We have seen the horrific videos of Islamists in ISIS-held territory pushing homosexuals off buildings. The Taliban and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran both publicly admit that they execute people with same-sex attraction. And of course here in America an ISIS sympathizer killed 49 and wounded at least 53 others in a gay bar in Orlando this June.
However, around the world Christians are not treating homosexuals this way. Yes, there are detestable groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (I call them the Westboro Cult) who spew out their venom upon homosexuals and anyone else they disagree with. But there is no call from Christian churches to put gays to death. There is no worldwide Christian movement to kill homosexuals. True, there have been many episodes in Church history when professing Christians have been violent and deadly against gays.
These episodes ignored the facts that the New Testament always urges Jesus’ followers to be peaceful, loving, and merciful. Jesus and the Apostles consistently spoke to people about their sin and need to repent, but never used violence to force anyone to change their lifestyle. Violence against homosexuals continues to exist, but it is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.
However, violence against homosexuals in Islamic nations is on the rise. Islamic scholars who support ISIS, the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other hard-line regimes appeal to the following passages in the Quran, the Hadith (traditions of Muhammed, of which there are many), and Sharia (the permanent law code for Islam).
In Surah 7:81 the Quran retells the biblical story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah: “And Lot, who said to his people, ‘Will you persist in these lewd acts which no other nation has committed before you? You lust after men instead of women. Truly, you are a degenerate people.’ ”
Surah 4:16: “If two men among you commit a lewd act, punish them both. If they repent and mend their ways, let them be. God is forgiving and merciful.”
Surah 26:165: “Their kinsmen Lot said to them … ‘Will you fornicate with males and eschew the wives whom God has created for you? Surely you are great transgressors.”
The Quran clearly declares homosexual acts to be sinful. But it does not stipulate what, if any, punishment the authorities should inflict upon the offenders. So, Islamic scholars today appeal to the Hadith and Sharia to clarify matters. Most Islamic scholars look at the Hadith and Sharia as having the same weight as the Quran. (Conversely, evangelical Christian scholars look only to the Bible as their source of divine authority. Roman Catholic and Orthodox scholars, of course, do put quite a bit of emphasis on Church tradition.)
There are numerous stories in the Hadith in which Muhammed supposedly condemned not only homosexuality, but men who were effeminate, women who acted masculine, and men and women who dressed like the opposite sex. Here are just a few stories from the Hadith about homosexuality:
“The Prophet . . . said, ‘If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” Abu Dawud 38:4447
“Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver.” Tirmidhi 1:152
“Malik related to me that he asked Ibn Shihab about someone who committed sodomy. Ibn Shihab said, ‘He is to be stoned.’ ” Al-Muwatta 41:111
“Accursed is he who does what Lot’s people did … on the authority of Ibn Abbas it says that Ali (Muhammed’s cousin and son-in-law) had two people burned and that Abu Bakr (Muhammed’s chief companion) had a wall thrown down on them.” (That would explain why the Taliban topples stone walls on homosexuals to kill them.) Mishkat, vol 1, p. 765.
Sharia, which is binding on all Muslims for all time, explains that homosexuals are to be put to death. In Reliance of the Traveller (an English guide to Sharia), on pages 664 and 665 it says: “There is consensus among both Muslims and the followers of all other religions that sodomy is an enormity. It is even viler and uglier than adultery. … The Prophet said … Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him. May Allah curse him who does what Lot’s people did. Lesbianism by women is adultery between them.”
Millions upon millions of Muslims around the world believe that everything quoted here is truth straight from God and must be obeyed today. And that is why you have gays being executed in Islamist nations today. However, to be fair, there are Muslims who have a more moderate approach. Here are some sample articles explaining these beliefs. Ahmadiyya Muslims take a more accepting approach, but most Muslims believe them to be a cult.
Next Page: What about Christianity? Doesn’t the Bible command the execution of homosexuals, too?
But doesn’t the Bible command the execution of homosexuals too? Yes, in one place in the Old Testament. Here are the passages in the Bible that specifically deal with the issue: Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22, 29; 20:13; Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and possibly Jude 7. And that is all of them.
The well known story of Lot and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is in Genesis 19. God wiped out those cities for a whole host of reasons, sexual immorality being one of them. God rained down destruction; He did not instruct anyone else to.
In Leviticus we have the statements that God did not approve of homosexuality (along with numerous other sexual sins spelled out). He did command the death penalty for homosexual acts, along with adultery, rape, incest, and a host of other sins. But we have to remember that in the Law of Moses, which was a covenant Israel voluntarily entered) God was to rule directly in a theocracy over one particular nation, and one nation only: Israel.
The Law was God’s moral, civil, and religious/ceremonial code of conduct for all Israelites. In the Law God defines reality, He tells us what sin is, and the appropriate penalty. God tells us that all of mankind has sinned and deserving of death. It is gracious of Him not to execute all of the human race, but actually allow sinful human beings to approach a holy God and find the forgiveness and transformation they need.
The Law of Moses, while stern by our contemporary standards, limits the number of capital offenses. And the rest of the Bible tells us that the Law of Moses was never to be a permanent arrangement. It would later be replaced by a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The best discussion on why God said what He said in the Law would be Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God.
In the New Testament we do see a change. First of all the NT teaches us that the Messiah was the end of the Law of Moses (Romans 10:4). His death and resurrection fulfill what the Law was pointing to: a perfect salvation granted to all who would come to God on His terms. The NT epistles tell us that believers today are liberated from obeying the civil and ceremonial sanctions in the Law (Romans 7:6), and we are to live in the “new and living way” of the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:1-20). Today Christians do not follow the Law of Moses; rather they follow the Law of the Messiah (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21).
(I recommend the website www.probe.org for more articles on the biblical approach to issues in our culture today.)
But, since the Law is null and void, does this mean we have a “more tolerant” God today? No. God has not lowered His standards. He still rejects all sin. However, His administration of justice and judgment has changed. His judgment against all sin has been delayed, but not forever. Graciously His day of judgment has not yet come, and through the living and preaching of believers He urges lost mankind to be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20).
Next Page: So should Christians make laws against homosexuality?
The NT also shows us that through the fulfillment and replacement of the Law of Moses, the Church is never given jurisdiction to execute physical punishment. The Church is not one nation like Israel was in the OT, but rather a body taken from many nations, charged to live in peace under the civil laws of other nations (Romans 12:18; 13:1-10). Those professing Christians who believe it their duty to force homosexuals (or anyone else) to change their lifestyle either do not understand NT teaching or are clearly ignoring it.
So what is the model for Christians when we encounter lifestyles that we believe are wrong? Follow the examples of Jesus and the Apostles. Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5) not to hypocritically judge. When we discern that a behavior is wrong, we are to make sure we are not committing the same error. Jesus commanded His disciples to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24), and the Apostle Paul reminds us to always be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Therefore, we are never to use vulgar terms or screech out threats of violence at anyone.
Jesus confronted sin, but He always spoke the truth in love (see the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4). When Paul went to Corinth, he says he came “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). Paul knew he was a sinner, but he was a sinner changed by the grace of God. And he wanted others to experience the same forgiveness, transformation, and hope that he did. The apostles and other followers of Jesus never hunted down people and had them flogged or thrown off a cliff. All we see in the NT is preaching the grace of God to lost sinners of every stripe, and inviting all to repent and believe.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul tells us the kinds of people who heard his message: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes (the Greek word “malakos”), homosexuals (the Greek word “arsenokoites”), thieves, drunkards, and revilers. In the next breath Paul says, “and such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
People from every kind of lifestyle heard the truth spoken in love, responded and repented, and began to experience a life of continuous transformation (Romans 12:1, 2). Others rejected and went away, unharmed by any follower of Jesus. Jesus commissioned His people to live loving, merciful lives and to win converts by preaching the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19,20), never by compelling people at the point of a sword.
And that is the difference between the Islamic and biblically Christian approaches to dealing with homosexuality or any other lifestyle that God says is against His will.