As one of our United States legalizes same-sex marriage and one of our state's openly gay politicians announces his upcoming plans to become a parent with his partner, homosexuality makes an often-traveled trip to center stage in American politics and sociology. It brought to mind Paul's writing to the church at Rome. After discussing the sin of women committing homosexuality, Paul says that "men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (1:27). To read Edward Gibbons and others' writings on the rampant practice of homosexuality of an empire that eventually fell certainly calls to mind the ancient writer's axiom that "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov. 14:34). The prophets repeatedly foretold the doom of heathen nations due to their immorality. Thus, nations pay the price for the immorality of its citizens. But, there is something more specific seemingly intended by Paul in the words afore-quoted.
What is the due penalty for the perversion described by Paul? Some have pondered whether or not, at least in modern times, AIDS is such a penalty. Yet, though F. LaGard Smith acknowledged it might be (Sodom's Second Coming 12), he also notes, "thousands of drug-using adults, as well as innocent children, are dying of the disease as well; and, of course, lesbians are hardly touched by it" (ibid.). Certainly, promiscuous sexuality, whether homosexual or heterosexual, exposes one to the risk of disease and sickness. However, Paul's focus seems on the spiritual consequences of practicing this sin. First, it is perversion. It changes God's natural design for sexuality and the family structure. Second, it is punishable. Paul says that those who practice this behavior subject themselves to a "due penalty." Contextually, that penalty extends to the eternal (32). Third, it is prurient. Paul's exact wording is "indecent acts," a word which in literal usage meant "deformed," "unattractive," and "unpresentable" (cf. 1 Cor. 12:23). So, acts modified by such a word present God's view concerning their immoral nature.
The bottom line is that there is a spiritual price to pay for sin, and this extends to homosexuality! It is a due penalty, exacted because the acts are indecent and perverse.
Mounce calls these verses the clearest New Testament teaching on homosexuality, adding that Paul herein describes it "'shameful,' 'unnatural,' 'indecent,' and as a 'perversion.' By contrast, the Greco-Roman society of Paul's day tolerated homosexuality with considerable ease. Among some advocates it was viewed as superior to heterosexuality. Barclay notes that "fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were homosexuals" (Vol 27: Romans 82). No matter how accepting of sin a society is, God's immutable law of sowing and reaping will come to fruition. May we respect that and revere Him.