In Paul's letter to the Romans, we learn first that God is apparent. Although God's power is invisible, everyone can see the product of God's work. (Cool, I agree.) Also, God's law is apparent because those who violate it suffer. (Go on.) Well, for example,
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.Rom. 1:21-23. Okay, but this doesn't happen much today. So, while I suppose if someone prayed to a statue of a golden calf, it would be sinful, it is not a major problem we have today. How shall we modernize this lesson? Should we ban likeness of animals from our houses? I believe some Muslims take this position, but I don't know any Christians who do. Should we remove all images of Jesus from our churches? I think Quakers do this. Or should we look for practices that suplant our loyality to God and to the Way of Jesus Christ? The modern application for this is those who rely on money for security, when the truth is, on faith can make you secure. (Debatable, I agree, but it is what I believe and I think what Paul is teaching.) So, while attacking statues has the appeal of tracking the letter of the letter, it is more helpful to apply the meaning if we want to get a modern benefit.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.Rom. 1:26-27. This has two purposes. One, I've heard lesbians say on more than one ocassion that nothing in the Bible condemns lesbian relationships. My comments that follow notwithstanding, this seems to through them in the same boat a gay men. More importantly, though, what is the take away from this passage? How do we modernize Paul's advice. I think it is a prohbition against sexual immorality, which I take to be meaningless sex. I think pulling the requirement from Paul to justify banning gay marriage makes as much sense as using the earlier passage to ban nic nacs.