Debunking the Clobber Verse in First Corinthian Chapter 6

In First Corinthian Chapter 6 Paul wrote about some of the problems in the Corinthian church. Apparently members of the Corinthian church have been attacking each other in the courts.  Paul wrote that such lawsuits should be stopped, because they are wicked behaviors.  Paul gave a list of other examples that are also wicked in verse 9 and 10.

Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves — none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

This Bible verse is known as one of the few Bible verses that clobbers the gay people.  When Paul wrote his pastoral letters he used the Greek language.  In this instance Paul decided to use a constructed compound word man-beds that translated to “homosexual perverts” in the GNT translation.  As far as we know this compound word was invented by Paul, and he had a specific meaning in mind.  He assumed his reader would be able to understand what he wrote given the cultural context in his time.  However, that cultural context has been partially lost in two thousand years’ time.  According to word fragment construction man-beds could either mean “man bedders” (gays), or “man with multiple bed partners” (bed hoppers).

To see which of the definitions produce the best fit we can also introduce verse 11 into the picture:

Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)

We then can see that the specified behavior not only must be wicked, but it also must be stoppable once someone believes in Jesus.

Bed hopping is wicked, and that behavior could be stopped by going into a dedicated relationship. When we look at a married gay couple we can no longer assign the wickedness label without knowing who they are as real persons.  When the gay couple become believers of Jesus I hope their marriage will become stronger, rather than getting a divorce!  This is exactly the opposite of what is implied in verse 11.

We can then conclude that the translation usually seen in 1 Cor 6:9 does not fit when it refers to gay people, but it has a better fit when it refers to men with multiple bed partners.

The scriptures are more revealing when we read larger sections together, rather than few verses in isolation.


Benefits of Marriage Equality

I think the marriage equality ruling in the United States does several things that are beneficial. It allows the gays to be more involved in a life that is similar to straight married life that we are all familiar with.

With this change gay bars are on their way out. Less risky one night stands and more long term commitments.

Gays will feel more confident to engage in a constructive dialog with Christians; after all 47% of gays are already Christians. Christians deny that, but nothing that the Holy Spirit can’t cure.

Gay couples will bring their children to church. Of course not immediately, but maybe after a cooling off period. What is good for the kids will be good for the parents as well within gay friendly churches.

Lastly the Evangelicals won’t be allowed to force hate on the rest of us. Rational justifications will be required.

Am I too optimistic?

Reflections on Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.  Will that cheapen the holy institution of marriage?  Obvious people will have their opinions, and we will read them on newspapers and on the Internet.

My own viewpoint is a little different.  The institution of marriage is not a holy temple where only perfect couples can visit.  One dear pastor once told us that marriage happens when two deeply flawed people join together, and learn to love selflessly, hoping to make each other more whole.

From the book of Genesis we learned that marriage is a bestowed blessing because God did not want people to be lonely and struggle by themselves.  The first marriage was between Adam and Eve, but since then through the generations there were also people who were different than us.  They were also God’s lovely children, but they long for union of their own sex.  Some of them found lasting matches, but they were not understood by us.  We thought their loving relationship as sinful, and as a result the gay people could only live in the shadows of our society.  One notable gay author wrote that even a chancy encounter in a bar is superior to a life of loneliness.  How little do they live for!

But the work of the Holy Spirit continued all this time.  At last there is understanding and reconciliation. I still could not believe how many hearts and minds were changed in these few years.  As a straight ally, I can only help along side the true fighters.  There were only a few stories I could offer up, inadequate as they were.  However, I felt we need all our stories out there in the open, in order to continue our honest dialogs.

Now the gays and lesbians can also participate in loving marriages.  No doubt they will face many challenges – just look at how many straight people’s marriages fail.  I do hope there will be helpers out there to help them travel this journey beside them.  I wish more people will see them not as problems, but as real people needing care just as everyone of us.

Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all. You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:9-14)

May the spirit of truth guide us.

Turning the Law into a Way of Living

Laws brings crime and punishment into definition.  Jesus was not into that.  He asked us to find the spirit of the Law and live it out in daily living.

“You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’  But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, whoever calls his brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Council, and whoever calls his brother a worthless fool will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.”  (Matthew 5:21-22)

Instead of not murdering, Jesus asked us to recognize anger, and to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.  Is this approach harder than not murdering?  Definitely, but seeking reconciliation brings blessings into our lives.

In addition, Jesus told us to do two things as what summarized all of the laws: loving our God with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors selflessly. By looking for the spirit of the law we can love our brothers and sisters more selflessly, and all that was to benefit our spiritual lives.

Heavenly father, thank you for giving us a new life.  May your spirit help us love people as they really are.  Enpower us to free people from hateful prosecutions until your justice extends on Earth as it is in heaven.  Humble us in devotion and worship – glory to our Lord with truth eternal !

Watch Through My Eyes Video Campaign

Produced by the Gay Christian Network, Watch Through My Eyes video campaign invited over two dozen young Christians to share their private feelings, struggles, and experiences with us on camera.

I was able to greet a gay couple who visited our church service today, so I am feeling hopeful right now.  Healing and reconciliation is possible, but it is going to take a lot of prayers and open hearts!

Clobber Verses in Romans Debunked

One of the clobber verses used against LGBT people could be found in the book of Romans.  These verses were usually quoted by itself, but we will examine the related verses as well.

26  Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27  In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing. (Romans 1:26-27)

If we just read these two verses by themselves we might conclude this as a condemnation against same-sex behaviors.  Not so fast though.  We still need to find out about the underlying cause of the quoted behavior.  The answer is located in verse 21 through 23:

21  They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. 22 They say they are wise, but they are fools; 23 instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.  (Romans 1:21-23)

These verses seem to be saying that you can get same-sex behavior by following a progression starting with idol worshiping.  This was a historically possible progression given the ancient practice of shrine prostitution.

Ancient pagan temples often acquired prostitutes to entice visitors to participate in sexual practices that were said to bring fertility.  If alcohols were involved, the participants and the prostitutes may sunk into a drunken orgy where free-for-all sex occurred, even between people of the same sex.  However, the participants were of the population norm of straight people.  They were condemned by Paul because straight people practiced same-sex behaviors unmatched by their natural inclinations.  These verses were not about relations in a committed and loving same-sex couples.

Verse 29 also brought some additional context to these clobber verses:

They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice.

Apparently not only were the participants sexually depraved, they were also wicked and filled with malice.  Taken all together, this could have painted a picture of alcohol abuse and the destruction it brought.

In fact all of these elements were mentioned in one of Paul’s earlier letters written to the church in Galatia.

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Taken all together we could see the clobber verses in Roman chapter one were not about same-sex behaviors.  They were about shrine prostitution in ancient times, and alcoholism in modern times.

What about Caitlyn Jenner?

As Christians we should be joyful that Bruce Jenner has found her true identify as Caitlyn Jenner. Caitlyn attended a church regularly before her transition process, so we know she is a fellow sister in Jesus.

“God so loved Caitlyn that he gave his only son so that Caitlyn may have eternal life.”  Didn’t Jesus say when the time comes, unexpected people from east and west will go to the Kingdom of Heaven, while others who would appear to qualify will be rejected?  (Matthew 8:11-12)

What makes someone holy is not about sexual orientation, but faith in Jesus.  For we are all made in God’s image, with similarities and differences.  Jesus said what makes one unclean is not our outer appearance, but when we allow evil thoughts to come out of ourselves. (Mark 7: 18-23)

Which church should Caitlyn visit? Should Caitlyn attend the 9:30 service, or the 11:30 service?  Which small group shall Caitlyn join? Shall we open up a safe place for Caitlyn to worship her Lord?