Romans 1: 18-32
This is hard text for many people. Myself included. Paul starts in verse 18 talking about God's wrath against certain people. But what people? Who is Paul referring to? All he says is that these people “knew God, they did not honour God as God or gives thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” (vv. 21-23)
Clearly, Paul is talking about idolatry and pagan worship by those who should know better. The consequences of such worship:
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (vv. 24-27).'
There is no consensus as to what this means. Some say that this passage is a clear condemnation of homosexuality. Others say that it's not a simple as we might think. They point out that the presenting issue is idolatry, and that the homosexual behaviour that Paul was talking about was in the context of pagan worship.
Or they might say that Paul equated homosexuality with lust, and that this condemnation doesn't apply to those gays and lesbians who want to get married, since marriage is built on commitment, rather than sexual desire.
Others point to the word “unnatural” in verses 26-27 and point out the other things that Paul calls “unnatural.” In 1 Corinthians 11: 14 – 15 Paul says, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”
I don't know many people who would say that long hair on men is “unnatural” or that long hair on women is “to her glory.” Especially when I see so many women in our churches with short hair, and not a few men with long hair.
This leads people to suggest that Paul's notions of sexuality was based on his cultural understanding, not upon scripture. Or else he would have quoted the appropriate Old Testament passage.
And as we proceed down to verses 29-32, we find that we're ALL indicted and deserve punishment. Paul says
“They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”
Who among us CANNOT find ourselves condemned in at least ONE sin on that list? So, Paul concludes this section in tomorrow's reading: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things” (v. 2: 1).