26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27 (ESV)
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…. Of course the reason is the exchange of the truth of God for a lie. The dishonorable passions that Paul uses to illustrate are the homosexual relations that were so common in antiquity, at least in Greece and Rome. This sort of thing was something the Jewish people of the time found especially repugnant about heathen life. It illustrated the shame more than anything else.
What’s strange is that when a person reads Paul’s letters one gets the impression that his congregations were full of people who had engaged in homosexual sins. I say that because he has to address that sin quite often. The mark of good preaching is to address the sins your audience is guilty of. It’s not hard to imagine that in a society where such practices were so common, that those who were tempted to them would fall into them even after becoming Christian. Then there was the matter that many of his fellow Christians were slaves who had little choice over such things. Yet, the people to whom Paul writes seem to love Paul incredibly. They didn’t get mad that he addressed their sin. They didn’t think he was “gay bashing” or any such thing. Paul would be aghast at such behavior himself in any case. One gets the distinct impression from his letters that as much as he disagreed with the practices of homosexuality, he had a profound love for all Christians, indeed for all people. Indeed it was this love that drove him to address this sin in the manner he does. And those who needed to hear it responded to that love. Paul offered them something that there sin did not, the love of God, the forgiveness of sins, mercy and salvation. So often following the desires of your heart leaves a person empty, cold and the shameless acts leave a trail of shame. You can only use and abuse yourself and others so long before you come to feel broken yourself. What they sought in the shameless acts always alluded them, even as it does today. But Paul was able to give them what they really wanted, love, the love of Christ who died for the sins of the world.