What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?

Explore what the Scriptures teach (and don't teach) about this sensitive issue.

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One of the things I love most about the Bible is the comprehensive way it speaks to multiple areas of everyday life. Yes, God's Word has a lot to say about topics like sin, salvation, discipleship, and spiritual growth -- but it doesn't stop there. The Bible provides clear commentary on financial issues, politics, social justice, raising children, and much more.

The Bible also provides relevant leadership on the topic of human sexuality.

Specifically, God's Word offers straightforward answers to many of the questions surrounding the practice of homosexuality.

I realize this is a sensitive issue for many people, and certainly one that has served as a hot-button topic for years. Indeed, I'm writing this article several weeks after the United States Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in California-decisions that have seemingly opened the door for gay marriage across the country.

Therefore, I'd like to take a step back and focus primarily on what the Bible has to say regarding the practice of homosexuality. I'd also like to provide some personal commentary at the end of this article regarding what the Bible does not say about that issue.

But first, I think it's appropriate to get a little background on God's original plan for human sexuality.

God's Plan for Sex and Sexuality

When the Bible describes the creation of human beings in the opening chapters of Genesis, it includes God's original design for human sexuality:

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:20-24, NIV)

That was the plan. God created people to be sexual beings, and His original design blessed the sexual expression of one man and one woman through a unique union that molded two individuals into "one flesh." This union has traditionally been referred to as marriage.

Here's the rub: any other form of sexual action or expression is a deviation from God's original design. That includes adultery, premarital sex, pornography, concentrated lust, and so on. Any of these practices is morally wrong according to God's Word, and therefore any of these practices can be and should be labeled as sin.

That includes the practice of homosexuality.

What the Bible Says

Fortunately, you don't have to rely on my word regarding that last statement. Several passages of Scripture speak directly to the practice of homosexuality.

Here's an example from the Old Testament:

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable (Leviticus 18:22).

And here's an example from the New Testament:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:26-27).

If those verses seem harsh to you, I understand. In fact, even as I type them here, I'm tempted to grab my Bible and search for other passages that are a little softer -- a little less blunt.

But what I need to remember is that the Bible is harsh toward all forms of sin. The Bible has harsh things to say about heterosexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5), greed (Proverbs 28:25), hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-36), pride (Proverbs 16:18), and more.

For those reasons, I don't feel the need to apologize for God's Word. As a follower of Jesus, I've chosen to live in submission to truths contained in the Bible, even when those truths aren't popular -- even when they're not as sensitive as I'd like to be. If I believe the Bible to be true (and I do), then I must follow what it says.

What the Bible Does Not Say

At the same time, I'm also responsible to represent the Bible in an accurate way.

So let's conclude this article by highlighting a few things the Bible does not say about the topic of homosexuality.

First, the Bible does not give definitive answers about the morality of a homosexual orientation. As we've seen above, the Bible clearly states that homosexual actions go against God's plan for human sexuality, and therefore should be labeled as sin. But what about simply being homosexual? Should a person be considered in rebellion against God because he or she has sexual desires for people of the same gender?

To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in God's Word that condemns or calls out individuals with a same-sex orientation. It is the practice of homosexuality that results in sin. Those who experience internal homosexual desires should be treated the same way as unmarried individuals who experience internal heterosexual desires without acting on them.

In a similar way, the Bible does not say that homosexual men and women are distorted or in any way less valuable as human beings than heterosexuals. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Bible makes it clear that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which means all people are equally valuable in the eyes of God.

Therefore, there is no biblical justification for any kind of discrimination against homosexual individuals. Certainly there is no excuse for hate crimes or abusing others simply because of their sexual orientation. This is especially true for Christians, because followers of Christ are commanded to love their neighbors even as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39).

Finally, the Bible does not say that a homosexual lifestyle disqualifies a person from being a Christian. The simple truth is that all Christians struggle with sin this side of eternity. Yes, every man and woman who chooses to follow Christ has a responsibility to fight against their sin natures and strive to become more like Him -- but every single one of us will fail to win this battle until we are perfected by Christ in heaven.

There are many people who identify themselves as both homosexuals and Christians. Such claims should not be ignored or scoffed at. Personal salvation is just that -- a personal relationship between an individual and God, and not something that should be judged or graded based entirely on external behaviors.

That being the case, there are some restrictions when it comes to membership within a local church. The Bible commands that people living in open rebellion against God should be removed from the church as a last resort in order to communicate the seriousness of sin (see Matthew 18:15-20, for example). This process is known as church discipline, and the biblical standards are noticeably higher for people who wish to serve as leaders within the church.

It's my personal opinion that churches seeking to apply such practices with homosexual members should give equal weight to heterosexual immorality within their congregations. At the same time, I also believe that individuals who choose to rebel against God through the practice of homosexuality should not be considered for church leadership -- just as a heterosexual person would be expected to resign from church leadership if he or she adopted a lifestyle of ongoing sexual sin.

All in all, the subject of homosexuality must be addressed seriously and compassionately in the modern world. That's why I'm so thankful that I can rely on the truths expressed in God's Word.