Vol. 1 - No. 1
An Age of Shame
by Robert L. McDonald
In the first century, at the time the religion of Christ was spreading across the borders of provinces of the Empire Rome was at its greatest. There was a general peace within the limits: the formation of military roads, the suppression of piracy, the ever presence of legions, the voyages of grain fleets, the spread of the Latin Language in the West and an extension of the realm of the Empire itself. Rome was at its summit in power, wealth and prestige throughout the world. At the same time, there was an appearance of a deep and wide-spread corruption which seemed to defy any human remedy.
Even though the apostle Paul was writing on a general situation in the first chapter of Romans, I am convinced he especially had Rome in mind when he said, "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge God gave them over to a reprobate mind…" (Romans 1:24-28)
There are two words that I direct to your attention in this reading. The first is found in verse 24. LUST. It is from the Greek epithumia. Aristotle said this word means the "reaching out after pleasure." The Stoics said the idea conveyed by the word was a "reaching after pleasure which defies all reason." Thayer informs us the word means a "desire, craving, longing….specifically the desire for what is forbidden."
Even though the word is sometimes used in a good sense, it usually carried an immoral idea. This is the way the apostle Paul used it in the text under consideration. The Romans had sunk to a depraved condition to work all kinds of uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies.
Another key word in our study is found in verse 26: vile affections. It is from the Greek pathos. Kittle tells us this word "denotes experience….in the N. T. scandalous vices of homosexuality….sexual perversion….erotic passions." We have an insight as to the depths of sin that some will go. Such was the condition at Rome when Paul went there.
God has always allowed man to choose his Lifestyle. He may choose what is good; he may choose what is bad. He exercises his will of choice. "Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness" (Ephesians 4:19) shows these had a choice between good and evil. They chose to give themselves over to lasciviousness. Without choice, there is no goodness. Before all of us are decisions which we must make--choosing the good or the bad. Those of whom the apostle was writing were being drawn to make bad choices through the lusts of their own hearts. Such a strong desire led to still further immorality by dishonoring their own bodies between themselves.
This was an age when things seemed out of control. There were isolated wars at different parts of the Empire. Pleasure ruled the hearts of most Romans especially as they delighted in the sports when gladiators would be called upon to fight to the death. Men were taught to hate. Slaves were bribed to betray their masters. Virgil said, "Right and wrong were confounded." Seutonius tells us that "no day passed but someone was executed." Propertius wrote, "I see Rome, proud Rome, perishing, the victim of her own prosperity." Even at a time when Rome was at its greatest, it was crumbling from within.
It was an age of unparalleled luxury. It is difficult for us to imagine the degree of luxury of the Romans of that day, especially when we live in such a land of ours today. The Romans were wealthy, filled with pride, anxious to display their riches. Such an attitude toward material things led to all kinds of extravagant use of things. The public baths delivered water through silver taps. It was said that Caligula sprinkled gold dust on the arena instead of saw dust before the games were played. Luxury was more ruthless than war. Men scratched and clawed for greater wealth. In a society like this, the apostle Paul wrote Timothy, "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:9-10) Wealth was so great and affluence was so common that many became bored with a lifestyle common to so many. To overcome this boredom, some turned to the commission of crime for a new-found joy to satisfy an empty life.
This was an age of unparalleled immorality. It has been said that not a single case of divorce was reported in the first 520 years of Rome. However, by AD 50, divorce was a common experience. Women married to be divorced; and they were divorced to be married. The high-matrons dated the years by the names of their husbands instead of the Caesar in power. There was a breakdown in the home because of the immorality that was so widespread. It is said that Empress Agrippina, the wife to Claudius, would leave the palace at night to go to the brothel as a prostitute. Rome had lost all sense of decency.
This was an age when Rome experienced total wickedness. Homosexuality was rampant. Fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were homosexuals. Rome was a latter day Sodom. "The men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly." This is the vile affection spoken of by the inspired writer.
One is not born a homosexual. He does not inherit homosexual tendencies as claimed by the sex perverts today. This lifestyle is cultivated. Men, and women, experimenting with this morally dishonoring passion, until they reduce themselves lower than the beast. Homosexuality is uniquely human. No mammal, in its natural state, seeks and prefers same-sex sexual gratification. This is found uniquely among human homosexuals. How ridiculous for one to charge God with implanting the sexual perversion tendencies in one at birth and then when the person begins to fulfill that desire, to renounce him. No, reader friend, the homosexual becomes what he is due to an experimentation in unnatural sex until addicted by totally searing the conscience, removing all sense of decency from the heart and giving one's self over completely to the vilest, of all sins.
Man had become so depraved he could no longer be reached with the truth. He deliberately put God out of his knowledge so as to do those things which are not convenient. He used his free will to become what he became. His choice was to reduce himself, morally, to a lifestyle lower than any beast on the earth to give himself over wholly to a sexual perversion which has always been regarded as a scourge of the earth. Regardless of all of the legislation by our civil authorities and the gay rights movements parading up and down our city streets, there is nothing men can do to give the homosexual an acceptance in society. He has always been an outcast. He always will be. The very act is so repulsive that no spiritually minded person wants to be associated with them. God has given them over to do these vile things. He has condemned their lifestyle and will one day assign them to an eternal torment.