In my experience, the most common argument from people who want to maintain a Christian identity while embracing the homosexual lifestyle is based on the absence of any explicit condemnation of homosexuality in the four Gospels. Such people frequently claim that Jesus never once condemned homosexuality. They argue, then, that evangelicals are being unfair to quote Bible verses outside the Gospels that seem to say homosexuality is sin.

Sometimes, these biblical revisionists will actually grant that other texts outside the Gospels teach that homosexual acts are sin, but then make claims like, “We are following Jesus and not Paul on this issue.”

I can admit there is no specific text where Jesus says something like, “Homosexual intercourse is a sin.” But a careful reading of the Gospels reveals it is a non sequitur to then argue Jesus affirmed homosexual relationships. I’d like to suggest six reasons why this form of “Gay Christian” argumentation fails.

1.  Argument from Silence

In response to revisionist interpreters, we must first be clear that they are making an argument from silence. For example, let us apply their form of argumentation to wife-beating. The Gospels do not record Jesus ever specifically saying, “Thou shalt not beat your wife.”  However, no one argues that Jesus considered wife-beating as acceptable.  Jesus also never explicitly says incest or bestiality are sin, but a reasonable reading of the Gospels leads to the conclusion He opposed such acts.

2. Jesus Affirmed the Inspiration and Authority of the OT

Jesus affirmed the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament and the Old Testament clearly defines homosexual behavior as sin. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19:

Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (HCS)

When Jesus refers to the “smallest letter,” he has in mind the Hebrew yodh, the tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet which is merely a small mark at the top of line. When he refers to the “stroke of a letter,” he is probably referring to the small strokes that distinguish several Hebrew letters which look similar: ב / כ, ר / ד, and ד / ך.  Commenting on Matthew 5:18, D. A. Carson says Jesus has “the highest possible view of the Old Testament.”[1] It is difficult to imagine someone with such a view of Old Testament inspiration then denying the Old Testament prohibitions of same-sex intercourse.    

3.  Jesus Condemned All Sexual Immorality

Jesus condemned sexual immorality in general and raised the standard even higher. When discussing adultery, Jesus reinforced the OT moral stance and raised the standard even higher, insisting that an impure thought-life is equivalent to adultery. (See Matthew 5:27-30).  It seems difficult to imagine that Jesus would have then softened His moral stance on other sexual sins specifically condemned in the OT law.

4.  Jesus Affirmed Heterosexual and Monogamous Marriage

When asked about divorce, Jesus affirmed heterosexual and monogamous marriage as the creation standard in Matthew 19:4 - 6:

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4 – 6 NKJV)

Jesus first affirms the goodness of gender by referencing Genesis 1:27 and the fact God made humans “male and female.”  He then cites Genesis 2:24 in reference to marriage in particular, a passage which clearly says a man cleaves to his “wife,” not to another male and not to more than one female. By quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus affirms heterosexual and monogamous marriage as God’s standard.

5.  Jesus Affirmed the Judgment on Sodom

In Matthew 11:23, Jesus criticizes the town of Capernaum for its failure to listen to the Gospel and makes reference to the destruction of Sodom, saying, “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today.”  In this passage, Jesus affirms that Sodom was in fact judged in a just manner.  In this way, he validates the Old Testament narrative of Sodom’s destruction.

6.  Flawed Views of “Love”

On a broader level, critics will assert that Jesus was loving, kind and forgiving to sinners.  In contrast, Christians who contend that homosexual acts are sin are portrayed as intolerant, unkind and inconsistent with the love of Jesus.  The strength of this argument from the side of the homosexual revisionist comes from the fact that traditional Christians are sensitive to times when we have failed to live in a manner consistent with the love modeled by the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, the weakness of the argument for the revisionist interpreter comes from misunderstanding the love Jesus demonstrated. 

For many in our culture, “loving” someone means you do not suggest what they are doing in the realm of sexual ethics is wrong.  But as we noted earlier, Jesus modeled and taught a very high standard for sexual ethics.  What is moving about Jesus’ ministry is not that He lowered God’s standards, but that He offered grace to people who had fallen far short of God’s sexual standards.  But he never denied that Biblical sexual standards exist or can heedlessly be cast aside in the name of “love.”

The Gospels do not record any explicit statement from Jesus where he said something like, “You shall not engage in homosexual intercourse.”  However, Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the Old Testament which clearly refers to same-sex intercourse as sin, He raised the sexual standards by declaring an impure thought life to be adultery, He affirmed heterosexual and monogamous marriage as God’s creation standard, He affirmed God’s righteous judgment on Sodom, and He advocated a view of love which showed mercy to sinners without condoning their sin. A sound reading of the Gospels leads to the conclusion that Jesus did not affirm homosexuality as an optional lifestyle for his followers. 

[1] D. A. Carson, Matthew, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 145.