Home > Bible, current events, Social Justice > Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, and the Bible

Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, and the Bible

About a year ago I chastized Pastor Joel Osteen and others for what I called “hiding behind Scripture.” In particular, Pastor Osteen had just told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he was locked into his anti-homosexual position by the Bible. He is not, and, I believe, he knows it.

Pastor Osteen just confirmed to Oprah Winfrey that he believes that “homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture,” noting that he encourages people to be “willing to change and grow.”

On the other hand, when Piers Morgan asked him in October whether he supports the Biblical position of a life for a life, Pastor Osteen admitted (in this video): “I don’t know,” because the death penalty is a “complicated issue.”

In other words, Pastor Osteen doesn’t feel compelled to support everything in Scripture. He openly ignores Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Dueteronomy 19:21. He reserves the right — as we all do — to pick and choose.

This is why I don’t think there’s any merit or integrity to his argument that he is forced to condemn homosexuality because Scripture calls it a sin.

As it happens, I don’t believe that Scripture says that, but I do support Pastor Osteen’s right to interpret Scripture as he chooses.

What I don’t support is the way he presents his opinions as unbiased fact.

As far as I’m concerned, until Pastor Osteen takes responsibility for his own words, he’s no better than any other coward who hides from the people he attacks.

  1. Colleen Harper
    January 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you Joel for a very thoughtful essay.

    I have argued time and again that this was the case; that people choose to condemn something out of personal dislike, and then selectively pick verses from the Bible to support their personal dislike, rather than standing on principle to oppose all that the Bible opposes and support all that the Bible supports.

  2. Amy
    January 12, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Seems to me you were picking and choosing verses as well because here’s a couple you might have missed.

    Matthew 5:38-39
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

    Eye for eye never meant that a person could exact vengeance directly for his or her own eye; it meant that one should take the offender to court,where the sentence could be executed legally. People sometimes cite this example as a case of Jesus’ disagreeing with the Old Testament. In the case of an offense to our personal dignity,Jesus not only warns us not to avenge our honor by retaliating but suggests that we indulge the offender further. By freely offering our other cheek,we show that those
    who are secure in their status before God do not value human honor. Indeed,in some sense we practice resistance by showing our contempt for the value of our insulter’s (and perhaps the onlookers’) opinions! Because we value God’s honor rather than our own (Mt 5:16; 6:1-18),because our very lives become forfeit to us when we begin to follow Jesus Christ (16:24-27), we have no honor of our own to lose. In this way we testify to those who insult us of a higher allegiance of which they should take notice.

    Pastor Osteen did not take a side on that issue because he KNOWS that even he doesnt have the power to judge the persecuted. Only God makes those judgements and they are to be left for the court to decide. I agree with Pastor Osteen.

    • Colleen Harper
      January 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Ok, if I understand your comment, then you support Pastor Osteen’s indecision on how to apply the Bible to issues of “eye for eye” justice.

      How then do you feel about Pastor Osteen’s absolutism concerning homosexuality, on which he expresses NO indecision.

      If he is indecisive about one issue, “eye for eye” justice, how can he be so absolutely decisive about another issue, homosexuality? Shouldn’t the second be as nuanced as the first?

      As per my comment (#1) you can discern my opinion on the subject.

    • January 12, 2012 at 10:59 am


      Thanks for your thoughts.

      I am absolutely picking and choosing. (To add just two more, I choose to ignore the parts of the Bible that seem to support slavery and polygamy.) I think the difference is that I start with that assumption, and don’t try to hide it.

      If Pastor Osteen wants to say that he doesn’t like homosexuality, I think that that’s his right. And if he wants his church to promote only heterosexuality, again, I think he has the right to do so. (And, equally, others have the right to disagree)

      What I don’t support is Pastor Osteen’s claim that he has no choice because it’s Scripture, and not him, that calls homosexuality a sin.

      • Amy
        January 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

        Colleen, I don’t believe it’s anyone’s decision but God’s to condemn someone. Pastor Osteen is just going by what the scripture says, which is God’s word. If you read in the New Testament, not only the Old, it’s that God says to not take the “eye for an eye” literally. (Matthew 5:38-39) On the subject of homosexuality, there is nothing to be indecisive about. Homosexuality was condemned by God in the Old and New Testament. In other words, it has neverrr been okay in his eyes.

        Joel, to just choose to ignore parts of the Bible is like leaving out pieces of a puzzle. It won’t complete your argument unless you look at ALL the points, not just the ones that support your argument. If I decided to just read the Old Testament about “eye for an eye” then I would support your argument but I would be leaving out important details.
        If I’m correct, Pastor Osteen never promoted only heterosexuality. I believe Oprah commented that there are about 16,000 people that attend his church when they were talking about going to Heaven and said “I can’t imagine that you have 16,000 people in there and that none of them would be gay. So are Gay people also included?” He said “Absolutely!” So he’s not excluding them from the church. Something he’s been known so say is “Love the sinner, not the sin.” It’s just like you treat your family. You love your family no matter what even though you don’t agree with the way they live their lives hoping that they would change someday. You say that Pastor Osteen has no choice because it’s in the scripture right? Well the scripture is GOD’s words. If it had been any other book of words that any other man had said, it would be different. Pastor Osteen is supporting what God says, not man.

        • January 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm


          Where do you (or Pastor Osteen) read that the Bible says that homosexuality is a “sin”?

      • Frank
        July 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm

        Pastor Osteen is only quoting the Word of God. If you do not like what God says and directs in the Bible, then you need to take it up with him, not His followers.

        • MsColleen
          July 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm

          Frank, please, answer Joel’s question: where do you (or Pastor Osteen) read that the Bible says that homosexuality is a “sin”, and then let Joel answer you.

  3. Colleen Harper
    January 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm


    My argument isn’t that homosexuality is or is not sin. My argument is that people such as Pastor Osteen focus on homosexuality and make it a signature issue, but they gloss over or ignore all the multitude of other sins that all humans are prone to, according to the Bible. Is homosexuality a sin set apart as something especially loathsome, or are ALL sins equally loathsome to God? I know of no verse in either the Old or New Testament that places homosexuality primary over all other sins. I’ve too often felt that people who preach against homosexuality make it to be a most loathsome sin, equating it with pedophilia (which is MOST predominantly a heterosexual male crime), beastiality, and polygamy, in other words trying to condemn by false implication. I seldom hear that God is going to destroy America over infidelity, lying or bearing false witness, using God’s name in vain, or any other sin, but I am VERY familiar with hearing how God is going to destroy America over homosexuality (and abortion).

    My issue is that those who preach against homosexuality more often than not have picked homosexuality (and abortion) as an unusually loathsome sin, and that magnification of homosexuality over other sins, according to MY understanding of the Bible, is wrong, pure and simple.

    So, once again to lay to rest quick and uninformed rebuttals, I have NOT said that homosexuality is or is not sin. I have said that there are those who imply that homosexuality is a sin beyond all other sins, making homosexuality a peculiarly reviled sin.

  4. brian
    January 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Its obvious Joel here is full of pride.
    Hes not interested in gods word. So I wonder why he wrights about it,but sees it with a blind pridfull eye?

  5. Amy
    January 15, 2012 at 12:55 am

    there are several places that speak about homosexuality in the Bible.
    Old Testament:
    – Leviticus 18:22 – Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
    -Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
    New Testament:
    -1 Corinthians 6:9 – Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitues nor homosexual offenders – 10 – nor theives nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
    -Jude 1:7 – In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

    If you read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, one of the reasons it was destroyed was because of homosexuality.

    Being 22 years old I can tell you honestly, the only sermons I love listening to is about current events with Bible referencing. I think, a good way to get people to come listen to the word of God is to talk about what everyone wants to hear, or things that would capture the most peoples interest. Pastor Osteen made it very clear that homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. I believe he speaks about so much because it is a current event. Homosexuality all around the world is growing and what better subject to speak about than a major issue? Now I’m not saying that it’s a worse sin that stealing or murdering. What i’m trying to say is that for all listeners around the world, especially for youth, it’s easier for us to understand the Bible and what God expects of us by using current events then referencing to it. Also, i’m pretty sure Pastor Osteen doesn’t speak about homosexuality at every sermon. If he speaks about it during interviews, that’s because that is a topic that most likely will always come up. It’s not like he can say, “Oh I don’t want to talk about it because we need to focus on other issues.” If he did, then people would be saying that he’s indecisive when he really is not. Hopefully my point of view helps.

    • January 15, 2012 at 9:07 am


      Though people will obviously differ about the details, I think it’s clear that the Bible takes a negative view of homosexuality, and I’m not claiming otherwise.

      My point is that Pastor Osteen has chosen to accept the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality while rejecting other teachings.

      I believe that it’s his right to do so, but I don’t believe that he’s being honest when he says that he is a neutral interpreter of the Bible.

      For example, you cite Lev. 20:13. Do you think that male homosexuality should be punished by death today? If not, why not? Does Pastor Osteen think so? Again, if not, why not?

      Or to look at it differently, if you accept the NT approach according to which the laws of the OT have been replaced, do you agree with I Cor. 6:9? Pastor Osteen does not. He just told Oprah that homosexuals will be admitted to Heaven. Similarly, do you think we should bring back prohibition, because I Cor. 6:10 refers to drinking? Does Pastor Osteen?

      To repeat, my point is that all modern religious leaders pick and choose. The real difference, in my opinion, is between leaders who admit it and leaders who hide it.

    • Colleen Harper
      January 16, 2012 at 9:51 am


      I think Joel has done a very good job of explaining how Pastor Osteen has picked and choosen from scripture what he wants to emphasize and what he wants to ignore.

      And as a 59 year old woman, I have come to understand that there are some real problems with the “homosexuality is sin” argument used by so many evangelical Christians. People are BORN homosexual. It is NOT lifestyle. It is NOT a choice. This is the scientific opinion of the AMA, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and 13 other reputable science-based organizations. So we enter the dilemma that if homosexuals are BORN homosexual, then they are created by God to BE homosexuals. Are we therefore going to face the problem of condemning them for BEING homosexual – a God-given trait – or condemning them for ACTING ON that homosexual trait – to fall in love with someone else of the same gender? Since Joel did not enter into that dilemma, I propose we leave it hanging.

      This leaves me to seriously question all the lies (another Biblical sin) told about homosexuality by those who are so anxious to protect the “sanctity of marriage.” What lies? That homosexuality = pedophilia for one. Over 90% of all pedophiles are heterosexual males, according to numerous scientific studies of FBI statistics. Or how about homosexuality = beastiality? Once again, far more people who practice beastiality are heterosexual than homosexual, and even IF the incident was 50/50, we would be left with the result that homosexuality does NOT = beastiality. So if homosexuality is a sin, so is lying. And if evangelical Christians are honestly anxious to protect the “sanctity of marriage,” why is the divorce rate in the United States highest in the most religiously active states?

      I’m sorry, but my conclusion is that most evangelical Christians are far more titillated by the few 10’s of verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality and embarrassed by the 100’s of verses (1,000’s?) that dictate how heterosexuals are to behave. And that leads right back into Joel’s blog and comments, that evangelical Christians like Pastor Osteen are picking which portions of the Bible to read and which to ignore.

  6. Jack
    January 20, 2012 at 8:23 am

    “Do not be decived… homosexuals… will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9

    Does that clear things up for you?

    The reason those old books are not considered is becuse they are not meant for us- the Old Testament is a record of History and the laws given in it were given to the Israelites, NOT the Christians who wern’t even around till hundreds of years later.

    In the Old Testament, (The same part of the Bible with the books you quoted) God tells Noah to “build an ark”. Should all the Christians isolate the part that says “Build an ark” and go out and start building arks?

    Of course not. Because that was Old Testament. When Jesus came he set the way Christians (Followers of Chirst) should live, and that is why we live according to the New Testament.

    And as you saw from the quote above, the Bible is clear: Homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of God.

    By homosexual it means practicing homosexuality. If you are born with an attraction to the same sex, that just means your genes are inclining you towards sin, no different to a straight male who wants to have sex before marriage- just cos he is “born” that way doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong to engage in the behavior. Remember lust is also forbidden and considered adultery of the the heart according to Jesus.

    • January 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Thanks for your comments, Jack.

      Regarding I Corinthians 6:9-10, I think it’s helpful to look at the entire two verses, and not leave the middle out. For example, the full text includes “drunkards” in the list of people who will not inherit God’s Kingdom. And I Corinthians 5:11 cautions not even to eat with drunkards.

      Do you think alcoholics will enter God’s Kingdom?

      Do you think drinking is as serious a sin as homosexual behavior? Do you think religious leaders should speak out against drinking the same say they do against homosexuality?

      What about I Corinthians 6:7, which warns not to sue one another?

      And how do you incorporate Matthew 7:1, which cautions not to judge other people?

    • Colleen Harper
      January 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm


      While you quote 1Cor6:9, do you ever berate people for being fornicators or adulterers (Speaker Gingrich comes to mind)? Do you ever berate people for being thieves or swindlers (prosperity gospel preachers come to mind)? Do you ever berate people for being covetous or revilers?

      Joel isn’t talking about approving homosexuality. Joel is talking about reviling homosexuality under the cover of authority, and singling that out as an exceptional sin, as if there could be an hierarchy of sins, from the least to the worst.

      Please try to address Joel’s words:

      “What I don’t support is the way he presents his opinions as unbiased fact.

      As far as I’m concerned, until Pastor Osteen takes responsibility for his own words, he’s no better than any other coward who hides from the people he attacks.”

      In fact, I would challenge everyone to examine whether they are operating from a strongly held opinion and picking verses of the Bible to support their opinion, when the Bible has hundreds of verses more to say about marital fidelity and heterosexual relationships than about homosexuality. In fact, 1Cor6:9, 10 addresses fornicators and adulterers in the same verse as effeminates and homosexuals. Heterosexual marriages seem to be in serious trouble in the modern church, with divorce rates HIGHEST in the states that are most religious. Where is the moral outcry about THIS problem?

      It seems that most Christians don’t care about putting the heterosexual marriage household in order, while they are excessively worked up about homosexuality. I can’t remember the last time a Christian reviled a politician for adultery with the same energy that Christians revile homosexuality.

      THAT, to me, is the essence of Joel’s message.

  7. February 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    There seems to be two major lines of dialogue here:
    1. Frustration with picking and choosing while disingenuously pretending one is NOT picking and choosing; and
    2. OK, no, that’s pretty much it.

    I’ll say upfront: I believe the Bible takes a universally negative view of homosexuality. I believe that this view should be held as binding today, even though I admit that I do not hold every view expressed in the Bible to be eternally binding (particularly since not all are prescriptive, and if they did, they would be disharmonious). Whereas the stance of either testament gives data both ways on slavery, and gives data both ways on egalitarianism, there is no counterbalancing positive example of homosexuality.

    It also doesn’t matter to me how rarely the Bible addresses homosexuality, insofar as considering relative strength of a prohibition by frequency of mention. (Although I appreciate the lectionary approach to preaching since it gives topics proper balance, biblically speaking.) If relative frequency of mention correlated to how binding a command is, then bestiality would be at least as permissible (on this criterion, anyway).

    Homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia do all have in common that they are sexual behaviors. They all are also non-standard sexual behaviors, I would argue, though homosexuality differs in that it is mainstream and also in that it can be based on validly given mutual consent.

    That having been said: as a “conservative” Evangelical, I’ll take the arrows shot without any real argument. Evangelicals (and others, too) tend to emphasize the sins they themselves don’t commit. It’s easier to crusade against sin when the sin in question can be circumscribed to being committed only by outsiders. It’s much harder to crusade against one’s own sins.

    Why do pro-life people support war? If it is heinous to kill children in the womb, then war would be utterly unacceptable, given that every modern war has led to the death and detriment of countless children who did no wrong.

    Why do those who (like myself) reject acceptance of same-sex sexuality not also reject acceptance of politicians who commit adultery and/or polygamy/divorce/remarriage?

    Hypocrisy, ’tis called.

    In my heart, I am Amish. I think that’s the only way to be consistent on issues like this. I support neither war, nor abortion, neither homosexuality nor adultery. Nor do I validate the political system that relies upon war. It’s all rubbish to me.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not a hypocrite. I have *some* clarity in this, but I’m not perfect, either. I want to be semper reformanda, and I hope that provides some meaningful distinction between one kind of sinner and another.

  8. April 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Joel and all: Were Christians living moral lives there would be no need for this discussion. We are still rising every morning to live out our salvation through our daily grind. However, we are called to condemn sin in all it forms and where ever it exist through whom ever it exist but we are called to do this in love. “Is there no one left to condemn you. Nor do I . Go and sin no more.” ditto.

  9. mtp1032
    May 11, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Hey Joel,

    I’m sorry [yet again] for the late entry into this thread, but I want to suggest another adjective to describe Pr. Osteen’s points-of-view. They are not hypocritical, correctly understood. Rather, they are inconsistent. For Pr. Osteen to be hypocritical he would necessarily advocate that homesexual behavior is “wrong for the thee, but right for me.”

    Being inconsistent is a problem with we all struggle, but pr. Osteen’s inconsistency is worse than hypocrisy (IMO), if only because he cloaks himself in the authority of the cloth.

    I share your opinion of his views, and perhaps am even a bit more … dismayed. But, he is manifestly not a hypocrite.



  10. June 3, 2012 at 6:56 am

    The death penalty is a red herring, to try and justify a known sin. The New Testament qualifies a lot of what was said in the Old Testament. A life for a life is still very biblical. However, we are now, as Christians to allow the governments to carry out justice.

    Romans 13:1 English Standard Version (ESV)
    Submission to the Authorities

    13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

    The legal issues of the Old Testament are now determined by governmental law, unless they conflict with Scripture. For example, if they made a law that it was illegal to preach, we would still preach. Let us keep that principle in mind.

    Acts 5:27-29 English Standard Version (ESV)
    27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

    When states legalize homosexuality, they are going against the Biblical principles, and Christians are to stand against that.

    Paul said at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes [“male prostitutes,” New International Version; “effeminate,” King James Version], nor men who lie with men [“sodomites,” Jerusalem Bible; “homosexual perverts,” Today’s English Version], nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” Note that Paul specifically mentioned those who evidently take on a passive sexual role and those who assume a more active “male” role in their immoral relations. Thus he made it plain that God disapproves of all homosexual acts.

    This is also evident from Paul’s words at Romans 1:18-27: “God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way . . . God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them . . . That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene.” Here Paul specifically condemned both male and female homosexuality. He condemned homosexual practices as unnatural and “obscene.”

    • Colleen Harper
      October 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      You first make a clear declaration that civil governments are instituted by God. I have no problem with this argument.

      But then you make the declaration “When states legalize homosexuality, they are going against the Biblical principles, and Christians are to stand against that.” You then use verses condemning homosexuality in modern parlance.

      My first argument is that this is a civil government, not a theocratic government. We have a clear amendment that declares freedom of religion, not only in that the government will not establish a preferred religion, and that the government will require the right to freely exercise whatever religion a person wishes, without hindrance. You have the free right to exercise whatever religious beliefs you wish, but as I also have free right to exercise whatever religious beliefs I wish, I have equal right to be free from your religious interference, just as you have the right to be free from my religious interference. Therefore, please feel free to outlaw within your community church or your denomination the practice of homosexuality, or any other prohibitions you wish to enforce. But as we are a civil government, as I pointed out above, I have the right to resist your attempts to outlaw something that is allowed in my religion.

      My second argument is with the words used in the verses you used to claim the Bible is opposed to homosexuality. One of the words used – malakia – is a prohibition (in Greek, by the way) that a man not be “like a woman”, i.e. effeminate. In a society where being soft and weak were two of the worst traits a man could possess. In Greek society, malakia did NOT apply to homosexuality, which was frowned upon but tolerated. Malakia was applied to cowards. And the word arsenokoites is highly problematic. It’s made up of the two roots arsen (male) and koiten (bed) with a sexual connotation, so it has been interpreted in many ways throughout the Middle Ages to modern times, but there are uses that suggest “homosexual” is in inaccurate translation. Patriarch John IV of Constantinople, in a passage dealing with coercive and non-procreative sex, speaks of “…many men [who] commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.”. [Boswell, John (1981). Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality: gay people in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the fourteenth century. University of Chicago Press. p. 364.] If a husband can commit arsenokoitia with his wife, arsenokoites can NOT be interpreted universally as “homosexual.”

      Make your argument that I must become a Christian. That is a valid argument. Show me in our Constitution and its Amendments where you possess the power to force my compliance with your faith. You can’t make that argument. Therefore, don’t tell me that you can write your Christian faith into civil law any more than I can write my faith into civil law.

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