There are three main biblical texts that deal with the issue of homosexuality. Romans chapter 1 describes homosexuality, and clearly represents it as a sinful lifestyle. However, Romans 1 uses homosexuality as an example of the culture's sinfulness, and takes the sinfulness of homosexuality itself as a given.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 lists homosexuality among a list of vices. What we can gather from this text is that A) homosexuality is not sin as a special sin and B) that according to verse 11, homosexuality is repentable and redeemable. The fear and hatred that many feel towards homosexuality is therefore not supportable from Scripture.
Finally, we come to Leviticus 18:22. This verse merely says: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." It is a very short verse, and its context is merely a list of other sexual sins. So are we left with no explanation at all?
Well, no. Leviticus 18 does give us a clue. It refers to sin as an abomination. What does that term mean? Does it just mean "really, really bad"?
Well, we have to remember that this is a translation. The Hebrew word is 'toebah' (pronounced toe-ai-bah). 'Toebah' is used in two ways: in an ethical sense (essentially meaning something really really bad) or in a ritual sense (it makes you unclean, etc...). In total, it refers to something which God loathes or detests. However, these two senses are not that different since ethical sin is seen as something which itself is ritualistically unclean.
If we set our presuppositions aside, we can consider something which God finds detestable to be wrong, regardless of any other quality it may has. Our hedonistic society would ask what harm it does, but that question is irrelevant if it is something that offends God. It being wrong is not necessarily tied to it being harmful, if it goes against God's design and wishes.
However, even with this, we still don't have much of a reason. Ok, so God finds it disagreeable, but why does He find it disagreeable? It appears that in order to answer this question, we need to speculate beyond what Scripture directly tells us.
Being Made in God's Image
I have spoken here before about us being made in the image of God. I understand the concept to mean that we are representatives of God on earth. This gives us great authority over creation (as delegated by God) and also means that we are holy.
However, being holy also comes with a responsibility. We are God's image-bearers. As such, what we do reflects back on God. Things that go against God's nature are therefore wrong, because we are betraying that fundamental responsibility of our nature. Things, such as violence, coveting, stealing, etc..., go against how God Himself is. In doing these things, we are debasing God Himself.
This is also true when it comes to sex. First of all, sex is a creative act, and God is creator. Furthermore, sex is the creation of human beings, who are holy. Thus the act itself must also be considered holy. This doesn't mean that it must be stoic, or any of that other Victorian nonsense, but it does need to be respected, and understood as a reflection of God's own nature.
When we debase sex, we in fact debase one of God's most precious acts: the creation of humanity. As such, we are debasing God Himself and what He did.
What is important to understand in this, is that sex isn't a game. Is it fun? Yes, and there is nothing wrong with that. But that is not its purpose. It is a holy act of creation. In this sense, sexual sin is very much abominable.
What about Homosexual love?
One may say that since God is love, and since sex is the ultimate expression of human love, then shouldn't sex display God's nature as long as the love between the individuals is authentic?
Well, here we have to challenge some of the world's perceptions of things again. Love is not an emotion. Love is not an impulse. Love is prioritization. You love something if you value it more than yourself, or more than most other things. Just because an emotion may be strong, it doesn't make love valid. Love is valid if you are prioritizing things properly.
There are in fact lots of examples of love which are abhorrent to God: The love of money, the love of someone else's possession, the love of other gods… The validity of the love is dependent upon the worthiness of its object or expression, not the intensity of the love itself.
To be honest, there is nothing wrong with loving someone of the same gender. I love my brother for instance. I love my son and my father. Also, in a very similar sense, I love my best friends. However, the expression of that love is camaraderie. It is very different than the kind of love I have for my wife. That love is different because of the holiness of our marriage and the marriage act, with its expression of God's creative passion. Indeed, my love for my son is tied to my creation of him. He comes from me! It is in that creativity that we find out what God's love is really like, and that kind of love can only happen between a man and a woman.
This is not a simple statement that homosexuality is wrong because it goes against nature. I'm saying that it is wrong because it goes against God, and our fundamental purpose of human beings: to express who God is to the rest of creation. How we treat our children, and how we make our children, is intimately connected to that.
On Friday in part III I'll go over how I think the church should be dealing with this issue.