[Editor: The Busybody welcomes an old high-school classmate, Ray Vaillancourt, who demonstrates the biblical pattern of mercy trumping judgment, especially in cases when scripture is weaponized against the weak and marginal. Christian sexual morality can be debated, but to enforce it partially and as an oppressive measure is non-biblical. See also here for my earlier discussion of Michael Bird, who lands similar conclusions from an evangelical point of view. Vaillancourt works in a Catholic context.]
The Bible is Clear: Bible Truth and Homosexuality
by Ray Vaillancourt
Conservatives remind us that the Bible is clear: homosexual behavior is a sin. We have a moral duty to stop it. God wants us to teach homosexuals some Bible values.
Some folks protest, though. It’s discrimination. We’re not supposed to judge. We’re supposed to love and accept people.
Who are we to believe? Well, if we say we believe in Jesus, then let’s look to Jesus. What would he say about the Christian campaign against homosexuality and gay marriage? To help understand how Jesus might respond, let’s look at a case of sexual sin brought before him.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:3-5)
The scribes and Pharisees are technically correct in their application of the law to this woman caught in adultery. The Law proscribes death for adultery. But their justice is partial, by both meanings of the word “partial.” It is partial (incomplete) because the Law (Deuteronomy 22:22) calls for death for both the man and the woman, and they’re only charging the woman; and it is partial (discriminatory) because they are clearly using part of the law as an instrument of oppression against those they hate. It’s hateful politics disguised as righteousness.
This is the problem with many Christians trying to use the political process to defend marriage from homosexuality. While technically correct in isolation, the effort is partial— incomplete and discriminatory. It’s only about homosexuality. Conservative Catholics like to quote the terms “intrinsically disordered” or “objectively disordered” from the Catechism (#2357,2358) to show just how terrible homosexuality is. But I wonder how many can name the sexual sins that go with these labels:
- “morally disordered”
- “intrinsically and gravely disordered”
- “gravely contrary to the dignity of persons”
- “a grave offense”
- “a grave offense against the natural law”
- an “injustice” that “undermines the institution of marriage”
They are, in order, lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, divorce, and adultery (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2351-2384). Why aren’t Catholics pushing to criminalize these grave sins? Why doesn’t the defense of marriage address the “injustice” that “undermines the institution of marriage?” Partiality. They’re not trying to codify the beautiful Christian morality of human sexuality into civil law— just the parts about homosexuality. It’s hateful politics disguised as righteousness.
Whether Christian sexual morality should be written into civil law is a matter for discussion. But doing so partially is wrong from both a civil and a moral perspective. The Bible is clear: “You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality.” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20; cf Leviticus 19:15, Proverbs 24:23, Proverbs 28:21, Acts 10:34, James 2:1-13, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25)
God has always had a special affection for the poor, the weak and the oppressed, starting with the tiny nation of Israel itself, to the widows and orphans and immigrants and day laborers in the Law, to the prostitutes and tax collectors and Samaritans of the Gospels, to the woman caught in adultery, “for God is a God of justice, who shows no partiality. God shows no partiality to the weak but hears the grievance of the oppressed.” (Sirach 35:15-16). The Bible is clear: oppression of any group triggers a merciful and just response by God on their behalf. This is true biblical justice: evening the odds by siding with the weaker and smaller and those under attack. Thus, we can make any group God’s chosen people simply by hating and oppressing them. When we call down God’s fury on people, God showers them with mercy and gives us the condemnation. “For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13. cf Matthew 5:7, Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Matthew 7:1-2, Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 11:4, Romans 2:1, Colossians 3:12-13, Ephesians 4:32, Sirach 28:1-5)
Back to our story:
[Jesus said,] “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:7b,9-11)
Withholding condemnation is not acceptance of sin. Jesus did not come out saying, “Adultery is not a sin.” Quite the opposite actually (Matthew 5:27-28, Mark 7:21-23). But when people are weaponizing parts of the Law to oppress people, then the Lord of mercy and true biblical justice is firmly on the side of the people being attacked. The woman caught in adultery didn’t get the stoning she legitimately deserved under the Law. It’s not that she didn’t sin— it’s that the scribes and Pharisees hated and oppressed her right into the merciful bosom of God. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Jesus made it clear that technical correctness does not justify neglecting “the weightier things of the Law,” such as unconditional love, impartial justice, mercy, and compassion (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42; cf Hosea 2:21-22, Micah 6:8, Deuteronomy 32:3-4, Psalm 33:4-5, Isaiah 16:5, Jeremiah 9:22-23, Zechariah 7:9, 1 Timothy 6:11). No Catholic teaching about homosexuality is complete without true justice and mercy and grace. “[Homosexual persons] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358)
If you want to defend marriage, then be careful that you’re defending marriage and not attacking God’s chosen people. If you want the government to regulate sexuality, but only certain people’s sexuality, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?” (James 2:4) “If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8-9)
Partial Christians are partially correct: we do have a duty to teach and uphold the Gospel in our participation in civil life; the rest of that truth is that we have a duty to make sure our Gospel teaching and actions are Gospel teaching and actions. Condemnation and partiality are not Gospel values. It is time for Christians to teach LGBT people some real biblical values: impartial justice and mercy and faithfulness and the unconditional love of God.
The Bible is clear.