Queer people have often been the cause of discontent among Christians, both progressive and conservatives alike. Some Christians insist that the Bible views homosexuality, and by extension all the other sexuality and gender identities in the spectrum that is not cisgender heterosexuality, as a sin. I have given my thoughts on this matter in a blog post last year.
Seeing that this year’s Pride Month has just ended, I wanted to revisit this topic and discuss this from a different angle. My previous blog post has attempted to dismantle the arguments against homosexuality by uncovering the definition of the word the Bible calls a sin that modern Christianity claims to be homosexuality. This blog post will discuss why the same arguments cannot be made without disrespecting God’s own order and Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice.
Leviticus belongs in the first five books of the Bible, a collection called Pentateuch that was all written by Moses—the same Moses that split the Red Sea and got the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments from mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were actually just a high level view of what eventually became more than 600 smaller laws, guidelines, and processes that the Israelites had to follow.
These 600+ laws were given not to put unnecessary toll on the people, but rather for several purposes that set the tone of the rest of the Bible’s narrative:
- The laws protect the entire Israel’s lineage in preparation for the Messiah’s birth. God promised Israel’s forefather Abraham that out of his descendants “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18) He fulfilled this promise when He has chosen Israel to be the family that bears the Messiah. Laws about marriage with foreigners were meant to protect this lineage of the Messiah by preventing people who don’t worship Yahweh from contributing to His son’s genealogy.
- The laws underscore the need for an atonement of sins. The laws about yearly offerings and festivals remind the people of humanity’s sins. The ceremonies decreed by the laws are a foreshadowing of the Messiah’s eventual sacrifice that pays for humanity’s sins once and for all.—Hebrews 10:1
- The laws remind the people of God’s high standards. Meticulous details of offerings, the details of the tabernacle (and the eventual temple built by King Solomon), and detailed specifications of the priests that serve in it are all reminders to the people that humans, in their sinful nature, cannot satisfy God’s standards on their own. Sanitary guidelines mention handwashing, preparation of latrines for human waste, animals (or parts thereof) that are allowed and not allowed for human consumption, all of which inculcate the importance of cleanliness not just physically but also ceremonially in achieving perfection by God’s metrics. The laws lay down a specification of a standard so high only God and his perfect children could attain.
- The laws teach people important lessons. Through the laws, God has taught his people qualities that love manifests, mainly compassion. The Ten Commandments teach the people to love their God (commandments 1-3), family (commandment 4), and their neighbors (commandments 5-10). Laws that tell the people to remember their days of being foreigners in Egypt by being compassionate to foreigners that enter and settle in their lands teach them to love people even when the laws dictate that they are unworthy to be part of God’s people. the Sabbath Year that happens every 7 years, and the Year of Jubilee that happens every 50 years are celebrated by the Law’s mandate to pause all agricultural activities and let the soil rest, thus emphasizing the importance of caring for one’s own environment and natural resources. The same festivities mandate a display of compassion by freeing people from slavery and debt. A small but very interesting rule to me can be found in Deuteronomy 14:21: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (NIV) Such a rule should remind the people of compassion for animals by prohibiting a milk that should nourish an animal into its growing years from being the instrument that kills it.
The laws have purpose that were specifically tailor-made for a specific people living in a specific time in a specific purpose. And during the time that these laws were in place, they worked effectively for the purposes they were made for.
The New Testament calls the Law of Moses a foreshadowing of “good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1) When Jesus was born, did his ministry on earth, and died a ransom sacrifice, he effectively wiped out any need for the Law of Moses.
- He has taught his followers the important lessons that the Laws tried to teach, most of them the people had already forgotten centuries after Moses had died.
- Jesus had also taught people about God’s nature and how everyone should strive to be like Him by being imitators of God in a form of perfection attainable by imperfect humans.
- He was born to a family that came from an untainted ancestry of royalty in Israel. Since both his mother mary and step father Joseph were descendants of King David, Jesus is legally a rightful heir to God’s throne in heaven, thus removing the need to protect an entire nation’s lineage.
- And finally, his death served as the final offering, an atonement that once and for all pays for all of humanity’s sins.
When Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the Law, he has ended the need for them, hence his final words being “It is finished.” (John 19:30) His followers, that eventually had become known as Christians, recognize that Jesus’ death ended the Law. The New Testament has also made this clear by telling its readers that the Temple’s curtain split in two, revealing to onlookers that the Ark of the Covenant, an ark that contained the original stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, had long been gone. (Mark 13:37) This is the same reason that Christians don’t offer up sheep or goat once a year to atone for their sins, or why they can now marry foreigners. This is also the same reason Christians don’t have to be circumcised anymore. The need for the Laws of Moses had completely been obliterated by Jesus’ sacrifice.
One common Bible verse used to discredit the LGBTQIA+ community is Leviticus 18:22.
I have mentioned in the previous blog post that the term “lie with men” in this verse was translated by the Septuagint using the Greek words arseno (male) and koitai (to lie in bed). I have also mentioned that some Bible scholars believe that instead of homosexuality, this terminology refers to a specific form of pederasty that involves keeping boys as slaves in a young age in order to use them as sex slaves when they grow up.
Notice that this verse is from Leviticus. Leviticus is a book of rules and guidelines for Levites, one of the 12 tribes of Israel that was reserved for priesthood. This book outlines the qualifications for being a priest, their duties and responsibilities, the festivals and offerings to be given each year, and other things related to priesthood.
More than that, this book belongs to the Laws of Moses—the same set of laws that Jesus Christ himself abolished with his sacrificial death. Using a verse from this book to argue against homosexuality has an interesting impolication.
By using Leviticus 18:22 as an argument against homosexuality, you are effectively imposing a defunct law on yourself and other people. This in turn means that you do not recognize Jesus Christ’s power to abolish these laws. That would also mean that, since the Laws are still in place for you, their purpose had never been fulfilled by the Messiah’s birth, life, and sacrificial death. You are, in effect, rejecting the value of Jesus’ death on the cross as a sufficient payment for the sins of the world. You are telling God and Jesus that their plans for your salvation is not enough for you.
I no longer consider myself as a Christian, or at least not at the moment. I consider the Bible as largely a work of fiction written by people of the ancient past. The fact that it remains in use as of today can mean that it might have worked for people for several millenia. However, with the advancement in our discoveries about how the brain and body chemistry works, we have started to dismantle the flawed notions we have about the human body. While people used to think that being queer is a choice, modern brain science and psychology tells us that it is not. Studies confirm that there is more to gender and sexuality than just our sex organs or our faculties for decision-making.
The Bible is not different from other sacred books of non-Christian religions. It is a book of wisdom that was written in the ancient past. No matter how much wisdom can be found in such a book, our modern understanding should take precedence. In fact, the Bible itself showed that things change, and when the Law of Moses no longer served a purpose, it can and was done away with. However, this isn’t a call for the abolishment of the entire Bible. Rather, this is a call for all those professed Christians to cultivate what the Bible calls “fruitage of the spirit.” In our present world, we cannot have so much of compassion, love, and respect for people. Using the Bible, a book written to teach about love, compassion, and respect, to judge other people for things they cannot change for themselves is an act of violation against God’s purpose itself. After all, the Bible tells us “each one will have to bear his own load.”—Galatians 6:5.