Israel and homosexuality

Gay pride marches have become a standard feature of many Western, liberal countries. Not so much in the Middle East, of course… but there is one notable exception: Israel.

However, unlike most Western countries, you will not find a single Messianic congregation that supports gay marriage in the whole of Israel.

Why is that?

It should be said first and foremost that we love our gay friends! And we don’t want them to miss out on all that God has for them. However, due to the particular challenges faced by Messianic Jews, good understanding has developed about three key, Biblical issues that just happen to be very pertinent to this debate. They directly address the following common objections:

  1. You still think we have to follow Leviticus 18?? Do you eat shellfish? That’s also an abomination! Those laws don’t apply anymore.
  2. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality! Why do you make it a big deal when he doesn’t? 
  3. So long as you love your partner and are faithful, it doesn’t matter what gender they are.

And here are three responses to these objections:

1. Messianic Jews and the Torah

Here in Israel, it is critical that Jewish believers in Yeshua understand how to interpret the Torah and apply it to our lives today. What aspects of the Sinai covenant are for today and what has been replaced by the New Covenant in the Messiah’s blood? We have written a book about it, called “Reading Moses, Seeing Jesus”, which is well worth a read if you find the law hard to understand. Many Christians do not know why we keep the Ten Commandments but don’t freak out too much about mixed fibers.

As it happens, I hate shellfish and I would argue that it is indeed an abomination! However, I don’t think eating shrimp is offensive to God now that we’re under the New Covenant. Why? Why the picking and choosing?

We would have a very hard time implementing the whole law today, even if we wanted to. We have no temple for a start. Sacrificing all those animals is not a realistic possibility any longer, and the New Testament explains clearly how it all pointed to Yeshua and his sacrifice for us. Issues of bodily fluids, for another example, are related to the matter of potential life and death, God’s passion for life and grief about death. These laws have been fulfilled in the Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection. A vision given to Peter at Jaffa spelled it out – shrimp is back on the menu.

But the morality of the law still applies. Laws such as caring for the widow and the orphan, championing the cause of the needy and oppressed, not tripping up blind people or sleeping with family members are as relevant today as they ever were.

How about the prohibition on homosexuality?

1 Timothy 1:8-11 says that the law is good when used properly.

Paul then effectively lists the Ten Commandments, in order, and includes homosexuality along with sexual immorality.

“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”

These laws will always apply because they are not symbolic, educational, or temporary, but because they delineate what is right and wrong. Paul understands that the sins of profanity, murder, sexual immorality, sodomy, stealing, lying and insubordination are contrary to sound doctrine.

The Ten Commandments also express heterosexual expectation (“Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12) and nowhere in Scripture do we see God changing his expectation on this matter. 

2. Messianic Jews and the divinity of Yeshua

Another area that Messianic Jews have spent a considerable amount of time investigating is the identity of Yeshua. It’s an issue we have to defend regularly, and we have become very familiar with passages of the Tenach that show Yeshua and the Father are one.

When people say that Jesus doesn’t talk about homosexuality, they are suggesting that Jesus not God.

They forget that Yeshua IS the Word, that he IS God, and was with God from the beginning. They do not realize that it was Yeshua, the LORD in flesh, who came to visit Abraham on his way to Sodom in Genesis 18. They are fudging their facts when they do not accept that the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul is the very Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:9, Philippians 1:19).

Jesus has a lot to say on the matter.

But even if you only take his words recorded in the gospel accounts, you still have some issues to deal with. Issues that are particularly close, yet again, to the hearts of Messianic Jews.

3. Jewish appreciation of the “Bridal Paradigm”

God speaks about his relationship with people in terms of bride and bridegroom, husband and wife, passionate love and illicit sex throughout the whole Bible (see Hosea, Song of Songs, Jeremiah 2-3, Isaiah 51 and many more). This is a pattern that we are supposed to learn from. 

God could have designed human beings and our reproductive systems any way he wanted to, but he created male and female. He speaks to us through his created design very deep and profound truths about us and our relationship with him, but Satan is working hard to destroy the metaphor so that the meaning is lost. As Voddie Buchanan says, the portrayal of homosexuality as God’s design is a “blasphemy of the illustration”.

This issue cuts to the very core of God’s heart and plan for humanity. He created us to love and for love – the Bible starts with a wedding and ends with a wedding, and has a wedding in the middle (Song of Songs) because this is the picture that God gives us about the whole meaning of our existence. Yeshua as the bridegroom and his people as his bride. As Paul writes, marriage is a mystery that speaks of this love and looks forward to our complete union with him in eternity. Earthly marriage between the masculine and feminine is a huge signpost to this eternal and earth-shattering truth. 

This God-established understanding of Genesis as our pattern for marriage IS something that Yeshua upheld in Matthew 19. He also affirmed the Jewish Scriptures as God’s eternal word.

What does this mean for same-sex attracted people?

If this is all true, it is devastating news for people who believe in Jesus but are attracted to their own gender. Whatever caused the situation (and this subject is complex), it leaves gay people with a very difficult choice. It may mean lifelong celibacy.

The majority of gay people may not have chosen the attractions that they feel, and may not even want them, but we can all choose how we act on our attractions. Whether single, married, or gay, we all have to resist temptations in our mind and actions.

We still have choices, even if those choices are harder to make. But there is hope. Note what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were—but you were washed, you were made holy, you were set right in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Some of the Corinthian believers had evidently been practicing homosexuality, but Paul talks about this in the past tense. In the Messiah, they have been washed and made holy, set right in the name of Jesus. There is hope in his name for a brand new start and a brand new life.

Our heart for gay people in Israel

Tel Aviv in Israel is the gay capital of the Middle East. The fact that people from neighboring countries can come to find safety and freedom to practice their lifestyle is preferable by far to the violence and murder that they may experience elsewhere. But still, more than worldly “freedom” in this life, we long for them – and everyone – to have true freedom in the life to come. Far from rejecting anyone, we want to invite everyone, without exception, to come and know new life in the Messiah.

We will not capitulate to the spirit of the age and say that homosexuality is not a problem to God. That is a lie of Satan, and we do not want anyone to be deceived. Failure to turn away from our sin will cost us dearly, and that is the last thing we want. We refuse to lie by selling a false gospel that will not save, because ultimately, that is not love. But here is true love: Jesus loves us so much that he died for our sin – all of it – so we can be together with him. This is our heart’s plea: Come to the Father! Receive God’s forgiveness and take up your cross to follow Jesus, as we have done. God loves you, Jesus died for you, and we want to enjoy eternity together with you!

The cost for gay people to follow Jesus is high, there’s no denying it. But he is worth giving up everything we have. 

“He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot.

This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.