I can’t ignore the tough verses in Romans.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 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.Romans 1: 26-27
The tough verses
Ok, I’ve known for a while that these verses were coming, and I can’t say that I’ve been much looking forward o them. But if this daily Romans devotional is going to go through the whole book Romans and take each verse seriously, then I have to take even the unpleasant versesseriously. But I also don’t want to say anything that Paul isn’t saying. So, let’s take a look at these verses. Let’s take them seriously, and let’s struggle with them.
First of all, what is Paul definitely saying here? Paul is definitely saying that homosexual acts–male or female–are unnatural and shameful.
Now, what is Paul not saying? Paul is not saying here that gay marriage is wrong. In fact, it’s implied that the people he’s referring to are committing their shameful acts outside the context of marriage. Perhaps, one could say, the acts are shameful because they are ataking place outside the econtext of marriage. Perhaps sexual acts between same sex married couples would not be shameful and unnatural. At the very least, I think tha’s an interpretation of the text that is not outright contradicted by Paul’s words. You could make a case for that interpretation.
But how strong of a case? As far as I can tell, not very. First of all, Paul seems to be addressing sexuality from a standpoint of purely what’s natural. He doesn’t even bring marriage into the picture. Notice how he says, “men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” Paul’s focus here is on sexual acts themselves and whether they are natural. Whether or not they occur between two married people seems ancillary to Paul’s overall point–or completely disconnected from it. Paul’s focus here is solely on the fact that natural relations occur between men and women (married or not) and not between two people of the same sex.
But is an “unnatural” act in this case wrong? Maybe it doesn’t fit with what’s common in a heteronormative culture, but perhaps it’s just a little harmless eccentricity.
Again, I’m afraid that interpretation simply isn’t supported by the text. Even in just these two verses, Paul always connects the “unnatural” with the “shameful.” The sexual acts aren’t just out of order; they’re something to be ashamed of.
Why are these verses tough?
I don’t know what context you’re reading this in. Maybe you disagree with me sharply and have struggled, in your anger, to make it this far in the post. Maybe you think these points are obvious and you don’t even know why I’m calling these verses “tough.” In any case, please allow me to explain my thinking here.
I know many people who identify as LGBTQ+. I know people who have had homosexual urges but have fought them their entire life. I know people who celebrate being gay, and I know people who damn the very idea of being gay.
On top of all this, we live in a society that increasingly celebrates–not just accepts, but celebrates–an LGBT identity. If you cut against the grain in this category, then you are committing major social sins.
But I don’t want to ignore these verses. If I’m going to take the Bible seriously, I’m going to take all of it seriously. Even the rough parts. I’m open to criticism and argument; I’m open to other interpretations, but I just don’t see another way of reading it.
Yet once again, let’s not mount our high horses. Ephesians tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” This means all sexual immorality. It means secret lusts of the heart. It means fornication. It means adultery. It means pornography.
Sometimes Christians are quick to condemn homosexuality as a sin–and their right–but they do it with a lot more zeal than they use to purge sexual immorality from their own hearts.