One evening at the dinner table I was presented with the question pertaining to the rainbow. Why do those in the LGBTQ+ movement use the rainbow as their symbol of choice? To be sure a very interesting question, and from the Christian viewpoint very poignant.
What I would like to do today is present my tentative thesis for the reasoning behind the use of the rainbow. Now I will start this discussion with a bit of a preface. I have not researched the LGBTQ+ reasoning for the use of this symbol. Nor are my conclusions drawn from anything other than a biblical perspective on the issue at hand. In the same breath I am not offering exclusivity to my claims. It may be that the conclusions that I have drawn based off my own reflection on the issue sound similar to another’s. If so, then I will only add what the writer of Ecclesiastes rightly asserted,
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us” (Eccl 1.9-10; ESV).
Before we get to the “why,” we need to address the “what.” So, let us first entertain what the rainbow is meant to convey, before we tread down the path of why it is now being used.
What is the Rainbow for?
The rainbow was given for a sign of the peace treaty that God—the Creator—enacted after the global flood of Noah’s day. “Did you say, ‘global flood’ as in the entire earth?” you ask. Yes, that’s what I said because that’s what the Bible says. The flood covered the entire earth.
For “the waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him on the ark” (Gen 7.18-23).
Now you might find that ridiculous and that’s fine, but you really don’t have much room to talk. Some of you probably believe in a Big Bang from nothing, or water covering the surface of Mars at one time in the past, or your yard chicken being a modern-day T-Rex. The Biblical account speaks of water covering the highest mountains under the heaven by a distance of about 22 feet using the small end conversion to inches (17.5in per cubit). Water always seeks a level plain, so there really is no way getting around the concept of a flood covering the entire earth in Genesis 6-8.
Moreover, the covenant that God makes with Noah, his offspring, and the rest of living-breathing things on the earth would likewise be nonsensical. Why? Because there have been local floods throughout history since that time.
After the flood, God says to Noah:
“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen 9.9-11).
As I said earlier the rainbow was a sign of God’s peace treaty with the inhabitants of the earth (on a global scale). He determined to never again destroy the earth in way that He did at that time. He gave a universal promise with the giving of His bow. “His bow?” you ask. Yes, His bow.
“This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set MY bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth…This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen 9.12-16, 17; emphasis added).
The rainbow is a symbol of God’s peace. He has in effect, set His war bow up in the clouds promising not to take it up again in the way in which He formerly had. You may wonder, “What would cause the Creator of heaven and earth to destroy His own creation, to draw His bow in a warlike fashion?” The reason is given in Genesis 6:5, 11-12:
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”
The end of the matter then is this. God created man after a certain fashion to bear His image. But in his/her sin, man sought out every way imaginable to rebel against their Creator. The violence in v. 11 is often viewed as person versus person, but ultimately the violence is an expression of hostility against God and His holiness. Thus, unrighteousness filled the earth. And human rebels who act in such a manner and refuse to repent, can only expect one outcome:
“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, god will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts” (Psa 7.11-13).
But after God’s anger had been sated. After His just punishment had been delivered, He promised peace. By hanging His bow in the clouds, He has promised peace. This peace is limited, however, by the method that God describes—destroying the earth and that which has the breath of life in it with water.
Why the Rainbow?
So, knowing that the rainbow symbolizes on the one hand God’s peace, but on the other hand war…why would anyone want to choose it as a representation for something that He finds extremely distasteful? You mean God disproves the LGBTQ+ movement? Uhmmm…yes. There is no question that He does, for “the Bible nowhere approves of homosexual deeds or desires. Nor is there is a single example of God’s approval of homosexuality.”[i]
Moreover, every year we are inundated with a Gay Pride celebration. Scripture is clear on the issue of pride as well:
“The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride” (Psa 31.23).
“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Prov 8.13)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16.18).
What does the LGBTQ+ have to be proud about? In raising the banner of the bow, we see that they are those who raise their war bow against the God of heaven and earth. Like Nimrod (cf. Gen 10.8-12) they take the life God has granted, the goodness that He has given, and the peace that He has offered and they throw it in His face. They have reveled in that which He has declared is unlawful, unholy and unrighteous.
But they can, in some respect, be understood. For the measure of the fallen sinner is “hostility to God” they “[do] not submit to God’s law; indeed” they “cannot” (Rom 8.7). My question for you is why do we see so many who bear the name of Christ lift up this “bow” with them by approving of what they do.
“Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?” (Psa 94.16).
If we were truly loving we would warn those who contend with their Maker. We would point them to the One who is able to save. For it is written,
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor passive homosexual partners, nor dominant homosexual partners, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, not drunkards, not abusive persons, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And some of you were these things, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor 6.9-11; LEB; italics mine).
The rainbow has always been a sign of the covenantal peace that God has promised all creatures in whom possess the breath of life. He has effectively hung His war bow in the clouds as a two-point reminder. On the one hand it is a reminder of the destruction God promises to deal out in regards to rebellious humanity. On the other hand, though, it is a sign of God’s gracious mercy—undeserved, unmerited.
The choice of the LGBTQ+ use of the rainbow as a symbol is very telling. In raising it as a banner in their marches they are essentially showing their hand as an act of war against the God of heaven and earth. They have taken the symbol used as a reminder of peace and justice to elevate that which God has rightly condemned. I am not convinced that every person who is a partaker of this assembly is fully aware of what they are embracing and proudly stating. I will grant that much of it is done in ignorance. However, this does not remove the principalities and powers that are behind it in secret pushing it. Nor does it remove their guilt.
At the same time, I do not believe that homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and “plus” is the unpardonable sin. Scripture is clear that God has saved men and women who have been enslaved to such things. The gospel is the power of God that frees people from their sin. If you are a Christian you ought to pray for those individuals that God would grant repentance. That they would throw down their arms and submit to Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian what you should not do is pretend that they are “okay” just as they are, as if God does not need to draw such form the dirt and mire that they are covered in.
For the end is this…. Warring against your Maker has only one outcome…and it’s not good.
To be sure this is a hot-button issue in our generation. Many out of fear of retribution won’t touch it. But love demands that we speak.
[i] James R. White and Jeffrey D. Neill, the Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality (Minneapolis, MN: Bethan House, 2002), 157.