One of the wonderful things about the Bible is the way that even when one has read a passage hundreds of times, something occasionally jumps out and reveals a message one had not noticed before.
This has happened to so many people—even to the saints—to people like Augustine, Luther, Bunyan, Wesley, and others.
Take a matter currently facing the worldwide church—the matter of homosexuality. This is not a new issue; people with this orientation were well-known in the ancient world. Something that has intrigued me is that Jesus was never recorded as having said anything on the subject.
Jesus wouldn’t have used the word ‘homosexual’, of course, as that word wasn’t invented until the end of the 19th century.
A word often used then for a male homosexual was ‘eunuch.’
Jesus cannot have been unaware of gay people. I wondered why he didn’t give us some mention about them. Then the other day as my eyes rested on a verse in St Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 19: verse 12), I think I found the answer. I had read this verse many times. Now for the first time I realised that Jesus was explaining why some people don’t marry members of the opposite sex. Jesus said the words I have underlined:
“Some are born that way.” Jesus offers no hint of commendation or condemnation. He simply recognises that such natures exist. He says this is how some people are born. Today, science would agree with him.
“Some are made that way.” It was a custom in Europe and the East for boys to be castrated in order for them to serve in harems; it was also the custom in places like Italy for boys to be castrated so they could be able to sing the women’s parts in choirs. They were called the ‘castrato.’ People have frequently made young men non-sexual in order for them to serve in harems and choirs.
“Some make themselves celibate for the sake of their religion”. Roman Catholic priests are not the only ones who practice celibacy, for this happened also in some eastern religions like the Essenes. Often people have imagined themselves nearer the Kingdom of Heaven if they abstained from sex. This strange idea may come partly from the idea that sex is somehow dirty and sinful because it is enjoyable.
Societies and governments the world over are currently re-examining attitudes to homosexuality. Rethinking long-held attitudes can be challenging. Not everyone will hold the same opinions. But at least we can try to learn about each other and endeavour to be charitable, fair and inclusive at all times.