The Bible is not known for being the authority modern culture consults for political commentary, practical living, or ethical advice. The Apostle Paul is especially derided. Even some professing Christians regard his sexual ethics as outdated. Instead of pulling the old let’s-reinterpret-this-Bible-text-to-be-gay-affirming approach, some believers simply say he’s wrong. Let’s just focus on Jesus, they suggest, who allegedly never said anything about homosexuality. That’s why it’s not surprising that one of Paul’s passages should rise to the top of “The Most Politically Incorrect Bible Passage” Hall of Fame.
Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth has many challenging admonitions. First Corinthians 6:9–11, however, seems to top them all, especially in light of our country’s ethos. Let’s look at Paul’s words.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Wow. Just wow. Shock jock radio hosts got nothing on this. Here are three reasons why Paul’s passage is the most politically incorrect passage.
- The passage states that homosexual sex is sin. That’s a big no-no. You can’t say that what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom is wrong. Calling it “sin” just overlays a religious tone to it, which makes it doubly wrong. Plus, our country just celebrated “Pride Month,” a time when companies, politicians, and others went out of their way to show their support for the LGBT community. Saying the L, G, and B are morally wrong is countercultural. To be sure, this passage also says that fornicators (those who have sex before marriage), adulterers (those who have sex outside of marriage), drunks, and many others are also equally in sin. Paul claims that anyone engaged in any sexual activity—apart from a married man and woman—is in sin. That throws a whole lot of people in our world into the “sinner” category. Indeed, everyone is guilty of some sin. That includes me. Needless to say, this first point alone qualifies Paul’s words as wildly politically incorrect.
- The passage states that practicing homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Did you catch that? If you’re not going to inherit the kingdom of God, then you’re going to get what you deserve: eternal judgment (AKA Hell). So, Paul just ensured his passage would remain the most politically incorrect for generations to come. Come on…you can’t tell people they’re going to Hell. That’s the worst thing you can say. This is clearly what Paul is saying, however, based on the context. In the previous chapter, Paul argues that a man who is having sex with his stepmother is immoral, has been judged a sinner, and should be kicked out of the local church body until he repents. To be clear, Paul argues that this is how believers should treat any professing Christian who engages in ongoing, unrepentant sin. He also gives no indication that such an unrepentant sinner should have confidence that they will inherit the kingdom of God.
- The passage states that some in the church in Corinth were once homosexuals, but they have changed. Uh-oh! Did Paul just suggest that you can live a life satisfying same-sex desires and then later change? Yes, he did. That’s not even legal in some states! Paul is no longer pulling punches (he never was, actually). This is politically incorrect to the max. Our culture believes that homosexuals are born that way, that there must be a biological or genetic factor that leads a person to develop same-sex attraction. If true, that would mean “change” is as impossible or as dangerous as attempting to change one’s eye color (and I’m not talking about using contact lenses). Yet Paul says homosexuals changed as if it were no big deal—a usual occurrence. He lumps them in with other people who were satisfying other sinful desires. Anyone can change.
Now, I’m not saying this passage is politically incorrect because I’m embarrassed by Paul’s words. After all, though He wrote these verses, it’s the Holy Spirit who inspired them. In other words, God is ultimately responsible for the content of this passage and, indeed, every word in Scripture. These are God’s ethics and, I might add, the ethics of Jesus.
Though Paul’s statement might be the most politically incorrect passage, it’s also a powerfully correct passage. These are the words of our Creator, the One who sustains the universe in existence and grants our every breath. Truer words cannot be spoken.
While this passage does not resonate with everyone in our culture, it does offer hope for anyone who acknowledges they are in trouble with God. As C.S. Lewis says, “It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power—it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.”
Paul’s main point is the point about changed lives. That’s why, despite the negative effects of sinful behavior, Paul interjects with, “Such were some of you…” (1 Cor. 6:11). But you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Though none of us deserves to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus makes a way that we can be pardoned for our crimes, no matter what they might be. That’s the gospel, and that’s powerfully correct.