Objection: This is a justice issue

God is a God of justice. The Bible says a great deal about justice. To deny homosexuals their rights is unjust. Or so the argument goes. Many people are strongly “pro-gay” because they see people being denied their rights. If practising homosexuals are not able to express themselves fully, or not able to fully engage in society, then this is a justice issue.

Response

There is no doubt that the Bible does say a lot about justice. Compared with the relatively few passages dealing with homosexuality, there are many that demand justice. But we must ask three questions: Are there competing teachings in the Bible? What rights do practising homosexuals have? What is justice? Are there competing teachings in the Bible? Some of those who are pro-gay believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. We have already looked at the passages. It is clear that the Bible consistently condemns homosexuality. Others recognise that fact but say that the bigger issue is one of justice. In other words, although the Bible does condemn homosexual acts, God is more concerned about justice and therefore we should ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality. Are they right? The teachings of the Bible are not in disagreement with each other. God is not internally conflicted or confused or speaking out both sides of His mouth. We cannot use some biblical texts to dismiss others. It is not a case that the teaching with the most references defeats the one with the fewer. Nor is it a case of choosing between them. We must hold both together and understand how they are both true. How do we understand justice and the biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sinful? What are “gay rights”? Undoubtedly, practising homosexuals have rights, just like all other people i.e. basic human rights. They have the right to life and freedom, to justice in our courts, to their own beliefs and to freedom of speech. They have a right to walk our streets in safety, and so on. If a homosexual is, for example, admitted to hospital, he/she is entitled to have those closest to him/her to visit even if that is a homosexual partner and not a spouse. Homosexuals are entitled to housing and so should not be discriminated against when they want to buy a house. There have been terrible instances of “gay-bashing” that are a clear breech of those rights and are indefensible. If Christians have been involved in those, that is shameful and appalling. Churches have a responsibility to make disciples of Jesus Christ who are increasingly like Him. If individual Christians are clearly not Christ-like, the church bears some blame (except, perhaps, where there has been mental illness that the church could not reasonably have done anything about.) But do gays have special rights beyond basic human rights? Do practising homosexuals have a right to sexual expression? We live in a world that seems to believe that everyone must be able to be sexually active. Any call for restraint seems unreasonable and incredibly old fashioned. For heterosexual Christians, who can be married, to say that homosexuals must be celibate, seems unfair. Firstly, who says that everyone has the right to be sexually active? God doesn’t. Sexual restraint is a biblical value and is expected of unmarried heterosexuals just as much as homosexuals. It should not be assumed that sex is an inalienable right. Secondly, it is not Christians who are making demands on their homosexual colleagues. It is God and He is able to declare what is right and what is not. We attempt to make ourselves God when we declare that He is wrong. There is no basic human right to immorality. Homosexuals might choose to defy God, and indulge in what God calls abominable sin, but we must remember that that is what is happening. It is not a human right. It is a human wrong. Do homosexuals have the right to never be challenged? The tendency is for anyone who disagrees with homosexuality to be labelled “homophobic”. Homosexuals feel that any disagreement is offensive and degrading of them. That attitude is a form of intimidation that makes it harder for those who disagree, to speak up. There is an inconsistency when people who don’t want to be criticised then condemn anyone who does – maybe even to the point of lodging official complaints against them. It is easy to get the impression that it is a crime to disagree and it may actually become a crime if “hate speech” laws are not fair and equitable. (There is another section on “Homophobia and hate speech”.) Despite the squeals, homosexuals do not have a right to never be challenged, any more than anyone else does. Freedom of speech and of opinion must be guarded (while also guarding against abusive or genuinely hateful speech.) No one can claim a right to say that everyone else must be unfailingly positive about them. Do practising homosexuals have a right to church leadership? No, no one does. Leadership is a privilege, not a right. Irrespective of who aspires to church leadership, the church will test that call and test that person’s suitability. The Apostle Paul prescribed quite stringent requirements for deacons and elders (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) including: Being above reproach (1 Tim 3:2) Being temperate and self-controlled (1 Tim 3:2) Keeping hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:9) Being blameless (Titus 1:6, 7) Loving what is good, being self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined (Titus 1:8) Holding firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9) It should be clear that a person defiantly living in sin does not meet these requirements. If there is temptation to sin, the leader is expected to be self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. God expects His people, and especially leaders who have influence over others, to be holy. It is often argued that practising homosexuals have been called by God and the church dare not deny what God has done. But a sense of call is very subjective. The church tests that call because it does not simply accept that everyone who claims to be called, actually is. It is because of that testing process that Paul gives criteria. Indeed, he says that prospective deacons “must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve” (1 Tim 3:10). Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). We can recognise suitable people by their lifestyle. The reality here should be very clear: defiant, persistent sin is evidence that a person is not suitable for leadership and that, therefore, God has not called this person. We have to defy God to put such people in leadership when it contravenes the criteria He has given. What about competing rights? I have mentioned the example of a homosexual couple not being discriminated against in the buying of a house. But a Christian landlord would find it difficult letting a house to a homosexual couple knowing what was happening in his/her house and knowing that he/she was facilitating it. In the current climate it would be intolerable to suggest (as I just have) that people should be able to discriminate against homosexuals for ethical reasons. But that shows how far the mood has swung against a traditional understanding. A basic question asks whether Christians still have the right to express their beliefs and to carry out their God- given mission of declaring the gospel. The so-called rights of homosexuals are currently leading people to think that the rights of Christians should be denied. What is justice? When people claim that this is a justice issue, how are they defining justice? The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1964) defines justice as “exercise of authority in maintenance of right; …reward of virtue and punishment of vice.” Immediately we see an inconsistency. Somehow, re-defined justice means “the defence of those who want to do wrong”. Justice is being turned on its head. Justice has been redefined to mean “this person must be allowed to do what he/she wants to do without recriminations”. Obviously, those who call for the acceptance of homosexual acts do not see them as wrong. But their view is diametrically opposed to God’s. It is that confused thinking that leads to a confused understanding of justice. This is Romans 1:21 verified. This is hard to say but faithfulness to the scriptures requires it. God is a God of justice and He has already repeated, many times, what justice means in this situation. Sinners, including practising homosexuals, will not enter the Kingdom of God. That is justice. In Ezekiel 18:25-32, God responds to claims that He is unjust (vv.25, 29). He declares that those who are unrighteous, and those who turn from righteousness to unrighteousness, will die, but those who are righteous, or who turn from sin to righteousness, will live. That is just. It is Israel, in her sin, that is unjust. Significantly, God calls the people (whom He has condemned for many chapters because of their sin) to repent. He finds no pleasure in judging people. He would rather they repent. Ezekiel 18:30-32 30  ‘Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall.  31   Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?  32  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! That is precisely why Christians must love homosexuals enough to speak the truth to them. That truly is a justice issue. At its root, the cry for a justice that condones homosexual acts misunderstands what justice is.

Related pages

· · · · · · · · ·
© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
Main sections Main sections

Objection: This is a

justice issue

God is a God of justice. The Bible says a great deal about justice. To deny homosexuals their rights is unjust. Or so the argument goes. Many people are strongly “pro- gay” because they see people being denied their rights. If practising homosexuals are not able to express themselves fully, or not able to fully engage in society, then this is a justice issue.

Response

There is no doubt that the Bible does say a lot about justice. Compared with the relatively few passages dealing with homosexuality, there are many that demand justice. But we must ask three questions: Are there competing teachings in the Bible? What rights do practising homosexuals have? What is justice? Are there competing teachings in the Bible? Some of those who are pro-gay believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. We have already looked at the passages. It is clear that the Bible consistently condemns homosexuality. Others recognise that fact but say that the bigger issue is one of justice. In other words, although the Bible does condemn homosexual acts, God is more concerned about justice and therefore we should ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality. Are they right? The teachings of the Bible are not in disagreement with each other. God is not internally conflicted or confused or speaking out both sides of His mouth. We cannot use some biblical texts to dismiss others. It is not a case that the teaching with the most references defeats the one with the fewer. Nor is it a case of choosing between them. We must hold both together and understand how they are both true. How do we understand justice and  the biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sinful? What are “gay rights”? Undoubtedly, practising homosexuals have rights, just like all other people i.e. basic human rights. They have the right to life and freedom, to justice in our courts, to their own beliefs and to freedom of speech. They have a right to walk our streets in safety, and so on. If a homosexual is, for example, admitted to hospital, he/she is entitled to have those closest to him/her to visit even if that is a homosexual partner and not a spouse. Homosexuals are entitled to housing and so should not be discriminated against when they want to buy a house. There have been terrible instances of “gay-bashing” that are a clear breech of those rights and are indefensible. If Christians have been involved in those, that is shameful and appalling. Churches have a responsibility to make disciples of Jesus Christ who are increasingly like Him. If individual Christians are clearly not Christ-like, the church bears some blame (except, perhaps, where there has been mental illness that the church could not reasonably have done anything about.) But do gays have special rights beyond basic human rights? Do practising homosexuals have a right to sexual expression? We live in a world that seems to believe that everyone must be able to be sexually active. Any call for restraint seems unreasonable and incredibly old fashioned. For heterosexual Christians, who can be married, to say that homosexuals must be celibate, seems unfair. Firstly, who says that everyone has the right to be sexually active? God doesn’t. Sexual restraint is a biblical value and is expected of unmarried heterosexuals just as much as homosexuals. It should not be assumed that sex is an inalienable right. Secondly, it is not Christians who are making demands on their homosexual colleagues. It is God and He is able to declare what is right and what is not. We attempt to make ourselves God when we declare that He is wrong. There is no basic human right to immorality. Homosexuals might choose to defy God, and indulge in what God calls abominable sin, but we must remember that that is what is happening. It is not a human right. It is a human wrong. Do homosexuals have the right to never be challenged? The tendency is for anyone who disagrees with homosexuality to be labelled “homophobic”. Homosexuals feel that any disagreement is offensive and degrading of them. That attitude is a form of intimidation that makes it harder for those who disagree, to speak up. There is an inconsistency when people who don’t want to be criticised then condemn anyone who does – maybe even to the point of lodging official complaints against them. It is easy to get the impression that it is a crime to disagree and it may actually become a crime if “hate speech” laws are not fair and equitable. (There is another section on Homophobia and hate speech”.) Despite the squeals, homosexuals do not have a right to never be challenged, any more than anyone else does. Freedom of speech and of opinion must be guarded (while also guarding against abusive or genuinely hateful speech.) No one can claim a right to say that everyone else must be unfailingly positive about them. Do practising homosexuals have a right to church leadership? No, no one does. Leadership is a privilege, not a right. Irrespective of who aspires to church leadership, the church will test that call and test that person’s suitability. The Apostle Paul prescribed quite stringent requirements for deacons and elders (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) including: Being above reproach (1 Tim 3:2) Being temperate and self-controlled (1 Tim 3:2) Keeping hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:9) Being blameless (Titus 1:6, 7) Loving what is good, being self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined (Titus 1:8) Holding firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9) It should be clear that a person defiantly living in sin does not meet these requirements. If there is temptation to sin, the leader is expected to be self- controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. God expects His people, and especially leaders who have influence over others, to be holy. It is often argued that practising homosexuals have been called by God and the church dare not deny what God has done. But a sense of call is very subjective. The church tests that call because it does not simply accept that everyone who claims to be called, actually is. It is because of that testing process that Paul gives criteria. Indeed, he says that prospective deacons “must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve” (1 Tim 3:10). Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). We can recognise suitable people by their lifestyle. The reality here should be very clear: defiant, persistent sin is evidence that a person is not suitable for leadership and that, therefore, God has not called this person. We have to defy God to put such people in leadership when it contravenes the criteria He has given. What about competing rights? I have mentioned the example of a homosexual couple not being discriminated against in the buying of a house. But a Christian landlord would find it difficult letting a house to a homosexual couple knowing what was happening in his/her house and knowing that he/she was facilitating it. In the current climate it would be intolerable to suggest (as I just have) that people should be able to discriminate against homosexuals for ethical reasons. But that shows how far the mood has swung against a traditional understanding. A basic question asks whether Christians still have the right to express their beliefs and to carry out their God-given mission of declaring the gospel. The so-called rights of homosexuals are currently leading people to think that the rights of Christians should be denied. What is justice? When people claim that this is a justice issue, how are they defining justice? The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1964) defines justice as “exercise of authority in maintenance of right; …reward of virtue and punishment of vice.” Immediately we see an inconsistency. Somehow, re-defined justice means “the defence of those who want to do wrong”. Justice is being turned on its head. Justice has been redefined to mean “this person must be allowed to do what he/she wants to do without recriminations”. Obviously, those who call for the acceptance of homosexual acts do not see them as wrong. But their view is diametrically opposed to God’s. It is that confused thinking that leads to a confused understanding of justice. This is Romans 1:21 verified. This is hard to say but faithfulness to the scriptures requires it. God is a God of justice and He has already repeated, many times, what justice means in this situation. Sinners, including practising homosexuals, will not enter the Kingdom of God. That is justice. In Ezekiel 18:25-32, God responds to claims that He is unjust (vv.25, 29). He declares that those who are unrighteous, and those who turn from righteousness to unrighteousness, will die, but those who are righteous, or who turn from sin to righteousness, will live. That is just. It is Israel, in her sin, that is unjust. Significantly, God calls the people (whom He has condemned for many chapters because of their sin) to repent. He finds no pleasure in judging people. He would rather they repent. Ezekiel 18:30-32 30  ‘Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall.  31  Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?  32  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! That is precisely why Christians must love homosexuals enough to speak the truth to them. That truly is a justice issue. At its root, the cry for a justice that condones homosexual acts misunderstands what justice is.

Related pages

· · · · · · · · ·
© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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