A reader named Bubleeshaark left a reply on my post on Leviticus and Homosexuality (click here and scroll to the end of the comments). Regarding his attempt to argue for the legitimacy of using Leviticus to define homosexuality as a moral sin, this is my most helpful response.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My friend, it is obvious that you earnestly desire to live for God, and that you want more than anything to experience God’s deliverance from sin. I don’t want anything I write to interfere with your dedication to God and your desire to living a completely Christ-like life.
Christian brother, I don’t know if you struggle with same-sex attractions or not. There is nothing in your reply to suggest that you do, and it’s actually irrelevant. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with sexual temptation. Almost everyone does.
Masturbation and Guilt
When I was in junior high and high school I used to buy a Playboy magazine every month, sneak it up to my room, and masturbate. I squirreled away several magazines under my mattress. But when I was overcome with guilt, which was inevitable, I would throw them all away–hiding the evidence of my sin. Later I would start buying them again.
This continued, with some variation, after college, and well into my adult years. I remember experiencing incredible remorse and regret many times after using pornography. Several times I tossed a magazine down a storm drain rather than bring it home. I was often crippled with guilt, absolutely crippled.
When I was crippled with guilt, I was no good for anyone or anybody. I felt like I was useless for God to ever use, because I fell into masturbation over and over again, like a pathetic, unrepentant worm. I doubted my sincerity as a Christian, sometimes doubting my salvation. I was nothing but a self-centered ball of self-loathing. I felt hopeless and defeated, like a failure, because I had masturbated yet again.
In my mid- to late-twenties I realized that I couldn’t stay in this condition of spiritual paralysis, being out of commission, of no use to God or anyone God loved for months at a time. As I read the Bible, I discovered something Paul wrote in Romans. And he didn’t just write it once—he repeated it several times. You can read these verses in context in Romans 7, but together they are one of Paul’s major conclusions.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (Romans 7:17)
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:20)
God knows you, and he knows the difference between you and the sin nature that dwells within you. He knows that you do things that you don’t want to do, he knows why, and he does not condemn you for it. God is able to distinguish between the real you and the sin nature that dwells within you and so often overrides your better systems.
My friend, you don’t have to worry about pleasing God. You don’t have to worry about trying to live a sinless life. “Where there is no law, sin is not taken into account.” The sin that troubles you so — God doesn’t take that sin into account. He’s forgiven you for it, so why do you continue to moan and wail? If God has thrown even the memory of your sin into the deepest sea, why do you dredge it up and beat yourself up over it?
God will never love you less than he does now. There is nothing you can do to increase his love for you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. You don’t have to avoid his condemnation, because God knows that your carnal nature is not you, not the real you. That is the meaning of Romans 7: 17, 20. It is because of this fact, that it is no longer you yourself who sin but the sin nature within you that causes you to sin, that Paul writes this:
Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
All you have to concern yourself with at this point are, basically, these three things: 1) the Law of Love, 2) Walking in the Spirit, and 3) Keeping a Clear Conscience. (click here)
I’m going to shift gears here. This is more of a personal testimony, and not a theological treatise. I have not discussed Romans 7:17 & 20 in terms of how they relate to everything else in the letter to the Romans, or even just chapter 7. Suffice it to say, God used Romans 7 to deliver me from the crippling paralysis of guilt that had defeated me for so long.
Our Need for Emotional Scapegoats
When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16: 20-22)
Basically, all of Israel’s wickedness and rebellion was placed on the scapegoat. The scapegoat then bore the symbolic punishment for Israel’s sin and was driven into the wilderness, isolated and remote. The scapegoat had not sinned–it was innocent. But the innocent scapegoat satisfied some primal need to punish someone, anyone, for Israel’s unconfessed and unrepented sin.
As Christians we need to stop scapegoating our gay and lesbian young people and driving them into a hopeless wilderness. As Christian parents we must love and accept our gay sons and lesbian daughters and stop disowning them, rejecting them, refusing to have their partners over for Thanksgiving dinner, and the like. This was not how Jesus treated the social rejects of his time. Quite the opposite.
Now, according to the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus takes the place of the Levitical scapegoats and sacrifices. Our sins have been placed on Jesus the cross. You can find this in Hebrews 9 and 10:3-4.
But the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. It only reminds people of their sins from one year to the next.
Today, as always, Christians have a lot they feel guilty about. Some of their sin is real, and much of it is manufactured and unreal. Have you heard any of these laments from your pastor or on the radio or television?
We fail to live holy lives. We have failed to evangelize as we ought. We fail to influence society as we should. We have failed to maintain sexual purity. We fail to keep our marriages together. We have failed to keep our entertainments God-honoring and pure. We indulge in coarse talk and filthy jesting. We fail to maintain a good witness to the world.
Christians have many things, both real and imagined, to feel guilty about. And a 2,000 year old Jesus story just doesn’t provide the emotional release that a real, live, flesh-and-blood scapegoat does, and we have a whole population of them. The most popular emotional scapegoats today are gays and lesbians. Despite all our individual failings, weaknesses, and sins as Christians, there is one virtue to which we can adhere and prove our faithfulness to God: to be against homosexuals, homosexual marriage, and the homosexual agenda.
And it’s so easy to symbolically drive the scapegoat into the wilderness. For most of us, all we have to do is vote. See what we can say to ourselves?
“We failed to hold the line against abortion; our divorce rates are higher than those of non-Christians; our own children live together without the sanctity of marriage; we’ve lost control over the morality of television and the movies; our own pastors, evangelists, and priests may be sexually immoral; I may be sexually impure; but there are a couple of things that I do indeed do: I don’t tolerate homosexuals in my church and I vote against gay marriage.”
After reading your comment, I’m afraid that you are caught up in the evangelical scapegoating of homosexuals. Your comments don’t seem intended to help you or me to walk in the Spirit, or learn how to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves, or keep clear consciences, or to encourage anyone. They seem designed to preserve an authority that allows you to prove who is right and who is wrong in a war of words. Specifically, this authority is preserved as a way to put down a small group of people (about 3% to 5% of church members and the general population), which allows us to avoid loooking at ourselves and our own struggles.
Thank you for the story of the scapegoat. I didn’t even know there was a biblical history re: this. It seems the guy( in the 2nd to the last paragraph) is feeling that all is forgiven by this small gesture when it comes to voting day. How delusional. Yes, I see in his mind homosexuality is an unforgivable sin- how fortunate for him he can have some say on it come election day. Well thought out, and put together. Thank you.
I do not see homosexuality as an unforgivable sin. There is only one (blaspheme against Holy Spirit) unforgivable sin. What I’ve been trying to say all along is two things. One, homosexuality is a sin, just like lusting or murder or stealing is. And two, Jesus has forgiven sin to all who repent and believe in Him. Part of a true repentance means that we try to get rid of our sin, and allow ourselves to be made into the image of Christ.
Please specify what part you disagree with of my argument. Is it part one, two, or both?
Hebrews chapter 10 says it all
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Bubleeshaark, please click on the link below and have a look.
“A true repentance”. Based on what? what you think a true repentance is? based on your personal experience? Do you believe everything is the same for everyone, always? Do you believe that while some are given some strengths, and other weakness, God does not meet us where we are? Are you prepared to kill adulterers? Or people whose animals have gotten out of control and harmed someone? Do you believe that you can cherry pick the Law for the ideas you personally dislike, and then ignore tenants of the Law that make you uncomfortable? Do you want to live under Law, or Grace? While you attempt to enforce Law, you die by Law. Did you even think, really cognate, about homosexuality, the Bible, and what God and Christ would have you do, or did you just listen to the words of a pastor, or Fox news? If you are not thinking, not feeling, you will simply quote a passage at me, to attempt to prove your point so that you can be “right”. Let me preempt you: “Judge not, Lest yes be judged. For with what judgement you judge, YOU will be JUDGED. and with what measure you use, it will be MEASURED back to YOU”. So, again, do you wish to live under Law, or Grace?
I intend to point out sin as I see it. Sin is destructive of our lives and those around you. I would do my best to let my friends know of their sins, that they may correct themselves and have a better life of glorifying God. This is out of love, not hate. I do not wish for sinners to die, because I myself am a sinner. I do not come to judge, but to correct and hope for repentance. My thoughts on this subject are come from my own studies of the bible, and the understanding God has graciously allowed me to comprehend.
God has met me where I’m at. A disgusting, sinful, God-defying, selfish mess. Lost; hopeless. This is where He first met me. I think I need to do something very important here, and that is explain the gospel. When sin is pointed out to me, I naturally defend myself because I know that sin means death and eternal separation from God. So when I point out sin, I should be careful to explain the hope that comes from God’s glorious gospel and free gift!!
God loves us. He desires a relationship with us while we are here on earth, and he wants us to spend eternity with Him after this earth. This is amazing 🙂 God loves me.
However, we are sinners. Our sin separates us from God. God loves us, but He is also just and He cannot let wrongdoing (sin) go unpunished. The consequence of our sin is death which leads us eternal separation from God. This is the only way we can pay for our sin. Everybody is sinful, everybody. I am sinful.
Since God loves us so much, He sent His Son to die for us. Since Jesus Christ was perfect and also human like us, His death is able to pay for us. He did not deserve death, but He took it upon Himself that we might become the righteousness of God. In other words, His death took the place of our death. Jesus died to pay the penalty of my sin.
Because Jesus took the penalty of our sin, we are now clean and sinless before God. This means that God no longer has to try us, but instead can save us from our sin and give us eternal life with Him!
However, this gift requires one thing from us: acceptance. God gives this gift freely to anybody who believes that Jesus died for our sins and is willing to make Him Lord of their lives. This statement also infers that we know we are sinful, and that we deserve death as a penalty. I have repented of my sins, and Jesus Christ has taken them away.
Therefore, if we repent of our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And to those that believe in Him, He has given the right to become Children of God. This has all happened because God loved the world so much, that He sent his only Son into the world to die, that whosoever believes in Him will not die, but will have eternal life. By ourselves our iniquities (sins) have separated us from God so that He will not here us. But Jesus, who knew not sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. For Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. So that eternal life will be given to anyone who believes.
So we should not continue to dwell in sin, that the grace of God may abound more, but we should strive to reach the prize that is set before us, eternal life. This gift is already given to us, but we should still strive for it. That we should walk in a manner fully pleasing towards the Lord as we desire to please Him by producing good fruit. Because God saved us and called us to live without sin. He did this despite the fact that we don’t deserve it, but instead because that was his plan: to show us His grace by Christ Jesus.
Bubleeshaark, if I had a friend who felt it was his calling to point out every sin in my life, we wouldn’t be friends long.
The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” We are called upon to forgive sin, not point it out at every opportunity. We “cover a multitude of sins” if we are truly walking in love.
Bubleeshaark, I don’t know you. But from what you write, it sounds to me that you have never really felt the forgiveness of God. God’s forgiveness may just be an abstract concept, not something you have personally experienced. When you really experience God’s forgiveness for your sin, it seems to me that you’ll learn how love and forgiveness work, especially in the lives of your “friends.”
If I’m wrong, that’s okay. I try not to make claims to omniscience. Just pointing out a possibility.
What you say about Christ’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is accurate. Your sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven. “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you experience condemnation when you sin, you still haven’t experienced the reality of the forgiveness Christ’s death promised. But that’s assuming you still experience condemnation.
Bubleeshaark, as I understand it, God does not want you to feel condemned and racked with guilt.
I disagree. You can blaspheme and ask forgiveness. The one irredeemable sin is suicide. Whereever do you get these ideas?
Where do you get the idea that suicide is the unforgivable sin?
Because you can’t ask forgiveness for it after you’re done.
So all unconfessed sin gets punished? The God of the Bible is far more gracious than that.
Ron, not to argue, but I didn’t say that all unconfessed sin did get punished. It’s a bit more than that. When you commit suicide (except, I expect, when you KNOW flat out you’re going to die anyway, and either in pain, or when you have a chance to spare others from death), you are repudiating life. In doing so, you repudiate the giver of life, which is God, and make Gods decision for God. Which may or may not BE Gods will for you, but it is certainly NOT taking Gods will into consideration. By committing suicide, in general, you repudiate God, therefore, since you cannot thereafter repent (at least so far as we know) of this, you have then committed an irredeemable sin.
Duncan, my bad. That’s what I get for responding to a single comment without having followed the previous discussion very closely.
I think that because Jesus was tempted in every way we are, he is now able to be a merciful high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus knows the depths of despair, and the intense desire to avoid hours of torture. “Survivors of Torture” (http://www.notorture.org/) will understand this better than any of us, probably. I don’t think our sympathetic high priest would refuse to forgive someone who committed suicide.
I suspect that the historical teaching that suicide is unforgiveable was simply designed to discourage suicide.
Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I suffered suicidal depression for months at a time. It was not the fear of hell that kept me alive. Two things kept me from suicide. First, it was the knowledge of the pain that I would cause my family and loved ones. Second, was the knowledge that the suicidal depression would not last forever, that I had experienced it before and it had always passed. I knew that if I could simply white-knuckle it through, I’d come out the other end just fine. I think that’s a least partly what Paul meant when he wrote, “experience worketh hope.”
I’ve had to deal with depression since I was eight years old. I frequently tell my friends that whenever I need to make a decision, I always consider death as one of the options, if only to dismiss it. I’m telling them the truth when I say it. I think I am too life-oriented to kill myself, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about death. Still and all, perhaps you’re right. Perhaps Jesus will forgive even this sin. I’m willing to consider that as a possibility. But to answer your next question – life oriented, remember? I’m not suicidal.
Ouch! That sucks, Duncan. Actually, maybe it’s a good idea for you to believe that suicide is unforgiveable! 🙂 Sorry, not funny. I’m glad you’re not feeling suicidal.
I’ve been on Depakote for years now for bipolar disorder, and it works wonders. I just went through a depressed period, something under six months, I think. Not pleasant, but a “serious” suicidal thought didn’t come through my mind at all. Nothing like when I was at SDSU.
Pastor, you’re so lucky to have found something. I was on an antidepressant for years, but stopped when I realized that I’d been spending the previous two weeks trying to work out how to kill myself in ‘amusing’ ways. It took a while for my brain chemistry to get back to what’s always been normal for me-about two months- and since then I’ve just tried to keep myself busy and/or laughing (not easy for a 51 year old disabled cripple, but…) and so far, it’s worked, at least for me. I still am down whenever I’m not doing something or making myself laugh, but that’s been my life, like I said, since I was eight.
Edit: I should add that you are right about the sin that does it in us, aka our flesh. But we are called to live no longer in the flesh, but of the spirit. And we are instructed to take our cross daily and die to the flesh. I continually struggle with this.
I still hold that all my arguments are sound. I aplogize if they are not articulated well.
Bubleeshaark, tens of thousands of Christians accept the basic assertions you have made, so you are not alone.
Many Christians, some of whom do not agree with you, also take up their cross daily to follow Christ.
If your beliefs about the Law work for you, and do not damage others, then I have no beef with what you believe. I can only say that my study of the Bible has lead me to a different set of understandings.
Thank you. I still do not understand your argument, however. Let me lay out one inclusive everything on this subject matter. Please specify with what you disagree. Thank you!
1. We should no longer sin.
a. What is sin?
i. Sin is defined by God, and is inherent to all and inherent forever, since God’s character never changes. (Romans 2:14-15)
1. Example: Murder, hatred of other people (including hatred of homosexuals), disobedience
2. Example: Homosexuality. Covered below.
ii. The law helps define sin
1. Romans 3:20
2. Romans 7:7, 12, 22
iii. Labeling a specific action being a sin can differ by time and people.
1. God asks certain people to obey certain things, and does not put them on others. Or, God may ask a certain person/people to do something at one time, but not at another.
a. Example: God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. However, he does not ask all of us to sacrifice our sons.
b. The (Old Testament) law. Covered below.
2. This is because of obedience. God asks us to obey certain things, and its sin to disobey. However, what he asks us to obey varies among people and time.
b. We are no longer under the penalty of the law
i. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17)
ii. We are no longer under the law (Romans 6:14)
c. We should not sin just because we are free from its penalty
i. We have died to sin, so don’t do it! (Romans 6:1-2, 12)
i. Sin causes us to be separated from God, and we deserve death because of it.
ii. However, Jesus Christ died for our sins to all who believe in Him and call Him “Lord.”
iii. Therefore, we are no longer under the penalty of the law.
1. Thus, the whole law is no longer needed to be followed. I literally mean the Law. It no longer needs to be followed out of obedience.
iv. However, this does not mean we should sin if we choose to.
1. Obedience means the written law no longer needs to be followed. Some parts of the law are just a point of obedience for the Israelites before Christ, and some parts additionally were writing down what was and always will be known to be sinful.
a. Example: Sacrificing of lambs is no longer something we should do, since Christ’s death is the ultimate, perpetual sacrifice.
v. Finally. There are sins we should not do even though we are free from the penalty of sin.
2. Homosexuality is a sin (and so is bestiality: Leviticus 20:15-16)
a. Leviticus 20:13 says that same-gender sex is a sin, under the law.
i. Above we learned that some sins that were in the law were only out of obedience, and some were out of obedience AND is a part of the inherent sin known to all forever.
1. So which is this?
a. I would argue that this is an inherent immoral sin. But you may argue differently. I’d like to hear your concise argument against this, if any.
b. Romans 1:26-27
i. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.”
ii. I think that says it pretty clearly.
1. Vile affections = sin
2. Leaving natural use of a woman = man having sex with woman
3. Likewise = in the same manner as of use of a woman
4. Men with men ……unseemly = man having sex with man as one would with a woman…….which is unnatural
c. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
i. Under KJV, you’ll notice “abusers of themselves with mankind.” Your version may not have this exact phrasing, but the base word comes from the Greek “arsenokoitēs.” Arsenokoitēs Literally translates into “abusers of themselves with mankind.”
1. This should clear up that homosexuality is being spoken of here.
Bubleeshaark, if you want to write such long treatises, I have several recommendations: 1) start your own blog, 2) write a book, or 3) write a master’s thesis.
You say you don’t understand my comments about Christians using gays and lesbians as scapegoats. If there is something in particular that seems cloudy to you, let me know. Otherwise I don’t understand what is unclear for you.
I suspect you have encountered the work of the Girardians, th mimetic thinkers, and thanks be to God for that.
Bubleeshark: The Bible also clearly says that several classes of people, including heterosexual adulterers, must be stoned to death. You have clearly missed the point. The Law of Israel was not want God wanted for mankind. Its what the Hebrews asked for. The relationship with God overrides sin. Forgiveness through Christ’s love overrides sin. Everyone of us is a sinner. Do you think that by pointing out sin in others, this somehow negates your sin? No, it does not. Take the Log out of your eye. But thats the point, in this life, you will never stop being a sinner. Rather, if eventually you decide to focus your efforts inwards instead of outwards, you will become less of a sinner, but still a sinner. Sin is in the blood, there is no escape from it. And I will take my friend that is a homosexual before God and ask in humility and love that he be forgiven, over my friend who judges everyone and everything in sight.
Pastor, you’re so lucky you found something that would work for you. In my case, I was on an antidepressant for years, until the day I realized I’d been considering ‘amusing’ ways to kill myself for the previous two weeks. It took a couple months for my body chemistry to adjust back to ‘normal’, and since then, I’ve just tried to keep myself busy and laughing. Not always easy for a 51 year old disabled guy, but it beats sitting in a pit of sadness. Sure I still get down when I’m NOT doing something or making myself laugh, but it’s gotten loads better than it used to be.
Thank God for a good sense of humor. They say that “in the old days” the marriages of comedians usually lasted a lifetime, vs. the marriages of actors and singers.