A Facebook meme that I’ve seen several times contains a quote from Jimmy Carter that he made in Business Insider on March 19, 2012. It says, “Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things — he never said that gay people should be condemned.”
How does Jesus and homosexuality intersect? My nephew’s wife enthusiastically posted this meme and several people “liked” it, showing their tacit approval. She is quite liberally minded when it comes to social issues. But the real question is did Jesus condemn gay people? What does the evidence show?
In Matthew 15:19-20 Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” “Fornications” comes from the Greek porneia, which occurs twenty-five times in the New Testament. Porneia is translated differently in our English Bibles. In the New American Standard Bible (NASB) the word porneia is translated as “unchastity.” The King James Version translates the word porneia as “fornication.” The New International Version (NIV), New English Translation (NET), and English Standard Version (ESV) translate porneia as “immorality.”
Porneia includes a wide range of illicit sexual intercourse or sexual activity. The word can refer to sexual intercourse outside of marriage, prostitution, pedophilia, homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, and bestiality.
Homosexuality is a sin that’s been around for a long time. It was rampant in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4-5). This is, of course, the origin of the word sodomy. Despite warnings, the inhabitants refused to repent. God destroyed those cities and it was recorded as a warning to all future generations. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:6-8, “… and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).” Jude described the residents as those who had “gone after strange flesh” and would suffer the “vengeance of eternal fire” (v. 7).
In the Mosaic Law, homosexuality was explicitly condemned (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). In the time of the judges, the men of Gibeah made homosexual advances on the visitors who came to their town (Judges 19:22). Later in Old Testament history, the term “sodomites” (KJV) or “perverted persons” (NKJV) is used to condemn this sexual sin (1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7).
Not only does Jesus and the Old Testament condemn homosexuality, but the doctrine of Christ also condemns it. Romans 1:26-28 describes homosexuality as “vile,” “against nature,” “shameful,” “error,” “debased,” and “not fitting.” First Corinthians 6:9-10 includes “homosexuals” and “sodomites” among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.
First Timothy 1:8-10 says that the “fornicators” and “sodomites” are included in the “lawless and insubordinate,” the “ungodly and sinners,” and the “unholy and profane.” This kind of activity was “contrary to sound doctrine.” Hebrews 13:4 promises that God will judge “fornicators.” The “sexually immoral” will “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Finally, the gates of the eternal heavenly city are open to the righteous, but the “sexually immoral” will be on the “outside” along with “dogs and sorcerers” and “murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:15).
While Jimmy Carter declared, “He [Jesus] never said gay people should be condemned,” the scriptures unequivocally say that homosexuality is a sin. Additionally, Jesus did condemn homosexuality when He used porneia. Don’t let people using twenty-first century English determine biblical truth for you. Every sexual sin is repugnant to God. The doctrine of Christ condemns it as a perversion of God’s original intent of man and woman sharing their lives together. Hebrews 13:8 states that God “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He does not “go with the flow,” even if the spirit of the times says otherwise.