Several times recently I have heard the claim that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. Presumably this statement is intended to justify acceptance of homosexual practice and open the way to same-sex unions in law. However, it is not a statement which accords with what Jesus actually said and did. Although the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ do not appear in the Gospels, this does not mean that Jesus had nothing to say about the subject.
Marriage in the beginning
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:3-6 ESV; see also Mark 10:6-9)
In reiterating the Genesis account of male and female being joined to become one, Jesus took the Pharisees back to the beginning of creation to teach that divorce was not God’s intention. This passage, however, also speaks implicitly about homosexuality, but denying that the union of two humans can be male and male or female and female. It was the Creator’s intent from the beginning that marital union was between male and female. What God has joined together, from the beginning, is male and female. God does not join together male and male or female and female.
While I am certain that Jesus would not have condoned homosexuality, I am equally certain that Jesus would not have conducted a vendetta against homosexuals. His interactions with and response to people who crossed the boundaries of sexual propriety shows us how Jesus would have responded to any homosexual who came to him. This in turn will provide us with a way of responding to homosexual people today.
John 4: Jesus and the serial monogamist
John 4 records the interaction of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well. That she was a Samaritan placed her as a religious pariah for the Jews, and that she was female would suggest that it was breaking social custom for Jesus to speak to her alone. But what is more interesting here is that the woman had crossed the boundaries of what was acceptable in regard to sexual conduct; she had five husbands and was with a man who was not her husband (4:18). There is, however, no indication in the passage that Jesus condemned the woman. He gently exposed her sin (4:16-18) but then called her to follow him as the Messiah (4:26), offering her something which would truly satisfy her longings, something which her sin could never do (4:13-14).
Luke 7: Jesus and the prostitute
One day Jesus was eating at the home of a Pharisee and a woman came in and washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and poured perfume on them (Luke 7:36-38). The woman is described as a sinner (7:37). This word is used of sinners, both male and female. However, it is generally agreed on that the woman was a prostitute. One evidence for that conclusion is that she wore no veil to cover her hair, something which would not be likely in a respectable woman (e.g. Num 5:18). The Pharisee was clearly shocked that Jesus allowed a woman with that reputation to touch him (7:39). Yet the way in which the woman demonstrated love to Jesus was extravagant. Jesus told the Pharisee, “her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (7:47). The conclusion here is that those who were sinners outside the boundary of sexual propriety were attracted to the love and gentleness of Jesus and responded to him with extravagant love as he offered to them extravagant forgiveness.
John 8: Jesus and the woman caught in adultery
The Pharisees and teachers of the law, people who knew well the commandments of God, brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-3). The men who brought her to Jesus had no interest in the woman as such; she was merely a pawn in their game of trying to trap Jesus into saying something wrong (8:5-6). Jesus bent over and wrote with his finger in the sand (8:6), an action which is reminiscent of the finger of God writing the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone for Moses (Exod 31:18). Jesus then challenged those who knew the law so well by asking whoever was without sin to cast the first stone (8:7). No one could make that claim except the one who did not condemn the woman (8:9-11). But Jesus did not condone her actions, rather telling her, “Go, sin no more.”
If homosexuals believe, as I have heard some in the media state, that they cannot get on with God because they are gay, that is likely because we have been preaching a legalistic and unloving word rather than the grace of Christ. The grace and gentleness of Jesus caused sinners to flock to him and to turn from their sin. He loved those whose sin was sexual sin, offered them forgiveness and called them to sin no more. Thus there is in Christ neither condoning of the sin, nor condemnation of the sinner.