Tag Archives: Homosexuality & Transgender Identity Bible Study

What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?

What does the bible say about homosexuality & transgenderism? This bible study is designed to be used in small group, Sunday school and interactive bible study formats, to help people fully understand the verses used by scriptural literalists to condemn gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.  The overarching thesis of the study is that these verses, when understood in their historical and cultural contexts, only describe exploitative and abusive forms of sexuality, not loving same-sex partnerships. Click here to get started.

This bible study was originally published by Open Door Communities and written by Micah and Katharine Royal, who hold the copyright for the information.  A special thanks to Micah and Katherine for allowing us to republish it here. In some parts of this study, where the authors reference handouts or online resources, we’ve attempted provided links to current online resources. We’ve also made some minor edits for style and clarity.

Does God Discriminate Against Gay People?

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Session 1 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Does God Discriminate Against Gay People?

Hook: Ask anyone willing to, to share about a time they experienced prejudice or discrimination of any type.

Ask: In what ways have you seen the Bible used to support such action? Do you think that is a proper use or misuse of the people?

Explain: Today and in the next couple of weeks we are going to be looking at seeing if the Bible teaches prejudice against homosexuals, homosexuality or transgender identity, or discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Many people today believe it does.

Explain that today you will simply be looking at the general question, “Does the Bible support discrimination and prejudice?” and in sessions that follow you will look at particular verses that deal with LGBTQ+ people.

Prejudice and Discrimination

When they have finished, ask: Does the Bible teach any form of discrimination or prejudice? Why or why not?

Have someone read Luke 4:18-19.

Explain that here we have Jesus’ mission in life.

Ask: Do his words suggest that he and his Bible have the purpose of oppressing people based on their sexuality, race, or gender – or the purpose of setting people free from oppression?

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

Ask: According to this verse, does God judge people based on external qualities like height, economic class, sexual orientation or gender? By what characteristics does God judge a person? If this is the case, would God condone discrimination or prejudice?

Have someone read Acts 10:34-35.

Ask: Does God show favoritism based on externals like national origin, race, background, or sexual orientation, according to this verse?

Have someone read Galatians 3:27-29.

Ask: What does this verse say about how God views us? Do distinctions like gender, sexual orientation, race, and social status matter in God’s eyes?

Explain that each of these verses teaches us the basic principle of scripture that God does not discriminate. This means that God’s Word has to be misinterpreted for it to be applied in a way that discriminates against anyone or condones prejudice.

Confronting Bible Abuse

Ask: How is it then that people can use the Bible as a tool of discrimination?

Have someone read 2 Peter 3:16.

Explain that here the scriptures describe how certain people will take hard to understand passages of scripture and distort their meaning for their own purposes.

One example of this is Bible abuse, the ripping of select verses of scripture out of context in order to use them to support things they never were intended to – like the oppression of or discrimination of some other group of a minority group.

Ask: Is anyone familiar with other forms of Bible abuse than misusing scripture to exclude LGBTQ+ people?

You may want to point out how scripture was misquoted to oppose the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and basic human rights for women.

Close by quoting Romans 10:9-13.

Explain that this verse shows us that God does not discriminate, though at times we as God’s followers might want to try to say God does, so we can remain in our comfort zones. All who call on the Lord in faith, trusting God as Savior and Lord, are counted by God as God’s beloved children, regardless of what human distinctions might divide them.

Hopefully these verses demonstrate to you that God is not a God of discrimination and prejudice, but a God who looks on the heart, counting as God’s own all who put their trust in God. In the next several sessions, we will look at verses that specifically deal with LGBTQ+ related issues. But, in the meantime, be rest assured, God does not judge you for being gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, or any other human distinction, but loves you for who you are.

Close in prayer.

What the Bible Says About Homosexuality

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Session 2 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

What the Bible Says About Homosexuality

Ask: Have you ever been misrepresented by someone else? What happened? What did it take to get that misrepresentation corrected?

Explain that during your last lesson, you discussed how God is not a God who discriminates against any of God’s children and how God’s scriptures have been twisted by others throughout history to try and say God supported their prejudice.

Unfortunately, this means that many people who promote prejudice and bigotry against minorities such as LGBTQ+ people have verses of scripture which they can throw around as “evidence” that God is on their side. During this session, we are going to be looking at how we can discern what a verse of scripture, such as some of the verses quoted against LGBTQ+ people, means and what it doesn’t mean.

Keys For Understanding The Bible

Ask: What are some key pointers for determining whether a scripture supports a particular teaching or not?

Explain that you are going to look at five keys for understanding what God is saying to us through the Bible. Using these five principles is a good starting point for really understanding what God is saying about an issue such as LGBTQ+ equality.

These five principles can be pictured as parts of a triangle.

Explain that each of these five principles is important, with the most important being on the bottom.

Ask: What are the different principles on this triangle? Why do you think they are important?

One key to understanding what God is saying about something is scripture.

Ask: How do you use scripture to interpret if a scripture is being misused?

(Hold up an orange)

Ask: What do you see?

(Allow comments)

Explain: A lot of our study of the Bible is like our looking at this orange – we only look at the surface. Most of you said an orange. But a really observant person would point out the texture of the skin. (Peel off skin). A more observant person would talk about what was underneath the orange skin – the texture of the fruit inside, the size of the seeds…

There is a lot more to an orange than just “orange.”

The same is true with the Bible: To truly see what God is saying about something we need to take time to really examine the scriptures on a topic. Folks who misuse scripture for their own ends are playing off the fact that many of us only go “skin-deep” in our reading of the Bible. To make sure we are not being misled by Bible abuse, we need to really look at the whole orange, seeds and all.

Ask: How can we do that with scripture?

Explain: Here are some keys for that:

1. Read the whole context.

Most people, when they quote a verse about homosexuality, or about hell or about anything, just lift verses out of the Bible without paying attention to the story behind the verses. It’s like the old joke about the man who was depressed and opened the Bible randomly to a page to see what God would say to him and he came across the verse “And Judas hung himself…” Horrified, he opened the Bible again at random and saw the random phrase, “Go and do likewise.” Dejected, he opened the Bible again one final time and came to the verse, “What you must do, do quickly.”

Now, if he only read those verses out of the context of the story they are in, he would end up in some big trouble – thinking God wanted him to kill himself.

But if he realized these were parts of a bigger story and read the verses leading up to these verses and following these verses he would realize that there was a bigger message which gave those verses meaning. And he would realize that God wasn’t really saying “Go kill yourself” at all but saying a very positive, life-affirming message.

One of the things we are going to be doing while we study what the Bible says about homosexuality is trying to figure out how the few verses that could be claimed to talk about homosexuality fit into the bigger story of the Bible and asking: Do they say the same thing if you read them as a part of the big story? Anytime you read the scriptures, you need to see what the verses preceding and following the scripture you are studying say – in other words, how your verse fits into the story of that chapter or book of the Bible.

2. Look into the history behind the story.

Again, a lot of times we don’t dig deep enough in the text. There is a story behind the story of the Bible that affects how certain things are worded. It was written in a different land and a different time. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to us, but what it means is we need to try and figure out how the time and place of a particular verse in history affects its meaning.

For instance, if someone just moved to America for the first time and was just picking up English and heard the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs,” what would they think is going on? Falling felines and crashing canines from above! But if they studied how that word was used by people in America, they’d find out that the bigger story of American culture and history showed that language was figurative.

When people quote verses to discriminate against others, a lot of times they will quote verses dealing with customs that sound like practices today – until you study what those customs really were in the time the Bible authors wrote about them. Other times, the text will have phrases which may sound like they describe one thing (like homosexual behavior, or like women being less than men) but which didn’t mean that in the culture of the day.

3. Compare different translations of the verses in question.

Another really big thing is that the Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic and not “English, Spanglish, and Bad English” like we speak around here, so what we read is not the original words of the Bible, but a translation. That is why it is important to compare different translations of the Bible and find out what different translations translate things differently. (A few good Bible commentaries will help here!)

This becomes important in looking at homosexuality because, as we will discuss more later, in some translations the word “homosexual” is used to translate the same word other translations use for “male prostitute” or “paederast” (which means pedophile). The difference in those translations means a lot!

Allow time for folks to discuss each of these points as they come up. Also ask how they think they might be able to apply these principles to verses used by anti-LGBTQ+ activists.


This means looking at the question of how it is it that different people have understood this verse over time.

Ask: Why might this be an important thing to consider in determining how to interpret a scripture?

A lot of times you can get insight into this. For instance, Christians of every stripe and tradition in every age have said that what Jesus taught is the foundation of Christianity and that without him we’d be lost. Because of the fact they all agree on this, we know that someone’s relationship to Jesus is key to what being a Christian is.

So seeing the history of how a verse has been interpreted can show us timeless truths that shed light on how to interpret obscure passages.

Ask: How might this affect your reading of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

Also, it can help give us a check on reading into the text our own modern ideas.

For instance, one Greek word often translated by modern Christians who oppose LGBTQ+ equality as “homosexual,” arsenokoites, for the first several centuries of Bible interpretation – when most Christians still read ancient Greek – was never used to apply to same-gender relationships, but instead to masturbation, anal sex between a man and a woman, and child molestation. The fact that it is only after Western society began to discriminate more openly against same-gender-loving people and that only after most Christians quit speaking biblical Greek that this Greek word got translated as “homosexual” tips us off to the possibility that folks who use it to condemn same-gender-loving people are reading in their own ideas to the Bible.

Ask: How might this affect your reading of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

Knowing the history of Bible interpretation also shows us how Christians sometimes get it wrong.

Throughout history, individuals have also misused portions of the Bible, taking verses out of context to support various acts of prejudice and discrimination. For instance, during the time of slavery, people found verses in the Bible where the apostle Paul told Christians stuck in slavery in the Roman Empire to submit to their slave-drivers until and unless they could find their freedom and used those verses to defend keeping African Americans in slavery forever. In the time of segregation, people quoted verses against Jews marrying people of other nations who did not worship the true God to support their policy of separating people based on race in a way that mistreated minorities. And throughout the ages, men have quoted verses about a wife’s role supporting her husband (while strangely overlooking the verses about a husband’s role supporting his wife!) as a way to keep women out of power and thus oppressed and voiceless.

Though at one point all these were the mainstream interpretation of these verses, most Christians would agree these were wrong uses of scripture. Over the centuries, as God’s Spirit has led Christians, Christians have begun to understand that these interpretations of scripture were not God’s intended message, but in fact went against the basic teachings of Christianity’s founder, Jesus. The Holy Spirit has shown that Jesus’ message is one that sets people free, not one that oppresses people.

Ask: How might this affect your interpretation of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

Reason and Experience

Ask: What are these? How do they apply to one’s reading of the Bible?

The next two principles are reason and experience. These principles are based on the idea out that what God is truly saying will make sense in real life. God’s way works, while other ways won’t.

This works on a personal level and on a technical level.

On a personal level, if an interpretation of scripture is true, it will fit your experience of life and will ultimately make sense for how we live.

If someone’s idea of what God is saying about life doesn’t work in real people’s lives, they probably aren’t hearing God, however much they believe it.

Likewise, you have to experience God yourself and decide for yourself what God is saying and ultimately responsible for your own beliefs.

So, if it doesn’t work, it probably isn’t true

Ask: How might this affect your interpretation of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

There is another way these two principles of interpreting what God is saying fit together and that is in the technical sense that I mentioned earlier. These are the basis of modern science. Scientists observe and thus experience things, record others’ experiences of things, and then apply reason to very earthly facts. Based on their study of how what God made works, they come up with explanations for life.

These two principles stem directly from scripture, too.

Have someone read Romans 1:19-20 and someone Psalms 19:1-4.

Explain that these verses show that through what God has made, our experience of it, and our reasoning, God reveals certain truths about God’s self and our lives.

History has shown how failing to pay attention to this aspect of interpretation has led people to misunderstand God. For instance, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the pope of the time all condemned as heretics people who, after studying the universe through a telescope, decided that the earth circles the sun and not the sun the earth, because the Bible uses language like “the sun sets” and “the sun rises.” They said, that the Bible obviously made it clear that the sun circles the earth!

Now we understand, based on looking at the story behind that story, based on studying the history of how God has revealed himself to people, and based, of course, on applying reason and our experiences from scientific experiments, that, you know what, that was a figure of speech like “it is raining cats and dogs” and that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the pope were doing the equivalent of claiming that falling felines and crashing canines from heaven were meant by that phrase.

Ask: How might this affect your interpretation of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

The final and most important principle of understanding what God is saying about a subject through scripture is using Jesus as your measuring stick for how to interpret scripture.

Have someone read Hebrews 1:1-4.

Explain that Jesus is God living, speaking, and acting in a human life. He is the perfect image of God, as this scripture says. In the New Testament we are told that he is Lord and his life is a revelation of God’s will for us.

That means that whatever God is saying has to fit Jesus’ model of living and Jesus’ message.

So if we think that God is saying X is true from a particular verse and Jesus has said not X, but Y, then we know we must have misunderstood God’s point.

A really big example of how this principle is helpful deals with how God views women. For the longest time, women were treated as second class citizens because society had always treated women as second class citizens and there are some verses in the Bible that seem to support that. But, if you look at how Jesus treats women in the Gospels, you find that he treats them in a way that is revolutionary. In a society that says women should not be taught to read, what does Jesus do? He takes on women as students to learn the way of the Kingdom from him. He teaches women as individuals, not just servants of their husbands. He uses a few images for God where God is depicted like a mother or a housewife. He has the first people who proclaim the Easter message that “Jesus is risen!” be women.

There are a lot of other examples like this I could mention, but I think you get the point. Ultimately, Jesus is the perfect image of God, so whatever verses we read about anything – homosexuality, women, chewing bubble gum – have to be looked at through the lens of how Jesus lived, what he taught, how he died and rose again.

Ask: How might this affect your interpretation of scriptures purported to be about sexual orientation or gender identity?

Concluding Question and Challenge

We aren’t going to have time to get into all the verses that deal with homosexuality today, but these are the different principles we are going to be using to evaluate what God is really saying in these passages.

I thought it would be neat to ask you to think about, from what you already know, what some insights are that we can gave from applying these principles to the question of homosexuality?

(Allow discussion)

Then pass out sheets listing some of the verses we will be studying, challenging those involved to really examine one of these passages, using all five principles.

Also, pass out the American Psychological Association [statement on] homosexuality, explaining that this is what unbiased scientific research has unveiled about sexual orientation.

Close in prayer.

The Book of Genesis and Gay Marriage

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Session 3 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

The Book of Genesis and Gay Marriage

Before you begin, Ask if anyone had a chance to look at the verses given for homework and if any had found any that struck them or challenged them particularly. Ask also if using the five tools helped them understand the passages any better.

Explain that today you are going to be looking at what, if anything, the first book of the Bible says about homosexuality.

Ask: Before I get started, what are some things you have heard the Old Testament says about homosexuality? What do you think of those things?


Explain: The first place we are going to look at is in the very beginning of the Bible, in fact the book whose name means “in the beginning” – the book of Genesis.

Ask: Does anyone know of anything that this first book of the Bible says which might apply to a discussion on homosexuality?

Explain: Well, probably one of the first places in Genesis people turn to is Genesis 1 and 2.

Ask if someone could read Genesis 1:26-31, and someone else read Genesis 2:18-25.

Then, allow people to share either things they feel these verses say about homosexuality or things they have heard people say about homosexuality.

Probably people will make reference to the oft-repeated statement, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Some people may make the point that the verse doesn’t talk about homosexuality at all.

Here are some key issues to address:

Explain: Some people will quote this verse and say “It isn’t Adam and Eve, but Adam and Steve.”

Ask: Do these verses say anything against same-sex relationships?

Point out that, despite what some Christians want to claim, Genesis doesn’t get into a lot of specifics about a lot of things. It doesn’t give a lot of specifics, from a scientific standpoint, about the process God uses to create life, for instance. Likewise, the verses don’t give any specific instruction on same-sex relationships. We are told God made humans male and female and told them to have sex, thus reproducing, and to care for and shape God’s creation. And we are told the first two people are called Adam, meaning red mud, and Eve, meaning life, and are male and female. We are also told, generally speaking, the reason a man leaves his family of origin and cleaves to his wife, but we aren’t told one word about why some men do the same thing but cleave to a husband – and why some women cleave to another woman. The verses here do not say this is bad. But, they also do not say it is good.

Some people jump to the conclusion that since Genesis 1 & 2 don’t describe same-sex relationships that [these relationships] are necessarily wrong. Yet, is this really fair? Not really. Genesis 1 & 2 also don’t describe OB/GYN’s who help with the pregnancies resulting from heterosexual sex that we use today. It doesn’t describe college education. It doesn’t describe mass transit, automobiles, or even wedding ceremonies at a church. We don’t jump to the conclusion that OB/GYN’s are wrong, that getting a college degree is a sin, that riding buses or cars is evil, or that it is a sin to have a wedding ceremony at a church, even though Genesis 1 & 2 don’t describe these things. So you can’t use Genesis 1 & 2 to really condemn or praise same-sex relationships. You have to turn elsewhere – whether to other verses in the bible, to science, to personal experience, or to your own prejudice – to do that.

Do these verses say anything about transgender and intersex identity?

In a word, no. We are told God creates human beings male and female, but Genesis 1 & 2 don’t say anything about other categories folks might find themselves in. We aren’t told if all humans will be male and female, or how God views those who are born not fitting neatly into the category of male or female.

Ask: Does this necessarily mean being transgender is wrong?

Explain that, again, you have to look somewhere other than these verses to determine that. They simply don’t talk about the phenomenon at all. These verses only speak in general terms about gender, sexuality, or even the way life began, in order to teach some fundamental principles that apply generally to all people. They don’t get into exact scientific detail about every part of how life began or about gender diversity or sexual orientation.

Remember what we learned happened to Martin Luther, the pope, and John Calvin during the Renaissance when they tried to treat the Bible as a science book: They condemned as heretics folks who found scientific evidence that the earth circles the sun, not the sun the earth. They did this because the Bible did not directly describe the earth circling the sun, but used poetic language about the sun rising and setting. They made fools of themselves, because that wasn’t really what God was ever saying. Something similar could happen to us if we out-and-out condemned ideas such as evolution, same-sex relationships or transgender identity because they are not explicitly described here in Genesis 1 & 2. God’s silence in Genesis 1 & 2 only means we have to look elsewhere for these answers, not that the things God does not describe are wrong.

Ask: If Genesis 1 & 2 don’t tell us directly whether same-sex behavior is right or wrong – and whether or not being transgender or intersex is alright – does it give us any principles that can we can use to figure out how to apply what we learn about these phenomenon elsewhere? Taken together with what we now know about sexuality and gender from science, what lessons can Genesis 1 & 2 teach us?

It doesn’t answer questions about whether it is wrong to be gay, because when Genesis was written, the idea of sexual orientation hadn’t been discovered yet. But if people are born gay or transgender, as most scientists now claim, Genesis 1 & 2 can answer questions such as: Is my sexuality a mistake? What is the purpose of my sexuality?

What does this story tell us about these things?

Allow discussion, then explain:

This story tells us a number of positive things:

First, none of us are accidents. Whether we are Adams who want Eves, Adams who want Steves, Eves who want Liliths, Adams who would be fine with either Steve or Eve, or Adams who don’t want anybody right now, thank you very much – God made us. God made us with a powerful purpose: To reflect God’s image, God’s character in this world.

A similar message applies to transgender and intersex people, who science now largely agrees are born the way they are. For the transgender person, the reality is that while your life circumstances might be personally difficult, involving surgery, discrimination and/or low self-esteem, the way you are born is no mistake. God has a reason you were born with a body of one gender and mind of another (or not easily fitting into the category of male or female). By being yourself, it could be said that you at least partly reflect an image of the God who is described as both mother and father in a unique way.

Also, God made us to be with others, too – that is a part of what it means to be in God’s image. That humans are made man and woman together shows that we discover our purpose best with others – with friends, with church family, and (for those of us called to be in a relationship) with a loving partner. We discover how to be God’s image in the world through our relationships with each other.

And, I think, Genesis shows us that this is a part of the reason for the gift of our sexuality. The fact that men and women are made for each other is called good by God. Our sexuality is a beautiful gift. And though this passage doesn’t say whether or not homosexuality or bisexuality is natural, modern science has found both to be natural varieties of sexual orientation, through empirical study, using the reason and experience we spoke about previously. Almost universally, psychologists who don’t have some preconceived political agenda argue that homosexuality and bisexuality are no more wrong than being left-handed, red-haired or brown-skinned. It is a natural part of the diversity of nature.

So if this is the case, which isn’t a question Genesis answers, but which science does, then Genesis shows us that all our natural variations – our skin color, our gender, our gender expression or gender identity, our sexual orientation – are gifts from God, given by God to give us yet another glimpse at a part of who God is. That means gay is gorgeous, bi is beautiful, lesbianism is lovely, and being heterosexual can be sexy. Each of these variations show us a part of who God is in a way that something else wouldn’t.

A big part of how God uses our sexuality is hinted at in this narrative.

Ask: Why does God give Adam and Eve their sexuality?

Genesis 2 makes it sound as though there is something missing from Adam that renders him incomplete without it. If you wanted to, you could say he is not completely made until he finds the person who completes him. That is why it is not good for Adam to be alone. God makes Eve for Adam to be Adam’s “helper,” his “partner.” The two are to complete each other. Through their relationship of love, of trust, and of mutual respect, they are to help each other become who they were meant to be, become the best “them” they can be. And their sexuality is a beautiful instrument of this. It is what makes them leave their parents of origin, cling to each other, and become one. In one sense, this describes the physical act of sex – two people joining their bodies. But in reality, it really describes an ongoing process of building each other up, of getting to know each other, an emotional and spiritual process of transformation. And our sex drives and our sexuality are a large part of the drive toward us doing this with another person. Our sex life with whomever it is that completes us is a sort of super-glue that physically, emotionally, and spiritually binds us to each other.

What does this teach us about the purpose of our sexuality – be it gay, lesbian, bisexual or hetero-sexuality?

The purpose in our sexuality isn’t just our pleasure, it isn’t to exploit others, but for our sex drive to be the driving force toward and centerpiece in a union with another human being, a union which helps both you and your partner become the complete person God made you to be.

As we step away from homophobic readings of Genesis and let modern sexology‘s studies on sexuality fill in the gaps which Genesis leaves, we can see Genesis’ beautiful lesson.

Close in prayer.

What Does the Bible Say About Sodomy?

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Session 4 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

What Does the Bible Say About Sodomy?

Icebreaker: Have folks share about a time they were an outsider in a new area and felt out of place.

Ask: What are some things people did that made you feel excluded or left out? That made you feel welcome?

Explain: The next Scripture you will look at is often quoted about sexuality, but, as we will see, has much more to do with hospitality and being a good neighbor.

Pass out handout about types of same-sex contact in the Old Testament. Have folks read over the handout. Explain that, as we read the Sodom story and parts of the Bible that follow, they should pay attention to the varying forms of same-sex contact that occur and whether they are expressive of same-sex marriage, same-sex rape, or what form they are, as that will be relevant to your discussion.

Have someone read Genesis 19:1-26.

Ask: How do most people use this story in reference to homosexuality? Does it sound like this story actually says what people say it does?

Explain that probably most people who have heard this story have heard that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because it was so perverse because it was a gay city. That’s what I heard growing up – that God is punishing them for homosexuality.

Is that the truth?

Well, no. The Bible tells us elsewhere why God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Have someone read Ezekiel 16:48-49. Ask: What sins does this verse say God destroyed Sodom for?

Explain that this verse and many others make it very clear that God does not destroy Sodom because it is full of homosexuals, but because of the fact that its people were greedy, arrogant, and don’t recognize God. This leads them to exploit others, especially the poor and strangers, without worrying about the consequences. The one element of this story that involves sexuality is a powerful example of how far their arrogance and un-neighborliness had gotten.

Ask: What sort of sexual conduct is described in the story in Genesis 19:1-26? Is it the sort of sex two loving, committed people such as you’d find in a gay union would have?

Explain that this is a gang rape that is described, not two men or two women who are having sex as an expression of love, faithfulness, and commitment. This is not an expression of love at all – and a far cry from what two lovers, be they bisexual, gay, or straight, would be engaged in.

Ask: Why might the people of Sodom have engaged in gang rape? What lesson might this story have been intended to teach?

This story was recorded by the Israelites in Palestine. One of the common practices of the people God was having the Israelites to expel from Palestine was to humiliate enemies and strangers. One of the signs of a good, godly city in Bible times, was its care for strangers and its ability to welcome others. For instance, in the Sodom story, God sent heavenly messengers along Lot’s path who seemed to be strangers in the town. Lot is counted as a godly person for being open to these strangers. Being godly then is being open to all people, especially those who are strangers to your community and don’t yet fit in or have enough to get by, being open them as being sent by God into your lives for some reason.

A sign of a barbaric society in Bible times was that it humiliated strangers and prisoners. The ultimate method was torture. The ultimate torture was for a straight man, often several straight men, to rape a stranger, enemy, or prisoner, anally. In fact this still goes on today in prisons, where hardened criminals will torture other inmates through gang-rape. The idea was to dehumanize the person. It was a form of psychological warfare, a type of abuse that had nothing to do with love or attraction. In it, sexuality is used as a weapon. A penis becomes a weapon of abuse.

This is what is happening in Genesis here. Sodom is so corrupt and so barbaric that when it sees seemingly helpless and harmless strangers, its straight male leaders feel the need to treat these pilgrims as enemies, to humiliate them with the worst torture imaginable in that day, simply because they come from a different land than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Ask: Is it fair then to use this verse to condemn non-abusive same-sex intimacy that is an expression of love?

Ironically, the Bible also condemns men gang-raping women. Almost the same account as Sodom and Gomorrah is given in Judges 19-21. There God, through the leaders of the tribes of Israel, proclaims judgment on a town in Israel for becoming corrupt, giving into the dehumanizing religious philosophy of the people around them, and exploiting others. It all comes to a head when a young lady is gang-raped simply for being in a different town than she was from – for being different, in other words. The city is condemned as cursed and the armies of Israel wipe it out. Yet you don’t hear anyone condemning straight married couples for having sex because men are condemned for gang-raping a woman in Judges. It would only be fair to condemn all heterosexual love due to Judges, if you use Genesis 19:1-26 to condemn all same-gender love. The truth is, neither passages deal with love, but with sexual abuse and inhospitality.

In conclusion, the Sodom story teaches us:

  • To acknowledge God
  • To not become greedy and power-hungry
  • To welcome strangers and those not like us
  • That our sex is a tool of love, not war. Sex should not be exploitative or abusive, but in love and commitment. Don’t gang-rape people or engage in sexual abuse.

This passage does not deal with loving, faithful, committed same-sex relationships, except in so far as it teaches us not to look down on people who are different.

Close in prayer.

Abomination in the Bible

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Session 5 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Abomination in the Bible

Begin by asking for one or two people to review, in a few sentences, what we have seen so far in our look at the Bible’s treatment of homosexuality.

Explain: Today we are going to be looking at some of the most controversial texts that deal with sexuality in the Bible – descriptions of particular forms of same-sex contact found in what is known as the “Holiness Code” of the Old Testament. In particular, we are going to look at Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.

As we prepare to read these verses, remember the questions we’ve mentioned needing to ask when reading Old Testament texts: What does this verse really say and what does it not say? Is this a text whose command applies to all people in all time, or one which is not binding in the same way now, because it is fulfilled in Christ? What is the historical and cultural background of the text? How do these verses fit into the larger story of the books of the Bible surrounding them? How do they fit into the story of the Bible? Into the history of God’s work in the world? What does our reason and experience tell us? And most importantly, what light do Jesus’ life and teachings shed on these verses?

Have folks read these two verses:

Leviticus 18:22:

Don’t have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.

Leviticus 20:13:

If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent. They must be put to death; they are responsible for their own deaths.

Ask: First of all, keeping comments down to a few sentences, how have you heard this verse explained by religious people? What have they said it says about homosexual behavior or orientation?

(Allow comments)

Well, touching on the questions I told you to keep in mind, what are some things you notice that the verse does say and that it doesn’t say?

(Allow comments)

Well, here are a few facts about these verses that are often omitted by religious conservatives:

  1. This verse says nothing about women being sexual toward other women. This is interesting, isn’t it? If this verse was intended to be a universal indictment against homosexual activity, why are lesbians omitted from these verses? And why do religious conservatives fail to notice Leviticus doesn’t condemn lesbian intimacy? There is some debate about what particular sexual acts this verse condemns, but whatever it condemns, it does not condemn sex between two women.
  2. This verse calls for capital punishment for whatever act it describes. Whatever it is condemning, it is something that was viewed as very destructive either to God or the Jewish community who kept this law. Also, very few who quote this verse actually believe they should organize a gang to perform capital punishment, neither do they believe capital punishment should be performed for other acts that Leviticus calls for capital punishment about – children disobeying parents, men sleeping with their wives during their period. So this shows there is some real inconsistency with people who quote this verse as being in force today.
  3. Though this verse is said to call homosexuality a sin, this verse doesn’t even describe whatever same-sex act is described as a sin, but as a “detestable” or “abhorrent” act, or an “abomination” .

Ask: Can anyone think of what the difference might be between an “abominable act” and a sin?

(Allow thought)

Pass out copies of The Mosaic Code & the Hebrew word To’ebah and/or What the Bible Says About Homosexuality: Abomination. Explain that these resources are compilations from several resources that go through the meaning of the word translated “abomination,” “abhorrent” or “detestable.” Ask people to read parts of this page. Then ask: What significance do these resources’ content have in explaining what Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 are saying?

Explain that this means that Leviticus does not say that a man to lie with man is wrong or a sin. Rather, it is a ritual violation, an uncleanness ; it is something dirty ritualistically, just as was eating shellfish, mixing fibers, and similar laws which Christians no longer consider binding on them.

Two things were to’ebah to the Jewish people: First, acts that went against the cultural norms in a way that one was considered ritually unclean or imperfect, and thus unable to go to the temple and worship God, were to’ebah. The idea is that you only take to God a perfect gift and, if you are somehow imperfect, you can’t go to worship until you’ve “cleaned up.” That’s why someone who had touched a woman during her period couldn’t go to the temple without getting stoned – in their culture, that was believed to make someone imperfect.

Another list of things called to’ebah were practices that were connected with religions around Israel that had gone wrong in their worship of God – practices like sacrificing children on the altar, practices like giving your children to be prostitutes in the temple as an act of worship. Stuff like that.

Some feel that this verse refers to male-to-male intimacy as merely unclean, like eating pork made someone unclean in Jewish religion. This would be then connected with the way Jewish people of the day understood sex. They viewed semen as having a life-giving property. Not understanding about eggs, they believed all semen needed to become a baby was a woman’s womb. So, men who masturbated were unclean, because semen that could have become a baby if put in a woman was wasted and fell on the ground. Likewise, men who had wet dreams were unclean and we are told in Leviticus that a man who had a wet dream had to go through a time of ritual purification before entering the temple. They had to bathe and wait a day before they could come to worship. This is also why women weren’t allowed in the temple during their period – that was the blood of pregnancy, which could some day produce a child, which was spilling out of them. This made them imperfect.

If this was the case, then this verse is condemning male-to-male intimacy because of this pre-scientific understanding of semen. It is a concession to a cultural notion we don’t share any more: Semen is getting wasted that could be used for making babies! How bad! Under this logic, since women don’t produce semen, it is okay for women to have sex with each other. After all, no baby-making fluid is wasted. Only during their periods are they unclean.

Ask: Any thoughts about this understanding of this verse? Do you think this is persuasive?

As we’ll see, these verses don’t condemn all male-to-male sexual intimacy. Likewise, they probably don’t merely condemn what they do condemn as ritual uncleanness or an imperfection that has to be “washed away” to go to worship. Instead, whatever they describe is connected with the horrible practices of the religions in Canaan that had really lost their way and were thus more serious. Evidence of this is that no one was stoned for mere acts of ritual uncleanness like eating pork or touching dead bodies or having a period or ejaculation. The sex acts described in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 had the death penalty. This shows how serious they were in Bible times.

The “story surrounding the story” helps us understand what is being condemned, as does the original Hebrew words used in this text.

Ask: How do you think they fit into the story as a whole?

Well, first we have the context in the Bible these verses fit into. They are in the book of Leviticus, a book where God outlines rules for how the Jewish people are to worship God, how their priests are to perform sacrifices, and the like.

And, these two commands are a part of a list of prohibitions connected with how Israel worships God. In the beginning and ending of chapters 18 and 20 a rationale for these command is given.

Have someone read Leviticus 18:1-5? Leviticus 20:22-24:

God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, I am God, your God. Don’t live like the people of Egypt where you used to live, and don’t live like the people of Canaan where I’m bringing you. Don’t do what they do. Obey my laws and live by my decrees. I am your God. Keep my decrees and laws: The person who obeys them lives by them. I am God.

“Do what I tell you, all my decrees and laws; live by them so that the land where I’m bringing you won’t vomit you out. You simply must not live like the nations I’m driving out before you. They did all these things and I hated every minute of it.

“I’ve told you, remember, that you will possess their land that I’m giving to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am God, your God, who has distinguished you from the nations. So live like it: Distinguish between ritually clean and unclean animals and birds. Don’t pollute yourselves with any animal or bird or crawling thing which I have marked out as unclean for you. Live holy lives before me because I, God, am holy. I have distinguished you from the nations to be my very own.”

After these are read, ask: Why is it God condemns the acts God lists in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13?

Explain that God is trying to keep the Jewish people from engaging in religious practices that the peoples around them engage in. That may sound weird to us in our day, when we try to stay open-minded to the beliefs and practices of other religions, but if you understand what these religious practices and views were like, God’s words make more sense.

One of the messages God gives again and again throughout the Bible is that, you can’t worship God any old way or believe any old thing about God. This doesn’t mean that there is only one way to worship God or all other religions but ours (whichever ours is) are wrong. That’s not the point.

In the Christian religion, for instance, there are branches of Christianity that in the name of God do horrible things. I have distant relatives who are part of white supremacist groups, that say that all people who are not white are inferior to white people. After all, God is white, Jesus is white, and so white people are more godlike than black people, Hispanics, Asians, or Jews. So they feel the right to beat up, harass, and persecute those not like them because of their understanding of God. So, when they see races mixing, they burn crosses, put on masks, and form lynch mobs, in the name of God.

Theirs is a type of religion, a way of being a Christian, but one that, seen through the eyes of Christ, has lost its way, one that is evil and led more by negative spiritual forces than by the loving God and Parent of Jesus Christ.

Something like that had gone on in much of the religions of the people around the Jewish people God was working with in Leviticus. The nations around them conceived of the Divine as several small-minded, petty tyrants much like the warlords and blood-thirsty tyrants of their own lands. These were selfish, sex-crazed, hungry, egotistical beings, who had to be entertained and appeased by any means necessary. In their mind, the Divine was like a much more selfish, thoughtless, powerful version of themselves, and as such, didn’t have respect for human life and choice.

So they built up practices to appease these gods. The gods were hungry all the time – for blood. Human blood was the prime rib of the gods, so the nations around Israel sacrificed animals, slaves, and their own children on altars, so that their blood would keep the gods from hurting them.

They believed that the gods sent rain when the gods were happy and horny. So, to make them this way, they took small children and slaves and enslaved them, teaching them to be prostitutes in the their temples. When it didn’t rain, people would gather at the temple and have all kinds of sex – men with their sisters and mothers, with children, even heterosexual men with men and little boys, as a way of getting the gods aroused so that they would send rain.

(For further information, you may wish to print out copies of Fertility Cults of Canaan, which gives detailed info on Canaanite fertility religion)

Many scholars agree acts God is condemning in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 are not acts of love between consenting adults, as we see in, say, same-gender marriages, for instance, but sexual acts connected with the temple prostitution and temple orgies of the nations around Israel. Included in these lists are also laws against sacrificing human beings and babies on altars.

This is further demonstrated, not just by this historical context, but the language used in these verses. Two different words are used for man in these verses – ish and and zakar: “a man (ish) shall not lie with a male (zakar) as with a woman.” Ish is the general word used for man in the sense of a male human being. Zakar is a technical term meaning literally “holy one,” a man or male animal specifically dedicated to a deity for some sacred purpose. This technical term is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe male temple prostitutes of the type I’ve already described. (Taken from a series of articles on this passage at http://www.epistle.us/)

What God is doing is condemning a set of religions that have gone wrong. God is trying to say to the Israelite people: You were in slavery and I didn’t rape you, I didn’t kill you, I didn’t prostitute you, I didn’t ask the Egyptians to sacrifice you. No, I set you free, I gave you land and room in which to grow, I taught you how to stand on your own two feet. So, don’t imitate these religions around you that enslave others, rape others, prostitute others, kill their children and neighbors. Let your religion be one that sets other free and grants life to others, one that loves your neighbor, one that frees your slaves every seven years, and so on. That is what God is saying.

Ask: Is having sex with small children and slaves who have been made into prostitutes as a part of worshiping idols the sort of sex most same-gender-loving people are engaged in, when they are intimate with each other? If not, is this a fair verse to throw at LGBTQ+ people to condemn their relationships?

Finally, ask: Do you see any implications of this in understanding Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13? Are there any positive lessons we can gain from it?

(Allow comments)

The purpose of these verses isn’t to limit same-sex intimacy between two committed and loving partners, but to limit practices that are exploitative and abusive, particularly temple prostitution, in which men and young boys were exploited sexually as a way of appeasing the Divine, in ways God never intended or approved.

Close in prayer.

Unnatural Lusts

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Session 6 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Unnatural Lusts

Icebreaker: Ask the group members whether they are right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous. Ask them if they have ever had a time they had to do with one hand what they normally do with their dominant hand. What was difficult about it? What was easy? In what ways would they say this was “against their own nature”?

Explain: We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality. There are still a couple more passages that we need to discuss in order to be able to understand the references that people often make when they say that God condemns homosexual behavior, or homosexuals in general. Today we’re going to focus on one passage specifically.

Have somebody read Romans 1:26-27.

Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

This is a passage that people often use to say that homosexuality is an “abomination” or a “detestable act.” They use those two very verses, standing alone, and say that they prove that God says homosexuality is a sin. What I’d like to do today is to take what we just read in context.

(Potential additional idea: You may want to share Homosexual behavior in animals  at this point and ask How does how often same-sex behavior occurs in nature affect the use of “natural use” in this text?)

I’d like to go around and have each of you read five verses, starting with Romans 1:1, and we’re going to read the entire first chapter of Romans.

Now that we’ve read through the first chapter, I’d like to point out a couple of reasons that this chapter is misused when people say it deals with homosexuality.

Ask: First of all, what exactly is homosexuality?

Allow discussion, then say: It is a sexual attraction of one individual to an individual of the same gender. With that context, I make my first point.

In several different translations of Romans 1:26-27 the point is made that the individuals in question were given over to exchanging natural lusts for unnatural ones. The women were with the women and the men were with the men. Consider this for a second. Ask: Whose natural tendencies does it go against to be with the same sex – a homosexual or a heterosexual? Who does this make it likely Paul is describing as going against their own nature in these verses?

Explain that a great number of the biblical scholars suggest that the people in this passage who were having relations with people of the same sex were not homosexual – they were heterosexuals who were taking part in, essentially, an orgy dedicated to a fertility god. Most scholars concur that, during this event, women weren’t just having sex with women or men with men, but rather the individuals were pretty much just having sex with whatever was able to have sex with them.

This brings me to a second point.

Ask: What in this was God really upset about? Is even sex the main issue here?

I want to point out here something about the nature of God. We are reminded countless times in scripture that God looks, first and foremost, to the condition of our hearts. Therefore, it isn’t even so much actions that sadden God as it is where our hearts are when we sin. The condition of our hearts when we turn away from God is what saddens God the most.

In that context, it’s fitting that what is said to bother God in this passage has to do with action only insofar as it is a manifestation of what is going on inside the people’s hearts. In Romans 1:21, it becomes clear to us that the problem with what is going on is that the people have taken their eyes off God. This is what disturbs God the most; this is what hurts God. What the people are doing is a manifestation of having taken their eyes off God and putting other things in God’s place. This isn’t to say that what the people are doing here isn’t wrong – it is – they are misusing the God-given gift of sexuality not out of any orientation, but out of selfish desires.

Ask: This verse describes having sex with people whom you are not naturally attracted to in orgies in which you worship idols. Is this the sort of sex most same-gender-loving people have with those they love?

Explain that perhaps the most important point to make about this passage with regard to the question of homosexuality is that, again, this passage does not speak about the loving, committed, monogamous relationship that two people of homosexual orientations can have. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t even speak of homosexual orientation, but rather of heterosexuals who are acting in a way contrary to their nature. Furthermore, there is nothing loving or committed, or least of all monogamous about the things that are going on in this passage. It is, as I have said, an orgy. There is no regard for morals in this situation and, to put it in modern terms, each individual involved is treating one another like a piece of meat rather than a child of God.

So we’ve seen several things in this passage. We’ve seen, perhaps most importantly to the purpose of this Bible study, that this passage actually speaks not at all of the homosexual orientation, but of people of heterosexual orientation acting in a way contrary to their nature. The issue in the situation, and the sin had to do with how the people were treating God and one another, and not at all with what gender people were attracted to naturally.

We’ve also seen that what went on in this passage was a manifestation of people having taken their eyes off God and, as a result, the things they did were done in the spirit of gluttony and selfish desire and not in the spirit of love.

There’s one last thing that we’ve seen, though, that I think we need to touch on briefly before we close.

Ask: What positive lessons can these verse give us about what we need in our romantic relationships?

Explain that we’ve talked about the fact that God cares most about the condition of our hearts – with what is going on inside of us, which is what causes our actions. If we are acting out of a true desire to please God, and to show love to one another while our actions might not always be perfect, we will please God. When we act our of our own selfishness, and put pleasures of this world above God in our lives, God is displeased. Each of us, in the way we live, are striving to please God. There was something in the passage in the behavior of the people that was very much not glorifying to God. The question we need to ask is not what gender are the people in our relationships but, in the loving relationships among the people in this room, are we seeking to glorify God? God sees the condition of all of our hearts. He knows greed from honest, true and committed love and he’s pleased with those of us in whom he sees a genuine love for our fellow man – or woman. This is true regardless of our sexuality.

Close in prayer.

Malakoi and Arsenokoitai: Welcome in Heaven?

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Session 7 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Malakoi and Arsenokoitai: Welcome in Heaven?

Icebreaker: Share about a time you wanted to join a club or group but were not admitted because of something physical – such as your age, your gender, your ethnicity, your background.

Hook: At one point, there were signs throughout towns and hamlets all over the deep South emblazoned with the words “White Only.” These were signs warning African-American people in those towns that “those type of people” were not welcome in those restaurants, those hotels, and those restrooms. And if any black man or woman walked toward that door, they would find it slammed in their face.

Today we are going to be looking at a text that many have used as a “No Entrance” sign to gays & lesbians, arguing it says “Straights Only” and is a sign barring the entrance into heaven to keep LGBTQ+ people out. We are going to ask as we look at this text, is this in fact what God is saying, or is it what people’s own prejudice is reading into it? I want to suggest that, when understood in its proper context, these words aren’t a sign shutting out anyone, gay or straight, willing to give up exploitative and promiscuous lifestyles, and embrace God’s grace through faith in Christ.

Have someone read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Ask: What have you heard people say this text means?

Explain that most Christians who use this verse to condemn homosexuals have a translation that reads “homosexuals” or “homosexual offenders.” They say: See, the Bible says those types don’t get into heaven! See!

There are three things I want to have us focus on about 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. First, we have what I call the “No Gays” sign’s dirty little secret, then we have why the sign was put there to begin with, and third, we have the good news about the door to heaven.

First, the sign’s dirty little secret.

The dirty little secret is that the supposed “No Gays” sign of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 wasn’t written in English in the 20th century. That may sound like nothing shocking – but it is. The reason it is a shock to many people is this: Most people get their idea that those verses condemn homosexuality not from what the Bible originally said when it was written in Greek but from translations, and at times translations of translations.

The Greek words that are translated as “homosexual” or “homosexual offender” in some Bible versions are malakoi and arsenokoites – and the dirty little secret is that nobody agrees on what those words mean.

To demonstrate this, I put together a sheet listing a number of ways this passage is translated. (Pass out Meanings of the Greek word “arsenokoitai”) If you could, would each of you read one of the translations of this passage and let’s all notice the differences in how malakoi and arsenokoites are translated in these different Bible versions. As you all read this, bear in mind that the bold words in the passage are the translations of the two words I am talking about.

Allow the passages to be read and then ask: Does anyone notice anything about these different passages?

Point out that they don’t agree on what these two words mean.

First, the New Revised Standard version translates them as “male prostitutes” and “sodomites,” the latter a term referring to those who commit the sin of Sodom (which we found out a few weeks ago was rape). Then, the New International Version translates malakoi as “male prostitutes” and arsenokoites as “homosexual offenders.” The King James Version translates the words as effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind. The oldest translation here, the Wycliffe, talks about two kinds of lechery, or promiscuous sex, not acts in any committed, loving relationship. I could go on, but you get the point – these verses show that there isn’t a real agreement about what this passage is saying in these two words.

Let‘s look for a second at all the different ways these words can be understood.

Pass out Meanings of the Greek word “arsenokoitai” and ask people to read through it, explaining it tells what these words mean.

Explain that this handout shows us that scholars who know Greek better than any preacher you know aren’t certain what malakoi and arsenokoites might mean. In fact, they aren’t even sure whether or not Paul is talking about sex itself. Malakoi can mean “softy,” someone with no moral backbone or fiber – that is what “effeminate” meant when the King James Version was written. And arsenokoites is some sort of euphemism. Literally the word means “male-bedder,” sort of like saying “man-izer.” But the fact is that most Christians would say that being a womanizer (or “woman-bedder,” if you will: a man who sleeps around with lots of women either without settling down or behind his wife’s back) isn’t taken to mean a man sleeping with a woman is always wrong – just that it is wrong to cheat on your spouse or to lead women on, into one-night stands, and affairs that go nowhere.

So, what is the dirty little secret about 1 Corinthians 6:9-11?

(Allow a response)

Exactly. The dirty little secret is that no one is sure what this “sign” is saying. The best scholars can’t agree on whether or not this is saying “No Gays Allowed” or “No Weak-Willed People Allowed” or “No Rapists Allowed.”

Imagine for a minute you were a juror determining whether to let a certain man stay in our kingdom, the United States, or whether to exile him to Iraq and a “dirty little secret” like this was let out in the courtroom. Let’s say he was on trial for killing the president – and then, in the middle of the court proceedings you found out that the witnesses couldn’t agree on whether it was the president who died or some other person – about whether or not the man had killed anybody or whether or not he had just accidentally knocked someone over in the street. Then some witnesses start saying that they aren’t sure if this man was ever at the scene of the crime and they thought it was maybe a woman instead who did whatever happened. If a “dirty secret” like this came out, would you convict the man to exile?

(Allow responses)

Well, that’s point about the dirty little secret about “Straight Only.” Do you think it is fair for Christians to say “God condemns gays” when the best Greek scholars can’t agree about whether or not this verse says anything about homosexuality? (Allow responses.)

Now since I do think this verse is saying something and something important about sex, I want to spend a minute looking at my next point, which is why God put this sign down anyway. In other words, I want us to look at the context for these verses, because I think they suggest what God is meaning in this “sign” about who is allowed through the gates into his Kingdom and who isn’t, even if it’s not totally clear.

To do that, I want to have us look at “the story behind the story” and read on to see why Paul condemns whatever he is talking about in this list of sins.

Have somebody read through 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.

You know the old saying, “First you eat to live, and then you live to eat”? Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body!

God honored the Master’s body by raising it from the grave. He’ll treat yours with the same resurrection power. Until that time, remember that your bodies are created with the same dignity as the Master’s body. You wouldn’t take the Master’s body off to a whorehouse, would you? I should hope not.

There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.

In a word, what is this section talking about?

(Allow responses)

Prostitution, or to put it into two words: frequenting prostitutes. In fact, the words translated “sexual immorality” or “fornication” are from the word porneia in Greek, the word used for a female prostitute that a male customer would frequent.

Basically Paul makes an argument: You know that what brings you pleasure and fulfills your hunger is a good thing in the right context. But meeting your sexual needs by visiting a prostitute gets it wrong. Don’t you know what God said about sex in the beginning? God said that sex was supposed to bind two people together, for life. When you ask God into your heart, you take God with you everywhere. Now, which do you think God wants: You to be dragging God out to cheap one-night stands with prostitutes or to walk alongside you while you live out your sexuality in a relationship of commitment for life? After all, even if you enjoy it, God made you for more and intended your sex-drive for better.

Here Paul talks specifically about straight men who fulfill their need for sexual intimacy by frequenting prostitutes. This was an accepted part of the culture of the city Paul’s church was in, Corinth. Do you remember the fertility religions we talked about, that had prostitutes who’d lead people in orgies in worship of false gods? Well, there were numerous enormous ones in this city. So, compared to them, a garden-variety prostitute was nothing.

Scholars don’t agree on whether these were garden-variety prostitutes or the temple prostitutes. But, in either case, the Christians in Corinth were new Christians and used to an “anything goes” attitude to sex – and Paul is letting them know that for a Christian, the gift of sex isn’t to be squandered on one-night stands and frequenting prostitutes.

I think, based on this context, that the best translation of Paul’s words would be “Do not be deceived: Neither female prostitutes nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor those who frequent them nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Whatever the case, the context for sex is described as being in a committed relationship of love and trust. As we spoke about before, in that context sex is the centerpiece of a relationship that God uses to shape us to become the most like God we can become. The trials and joys of committed relationships of love force us to face our flaws and strengths and become more Christlike – and a healthy marriage or union (or whatever your term!) is for those called to it the place they can grow to their fullest potential.

In the chapter following this, Paul lets people know that, for those unable to live without sex in a happy and fulfilling way, God wants them to find one partner they are committed to, with whom a healthy sex life will be a big part of their relationship.

So, why is it that I am suggesting that God gave us these words?

(Allow discussion)

Explain: To show us that prostitution and frequenting prostitutes, and, by extension, letting sex become one-night stands, is a perversion of the gift of sex – whether in gay, bisexual or heterosexual relationships. To show us that sexuality is designed to be a centerpiece of a committed relationship of love, commitment, and trust.

Finally, I want to point out good news. You could take what I just said as being that I was saying God’s purpose in these words is to just to replace “Straight“ with “Those That Ain’t Prostitutes or Their Clients” on some big exclusion sign on the door to Heaven. That is the furthest from the truth.

Have someone re-read 1 Corinthians 6:11.

What does this say?

(Allow discussion)

Explain that this verse shows us that, whatever arsenokoites and malakoi are, they aren’t shut out of heaven.

If I’m right, and these words mean that for gigolos and their clients, it doesn’t mean that heaven is shut off to them. Paul says to his church, As were some of you – you’ve been down that road so you better not judge anyone, but you were washed… You see Jesus died to open the door that any of us whose lives have gone down the wrong road can hear God’s voice saying “I love you, turn from this dead-end road full of pain and emptiness, and let me lead you home.” Those Corinthian Christians had heard Jesus’ voice in Paul’s friendship and teaching and had given up their work as thieves or gigolos or frequenters of prostitutes or corrupt politicians. They had accepted God’s love and let him wipe their slate clean. So God no longer saw their sins, but God saw them as God’s beloved children who’d lost their way and come home.

So, if you realize that, you can see that this text isn’t a sign of exclusion saying anyone is not welcome, but a giant welcome mat, saying: Whatever path you have been down, if you will take my hand, I your God will take you home. I will accept you as my child, my beloved, my friend. I can be your true mother and father, your true sister or brother, your true loving partner, and your closest companion, and I can lead you to life. All the ways you have hurt others – all the hurts done to you – can be healed and forgiven through my cross and my Spirit.

Close in prayer.

You may also enjoy this Bible study and this one from The Bible and Homosexuality on Whosoever 

Gay Saints (And Bi-Positive Ones)

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Session 8 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Gay Saints (And Bi-Positive Ones)

Icebreaker: Who is someone that was a strong role model to you growing up? What are some things they role-modeled for you? How did that help you grow as a person?

Explain that in Christian tradition, Christians have always found role models in the saints, or heroes of faith, who modeled walking with God in various circumstances in history. Explain that not only does the Bible not condemn same-sex romantic relationships, but it also provides models of individuals who have faithful, God-centered loving relationships with people of the same sex. Today we are going to be looking at a few of these models of faith in Scripture, as well as one from history, and examining what lessons these gay, bisexual and bi-affectionate saints teach us.

Have folks go over the following saints, discussing their relationships and the examples they give:

1. Naomi and Ruth

Have folks read Ruth 1:16-17.

Ask: Can anyone recall the story of Naomi and Ruth? What lessons does it teach us?

Explain that there is no real evidence that Naomi and Ruth were lesbian lovers – in fact, Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law and the book of Ruth is a record of the romance of Ruth & Boaz, a heterosexual romance.

That said, this is a positive account in the Bible of same-sex love. Ruth’s confession to Naomi here is a startling expression of love and commitment.

Consider what sort of faithfulness Ruth has to Naomi. When Naomi returns to her home country, though Ruth has no requirement to do so, she decides to go with Naomi, leaving all she has known to be by Naomi’s side. She chooses to take on Naomi’s religion, family, and culture. She chooses to leave all she knows simply to accompany Naomi in Naomi’s journey in life.

Ask: How is this like what is needed for a marriage or same-sex union to work? What does the fact that a same-sex relationship is shown in such positive terms in the Bible show us about how God looks at same-sex relationships?

2. David and Jonathan

Have folks read 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 1 Samuel 20:41, and 2 Samuel 1:26.

Explain that here we see a same-sex relationship between Prince David and Prince Jonathan.

Ask: Does this relationship sound like one of love & commitment? Does it sound like just a friendship? What elements common to a romance do you see here? What elements does this relationship have in common with a marriage or same-sex union? What example for romantic partnerships or marriages does David & Jonathan’s relationship give us?

Explain that, though there remains some argument among scholars as to how sexual David & Jonathan’s relationship was, it clearly was one involving same-sex love and commitment, and even physical intimacy between two men. The Bible describes them kissing and holding each other here, taking their clothes off as they do so. There is even some language that could be a double-entendre in Hebrew for sexual contact.

Many scholars feel that this is an example of David and Jonathan as homosexual or bisexual saints. They obviously preferred each other’s company, love, and intimacy to the type of intimacy that they experienced with women. They even go so far as to forge a covenant between each other – the same sort of language is used here as would be used for a marriage agreement in the Bible, if it involved a man or a woman.

And all of this is done in these passages with descriptions that put this relationship between two men in a positive light.

Ask: What can we learn about God’s view of same-sex relationships based on how positively the Bible portrays this intimate, physical, long-term love relationship between two men?

3. The Centurion and His Boyfriend

Have folks read Matthew 8:5-13.

Ask: What does this story describe?

Explain that there is an element to this story that people don’t always pick up on. In Greek, the word translated into English as “servant” is different than the usual word. Normally doulous or diakonia are used in biblical Greek for “servant.” Instead, the word pais is used.

This is important because in Greek pais was not used for your run-of-the-mill servant. Instead, it was mainly used to describe the romantic same-sex companion of a notable official, who was usually younger or of a different social class than the older romantic partner. The pais would both be a romantic companion and a personal assistant to the important official.

So, most likely this story is about a soldier and his romantic companion/personal assistant.

Ask: How does this story appear differently when read in this context?

Does Jesus talk positively about the centurion or negatively?

Does Jesus say anything negative about the centurion and his companion’s relationship?

If Jesus only speaks positively about the centurion and his companion, what lessons can that teach us about how God views same-sex relationships? Also, what lessons are there in these two men’s relationships that apply to other romantic relationships?

4. Saints Sergius and Bacchus

Explain that our final example of a gay or bi-positive saint comes not from the Bible but from church history. I am sharing this one because of the fact that oftentimes I find anti-gay activists claiming that accepting gay relationships as equal to straight relationships is something crazy made up by modern liberals which would make early Christians turn over in their graves. They say that Christians have never accepted LGBTQ+ people as people who could be close to God or used by God while they were in same-sex relationships and we don’t have any right to try to change the rules of the game now.

Have someone read the story of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

Ask: What does this story teach us?

Explain that here we find that a gay couple were declared saints – people who were models of faith to be emulated – in the first few centuries of the Christian church. Their love was considered a model for people both gay and straight to emulate. No one in the early church saw their relationship as an obstacle for them to be able to be counted as good Christians, as children of God, or as people God could work miracles through.

It was later on, as Christianity became the official religion of the empire, that Christian leaders began to enact rules that excluded people such as women and LGBTQ+ people from church leadership and Christian leaders began to make anti-LGBTQ+ rules commonplace. In fact, there are historical records of same-sex couples committing to share their lives with each other, to love each other, til death do us part, and receiving prayers of blessings at Christian churches during this period as well.

Close in prayer.

For more about LGBTQ+ saints and martyrs, visit the QSpirit blog on the subject. Whosoever has also published the following essays about these biblical/historical figures: 

What Does the Bible Say About Transgender Identity?

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Session 9 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

What Does the Bible Say About Transgender Identity?

Icebreaker: In every culture, there are stereotypes of what it means to be a “real man” or a “real woman.” In the one you grew up in, what is the stereotype for “manliness”? For “womanliness”? Do you think many people live up to these stereotypes well? Why or why not?

Explain that right now you are going to quickly discuss one aspect of the LGBTQ+ community which is often overlooked – the transgender community – and what messages the Bible has for them.

Transgender 101

Ask: Can anyone define transgenderism? How is that similar to or different from transsexualism? Cross-dressing? Being gender-queer?

Explain that most of these terms are associated with a medical condition called “gender dysphoria.” Gender dysphoria occurs most often when an individual’s body grows in the form of one gender and one’s brain develops to fit a body of another gender. In other words, one’s brain and body are somewhat mismatched.

Usually folks with gender dysphoria don’t fulfill their culture’s expectations of how someone with the body they were born with should live and act. That is why most folks with gender dysphoria are called “transgender.” Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex at birth.

You can understand transgender people best if you imagine how you would feel living all the time in a body that didn’t fit your brain. All of us don’t have to look in the mirror to know what gender we are. If we aren’t transgender we just know we are male or female. We feel it emotionally and know it mentally. Our bodies feel right for our brains.

Imagine, though, if you woke up tomorrow and you had the body of another gender. If you are currently male, you’d wake up and go to the bathroom, stand up to go urinate and, surprise, you would be missing important equipment. Women, you’d wake up with an odd floppy thing between your legs.

Ask: How would you think you’d feel?

Explain that it would be uncomfortable. Transgender people feel like that all the time. To deal with this discomfort, transgender people do a number of things to “correct” the birth defect they have.

Some transgender people only are slightly uncomfortable and live in a body that is slightly wrong for them most of the time but need to “take a holiday” from living as if they are the gender the body says they are (but their mind doesn’t). These folks will dress up in the clothes of someone whose body is the opposite gender of theirs and live out that role. This will give them a break from the stress of trying to be someone they are not day in and day out, giving them enough peace of mind to return to life as normal. These folks have been commonly called “cross-dressers” or at times “transvestites.”

Other transgender people are constantly uncomfortable in their own bodies, so much so that they need to have surgery to correct their physical appearance so that their brain and bodies match up. These individuals have been commonly called “transsexual” and may undergo sexual re-assignment surgery.

Finally, other transgender people are uncomfortable in living in the gender role of the body they were born with but don’t feel the need to have out-and-out surgery. Instead, they choose to live as if they are the gender of their brain/mind, using clothing and cosmetics to do so – or simply to not bend to society’s rules about gender. These folks have been commonly called “transgender” or “gender-queer.”

In addition to transgender people, there are intersex people whose variation in sex characteristics may include chromosomes, gonads or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female.

The Bible and Transgender/Intersex People

Ask: Can you think of any biblical principles that might apply to the transgender experience?

Allow discussion and then explain that you are going to looking at some verses which apply to what transgender people experience.

Explain that there aren’t any scriptures that deal directly with the issue of transsexualism. But there are a few scriptures which deal with principles connected with the transgender experience. Also, how the Bible deals with forms of transgender identity in biblical times can help us understand God’s perspective on transgender people.

Gender dysphoria, the primary cause of transgender identity, could be considered a birth defect (where a brain for one gender is in the body for another). The Bible deals directly with the issue of birth defects.

Have someone read John 9:1-3.

Ask: What birth defect is discussed here?

Many people connect being transgender with sin. According to Jesus, are birth defects the result of anyone’s sins? Are they signs the person with the birth defect is sinful?

Based on why Jesus says this man is born blind, what reason could we conclude that people are born with birth defects like gender dysphoria and intersex conditions?

Explain that according to Jesus, birth defects like congenital blindness are not necessary the result of anyone’s sin. To connect someone’s blindness, paralysis, or gender dysphoria with sin is to miss the point. These are natural conditions common to our imperfect world.

But, that said, receiving these birth defects is no accident. Jesus makes it clear there is a reason some people are born with a particular birth defect and not others: Because their having that birth defect allows God to do things in their life to touch others that they would not otherwise be able to do.

Ask: In what ways can God use someone with a birth defect to glorify God in ways God can’t use someone without one? In what ways can someone with gender dysphoria or intersexism be used by God that someone without them can’t?

The Bible’s treatment of cross-dressing sheds very little light on cross-dressing among transgender individuals.

Have someone read Deuteronomy 22:5.

Ask: What does this verse say? In what ways might it apply to transgender people?

Explain that many people will quote this verse as a condemnation of transgender people, many of whom are cross-dressers, and some of whom even go so far as to undergo sex reassignment surgery, so that their bodies and brains can match.

Yet this  biblical verse does not really address the type of cross-dressing associated with transgender people. Likewise this verse does not condemn cross-dressing as a sin.

First, what type of cross-dressing is being condemned?

The earliest commentators on this passage connect it with women putting on the armor of a soldier and taking up the weapons of a soldier to go to war. They say the reference is to a woman abandoning the role of wife and mother to become a soldier, something that went against the very shape of ancient Israelite family.

Ask: Is this what most transgender people are doing when they cross-dress?

Most modern commentators, however, point out that in biblical times, a common idolatrous practice was that of temple prostitution. This was discussed when we discussed Leviticus’ condemnation of certain forms of same-sex activity.

Ask: What did we learn about temple prostitution?

Explain that in certain fertility cults, male prostitutes would dress as women as a part of the ritual sex designed to worship false gods. It was a means of enticing the gods to send rain.

Ask: Do most transgender people cross-dress in order to engage in prostitution as an act of worship to fertility gods?

Ask: If these two reasons are not why transgender people cross-dress, is it fair to apply this verse to condemn them?

Finally, remind them that the word “abomination” or “thing that God despises” is to’ebah, a word which does not mean sin but “ritual imperfection” or “pagan practice.” Remind them that we learned when discussing homosexuality that this word is not describing a sin but rather a practice which was either something that made people unable to sacrifice at the temple because it made them ritually imperfect or something that was a form of worship of idols. The ritual laws dealt with symbolism, not actual morality. Since Jesus was our sacrifice once and for all time, Christians no longer worry about ritual purity laws. Additionally, since transgender cross-dressing does not have to do with idolatrous worship, it is not condemned on either count.

The Bible’s treatment of eunuchs may shed additional light on how God views transgender individuals.

Explain that although there are no direct references to modern transsexuals in the Bible, there is a class of individuals who are truly transgender, in the sense of not fitting neatly into the categories of “male” and “female,” who do appear in the Bible: Eunuchs. Looking at their treatment in scripture may help us to understand how God views transgender people.

Ask: Do any of you know what a eunuch was?

Explain that a eunuch was a man who had his sexual organs removed. Eunuchs did this for various reasons – for religious reasons, in order to move freely between male and female worlds without causing suspicion of sexual misconduct, because they were slaves who were forced to so that they did not pose a threat to their male owners. Whatever the case, eunuchs had a societal role that could be called transgender, in the sense that they were living a life where they could relate equally to males and females while not truly being counted as either.

Let’s look at the various ways eunuchs are treated in scripture.

Have someone read Deuteronomy 23:1.

Ask: What does this verse say about how eunuchs were treated in Old Testament times?

Explain that eunuchs were not allowed to come to the temple and offer sacrifices to God. In this way, they were excluded from full participation in ancient Israelite religion.

Ask: Why might that have been?

Explain that some might take this to mean they were viewed as immoral. That is not why. Many people were excluded from temple worship. Anyone who had touched a dead body, for instance, could not sacrifice at the temple for a certain length of time. Anyone with a physical disability couldn’t. The reason? The same reason someone could not offer an animal with a spot, blemish, or disability to God as a sacrifice at the temple – it was a visible reminder that God was perfect and we must only offer to God our very best.

This, however, is the only “negative” treatment of the eunuch’s transgender condition in scripture. Let us look at what else scripture has to say about eunuchs.

Have someone read Isaiah 56:3-8.

Ask: What do these verses say about the transgender eunuchs?

Explain that these verses recognize that God ultimately looks not on outward appearance – whether we are physically “perfect” or not – but whether we offer God the best we that we have. It promises that God will accept (transgender) eunuchs as God’s own people, if they will trust and serve God with all they have. It even says that there would be a time when they would be able to be fully accepted into the worship of God, something that the Old Testament did not allow.

Ask: In what ways do you think God would have us apply these words to other types of transgender people?

Have someone read Matthew 19:12.

Ask: What does Jesus recognize about transgender eunuchs here?

Explain that Jesus recognizes here that, far from being a sin, being a transgender person such as a eunuch can actually be a way of living out God’s kingdom or plan for this world. Jesus is even ahead of some people of our time by recognizing that some are born this way – whether through being intersex or because of an inborn discomfort with their own bodies.

Ask: In what ways can choosing to openly live a transgender life, whether through sex reassignment surgery or living outside normal gender conventions, be an expression of God’s Realm?

Have someone read Acts 8:26-39.

Ask: What happens in this story? How does the Christian evangelist here treat the transgender Ethiopian person? In what way does this connect with Isaiah and Jesus’ words?

Explain that this story is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The Old Testament ceremony that brought someone to the place they could fully worship God was circumcision – a surgery on the foreskin – which transgender eunuchs could not have because of their damaged genitals, and which barred women. The Christian ceremony that initiates you fully into the worship of God is described here, however: Baptism.

Ask: Can people be limited from baptism due to their sexual organs?

Explain that no, baptism is open for everyone.

The fact that Phillip baptizes the transgender eunuch shows that God accepts the Ethiopian even though he does not fit into the neat categories of male or female. It shows that God accepts that person simply because of that eunuch’s faith. It shows, too, that transgender people are accepted by God regardless of what their physical bodies look like, regardless of whether they have surgery to change their sexual organs or not, regardless of whether they live in a mode that fits neatly into the categories of “male” and “female.”

In fact this transgender person is sent back to their own land as a missionary of God’s love revealed in Jesus, a forerunner of the work God is planning to do.

Ask: What lessons do you learn from the Ethiopian eunuch that apply to the transgender experience of yourself or those you know?

Transgender Saints

If time permits, have folks read over examples of “LGBTQ saints” from church history. Point out that these individuals were set apart as models of faith for future generations in part because of their living outside their assigned gender role. Ask what lessons we can learn from their lives that apply to the transgender experience.

How God Views Our Genders

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

Ask: What does this verse say? What does it show us about how God views us? How does it apply to our sense of our own gender? Our expression of it?

Explain that this verse shows us why God is so quick to accept transgender people such as eunuchs. God knows that what makes us who we are is not our outward appearance (the very thing that society uses to assign us our gender roles) but our heart, who we are on the inside. That suggests that God’s view of what your gender is – of who you are – is based on who you are on the inside.

Have someone read Galatians 3:26-28 and someone else read Romans 10:11-12.

Ask: What do these verses tell us about how our gender or its expression connects with our relationship with God?

Explain that these verses show us that God accepts anyone who calls on Jesus in faith, trusting Him as Savior and Lord. It shows us this is regardless of any external thing – your class, your appearance, your gender, or your gender identity/expression. You don’t need to worry about what people tell you when they say God does not accept transgender people. God accepts all people, regardless of their being transgender, male, or female.

Close in prayer.