Is it true that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality?

3 January 2024

In this article, we respond to the pro-LGBT claim that Jesus isn’t against homosexuality

It’s frequently claimed that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

This is not true. Here’s why.

Jesus’ references to ‘sexual immorality’

Consider Jesus’ words:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23 ESV)

“Sexual immorality” may sound vague to 21st century ears, but clearly Jesus believes that there are at least some expressions of sexual acts which he regards as “defilements.”

His original audience – Jews, in particular law-obsessed Pharisees – would have known exactly what Jesus meant. ‘Porneia’, the word translated as ‘sexual immorality’ doesn’t come out of nowhere.

As New Testament scholar Dr John Nolland persuasively argues, “In the Jewish context of Jesus’ day, and in the Christian context that grew out of it, homosexual coitus would have been automatically embraced within the scope of porneia.”

Jesus’ audiences would have remembered the moral teaching of Leviticus 18, among other passages which make clear that male homosexual sex is ‘detestable’ (NIV) or ‘an abomination’ (ESV).

Did Jesus single out homosexuality? No. Nor did he single out incest or bestiality, both of which Leviticus 18 and contemporary culture jointly condemn. Anyone arguing that Jesus’ failure to specifically list sexual sins indicates his approval is, in fact, arguing for an ‘anything goes’ approach to sex and relationships.

When Jesus criticises sexual immorality, he criticises all sexual immorality. Porneia is not a term that we can move different sexual practices in or out of to fit in with culture.

Jesus raised the bar on sexual immorality

Sexual immorality and adultery mattered a great deal to Jesus. As Dr Nolland notes, nearly every time Jesus mentioned sexual morality, it was he himself who raised the topic. Jesus seemed to care more about sexual morality than those who were questioning him.

Jesus consistently raised the bar for sexual standards above the teaching of the Pharisees.

Matthew records:

[Jesus said] “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:4-9 ESV)

Jesus’ sexual ethic is far tougher than many think, and “sexual immorality” on Jesus’ terms is descriptive of any sexual activity outside of this one man, one woman marriage covenant. Here, he even describes a second marriage, following an illegitimate divorce, as ‘adultery’.

In the context of being questioned about marriage in Matthew 19, Jesus surprisingly appeals not just to Genesis 2:24, but to Genesis 1:27 and the creation story – showcasing his view that marriage is specifically created by God to be between one male and one female. It is on this basis that two people are “united” in marriage, and become “one flesh.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, he teaches:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

Jesus is ready to criticise even desires that violate the one legitimate place for sexual expression: within marriage, as Biblically defined.

In our sex-obsessed, lustful culture, you cannot faithfully spread Jesus’ teaching while lowering the bar and carving out exemptions for sexual practices simply because they match up with that person’s desires.

Even if he didn’t – it wouldn’t make a difference

The Bible mentions homosexual practice explicitly several times (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). Never is it mentioned in a positive light.

Does Jesus disagree with the Bible?

That would be quite the claim to make, since Jesus has a very elevated view of the Bible! In fact, Jesus commissioned the writing of the New Testament (the disciples in John 14:26; Paul in Acts 9:15), and he endorsed the Old Testament (many times; see for example Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 5:18; 22:31; Mark 7:8-13; Luke 24:44; John 10:35).

Jesus gives his stamp of approval to the writers responsible for the penning of the entire Bible, which makes it an extremely implausible task to argue that Jesus doesn’t condemn homosexuality.

The only way to get Jesus to agree with the permissibility of homosexuality is to create a Jesus of our own choosing, forcing him to conform with a pre-determined affirmative understanding of homosexuality.

But a Jesus of our own choosing is not the Jesus who came to save us, and is nothing more than an imaginary friend.

How arrogant would we have to be to shape Jesus into our own image? It is Jesus who changes us, not us who change Jesus.

We can’t create a Jesus of our own choosing. If we love him, we will obey his commands (John 14:15). This includes fleeing from “sexual immorality.”

An honest look at Scripture reveals that Jesus condemns homosexuality.

But we can’t say that Jesus’ condemnation of homosexuality makes him a hateful person. Otherwise, why would he have died on a cross for people he supposedly hates, that they might have eternal life?

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