Leviticus 20:13

December 15, 2008

As the clamor continues to increase among the gay and lesbian community and their supporters, the Scripture passages condemning the behavior are becoming more and more confusing to a lot of folks.

Case in point: someone wrote to the editorial section of my local newspaper opposing homosexual marriage. In the commentary, the writer sited Leviticus 20:13 but said only that God considers homosexuality to be an abomination. A few days later, a counter commentary appeared stating that the previous opinion failed to identify the remainder of Lev. 20:13 affirming the punishment for the sin, which is death! The implication being that if one uses this verse to condemn homosexuality, then one must also adhere to the notion that homosexuals should be put to death. The rebuttal is a classical “gotcha” response. Its purpose is to confuse Christians by forcing us to choose whether we accept or reject the law of God as divinely instituted.

The Law of God is indeed divine and righteous. Under the Law, homosexuality is condemned and punishable by death, so too is adultery and several other immoral acts. But does this mean that Christians believe death as a punishment for such sins should be carried out? Consider this:

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus taught mercy with regards to the strict judgment of the Law. Many of the religious leaders in Israel, who believed His message was blasphemous, purposed to entrap Him by contrasting His teachings with the Law whenever the opportunity arose. One such opportunity happened when certain Pharisees saw His disciples plucking grain and eating it on the Sabbath as they passed through a field.

The Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Law by letting His disciples do this. The tradition of the Jews had strictly prohibited any work on the Sabbath, even if that work was a work of necessity. The disciples were hungry and in need of nourishment, but the tradition of the Pharisees showed no mercy. Jesus reminded them that when King David and his men were hungry, David entered the temple and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to do.

Jesus then asked them, “Have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Mat. 12:5) The priests worked on the Sabbath day to present the offerings before God for the sins of His people, yet the Law prohibited work on the Sabbath. But the work of the priests was the work God; therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Mercy and kindness are the works of God; so Jesus told them, “If ye had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (v7)

The mercy of God was also exemplified when the Pharisees once again found an opportunity to trap Jesus by the Law. They had found a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought her before Jesus. They took up stones in their hands and challenged Jesus by reciting the Law that stated she should be stoned. Believing the Law to be explicit in its judgment, they asked Jesus what He had to say concerning this. When Jesus looked up, He simply said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Unexpectedly faced with the reality that they themselves were guilty of the same Law that condemned the woman, one by one they dropped their stones and walked away. Jesus approached the woman and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” The woman replied, “No man, Lord.” So Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.

Understanding the Law of Moses from the perspective of God’s love and mercy enables us to understand that God did provide mercy in the Law. The punishment for immoral acts listed in Leviticus did not have to be carried out had the religious leaders showed mercy. The Law did not exclude opportunity for repentance, and it provided provision for the shortcomings of His people, for His people were weak and none were righteous according to the Law.

All the judgments of the Law have been executed upon Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law. God’s mercy was exhibited through the sacrifice of His righteous Son upon whom the sins of the world may be imputed for all who repent and believe. God did not condemn us before we believed, but waited on us patiently. How, therefore, can we do anything but show to others that same mercy, compassion and patients we received? If the Spirit of Christ is not shown through us, how can we expect others be drawn to His grace and goodness? If they hate us for our opposition, though we show mercy, praise God; if they repent and come to Christ, praise Him even more!

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