Come, Let Us Reason Together Part 1
By Ron and Joanne Highley
Though Scripture has been misinterpreted since its beginning, it is essential to keep seeking for a unified understanding of truth for the sake of the Church’s stability and it’s witness in the world. Anyone overcoming addictive behavior especially needs a clear grasp of Scripture because the nagging sin problem brings feelings of condemnation and hinders one’s faith in God’s mercy and ability to fully deliver. We have often seen the perception of Scripture skewed by the emotional responses of traumatized people. Knowing His Word and becoming more intimate with the Holy Spirit make a solid foundation on which to stand against the recurring itches and twitches of the old sin-habit, the foul counsel of the enemy of our souls, and the sensual lures of today’s world.
We begin this series with the hope that it will shed some light on the Scripture verses that have been a puzzle to some people. We trust the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to all who seek it. This first selection is a good example of the intent of a passage being quite clear to some people and yet confusing to others.
Was St. Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ homosexual temptation?
II Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
This Scripture has been mistakenly taken by some to mean that St. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was homosexual temptation. Or, that one’s homosexuality could be considered a “thorn in the flesh” comparable to what Paul was given. Many people feel, “Paul didn’t ask for his thorn and it wasn’t taken away when he prayed; I didn’t ask for homosexual feelings and they weren’t taken away when I prayed. So, this is my thorn in the flesh and I’m stuck with it, but I know God’s grace is sufficient for me.” Here are a few points that will help dispel this misinterpretation:
If St. Paul’s thorn in the flesh had been homosexual temptation and it had been “given” to him with the Lord’s permission, then God would be making homosexuality something edifying to Paul – a kind of weakness that will “improve” him by keeping him from conceit and pride. Such an interpretation goes against the character of God. His Word always speaks of homosexuality as abomination and idolatry. God would want St. Paul free of these things, because they lead to destruction, not edification. This thorn could not have been any sin, because God would not give sin to edify anyone! St. Paul’s thorn in the flesh could not be homosexual temptation because God does not tempt anyone. This is verified in James 1:13:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God.”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
We have often seen the intent of the II Corinthians Scripture distorted by the emotions of someone who has asked God to take away homosexual desires and yet is still plagued by them. Because the person cannot figure out why God would not remove these desires, he or she will begin to think “Maybe God wants me to have these, like Paul, as a thorn in the flesh or as my cross to bear.”
We must gently help them to see that this is not only distortion but also a lack of understanding of how God deals with such desires. There are many who have prayed earnestly for the desires to be removed, and the Lord is not indifferent to such prayers. However, our view is that God knows that if He took away the homosexual desires, much of the strong motivation to change would be removed and yet the person would be left with the roots – buried emotions, false identity, ungodly thought patterns, a false concept of God and arrested development. He would not be spurred by inner conflict to resolve and clean out these issues.
Indeed, this indifference to change is obvious in those who have removed the conflict by accepting the lie that God has made them this way and it is good to be “gay”. No conflict, no problem, no desire to change. However, the problem remains, whether the person feels it or believes it or not.
This is the sorry state of so many today as the “gay” ideology spreads its cancer. This also explains why they will become infuriated with any who claim that God says homosexuality is not good. They have much invested in their personal belief system and it is being assaulted. This is upsetting and frightening, and makes them appear to need a “cure”, an idea they have rejected.
We maintain that there is nothing good in homosexuality and God would never use it as a state that we must accept for edification or character building. Paul’s “thorn” clearly was for his good, though painful.