Jesus on Homosexuality: When Silence Spoke Volumes

In an opinion editorial published in the Concord [NH] Monitor, Randall Balmer responded to a call from Franklin Graham who “has embarked on a tour of all 50 state capitals in an effort to encourage evangelicals…‘to stand for biblical values’” (My Turn: For Franklin Graham, here are some “biblical values” worth discussing; 01/17/16).  According to the editorial, Balmer is “an Episcopal priest and chair of the Religion Department and director of the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College.”

Notwithstanding the Biblically and Constitutionally tenuous nature of Rev. Balmer’s call to translate scripture into federal public policy, there is one particular assertion that merits special attention.  In what appears to be a preemptive move, he advises Rev. Graham that “Jesus…said nothing explicit about homosexuality, so Graham should probably, in the interest of fidelity to ‘biblical values,’ steer clear of that one.”  But is it true that “Jesus…said nothing explicit about homosexuality?”  The chair of the Religion Department at Dartmouth College would do well to recall the observation of John the Apostle when he concluded his gospel with the following: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25; NKJV).  Therefore, if there’s one thing we can say with certainty about Jesus and the topic of homosexuality, it’s that we cannot say with any degree of certainty that “Jesus…said nothing explicit about homosexuality.”

What we can say is that when another gospel writer supplied the account of Jesus’ response to a question regarding the propriety of divorce, Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’…So then, they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5; NKJV).  When considering the current debate about same-sex “marriage,” what is most instructive in this account is that Jesus presumably said “nothing explicit about homosexuality.”  In other words, while He affirmed the tradition of marriage between a man and woman, He did not ascribe any legitimacy to the notion of “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

Given that the proponents of same-sex “marriage” desire the imprimatur of the law, the absence of legitimization of their perspective in Matthew’s account juxtaposed against the presence of Christ’s affirmation of “opposite-sex” marriage presents a problem.  We look to one of the most prominent legal minds in US history to highlight this problem.

In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Supreme Court Justice and Harvard Professor Joseph Story provided a rule of Constitutional construction that is applicable to this situation.  In explaining the rule to determine the authority for a particular activity, he pointed out that the affirmation of the authority to perform one activity effectively prohibits all other activities not positively affirmed.  He put it this way: “Affirmative words often, in their operation, imply a negative of other objects than those affirmed.”

Jesus’ all-inclusive knowledge of events from eternity past (see the account of the woman at the well, John 4:5-27) and those of eternity future (see the prediction of the Apostle Peter’s martyrdom, John 21:18-19) informs us that the US Supreme Court’s June 2015 opinion regarding same-sex “marriage” was no more of a surprise to Him when it was delivered than it was while He was responding to the Pharisees’ question on the sanctity of marriage.  Jesus was not opposed to offering a new commandment when He believed it necessary (see John 13:34).  And it couldn’t have made Him any more unpopular with the Pharisees had He issued a reversal of the Mosaic law’s condemnation of sodomy.  The account in Matthew’s gospel would’ve likely included it had Jesus done so.

So while the bride – His church – awaits the coming of the Bridegroom, we can rest assured that during His first incarnation, the Bridegroom made it clear that the beauty of that eternal union of God and man is reflected in the temporal marital union of a man and a woman – and a woman and a man, only.


The Hon. John N. Hostettler is the Director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, a ministry of Evangelism Explosion International.  Hostettler served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2007.