On God Giving People Over to What They Want, Even if It’s Sin
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 about God for a lie, and worshiped 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 sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
All at the same time, Paul is talking about past sexual impurity and his present-day culture. It is a depiction of all of history that led to the current state of the world for him then and for us now. Throughout the scriptures, God doesn’t force people to follow Him or His ways. Just as Jesus said “Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you,” God gives people over to the things they seek the most, good or bad. When the Hebrews complained for meat in the wilderness, God sent so many birds that they could barely walk through the piles of meat they asked for. When people seek the Lord will all of their hearts, they find Him in all of His fullness.
This isn’t some sort of “I’ll give you something to cry about!” justice, it’s God revealing to us the outcomes of the things we seek and long for. If we seek after our sinful desires, God lets us sink into them neck-deep if that’s what it takes for us to finally realize that those desires were sinful. This is why good things happen to bad people. God holds out His relentless mercy and grace for so long that He’ll allow people to drown themselves in their own sin. All of the time, He is hoping that they will not reject the Truth, but accept it and turn back towards Him in repentance.
So we come to a hot topic in our culture these days. Some people are saying that the Bible doesn’t mention homosexuality, and this isn’t the place for that discussion (although we should have it face to face elsewhere if you want). Here Paul holds up the results of rejecting God and the truth, and the results are described as “shameful lusts.” I think we can agree that whatever description comes after a label like that is a bad thing.
The bad thing that comes after it is men abandoning what Paul considered natural – men having relations with women – for something he called unnatural – men having relations with men. Paul calls those acts shameful before and after he mentions them which makes it clear where those actions stand on a moral level.
Before we go and make a sign based on that verse, however, remember that this is a letter written in the context of all of the rest of the letter. While the teaching is clear about homosexual acts being a sin, the teaching is also clear in Romans that we have been saved from the Law of sin and death by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The life we live is no longer by law, but by the Holy Spirit, who helps us – in our weakness – to follow and obey Jesus. The salvation is for the greedy, the selfish, those disobedient to parents, the sexually immoral, idolators, liars, and the rest. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
If the Bible calls something holy and glorious, let’s pursue it and bring more of it into our lives. If the Bible calls something shameful, let’s heed that and help one another flee from it into the light of Christ.