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Sunday school lessons recount Bible’s words on homosexuality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Crux questions about homosexuality have been raised — and addressed from the Bible — in Sunday school materials widely used in Southern Baptist churches.
Among the questions:
— “Is Homosexuality an Acceptable Lifestyle?”
— “Is Homosexuality Natural?”
— “Do Homosexuals Have a Way Out?”
A Sunday school lesson on homosexuality has been included in all adult Life & Work quarterlies, published for winter 1998-99 use in churches by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, Tenn.
In the Advanced Bible Study’s lesson, Chuck Lawless, assistant professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., wrote that Christians face three choices in responding to society’s “growing acceptance” of homosexuality:
1) “We may choose to join society’s ranks and affirm homosexuality as natural and acceptable. Doing so, however, would require a radical — and wrong — reinterpretation of the biblical injunctions against the practice of homosexuality.”
2) “[We] may choose to rail against homosexuals from a position of spiritual superiority. Such an approach would maintain the biblical standards against that specific sin, but it would also neglect or ignore the sinner. This option fails, for the church must respect all persons as created in the image of God (see Gen. 1:27), regardless of their sins. We are not given freedom to do anything less than extend God’s love to persons involved in homosexuality.”
3) “[We may] maintain God’s standards on sexuality while proclaiming his power to save and to free from sexual sin. In this way we offer good news and we support those struggling to escape the homosexual lifestyle.”
The third option “will possibly evoke opposition, both from homosexuals that reject our biblical standards and from believers who are uncomfortable with our ministry,” Lawless stated, exhorting: “We should be willingly to take this risk, though, if we desire to be a healing influence in a broken world.”
Concerning the question, “Is Homosexuality an Acceptable Lifestyle?” Lawless noted:
“Some contend that the Bible condemns only promiscuous or cultic homosexual sex, but Leviticus 18:22 does not permit those exclusions. Others argue that the Old Testament passages are irrelevant today. Not only does that assumption give too little authority to the Old Testament, but it also ignores the New Testament’s condemnation of homosexuality.”
Leviticus 18:22 states: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (NIV). In short, “Attempts to circumvent the biblical teachings to affirm homosexuality are fruitless,” Lawless wrote. As evidence that the Bible “consistently and clearly condemns the practice of homosexuality,” he additionally cited Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 20:13; Romans1:24-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; and Jude 7.
Addressing sexual immorality in general, Lawless wrote: “… we should be careful to recognize that God’s standards for sexuality apply to all persons. Any sexual activity outside of marriage between a male and female is also rebellion against God. As we take a stand against homosexuality, we should equally stand against such sins as premarital sex and adultery.”
Concerning the question, “Is Homosexuality Natural?” Lawless reflected:
“The issue of the roots of homosexuality in a person’s life remains a heated debate. Is homosexuality the product of certain brain structures? Do genes, chromosomes, DNA, or hormones play a role? If so, is homosexuality natural for some persons? Did God create homosexuals to be homosexuals? If he did, can homosexuality be considered wrong?”
Romans 1 addresses such questions, Lawless wrote. Verses 24-28 state: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”
Lawless noted: “Homosexuality thus became ‘natural’ only in the mind of one corrupted by sin, but it has never been natural in God’s created order.”
The Bible’s words provide “a clear indication that persons practicing homosexuality do so by choice,” Lawless wrote. “The verbs are typically active verbs (exchanged, abandoned, committed) … . Though victimization, upbringing, culture, and circumstances certainly influence us in our sexual choices, we are held accountable for those choices.”
Lawless added: “Knowing and understanding that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful, however, does not lessen our responsibility to minister to homosexuals. We should recognize that for some homosexuals the psychological roots of homosexuality are so deeply imbedded in childhood that they can remember little else. They do indeed believe that homosexuality is natural for them.”
Christians must “help homosexuals see the truth of God’s Word while affirming their value as human beings,” Lawless continued. “That task will likely require gentle persistence and patience. … [A] cognitive agreement that homosexuality is unnatural is only one step toward breaking that bondage. Further ministry is most often required.”
Concerning the question, “Do Homosexuals Have a Way Out?” Lawless cited 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which states that some of the community’s believers had engaged in various forms of sexual immorality, but then: “… you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Everyone who turns to Christ as Lord and Savior has received the Holy Spirit, “and we should not take that gift lightly,” Lawless admonished. “This reality alone ought to challenge us to avoid any type of uncleanness, including immorality and idolatry.”
Lawless also noted the Bible’s exhortations that Christ’s followers are “are not [our] own” and are “bought at a price” by Christ’s death on the cross.
“Since we are not our own, we are not given permission to make sexual choices based on our own desires. The price [Christ] paid for us demands nothing less than our uncompromising obedience to His standards,” Lawless wrote, who also cited the Bible’s commands that believers are to honor God by using their bodies in godly ways.
Lawless reminded, however: “A person struggling with homosexuality must have someone to turn to when temptations arise. Believers should be willing to serve as accountability partners and to provide a haven of escape when temptation strikes. We are not only to encourage others not to fall back into a homosexual lifestyle, but we must also support them in their journey toward healing.”
The Sunday school lesson on homosexuality was scheduled for classes on Jan. 31.