Romans 1:24-32 "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts..."

Comment: 

Dear Friend,

You have asked about Romans 1:24-32; I'm not going to transcribe it here because it's quite long. It's also quite controversial, cited frequently these days in support of the belief that homosexuality is inherently evil in the eyes of God.
 
Let's begin by acknowledging that there is, indeed, a strong aversion to homosexuality indicated in Paul's words. He was not immune from the prejudices and mindsets of the collective consciousness of his time; elsewhere in his letters he supports slavery and keeping women subservient to men.
 
But we do not read and cite Paul's Letter to the Romans today because we think we should continue to maintain the collective consciousness of the Roman Empire in the first Christian century. We read Romans—and the rest of the Bible—as a metaphysical guide to our own process of spiritual evolution—an uplifting of our shared consciousness into the union with Christ consciousness that Jesus defines as the kingdom of heaven. So the question is, what (if anything) of spiritual significance can we take from Paul's words?
 
Paul is writing to the church in Rome in hopes of being received by them on his planned journey to Rome and then beyond. They are not a Pauline congregation; we don't know who exactly founded the group in Rome, but it wasn't Paul. So he's setting out his own "bona fides" as a minister of the message of Jesus Christ.
 
In this early passage he is railing against "men who by their wickedness suppress the truth." This is an important distinction. Most people at that time—and still today—are ignorant of the truth, which is a different thing. The truth is the Christ Presence that dwells within every person—that is, in fact, the truth of who we are. It is this truth that Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry, and that he calls us to find in ourselves so that "what I have done, you will do, and greater things than these" (Jn. 14:12). Paul's concern is not with those who live in ignorance of the truth, but with those who, having had the opportunity to know the truth, choose instead to deny it, ignore it, and act in violation of its energy.
"… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25).
 
So metaphysically, this passage vividly describes a life in which the demands and distractions of the flesh become the only priority, and any spiritual purpose or awareness is resisted and denied. The consequences of this misplaced priority are severe. "They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice." One of those manners of wickedness, in Paul's evaluation, was homosexual behavior, which he saw as always licentious and thus a denial of God. Heterosexuals who live lives absorbed in lust and carnal pleasures would be equally condemned.
 
Obviously Paul would (perhaps grudgingly) acknowledge that heterosexuals could live committed, loving, sexually active lives and still be expressive of God consciousness. (He really preferred that everyone stay celibate.) He did not believe that homosexuals could live committed, loving, sexually active lives and still be expressive of God consciousness.  Many people today would agree, because their impression of homosexual behavior is one of selfishness and licentiousness, totally focused on sexual gratification and totally absent any true sense of love or commitment. Are there homosexuals whose behavior would fit that description? Certainly. Are there heterosexuals whose behavior would fit that description? Certainly. They are choosing to disregard or deny the Presence, not just of God, but of a divine purpose to life. That choice will have consequences; their lives will be unhappy and unfulfilled—not because God is punishing them, but because they are refusing to allow the Love that God is to express in and through them and their relationships.
 
Not all heterosexuals are like that. of course; and not all homosexuals are like that either. What separates us from God is not whom we choose to love, but a refusal to love at all—a refusal to be the Love of God in expression. Those who would use Paul's views as a blanket condemnation—of anyone!—need to let their eyes drop down the page an inch or two to the beginning of Romans 2: "Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."
 
So metaphysically, the message of this passage—and the message of the entire Bible, really—is this: Put God First! If you do, everything else will fall into its proper place and your life will be a creative expression of divine love. If you don't—if you allow distractions of any sort to take on a higher priority than God in your life—the consequence of that negative choice will be a negative, fearful life experience.
 
Blessings!

Rev. Ed