Romans 1:26-27 is one of the most popular Clobber Passages ever. I’m sure many of you have received emails with the verses pasted in, as though you had never read them before. Sometimes fourteen verses are pasted in, verses 18-32. People apparently think that no comment is required, that the verses speak for themselves.
Dialogue with Charlotte
Howard: Charlotte, can we talk?
Charlotte: Sure, Howard. I was hoping we would talk again.
Howard: I’m sorry, but when I think about homosexuality, I always have to go back to Romans 1.
Charlotte: That’s understandable, Howard. It is a central chapter for you guys. Plus, Romans really is a terrific book. It’s very, very deep.
Howard: Okay. What do you do with Romans 1:26-27? Let me read it to you. “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.”
How do you get around that? That is very clear to me.
Charlotte: I don’t try to get around scripture, Howard. I just read it as carefully as I can. Do me a favor, okay? There’s something strange in that verse. Maybe you can explain it.
Charlotte: Can you explain this part? It says the men “received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” What’s that about? What is the “due penalty” for their error?
Howard: Well, I think AIDS fits that.
Charlotte: So you think AIDS is a judgment from God? AIDS didn’t exist in humans until the 1970s. I thought you guys gave up that line a long time ago.
Howard: Okay, so it didn’t have to be AIDS. It could be any venereal disease.
Charlotte: Alright, but even straight couples can get STDs. So I still don’t know what Paul’s thinks is the “due penalty” for same-sex relationships.
Howard: It doesn’t have to be STDs. You know how gay guys are, all flambouyant and talking with a swish.
Charlotte: A swish? You mean a lisp? You don’t really think that speech impediments are a penalty, do you? A penalty from God?
Howard: What’s that got do do with anything?
Charlotte: Well, you are quoting the verse, and I was just asking you what it meant, but apparently you don’t. But it’s okay that you don’t know what it means, that thing about “due penalty.” You know what? I don’t either!
Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on in Paul’s mind, to know exactly what he means. Plus, this was written 2,000 years ago, you know, in the middle east. There are a lot of differences in culture and language between now and then. It’s impossible to understand everything in the Bible perfectly. It wasn’t written in English, after all!
Howard: Yes, but that’s just a minor thing. A penalty is a penalty, no matter what the penalty is. What’s important is to realize that these verses were written to prove that homosexuality is a sin.
Charlotte: But Howard, that’s not really true.
Howard: What? Of course they were!
Charlotte: Howard, if you really want to know why Paul wrote this, you have to read it in context. Look at the beginning of chapter two. Read the first several verses of chapter two. Notice the “You, therefore.” I think that’s talking to you.
Howard: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”
Hmm, I never read that before. But I’m not gay, Charlotte. It says, “you who pass judgment do the same things.” I don’t do the same things they do–it doesn’t apply to me.
Howard: C’mon, Charlotte. You think I’m gay?
Charlotte: No, but do you think you’re in a position to judge gays and lesbians just because you’re not gay?
Howard: I don’t judge anybody. I just go with what the Word of God says.
Charlotte: Howard, do you know how many “sins” are listed in Romans 1? I count 28. Nice, easy number to remember: 25 sins of the depraved mind, plus idolatry, fornication, and homosexuality. So there are 28 sins in Romans 1, and all we hear about is one of them, homosexuality. What’s with that?
Howard: That’s not totally true. I hear plenty about fornication, But homosexuality is different from those other sins.
Charlotte: How so?
Howard: It’s a perversion. The Bible says it’s an abomination.
Charlotte: Worse than idolatry and fornication?
Howard: Yes. Uh, no, not exactly. We know that all sins are equal in the sight of God. But some have worse consequences than others.
Charlotte: So why did you first say yes, that homosexuality is worse than idolatry and fornication?
Howard: Because the sins in Romans 1 get worse and worse. Idolatry leads to fornication, which leads to homosexuality.
Charlotte: Which leads to the sins of the depraved mind?
Howard: Yes, which leads to the sins of the depraved mind.
Charlotte: Do you remember what those sins are?
Howard: Well, there’s wickedness, murder, depravity. You counted twenty-five, right?
Charlotte: Did you know that gossip is on that list? Gossip is a sin of the depraved mind.
Howard: I see what you’re getting at. But gossip is different from homosexuality. There’s no way you can compare them.
Charlotte: And why is that?
Howard: Homosexuality is a sin against your own body. People were stoned for being homosexuals. Gossip is not an abomination.
Charlotte: Okay, so homosexuals should be executed? You don’t think that, do you?
Howard: Du-uh. No, not today. We live under grace now. We don’t execute people.
Charlotte: But homosexuality is still worse than gossip. So we don’t execute gays and lesbians, but it’s okay to kick them out of a church if they refuse to repent, right?
Howard: It’s always hard to disfellowship someone, but there are times when it is necessary. If we don’t maintain Biblical standards, then why bother at all?
Charlotte: Howard, have I ever heard you gossip? Does anyone in your church gossip?
Howard: I try not to gossip too much, but you’ve probably heard me gossip. And there are a couple of people in my church who really gossip. I avoid talking to them. But if you’re trying to compare gossip and homosexuality, there’s just no way. Apples and oranges.
Charlotte: I’m sorry, Howard, but I am not comparing apples and oranges. You just need to read Romans 1 for yourself instead of just accepting what you’ve heard it means.
Howard: Okay, where am I wrong this time? I’m sure you’ve got it there somewhere.
Charlotte: Howard, please don’t feel that way. I’m not trying to prove that you’re wrong and I’m right. It’s just that I know you try to live according to the Bible, and I know you wouldn’t deliberately hurt people. You okay?
Howard: Yes, I’m okay. (pause) Keep going.
Charlotte: Howard, it says there in Romans 1 that people who gossip deserve to die. This verse comes after 25 sins of the depraved mind. Read that last verse.
Howard: (pause) “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Charlotte: Howard, you’re guilty of a capital crime, and so are those two really bad gossips in your church. This verse says all three of you deserve death. Have you ever repented of gossiping?
Howard: Well, I feel bad about it. But that’s not the same as repenting, I know.
Charlotte: And what has been done about the two people you mentioned?
Howard: Well, nothing. One’s about my age, and then there’s an older woman–you know, she’s too old to change.
Charlotte: So you attend a church where sins of the depraved mind are tolerated. You tolerate them, you more or less tolerate the sin in yourself. You’re guilty of capital offenses, even though you know that those who do such things deserve death. But we don’t execute people today, we just kick them out of our churches.
Howard: (pause) Yeah.
Charlotte: And why do you tolerate gossip. I know why I tolerate gossip, but why do you tolerate gossip?
Howard: (pause) Probably because I gossip myself sometimes, and I know that some people just can’t change. Or won’t change. They’re not evil, they just gossip. The gossip bothers me, but I cut them a little slack, I guess.
Charlotte: Howard, this is the real reason Romans 1 was written, to get the Christians in Rome to stop judging people. You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself.
When Paul’s specific intention was to get us to stop judging and condemning one another and we turn around and use those very verses to judge and condemn people–talk about perversion. We pervert the very Bible we say we believe.
So why can’t you cut gays and lesbians the same slack you cut for yourself and the people in your church?
Howard: I’m not really sure. Let me think about it.
Charlotte: That’s fine. You’re not accountable to me, Howard. I’m just your friend.
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