Friday, July 03, 2015

The misuse and abuse of Romans one

I do not know how often people have told me, “Just read Romans 1 and you will see how God hates homosexuality”. Yes, I have read the passage, but if that is what you get out of the passage, you are missing the entire point to which Paul is making.
I will be using the NKJV for reference. We will skip Paul’s intro and go straight to the overall context of Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Here many seem to jump straight to the verses  26 and 27 but seem to overlook the reasons the “vile passions” are so vile. However, if we read closely before we get to the “vile passions” we see that the pagans have seen the invisible attributes of God since creation as well as they knew God but instead changed the glory of God and worshiped images of themselves as well as birds and four-footed animals and… creeping things. In fact, if you can visualize this passage a bit it should return you to Egypt. It should bring about images of Anubis and other half-man/ half-beast gods. We see that the passage is about idolatry and what comes with it. Sexual immorality came with the worship of false gods. It came in many forms, but get this; it was a form of worship and not anything like LGBT communities of today. These temple prostitutes had sex as an act of worship and to raise money for the temples.

One temple was to the goddess Cybele who was believed to be a fertility goddess. During her “worship”, prostitutes would be a major part of the worship. In fact, according to Wikipedia, as they rather soften the ritual, “Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort.” What this really means is that men would be castrated and become male prostitutes for use in temple worship. Paul brings us to Egypt, then to Rome. Castration was neither a pleasant experience nor a kind way to treat others.
While we are using the NKJV, here is Young’s literal translation that may read a bit different than most have read this passage.

26 Because of this did God give them up to dishonourable affections, for even their females did change the natural use into that against nature;27 and in like manner also the males having left the natural use of the female, did burn in their longing toward one another; males with males working shame, and the recompense of their error that was fit, in themselves receiving.

            Often this passage has “against nature” but a closer look states “dishonourable affections" and the females changed the natural use of their bodies to unnatural usage… meaning prostitution. Also, the same with the male prostitutes who no longer would have sex with a woman. Now, many again take these two verses to be the point of Paul. However, these are examples of how horrible pagan idolatry is and what it did to people.
            Paul states that those who do such things deserve death as well as those who approve such things also do. Nevertheless, it is not the homosexual sex Paul is focused on… it is the idolatry and worship of false gods and how that harms people.

            However again, this is where many if not most people stop. They think Paul is done for some reason and then forget all he wrote and turn the page to Romans 2 as if it was a completely new thought Paul was going forth. Instead, Chapter two is the punchline of the setup from chapter one. Paul has every Jewish reader frothing in agreement with Paul about those immoral and unnatural pagans and how they worship false gods. Then, Paul does something that many miss. He sticks the Jewish readers with a knife and then twists it. How?
            Paul now gives the “therefore” of the why he just wrote what he did and it may surprise you. Just read:
2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
            Paul does not stop but goes on to say that because the Jewish people were given the Law they should know better but they do not. In fact Paul states,” For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.” Why? The Jewish people were known to steal, commit adultery, and even rob pagan temples for money earned through the worship of false gods to use as they pleased. According to Paul this was the reason the Gentiles blasphemed God as the Jewish people did not even honor the One True God as well as the pagans honored their pagan gods. The other thing is this. According to Paul in verses 1-3 that by judging the pagans such it was the same as despising “the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Paul just stated that by judging others we despise the kindness and goodness of God as we deny the love God showed on the Cross and Resurrection to all people.  

Yet even today many do not read this in connection to chapter one. They use or rather misuse chapter one to judge others and do the very thing Paul was trying to teach NOT to do. We are guilty of wanting wrath instead of the blessing of our so-called enemies of kindness and repentance. We use judgment as a tool for evangelism when in fact it makes a mockery of Jesus as we do so.
            Be careful as you use the Bible. I have found many times people proof text a passage to make it fit their own beliefs instead of having the Bible change and renew our minds. If you claim to hold the Bible as a holy text then treat it so.

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