There are many theories on how the meaning of the passages dealing with homosexuality could be interpreted and I have read the gay side of the story and the idea that the scriptures have been mistranslated or have lost their original meaning makes a lot of sense. Also, Jesus accepted everyone and never once said anything about homosexuality.
N. T. Wright addresses those theories in the conversation quoted in the first post of this series. Let me just add this thought about the words of Jesus.
Jesus spoke to a Jewish audience in the First Century. The Law of Moses teaches that homosexual acts are an “abomination” or, as the NIV translates, a “detestable act.” Many other improper sexual acts were also condemned, such as adultery. All came to be referred to as “fornication” in Jewish speech of the day.
(Mat 15:18-20) “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.'”
Without a doubt, his hearers understood “sexual immorality” to include homosexual acts. And Jesus said nothing to change that impression. That’s what the word meant in that time and place.
Paul was a missionary to Gentiles, who were steeped in the Greco-Roman culture that largely approved of homosexual acts. As a result, Paul expressly condemns them — along with various improper heterosexual acts. Jesus did not need to change the Jews’ thinking on homosexuality, as they already considered such behavior wrong.
On the other hand, you are quite right that Jesus ate with prostitutes and publicans and freely forgave the woman caught in adultery. And adultery was a crime that, like having homosexual relations, was punishable by death.
Jesus was roundly condemned by the “religious” people of the day for consorting with such people, but he suffered their criticism in order to bring grace to those who most needed and appreciated it. However, he also insisted that they reform their ways.
Jesus was the master of loving the sinner while hating the sin, and he demonstrates to us how to do exactly that. He gladly associated with those addicted to sin, forgave them, and encouraged them to overcome their sin. He did not condone the sin, but he was willing to suffer that accusation to be with and show love to those trapped in sin.
To be like Jesus, we too must show an extravagant compassion to those caught up in sin. We must call them out of their sin, but never feel too holy to associate with them and help them. And like Jesus, we must help them find God’s forgiveness, and we start the process by first showing them God’s love — not by conditioning our love on their first repenting. It works the other way around.
Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to stop her sin, but she already knew it was sinful. She didn’t need a sermon listing three reasons why adultery is wrong. Rather, she needed a Savior who would provide her with what she was futilely seeking through sex: love.
Now, none of this means that Jesus expected those he forgave to live perfectly thereafter. He did expect them to repent and to resist the temptation.
It’s a distinction many struggle with, especially when the sin is an emotionally charged one. We subconsciously tend to impose a higher standard for repentance for sins we despise, while sins that we’re more comfortable with require less repentance.
But this is not the way of the Christ.