Queering the Bible, Pt4 – Romans

4th part of my article exploring what the Bible has to say about LGBT issues.

Most people take Romans 1:26-27 – “Because of this, G-d 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” out of context when viewing homosexuality. It is necessary in this case to read thewhole chapter of Romans 1.

Firstly, let’s provide a bit of context:
At the time of writing, Christianity had begun to grow in Rome and was comprised of both Gentile and Jewish believers. Paul wishes to visit the church, but in the meantime he sends this letter to the church in Rome that lays out Paul’s theology and the great themes of the Gospel. Most would consider the Book of Romans to be Paul’s most complete theological statement.
In the first three chapters Paul makes a strong case for the need of all people, both Jew and Gentile, to establish their faith in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1 Paul speaks to the Jews of the sin of the Gentiles which they seem to have initially reported to him that resulted in this reply. Chapter 2 – Paul turns highlights the sins of the Jews. Chapter 3 – Paul reaches the conclusion that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24). It then becomes clear that Paul’s intention in writing this letter was to assert the need of all people to experience salvation by the Gospel message and the availability that Gospel to all, Gentile or Jew, male or female, slave or free. It is unlikely that Paul knew that his words would be being viewed by the whole world 2000 years later, and his words take out of context.

In committing idolatry the Gentile people had dishonoured G-d and in response G-d turns them over to dishonour themselves. The people actively chose to engage in one sin, that being idolatry, but from that point on it was G-d who gave them over to other sins as a penalty for the original great offense.

Let us examine the verses 21-31 chronologically:

The Sin: For although they knew G-d they did not honour him as G-d or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal G-d for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
The Penalty: G-d gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the dishonouring of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:24)
The Sin: because they exchanged the truth about G-d for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)
The Penalty: For this reason G-d gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
The Sin: And since they did not see fit to acknowledge G-d… (Romans 1:28a)
The Penalty: G-d gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of G-d, and insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. (Romans 28b-31)

Paul and his contempories are often seen to view passion as uncontrollable, and therefore negative. In his eyes, it was always dishonourable. Paul saw idolatry as the cause of homo-eroticism, not sexual orientation or human choice.
This passage does not speak of gay, lesbians and bisexuals within our culture, but only to the culture of Gentile idolaters; as it similarly does not address homo-eroticism within the Jewish community. The Romans letter is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, due to the implication that idolatry causes homosexuality. Most Christian LGB people today will have never practiced idolatry, and so this letter is not in reference to them.

If you don’t accept the above, perhaps viewing Romans 1.24 in the same light as Leviticus 18.22 might be helpful.

For the above part of this page, I have blatantly stole some info from this article. You may find this other article interesting, as it deals with the Romans letter in greater depth.

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