex lifestyle. And as I IMPLIED a moment ago much of this mistreatment has been at the hands of Christ-followers. Many of us have been very UNCOMPASSIONATE in our treatment of people we disagree with on this issue whether it be through insensitive jokes—or the way we ignore gay people—or the mean things we say to them or about them. And it is my conviction that God GRIEVES over this kind of thing.

In fact, I believe He calls us to repent and even ask forgiveness for the hate we have expressed toward people who are on the other side of this issue. We are NEVER justified for anything LESS than loving people…no matter what their sin. Remember, we are commanded to “…love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Matthew 22:39) Listen—ALL people matter to God—and we are called to be like Him. People who disagree with us on this issue need to feel our compassion—our love—even our RESPECT. By the way, this is a Biblical command as well. 1st Peter 2:17 says, “Show respect for everyone.” We can and should respect and love people even if we disagree with them.

James Emory White, who is Keith and Allyson Main’s pastor in Charlotte, says that when he was a student pastor back in his seminary days he got a phone call from a local funeral home…asking him to perform a service for someone who had died. He was told that the deceased person was not connected with any church. White agreed to do the service saying, “Fine, if the family needs me, I’ll be happy to.” Then the funeral director said, “There’s something I have to tell you. You’re the last pastor I’ve called. Every other pastor in town turned this funeral down. You see, this man was a homosexual and he died of AIDS. None of the other pastors will come to be with the family. None will do the funeral. None of them wants to have anything to do with it.” Hearing this grieved and angered White—and it should—because I am sure it grieved and angered God as well. Remember, Jesus was referred to as the “friend of sinners” and if we follow Him we’ll be as well. We must remember that people who embrace this lifestyle are broken…and in many cases hurting—deeply. They need our love. So, God GRIEVES.

(2) Here’s a second conviction I have—God KNOWS.

More specifically I believe that ONLY God knows…WHY some people embrace a same-sex lifestyle. As Psalm 147:5 puts it, “How great is our Lord! His understanding is beyond comprehension.” This issue is a great proof of this fact because lots of very intelligent people all over the world have been working to try and understand what causes homosexuality for a long time now…and the truth is no one has been able as of yet to get a definitive clarity on the issue. Nobody can say with complete authority what leads to same sex orientation. Now—there are THREE CONTRIBUTING FACTORS that always seem to make their way into this complex discussion. I want to share them because sometimes understanding helps fuel compassion.

A. Destructive - Dysfunctional Family Dynamics

First, in many circumstances—NOT ALL—but many, there seems to be a history of destructive and dysfunctional family dynamics.

Amalia, whose testimony I shared last Sunday would fall into this group. I’m sure the sexual abuse she endured from her father is at least part of what pushed her into a lifestyle of sexual practice that was clearly outside of God’s loving boundaries. Greg Louganis…the HIV-positive Olympic athlete who came out of the closet back in 1990 says that he had a poor relationship with his adoptive father…a cruel man who once watched Louganis being beaten up at a bus stop without intervening. Louganis said his first same-sex encounter was as a high school student with a much older man he met at the beach and I think his words about this are significant. At that point in his life Louganis says, “I was starved for affection.” I knew a young man who embraced this lifestyle because his mother had raised him as a girl. She did this out of her hatred of all men—a deep bitter hatred that started when her husband, the boy’s father, abandoned them both.

I’m not saying this is always true—or can be proven true—but in many cases there seems to be some direct correlation to destructive family relationships in the life of those who chose to embrace the same sex lifestyle.

B. Early Same Sex Experience

Another consistent, contributing factor that surfaces is early same sex experience, often with a trusted friend or family member.

Many times when you listen to someone’s story they tell you about when their mom’s new husband or a baby sitter or a cousin or a gym teacher or an older brother or a neighbor…they tell you of how one of these people violated sexual lines that they had no right to violate—and it was powerful and confusing and wounding. I know someone who embraces a lesbian lifestyle and her father told me that there was a middle school gym teacher early on in life who led her into this kind of behavior. Friends, sex is a powerful thing so when a vulnerable boy or girl participates in a sexual activity with a trusted friend or family member of the same sex, early on in life…the ramifications and consequences are often very serious and long lasting.

C. Genetics Complex Puzzle

A third piece of this complex puzzle has to do with the question of genetics and the role that it plays.

Scientists are still debating whether or not there is a genetic factor that makes some people more prone to homosexuality or not. It’s become the age old question: “Are people born gay or do they become gay?” And the simple answer to this is that the jury is still out. The research at this point is inconclusive. Back in 1993 there was a lot of excitement over a study done by Simon LeVay of the Salk Institute…that announced a significant difference in the brain structure of homosexual and heterosexual men….but the excitement died down when other researchers weren’t able to duplicate those findings. Since then have been further studies but nothing conclusive.

And at this point, I have to say, if they do prove a genetic link to homosexuality some day it won’t make any difference when it comes to the “rightness” of the behavior. This “orientation” would be no different than any other kind of tendency somebody can have toward a particular sinful behavior or lifestyle—whether it be caused by our genes or our environment. I mean, some people have an orientation toward alcohol abuse, or gambling. Others have a quick temper, or find it easy to gossip about or slander people. As sinful, fallen beings, all of us have certain aspects of our make-up that make us prone to certain temptations and activities.

Another thing—people who claim a genetic link often say their “orientation” is a fundamental element of personal IDENTITY. They say “I AM A HOMOSEXUAL” or “I AM A LESBIAN.”

In other words, they are saying, “My sexual inclinations define who I am.” But this kind of thinking is flawed because our DESIRES do not define us…our CHOICES do. In Romans 6:16 Paul teaches that our choices either make us a slave to sin or a slave to Christ. So, by our willful choices in life we either become more Christlike or less Christlike. So—what we DO….not what we DESIRE…makes us WHO we are.

This reminds me of something I heard a young man say this week as part of a chapel address at Wheaton College. He had left the same sex lifestyle after becoming a Christian. He now teaches Biblical exegesis at Moody Bible Institute and he says that he used to think the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality…but as his faith grew he came to see something different. He says the opposite of homosexual practice is holiness…a the practice of striving to become more and more like Jesus—and I think he’s right.

Also…a desire…an orientation…or whatever you want to call it—does not legitimize behavior.

WANTING to do something does not make it right. Otherwise we shouldn’t lock people up for wanting to kill or molest or steal.

One more thing on this point: the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexual DESIRE but like any other desire that is outside of God’s will, it says resist it. Scripture does not condemn the temptation of desire but rather those times we yield to our desires. James 1:14-15 says, “We’re all tempted when by our own evil desire we’re dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it give birth to sin….and sin, when it is full grown gives birth to death.” We can trust God to give us the strength to resist our evil desires, whatever they may be. As 1st Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

(3) This leads me to mention a third statement that I believe describes our Creator’s response to all this: God EXPECTS.

Specifically, our Heavenly Father expects His children to speak the TRUTH—speak it in LOVE—but still speak it when given the opportunity to do so. So what does the Bible—the Book of truth—say about homosexuality? Let’s do a quick review.

The first reference to same sex acts is found in Genesis 19: the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. You’ll remember that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom. The Genesis record says that two men—angels—came to visit Lot to warn him and his family that because of the wickedness of that city God was about to destroy it. Lot welcomed these two men/angels into his home. Later that night, all of the men of Sodom, young and old, gathered around Lot’s place, and asked him to allow these “men” to come out to them…so that, as the text says, they could, “‘KNOW’ them.”

Scripture says that when Lot refused, these men became angry and nearly broke down the door to his home in order to get to these two “strangers.” Verse 9 says that if the angels had not stricken them blind, these wicked men certainly would have stopped at nothing to enter the home and satisfy their evil desires. Now, some people argue that the word “know” here doesn’t refer to sexual activity at all. They point out that the Hebrew verb used, which is “yada” appears 943 times in the Old Testament and that only ten of those times this verb is used to refer to physical intercourse. Their reasoning then is that since the verb “yada” is used in a NON-sexual sense in the vast majority of times, it would be inappropriate in this context to interpret it in a sexual way.

These people say that the reason the men of Sodom were angry was because Lot, a resident alien, had welcomed strangers into his home, who were potentially a threat to the community. And therefore, what the men of the community were really asking for was an opportunity to become acquainted with these strangers…to get to “KNOW” them. In their opinion then, the SIN of these Sodomite men, was to force their way into the privacy of Lot’s home in such a way that they flouted the ancient rules of hospitality.

People who argue from this angle also point out that in other places in the Old Testament, Sodom’s sin is NOT referred to as being homosexual practice. For example, Isaiah suggests that Sodom’s sin was hypocrisy or social injustice. In Jeremiah it’s depicted as a case of adultery and deceit. And there IS an element of truth in THIS part of their reasoning…for homosexuality was but ONE of Sodom’s sins. In Ezekiel 16:49-50 God says, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them.”

Now, I disagree with people who make this interpretation…and here’s why: You see, although the verb “yada” is only used ten times in Scripture to refer to a sex act…six of those times are found right here in the book of Genesis…and one of those six times is in this particular text. Here’s why I say this. In verses 7 & 8 Lot answered the request, or rather the demand, of the men of Sodom by saying, “You can have my two daughters who have never been with a man.” And this offer of women, is certainly sexually connotative. I mean, if the men simply wanted to get acquainted with the strangers in their midst, Lot would not have offered his daughters…because he would be suggesting that they could instead get acquainted with these women whom they were already familiar with. And of course that doesn’t make sense. Also…Judges 19:23 describes the sin of Sodom as “vile,” and “disgraceful”…which I’m sure you would agree are extreme adjectives to apply to the sin of INHOSPITALITY.  And finally, in his New Testament epistle Jude affirms that the activity at Sodom was indeed homosexual although he suggest it was but ONE of many sinful activities of this city…from whose name we get the term “sodomy.”

In any case, this isn’t the ONLY text in the Bible where homosexual practice is condemned.

Both Leviticus 18:22 and 19:13 say that it is detestable for, “a man to lie with a man as one lies with a woman.” 1st Corinthians 6:9 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers…nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1st Timothy 1:10 says that God’s law was made for, “those who are lawless and rebellious…for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers…and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching…”

Now…some people look at THESE Scriptures as being irrelevant because they say that they don’t address today’s same sex lifestyles. They argue that widespread homosexuality wasn’t around in the days in which the New Testament was written…and so these passages don’t really refer to homosexual practice but to “pederasty,” the sexual possession of an adolescent by an older man of the elite social classes. But these texts DO apply to this issue…for archeological studies confirm that the ancient world knew of homosexual desire and practice…and that is indeed what Paul had in mind.

Another text that condemns homosexual practice is Romans 1 where it says that because wicked people suppressed the truth of God, He gave them over to“…shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

Some argue that what Paul is criticizing here is not those who are homosexual but those who are heterosexual by their natural inclination and who live out their sexuality in a homosexual way.

Therefore, the argument goes, it’s unnatural because they are naturally heterosexual….and that they feel, is wrong. They also suggest that Paul is really just arguing against promiscuity…or against temple prostitution, but these arguments don’t hold water either because Paul’s contention in these verses is rooted in a doctrine of creation. He was pointing out that, as I said last week, God designed sex to function only between one man and one woman who are committed to one another for life.

So…it is striking to note that EVERY SINGLE TIME same-sex practice is mentioned in the Scriptures, it IS condemned. That is the truth we are called to lovingly speak.

There ARE only two ways to can get around the Biblical teaching against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of Scripture as the Word of God. I believe then that homosexuality then is not a political issue, or a civil rights issue, or even a tolerance issue…it is a MORAL issue.

Another bit of TRUTH that we need to be able to speak is that a same sex lifestyle is an UNHEALTHY lifestyle.

Galatians 6:8 warns, “The man who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap DESTRUCTION.”  And, like all who practice sex outside of God’s loving boundaries, those who practice a same sex lifestyle have learned this principle first hand. You see the truth is people who embrace this lifestyle on average have a much shorter life span. This is due to several factors—and I have checked the following info with two doctors—one who specializes in infectious disease, particularly those who suffer from AIDS.

First, and I will try to make my wording as sensitive as possible but the fact is the male body was not physically designed for intercourse with another male body…so when it is used in this way tears occur…which makes homosexually active men far more likely to face certain diseases—like chronic, potentially fatal, liver disease (infection hepatitis)….which increases the risk of liver cancer. They also have a high frequence of rectal cancer. They put themselves at a greater risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, which in spite of wonderful medical breakthroughs, is still a fatal disease without a cure. The HIV virus zaps the immune system and in this way greatly raises the risk of developing many illnesses that already have substantially high mortality rates: things like heart disease, lung cancer, kidney disease and failure, diabetes and so on.

Both homosexual men AND lesbian women have a much higher than average incidence of suicide. They also have a higher percentage of alcoholism and drug abuse. Hopefully these facts help increase your compassion level. They should!

One more bit of TRUTH we need to be able to share in LOVE is that people can change.

According to the Bible ANYONE can change. As 2nd Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation. The old has gone, the new has come!” I personally have heard the testimonies of several individuals who through their own desire and commitment, the power of the indwelling Christ…and the help of family, friends, and counselors, have abandoned the same sex lifestyle. Many Christian ministries like Exodus International and Kerusso Ministries are out there, committed to help people who want to change. Some of them have a 90 percent success rate.  Now…this doesn’t mean these people will always find the opposite sex attractive. It doesn’t mean they wind up getting married and having kids. It DOES mean they turn away from their desires.

And the Bible talks specifically about this hope. In 1st Corinthians 6 it says, “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who were idol worshipers, adulterers, or homosexuals, will have not share in His kingdom….” And then it says,  “…THERE WAS A TIME WHEN SOME OF YOU WERE JUST LIKE THAT….but now your sins are washed away…You’re set apart for God, and He’s accepted you…because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God have done for you.” Paul acknowledges here that practicing homosexuals were able to find freedom from the practice and that Christ gave them a fresh start. So…healing…change…is possible. The way out is not easy. If it were, more would have chosen it. But it IS possible. God is in the business of transforming the lives of morally imperfect people…people like me and you.

So…God GRIEVES…God KNOWS…God EXPECTS…

(4) Here’s one more thing I believe about all this. I believe God EXTENDS.

He extends His amazing grace to ALL people and by the way ALL people need it.

I have to stop and say at this point that I believe most conservative Christians would agree that same sex behavior is a sin. We don’t have any trouble hearing our convictions affirmed. But, as I said earlier, we do have difficulty being compassionate toward the homosexual population. Why is that true?

Why is it that so many of us have a hard time LOVING people who embrace this lifestyle? Well, I think the main reason is that we buy into the myth that the Bible classifies sin and that this particular sin is listed as being worse than other sins that we ourselves commit every day. This is a great misinterpretation of Scripture. Listen. If there WERE a list of sins from worst to “Best”—then at the top of the list—the WORST sin—would be PRIDE or arrogance…the belief that my sin doesn’t move me as far from God’s holiness as YOUR sin does. And this is indeed a GREAT MYTH for, the Bible clearly teaches that ALL of us have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. It states that this world is in its current depraved state because EACH OF US have given in to sinful desires…and are therefore ALL totally dependent on the grace of God.

Years ago an article was written in the TIMES OF LONDON entitled, “What’s Wrong With the World?”  The author of the article was grappling with some of the things that make the world a bad place. G. K. Chesterton wrote a letter to the editor following that piece and said, “I noted with interest the article that you published yesterday entitled, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ I felt compelled to write and tell you: I AM. Sincerely, G. K. Chesterton.” We—you and I—not just the LGBT community—WE are what is wrong with the world. All of our lives are affected by sin—and all of us are equally in need of God’s redemption. The ground is level at the cross. We are no better than any other sinners…and we have to be humble enough to realize this if we are to act compassionately toward homosexuals in the world…who like us desperately need to experience the love of God.

You know, Paul’s list of sins in Romans 1 includes much more than homosexuality. He argues that there is a variety of ways in which God’s good creation has been twisted by our acts and has come under His judgement. Paul mentions things like: “greed, envy, deceit, malice, gossip, slander…” Are any of us innocent of those sins? I think not. No, in the Bible homosexual acts are seen as just ONE of MANY profound implications of the broken-ness and sinfulness of all of humanity. So, when confronting homosexuality we must remember that “God demonstrated His love for [all of] us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) We must realize that it is the responsibility of every follower of Christ to love those who are struggling…no matter what their struggle involves. The fact that our neighbor embraces the same-sex lifestyle does not represent a “holy loophole” in Christ’s command that we love one another.

So, if you are here today and struggle with homosexual feelings then please hear this: YOU MATTER TO GOD…and YOU MATTER TO ANY TRULY GRACE-DRIVEN CHRISTIAN. and that includes me.