Homosexuality, Christianity, and the Bible: Moving the Conversation Forward pt2
After a few weeks and two posts on the matter of homosexuality and Christianity, I’m still having a hard time moving my mind and heart away from it. The continuous responses I’m receiving and conversations its started has kept me wanting to move the conversation forward. Most interactions have been warm and encouraging, for which I am very grateful. Those that have not been, still seem to end well.
The reason I find importance in talking about homosexuality and Christianity is because I am seeing the absence of this conversation cause a lot of damage, on both sides. It is not helping churches to be unclear on whether or not there are limits to their level of acceptance (most might welcome a gay person, but where service and ministry are concerned, it becomes complicated). It is also not helping everyone outside of churches to feel the awkward ambiguity, especially as it relates to being an expression and impression of Jesus.
I have had a number of pastors and people question me over my theology. Part of me understands these questions, while another part of me is perplexed. I am a licensed Foursquare pastor because of our radically progressive and inclusive roots. While Foursquare is now a more conservative and traditional denomination, the originator of our movement was a remarkable and somewhat reckless woman, who we affectionately refer to as Sister Amiee.
She defied many of the traditional boxes we still find in religion today. She helped us to begin seeing deeper and greater dimensions of Scripture. During her lifetime, the understanding of divorce was very one-dimensional and damning. Sister Amiee, though, had an exceptionally complex life and was divorced and remarried twice. I am thankful that her relationship with God is revered and respected because of its fruit, rather than deemed as invalid because of a moralistic theological opinion.
While Jesus never blatantly addressed homosexuality, he did directly and bluntly address remarried divorcees in Matthew 5.31/32, calling it “adultery,” which appears to be Scripturally condemned far more times and explicitly than homosexuality throughout the entire Bible. Thankfully, today the majority of Christianity understands that these statements are symbolic and meaningful, much more wonderfully than on some level of face-value legalism. Scripture always aims to lead us to these deeper levels, not mere moral behavior-control; to Relationship with God and others, rather than mere opinion about God and others.
Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules? “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men. These things have indeed a show of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility and neglecting of the body, but are worthless against the indulgence of the flesh.
– Colossians 2.20-23
They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
– 1 Timothy 4.3-5
In most Christian denominations today, the seemingly clear words coming directly from our Lord about divorce and adultery, along with all the many passages addressing adultery, are understood differently. We have 6 verses regarding homosexuality and over 50 about adultery, but we thankfully aren’t preaching or saying behind closed doors that remarried divorcees need to return to their original spouses or else be rejected by God, the church, or from inheriting the kingdom of God.
So, why hasn’t our interpretation of the 50+ verses translated to the 6? Maybe it’s because we know so many remarried divorcees who are obviously in an intimate and fruitful relationship with Christ, like Sister Amiee. Maybe it’s because we can more easily identify with their heterosexual circumstances. Either way, it is revealing an inconsistency in our theology and treatment of people who are made in the image of and loved by God.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
– Galatians 3:28
…there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
I should confess and clarify, I filter everything Paul writes, and all of Scripture, through the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus stated that all of the Law and Prophets hang on loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbors as ourselves. (Quite a few people have had a knee jerk reaction to my emphasis on this passage and Love because they felt I was being sentimental. I promise you, that could not be farther from the truth. Love is patient, kind, does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love is brutally challenging and life-changing and there is no greater culmination of this reality than the cross. Sincerely trying to live that way, inside and out, on a daily basis is life’s greatest and most daring and Divine challenge. It is hardly sentimental. This is what I mean when I use the word love: "God is love,” 1 John 4.16. So, as I was saying...)
Jesus stated that all of the Law and Prophets hang on loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbors as ourselves, but there are pieces of Scripture that don't actually hang on those two commandments. Some even contradict them and, in turn, Jesus contradicts those passages; even contradicting the very words attributed to God in Leviticus 24.20 & Exodus 21.24 when He says in Matthew 21.24, "You've heard it said 'eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person. Love your enemy and bless those who persecute you."
It is not my goal to belittle or demean Scripture. I love the Bible, read it on a regular basis, believe in its relevance and importance, study it, seek God with and through it, wrestle with it, and allow it to guide my life. But, I filter everything I read through Jesus' life (present then and present now). Simply having a knowledge of Scripture is not what Jesus wants for or from us, neither is it what Jesus modeled. Again, I’m not wanting or trying to change or devalue Scripture, but to lift it up, open it widely, and look under, over, and through it with the lens of Christ. The words have far greater meaning than what is at face-value.
Christ is the tentpole of Scripture; the fulfillment of it and the revelation of God. If something doesn’t hang on the commandments “Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as your very self,” then I’m not going to waste time trying to hold it up myself (though I will wrestle with it). Jesus Christ is the point of Scripture, not the other way around.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
– Jesus, John 5.39/40.