Written nearly 3,400 years ago, the Bible has been read cover to cover by scholars, priests and atheists alike, searching for the hidden meanings in the verses and the truth to words written by men (not God) from another time. Even with all of these people dissecting this colossal book, I believe that we must take time to understand the context in which certain verses were written. By taking a deeper look at the context, people can reach different conclusions about what the message of the Bible is truly about.
The time period of this book is crucially important and that is why I ask you keep this in mind: the Bible is a historical text written thousands of years ago, so we must view it through a historical lens. Those times were drastically different in terms of how society views things.
A quick introduction: the Bible is composed of the Old Testament (pre-Jesus) and the New Testament (Jesus and post-Jesus). The Torah, studied by those of the Jewish religion, consists of the first five books of the Old Testament. These are two religions, sharing text written by men thousands of years ago, in societies polar opposites to present day America.
Quite possibly the most controversial topic in Christianity is the idea that homosexuality is a sin. I personally can say that as a Christian growing up in an increasingly liberal society, I have found this topic extremely fascinating yet unclear. However, one thing that should be noted when talking about homosexuality in the Bible is that of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, only six directly reference homosexuality. For you math people, that’s .0002 percent of the Bible.
The most straightforward verse stating this is in Leviticus, while the rules of sexual relations are being presented by Moses to the Israelites (there are 17 of them). In a historical context, Moses and the Israelites have escaped Egypt, and the rules provided are in order to help guide the people in a holy relationship with God.
Leviticus 18:22 states, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” This rule comes after many others, regarding incest, adultery and more. Known as the “clobber verse” of the Bible, this verse is often used by Christians to justify their rationale towards stating that all homosexuality is a sin.
What doesn’t happen often, however, is the use of context surrounding this verse and surrounding the book of Leviticus itself. Widely regarded as the craziest book of the Bible (and Torah), Leviticus includes laws that ban the eating of shellfish (and other foods) and the trimming of the sides of a man’s beard.
I can truthfully say that I, like many other Christians, have eaten shellfish, and there is no doubt in my mind that when Christian men feel that their beards have grown too long, they have no problem shaving them off.
So clearly these rules (along with many others in Leviticus) are disregarded, so why should homosexuality be selected as one of the few that Christians don’t disregard? It is illogical to pinpoint and selectively choose which verses in the book of Leviticus we are going to adhere to.
On the flip-side, it personally bothers me when people find out that I am a Christian and naturally assume that I hate the gay community. People will often pull this verse from the Bible and say, “See? You believe in the junk that says that it is an abomination to be gay.” Yet once again, these people have little to no knowledge about the time period and context of this verse.
Let’s take a look at one more verse about homosexuality in the Bible. In a letter written by Paul to the Romans, “he discusses the wrath of God against the sinful.” Romans 1:24 says, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”
Soon following, Romans 1:27 states that “men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men.” The key word to look at here is “lust.” This verse is not speaking about a man falling in love with another man, or a woman falling in love with another woman. The Bible says nothing about this. It is not speaking about gay marriage and whether or not that is lawful, because like I said earlier, the Bible must be viewed with historical context and the idea of gay marriage didn’t exist 3,400 years ago.
So, back to what I was saying: lust.
Lust is one of the Bible’s top no-no’s, because it is correlated directly with adultery. When Jesus addresses a crowd in the book of Matthew, he says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
This shows that in Romans when Paul describes men being “inflamed with lust for one another,” (Matthew) he is not describing a loving relationship. He is describing men (and women) who are leaving their spouses to engage in adultery with the opposite sex.
Henceforth, the real message of this verse is that lust and adultery are impure, not so much the homosexual aspect of things. All of this goes on to prove once again that the Bible needs to be viewed with a perspective of a historian, not with the perspective of someone who is trying to condemn homosexual people or bash Christians.
The same goes for misogyny in the Bible. Women are still battling for equality today, so to expect that women in the Bible 3,400 years ago would be represented equally is unrealistic. The authors of the Bible wrote reflected on what was going on during their time period, which sadly included discrimination against women.
However, this does not mean all Christians are misogynistic or they are all homophobic. This is not to say there aren’t self-proclaimed Christians (Donald Trump) who clearly show discriminatory feelings towards the gay community. There are always going to be those who are discriminatory towards one group of people or another (religious and nonreligious alike). But it’s imperative to know that these people aren’t representing Christianity the right way.
Christianity is about the grace and love of God shown through Jesus Christ. The word “love” is mentioned over 7,000 times in the Bible; clearly it is the overarching theme of the religion as a whole. Homosexuality, however, is a small subset that gets lumped in with the eating of shellfish. Christianity is not about the rules. It is not about sinful natures and lust and adultery, nor is it about judging others who are deemed “unholy.”
It is not my place as a Christian to decide who is sinful. It is my job to love all. The whites, the blacks, the gays, the straights, the murderers, the bullies, the priests and the homeless; it is my job as a follower of Christ to love them all.
Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Are homosexuals not your neighbors like everyone else?
So for those of you who use the Bible out of context to condemn homosexuals and deem them sinful, you’re doing it all wrong. All you’re meant to do is show them love.
And for those of you who use the Bible out of context to bash Christians and their faith, know this: Christianity is about love and nothing more. Those who use Christianity to condemn others are hardly Christian at all.
So think twice before you speak. Consider the context. And love all.
Featured Image Credit: Jordyn Savard