THE ORLANDO MASSACRE
On June 12, 2016, a gunman entered a nightclub in Orlando, FL that was frequented by members of the LGBT community with evil in his heart. By the time he was killed by police officers he had killed 49 and injured another 53. He believed he was doing God a favor and earning himself a guaranteed spot in heaven. My heart is broken for the victims and the families who have been devastated by a coward who raised his hand against a country and one specific community in particular.
The rhetoric has been flying around from many different perspectives since the massacre. Two statements have been made by some members of the Christian community that have been very disturbing to me that need to be addressed. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love. These two points of view do not meet this standard set forth by the Apostle Paul. The first goes something like this, "This is the judgement of God upon the LGBT community." or, "They got what they deserved!" The second is along the lines of, "Well, the Bible calls for homosexuals to be put to death."
I would like to deal with the second statement first. Does the Bible call for all homosexuals to be put to death? What does the Bible say about homosexuality? There is much debate within Christendom about homosexuality. You may disagree with me, and that's okay, but may we please disagree in the spirit of love.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?
The first mention of homosexuality is in the book of Genesis chapters 18 & 19. The Lord sent two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy the cities for their wickedness. When the angels (in the form of 2 men) came to Lot's home the men of Sodom tried, unsuccessfully, to attack the angels intending to rape them, presuming them to be men. Lot escaped and the Lord rained flaming sulfur down upon the cities destroying the cities and all the inhabitants.
The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness but nowhere in the Bible does it state that the cities were destroyed solely because of homosexuality. Normally you hear people arguing from one of two poles. One group says God destroyed them because of homosexuality; the other side says they were destroyed for their lack of hospitality. I believe both poles lack fidelity to the scriptures. The Lord says in Ezekiel 16:49-50, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it." God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for any singular sin but because they were totally corrupt.
In the book of Leviticus we read, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" Lev 18.22; and "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them" Lev 20:13. These passages do call homosexual relationships sin, an abomination in the eyes of God, and the latter calls for the death penalty, but is this a prescription for all people of all time? NO!!! These passages must be taken in their context.
What is the context? The Lord is speaking to a specific people group for a specific purpose. He is addressing the Children of Israel and He wants them to be a people separated unto Him. This is made clear in the following passages; "You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out." Lev 20:22 and "Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine." Lev 20:26. You cannot lift a verse or two out of it's proper context and make it prescriptive for every person, for all time.
I am not saying that homosexuality is not a sin. Romans 1:18-32 make it clear that homosexuality (along with a whole host of other sins which we don't seem to have that much of a problem with, i.e. greed, arrogance, unloving, unmerciful) is sin, but nowhere in the New Testament does it call for capital punishment for this particular transgression. If you want to apply this one punishment for this particular sin, please be prepared to apply all the Old Testament Law to your life as well. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the churches in Galatia that you cannot pick and choose. You must keep the entire Law or you can choose to live under the grace found only in and through Jesus Christ.
Now you might say, "But SEE! It is an ABOMINATION in the eyes of God!" You are right. It is an abomination in the eyes of God. But I did a quick search of what God calls an abomination and here are a few things I found that are also an abomination:
Arrogance - Liars - Murderers - People who devise wicked schemes - People who enjoy doing evil - False witnesses - People who try to divide others - Those who justify wickedness - Transvestites - The sacrifice of the wicked - Those with a crooked heart - Scoffers - Devious people - Unequal weights and measures - Wickedness - The unjust - and That which the world exalts.
That is quite a list, but one thing I noticed; the Bible does not prioritize sin on a flowchart of "Really Bad Sins" to "Not Really All That Bad Sins." God does not have a sliding scale like we do, and we make sure our favorite sins are not given much weight and sins we do not like are weighted very heavy. In our own minds we picture God winking at our sins and being disgusted by sins we don't find tempting to us.
You may be feeling justified in your own eyes as you don't feel called out by that list but just wait. Have you ever lied? Then you are a liar. Have you ever murdered someone? No? Really? If you have ever read the Sermon on the Mount you may want to reconsider your answer. In Matthew 5:21-25 Jesus tells us it is not a matter of the Law bought a matter of the heart. Jesus is saying if you hate someone you have committed murder in your heart. If you have a hatred in your heart for people who struggle with homosexuality, you are guilty of murder, and that is an abomination to God.
WHAT DOES JESUS SAY THAT MIGHT BE HELPFUL FOR US?
Jesus doesn't say anything about homosexuality in His earthly ministry but He does have something to say about the first statement I pointed out, "This is God's judgement on the LGBT community." Jesus was asked about a situation where the Roman governor mingled the blood of some people from Galilee he slaughtered with the blood of the sacrifices they brought to the temple and also about how bad the people must have been who died when a tower fell on them. I find His response useful for us today.
Luke 13:2-5 "And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus goes on to tell a parable about a fig tree that didn't produce fruit. When the landowner came and saw the unproductive fig tree he wanted to pull it out and throw it away but the gardener talked him into waiting until he could work with the tree and fertilize it. The point of the story was about the mercy and grace of God. Jesus was pointing out that we should not be in the business of judging people, the point is you must be concerned about your sin. Jesus wants you to repent while you still have a chance. Those who were murdered in Orlando no longer have a chance to repent. Their place in eternity is sealed. Those who did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ will never a relationship with Jesus. That breaks my heart! That breaks the heart of God!
THE HEART OF GOD
We see the heart of God in the book of Ezekiel, “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:23. "Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" Ezekiel 33:11. And the Apostle Peter tells us, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9. God wants sinners to repent and turn to Him.
If God Himself does not take pleasure in the death of sinners why would we? We are to imitate our Heavenly Father, Eph. 5:1-12. We need be more concerned about loving people into the Kingdom who are enslaved to sin. We also need to repent of our own sin and get our own hearts right and in line with the heart of God.