Pastor Kong Hee and Sexual Morality

Again referring to Christians who live unrighteous lives: “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 homosexuals, nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you …” (1 Cor 6:9-11). If a Christian is living in sexual immorality and you offer him your fellowship, not only do you profane God’s Word, you are excusing him from the responsibility to repent and forsake his sin. Pastor Kong Hee, Daily Devotion, Sexual Morality 26 Apr 2010

I am often amazed at Gay Christians attending City Harvest Church (CHC) regularly as their home church. Perhaps, God called them there and the preaching, worship and fellowship is great resulting in the biggest mega church in Singapore. The attendance for City Harvest Church is so large that it is equivalent to the entire Methodist Church in Singapore, and this is a great achievement. With many gay friends giving thousands each week to the mega churches in general, it would be pertinent to reflect that the fellowship offered by CHC is conditional at best. In reality, Gays are considered to be living in sexual immorality and we are not to offer gays fellowship as not to condone their actions.

In order to understand the verses, and why the “kingdom of God” is mentioned, the context is the worship of the Goddess Aphrodite, a naked and beautiful female god. The worship is characterized by thousands of female prostitutes serving the many thousands of sailors visiting the port city of Corinth. It was a national religion, and the goddess for the city. With the rise of Christianity, there was a conflict in terms of serving God and serving the goddess Aphrodite. Paul is insisting here that when we serve Aphrodite, we have no part in the Christian Kingdom of God. Pastor Kong Hee has glossed over the context of 1 Cor 6:9-11 to generalize it to refer to sexual immorality and homosexuality, but the context was which god we worship and serve and not necessarily the act of sexual immorality by itself.

Pastor Kong also referred to “homosexuals, nor Sodomites”, and indeed, 1 Cor 6:9-11, is one of the common clobber passage used against gays. However, it is like saying that the problem with Geylang, is gay sex which is a deception and a delusion. One of the simple errors that Pastor Kong may have committed is adding to the bible, of the translation which has certain flaws from the original Greek, especially concerning the word “homosexuality” and “Sodomites”. Being a Senior Pastor, and bible school graduate knowledgeable in Greek, he would have known that the translation is suspect at best. Not only is Pastor Kong profaning the Word of God, he is accusing and condemning the entire gay community. Yet, we do not hear a comment from him regarding his good friend Jack Neo whose allegations of sexual immorality captured the news headlines of the entire nation not too long ago.

(1 Cor 6:9 NIV) 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 prostitutes (malakos) nor homosexual offenders (arsenokoites)

(1 Cor 6:10 NIV) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

(1 Cor 6:11 NIV) 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.

The above clobber passages in Cor 6:9-11 have been commonly used against Gays and equating them as wicked and cannot become a Christian. However, even a casual glance at the English translation does not make inherent sense and it seems inconsistent. For the passages refer to "wickedness" that deals with how we harm others or is unrighteous. Therefore, you have a lists of the vices from worshipping other gods in our idol worship, stealing, being greedy for what belongs to others, drunkard orgies, swindling money, and then male prostitutes ? and homosexual offenders?. The NKJV translates the "male prostitutes" as " effeminate " and the homosexual offenders as "sodomisers". So we have major inconsistencies between bible translations - "male prostitutes" or " effeminate ", and homosexual offenders or sodomites? Also, if male prostitution was referred to, then why wasn't female prostitution mentioned although being much more prevalent. Are they not equally sinful? The mention of a class of people also seem inconsistent with the general theme of wicked actions. Are the translations correct? as they contradict each other and also inconsistent with the general context.

The meaning of the verses becomes clear as we go to the original Greek source and how the words are used in ancient literature. A totally different interpretation arises that is consistent with the general theme of the passage:-

- "Malakos"

This is the Greek word that is incorrectly translated as "Male Prostitutes" and "Effeminate" persons. In Greek, the term refers to "soft" and "softies" or "weaklings". Aristotle used malakos to denote unrestrained indulgence in bodily pleasures, or licentiousness. Hence it is far more likely to be a general reference to people who are weak willed and cannot resist sin and have no self control in general. A general translation such as "licentious" or "wanton" would better preserve the sense of the original

Some translators assume that malakos is paired with the word, arsenokoités, and is interpreted as referring to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship, rendered as 'male homosexual offenders, perverts' (NIV) and 'sodomites' (NRSV ).   There is no evidence for such usage elsewhere in ancient Greek literature. To argue that together, the two words, malakos and arsenokoités refer to passive and active partners in homosexual intercourse, belies the historical and lexicographical evidence and perpetuates a homophobic prejudice or a deliberate act of mistranslation has injected a bias into the text.

- "Arsenokoites"

This is a uncommon word in the Greek culture and may be a slang term used by Paul. It is a combination of two Greek words. "Koites" generally denotes licentious sexual activities, and corresponds to the active person in intercourse. The prefix "Arsen", simply means "male". It could mean a male that has sex with lots of women. This may refers to temple prostitution by heterosexuals or men who sleeps around with other women or wicked sexual abusers understanding the culture then demean the loosing army by raping them.

The over focus of 1 Cor 6:9, may detract us from the overall purpose of Paul's letter to the Corinthians which is about spirituality. Paul was concerned that the Christians in Corinth were slowly assimilated to the cultures and religious spiritual practices of Corinth and begin to lack the power which was so apparent in the first century Christians. For Paul, Christianity is not about Psychology, Positive thinking, or a best speakers using persuasive words and human wisdom. Without a clear move and demonstration of the Spirit and power (1 Cor 2:4), we have no speaking rights. The Holy Spirit is also not the same spirit that the Corinthians are familiar with the many idol worshipers in the city worshiping the spirit of this world (1 Cor 2:12) but it comes from the God the Farther. The Holy Spirit teaches wisdom in ways contrary to man's wisdom, opposite to that which is natural to men, and are foolishness to them unless they are spiritually discerned. Paul admonished the Corinthians that they are but babes in Christ and not spiritually discerning.

Some churches have effectively failed to see the true message of the Paul when they take on the self righteous posture and assign it Homosexuals. Yet, the first clear mention of the sexual orientation of those who indulge in sexual immorality, it was a case of a heterosexual affair. So when Paul mentions sexual immorality, his examples clearly indicates that he is referring to heterosexual immorality. In 1 Cor 5:1, Paul lamented that "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife.". The news and extent of their heterosexual immorality reaches Paul and not any homosexual orgies. The book of Corinthians is about the lack of Spiritual maturity and discernment leading to immorality in their heterosexual relationships. When we blame Gays, we missed the Spiritual gems that Paul is trying to convey.

Blaming gays for our sexual immorality and quoting incorrect translations to support the condemnation is actually taking advantage of the weak and the marginalized and abusing them. We treat the mega church pastors as gods and this can be unhealthy. The Gay community have been so abused that they don’t feel offended when Pastor Kong Hee misquotes 1 Cor 6:9-11 to indirectly ask his church to deny fellowship to Gay Christians. Gay Christians in the mega churches do deserve better. However, nothing will change until we believe in ourselves, that God loves and accepts us including our sexual orientation. We have to stand up, because in standing up, we are standing up for Jesus, so that the Gay community may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Church and its self righteousness is the problem, and not God nor the bible or the Gay community.

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