|What is "natural" and "For thisreason" in Romans|
(Rom 1:26 NKJV) For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For
even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Romans 1 is the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Jews in Rome and sets the message for Paul's missionary journey into Rome to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The message of the righteousness in Christ versus the unrighteousness of Idol worship even under the law have been often sidetracked. With the story of Sodom being discredited as a story about gays, many have turned to Rom 1:26 and 1:27, to find a clear unambigiously statement against homosexuality. These verses have been mis-quoted by those with a pre-determined agenda without respecting the real context emphasised by the word "For this reason", and the word "natural":-
1) The word "natural" already gives us a hint that the religious practitioners were straight, eg the gay men do not have a natural inclination for women, nor do Lesbians exhange the natural manner they have for women. The word "Exchange" also speak of a deliberate choice, and not the innate manner of sexual orientation. One does not choose to be straight or gay.
The then religious context of Rome gives us a better understanding. The prevailing worship in Rome of the Syrian goddess Cybele was both male and female with a bearded face and a big breast. The male priests who serve the cults were castrated to mark the mourning of Cybele’s androgynous lover Attis. His death would be re-enacted by cutting themselves with stones, castrating themselves and putting on women's clothing. Catherine Kroeger in “The Apostle Paul and the Greco-Roman cults Of Women” found in the Journal of the Evangelical Society details how these cults were often marked by gruesome sex exchanges.
Hence, it was a choice for the male priests to exchange their natural sexual orientation, to become a "women", and what Paul said was shameful was their role as the receipient of anal sex by the men who worship this goddess having now the role of a woman. By having sex with the castrated priests, the worshippers were having sex with the deity behind it, thus joined to the deity in one body and spirit.
Sex exchange was the personification of evil for Paul because it was an attack on God's order of nature, and undermines and distorts God's creation of man in His image. The deities were mocking God's creation by influencing the male priests to harm themselves and make themselves less than human or less than a man by being castrated.
It is interesting to note that Paul added to Lev 18:22, the prohibition of women having sex with women for Lev 18 was based on the worship of Molech which involves only males. However, in the context of Corinth where Paul was writing from, the goddess Aphrodite was worshipped. A thousand female slaves was said to serve at the temple at Corinth.
(Rom 1:25 NKJV) who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
With the pre-text of Rom 1:24,25, the term "natural" also speaks of being natural for us to worship God who created us and this world (Rom 1:20), and conversely unnatural for us to worship idols made by our own hands as if they were gods (Rom 1:23). The sex change of the priests in order to worship the idols was highlighted to emphasise the unnaturalness of worshipping man man idols.
2) The word "For this reason" in Rom 1:26,27, takes us back to Rom 1:15 that it was all about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why then the elaborate discourse from Rom 1:16 to Rom 2:3 touching on same sex acts whch seems unrelated.
The main roadblock of the Gospel preaching to the Jewish community in Rome was the largest community in the Diaspora, was the belief in Christ (Rom 1:16) and having faith that the righteousness of God and the power for salvation comes with this name above all names. The "just" it said "shall live by faith".
Righteousness of worshipping Christ was contrasted to the unrighteousness of worshiping demonic beings in the form of idols (Rom 1:17, to 1:23). They were exchanging the "glory of God" to the image of corruptible objects such as birds, bulls, calfs, and snakes.
When Paul went back to the beginning of time (Rom 1:20-22), for the Jew, it was a poingnant reminder of the worship by ancient Jews of Egyptians and Cannanite gods where they worship the god molech and sacrificed to it. The god Molech just as the goddess Cybele in Rome was very sexual in nature requiring its male priests to be castrated and "become" a woman so that they could be the receipient of the anal sex from the straight men and wear women's clothing. They had to, for these were macho straight men who only had sex with women. In Rom 2:1, Paul was hinting that the Jews practised the same unrighteous actions for their ancestors had done so.Paul was quoting the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 2:7, 2:11) and reminded the Jews how they had not changed and had continued to worship idols just like their forefathers even though claiming to worship God.
The Apostle Paul was obviously aware of the rampant idol worship of Aphrodite and Cybele in Rome, and in an insult to the Jews, he associated this with the idol worship of Molech by the Jews from the time they came out of Egypt. His message was that the Jews have not changed their stubborn ways despite insisting on the law of God for their righteousness which never resulted in any tangible change. They claimed to be righteous by the law, yet was found repeatly to worship idols and engaged in lewd sex acts on account of ther worship.
In the concluding statements, Paul then lists all their current unrighteous acts of the Jews in Rom 1:29-31 implying that under the law they were no different than those who were currently engaged in idol worship in Rome, or to their ancestors in worshiping Baal and Molech. They could not judge others (Roms 2:1-3) because they were no different. The association by Paul of the very macho and masculine patriachal Jewish culture to men castrating themselves and exchanging their sex to become a women (Rom 1:26,27) was particularly insulting to the Jews, yet they could not respond because they knew that their ancestors were thus.
In the bigger context of the struggles between Paul and the legalistic Jews, and the tendency for the Jews to judge others under the law, and claim their righteousness under the law, Paul was emphasising that they were unrighteous and had no right to judge (Rom 2:1), for the righteousness of God is in Christ Jesus and not through the law. Paul was declaring to the Jews in Rome who is so adamant about the need to follow the commandments to be saved and to abide in it even after you believe in Jesus, that they are in reality totally ungodly and unrighteous despite them piously following these commandments and would suffer the wrath of God for their attempts to suppress this truth about grace.
The truth of God's grace has been shown to them. (Roms 1:19). Since the beginning of time, God have shown himself to the Jewish nation as a God of mercy and grace (Roms 1:20) God delivered them out of the hands of Pharoah not because they deserved it, it is by grace, totally unmerited. In Roms 1:21, instead of being thankful, they became foolish they turned the blessings of God, the very gold and precious metal out of Egypt that God blessed them and mold it into an idol of a golden calf to worship instead of God. Even when God gave them the law and declared curses if they failed to obey, it did not changed them.
Have we exchanged the natural for the unnatural in worship the religious idols of our lives. Our attack on the GLBT community borders on the unnatural as we do things that we would not have normally done as people of Christian Faith. Consider how the mega church pastors in Singapore twist and turn the bible, in an almost unnatural attempt to spin it as to condemn the gay community of almost unbelievable acts such as destroying the family, and out to destroy Christianity.
The bible itself was used as a tool of distortion through the clobber verses, just as it was used to test Jesus in the desert. We have reached to a stage where the Anglican South is condoning the death penalty against gays! even though it is such a small minority and had few dealings or done any harm to the Anglicans. Our hatred against gays has taken on an almost unnatural zeal as if influence by the spiritual deities calling for the full letter of the law not realising that by insisting on the law we bring many fold judgements of God based on the full and strictest interpretation of the law (just as we have judged the Gay community) and negate the grace of God in our lives.
As Paul said in Rom 2:1, we have no right to judge, for our righteousness is in Christ Jesus and not the law which we have religiously emphasised in order to condemn gays not realising that we are compromising the grace of God in our own lives and bringing upon ourselves the curse of the law.
Our anti-gay agenda feeds the god of self righteousness within where we unnaturally castrate ourselves of God's grace, mercy, love, integrity, and truth, into order to sacrifice gays to the altar of our gods and worship of self.