Deviants and Deviance, two words that outrage the political left: words that timid Christians are consequently afraid to use for fear of liberal backlash. But they are words that go to the heart of what it means to be a Christian, since they relate to the order of Creation in which the biblical worldview is grounded.
Recent news stories about the audacious deviant Elly Barnes and her nationwide campaign to “completely smash heteronormativity” in U.S. public schools offer a teachable moment on these important words and concepts.
Deviance is a measurement of the difference of a copy from the original design. It judges the suitability of a thing for the purpose for which it was created. If we were manufacturing ceramic coffee cups, for example, a defect that caused an imperfection in the color of the glazing would be a relatively inconsequential deviance, but a deviance that resulted in dime sized holes in the bottom would make the cup unusable for its intended purpose.
In sexuality, God’s model is the “One Flesh Paradigm.”
Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them,” and
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
This is the Father God’s unmistakable prescription for exclusive, binary, heterosexual, lifelong human sexual relationships (aka “heteronormativity”) which was reaffirmed by Jesus in the Gospels.
Matthew 19:4-9: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Jesus not only affirmed the “One Flesh Paradigm,” by which all sexuality outside heterosexual marriage is judged deviant by definition, but He also indirectly addressed the issue of tolerance in his comments on divorce.
“Tolerance” is another politically charged word related to deviance. In manufacturing, since no copy is ever truly perfect, there must always be a determination of what degree of deviance is “within reasonable tolerance.” Using our coffee cup example, the color imperfection might be “within tolerance,” but the dime sized holes would certainly not be.
Since human beings are imperfect representations of God’s image in us, He also set standards for limited tolerance of deviance from His paradigm. The best example is marital polygamy and concubinage. Jacob’s marriage to two wives and sexual relations with their handmaids produced 12 sons (the 12 tribes) from four women. This was a clear violation of God’s paradigm, meaning that it was “sin” (“missing the mark”) and as such produced some bad and lasting consequences for Jacob’s family and society.
But the deviance was close enough to the paradigm that God could and obviously did accommodate it in His plan. (This is NOT an endorsement or condonation of these harmful sexual sins for today but an observation about God’s mercy.)
We see God being similarly accommodating in non-sexual sins, such as the rejection of His system of judges in favor of a monarchy (1 Samuel 8:5-7) and the abandonment of His portable tabernacle in favor of a temple (2 Samuel 7:4-7). In both cases, the deviance from His model was close enough to be tolerated and was thus accommodated, but they produced some negative consequences that forever after affected human society.
In contrast to polygamy and concubinage, God held a zero-tolerance policy for some other sexual sins, including homosexuality and bestiality. Indeed, Leviticus chapter 18 provides the specific list of sexual and sex-related sins that were not only capital crimes, but His specific justification for purging the Canaanites from the Holy Land. He explained, “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you” (Leviticus 18:24-26). (This is NOT to endorse or promote capital punishment of homosexuals under the letter of today’s secular laws, even though the implicit moral principles of God’s law-above-the-law remain constant and binding.)
These particular sins deviated so far from His One Flesh Paradigm that God would not tolerate them. And of these sins, male homosexuality was singled out for special emphasis, being the first form of sexual sin in the Leviticus 18 list to be designated “toeva” (abomination), the harshest term of condemnation in the Hebrew language. God’s consistent warning from Genesis to Revelation that this specific sexual sin would always draw His wrath is one of the clearest teachings of the Bible for those brave enough to accept it: Noah’s flood was blamed on homosexual marriage by the ancient rabbinical interpreters (Talmud, Genesis Rabbah, 25:5:4); both Peter and Jude expressly warn that God’s purpose for incinerating Sodom and Gomorrah revealed the societal context of the last-days destruction of the earth (Jude 1:7, 2 Peter 2:4-9); Paul identified homosexuality as the defining behavioral disorder of apostate societies (Romans 1:18-32); and John prophesied it will be a defining characteristic of the Antichrists’s kingdom (Revelation 11:7-8).
This is why homosexuals have accurately been called “deviants” from time immemorial, and why authentic Christianity never condones or accommodates homosexuality or any of the sexual sins God condemns. It is why true Christians firmly embrace the maxim “Love the Sinner, Not the Sin” and should characterize their churches as “welcoming and transforming” but never “affirming” of that sin.
To the threat of extreme and expanding sexual deviance such as is exhibited by Elly Barnes’ teachings, and by the diabolical lie that homosexuals are born “gay” and cannot change, true Christians compassionately offer the only real solution: recovery and healing in Jesus Christ: “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 men who submit to or perform homosexual acts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).