Moving the Conversation Forward: Homosexuality & Christianity
Personally, these past few days have been quite a journey. I had recently shared an article regarding my Scriptural beliefs and understanding of the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity. They differ from what is traditional and I felt moved to share them. I’ve experienced an outpouring of responses, mostly very positive. It’s seemed like what I’ve experienced God do in my life has resonated with a lot of people, which has been a very sweet confirmation. It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
The texts, emails, comments, and messages I’ve been receiving have kept this matter on my mind and prompted me to follow up. One friend-pastor encouraged me to “move the conversation forward,” and those words left a great impression on me. I had only shared my beliefs because I felt prompted in my heart to be honest and wait for what God would do next. This has been very exciting.
Before going any further, I want to clarify that theologizing about the acceptance or rejection of a homosexual person’s faith without an actual, meaningful relationship with someone in that position is not helpful, nor is it what Jesus modeled. Even if you’re convinced homosexuality is a sin, that is all the more reason to be sharing a table with a homosexual person regularly; become good friends. If, when we do set this table, we find that people do not want to sit with us, we should observe and reflect on how differently people who were considered "outsiders" by the church regarded and understood their relationship with the one we call our Lord and Savior. This is what Jesus modeled and it is where God will continue to grow and move the church.
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
– John 5:19
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they [Pharisees and religious people] say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.
– Jesus, Matthew 11.19
The church will not grow and mature by merely getting all the “right” people in one room together. If we’re the Body of Christ, we have to behave like Christ. We need to be less concerned with who is “right” or in or acceptable and more concerned with the love, service, and sacrifice of Christ being incarnated in our own lives. If Jesus was as concerned with what is right or wrong and true or false as we’ve been, he would have spoken much more bluntly, rather than use messy metaphors and symbolic language.
Someone had expressed concern that I was making the mistake of loving our culturally biased notion of love, rather than Jesus, the person, embodiment, and expression of True Love. As a deeply rooted Christian, I completely understand and identify with that concern. It is so valid and vital to faith. But again, as a deeply rooted Christian, who shares meaningful relationships with people in the homosexual community and sees Christ in, with, and through them all the time, the Love that I see is not weak, baseless, shallow, romantic, sentimental love. It is the profound, sacrificial, transformational, challenging, and unifying Love of Christ.
Over the last three years, I’ve had a number of Christian friends (some of whom were/are pastors) come out to me, most of the time, unaware of my personal, affirming beliefs. Each one of them is an outstanding person. They are amazingly skilled and wonderful pastors, friends, teachers, speakers, writers, listeners, parents, children, artists, and believers. What I was gifted with by their coming out to me was seeing an extremely painful and beautiful process unfold.
Most of these people have spent decades of their lives fighting with themselves and refusing to be honest with others or themselves. They’ve gone to counseling; they’ve exhausted themselves in prayer; they’ve gone to therapists; they’ve ignored and rejected a primary function in their humanity, all in an effort to love and be loved according to how they’ve understood Scripture and the church. They have vetted themselves. God, I wish we all would spend this kind of time digging so deeply and desperately for the truth of who we are, how God made us, and how to live honestly with our faith.
For a Christian to come out and remain a Christian reveals that their faith is not about popularity or social acceptance. Their faith is a deep rooted conviction, and it defines who they are so much that they are unable to be dishonest about who they are. We need people like this in our churches, who’ve vetted and dug up themselves and stand honestly before God and everyone. We need their voices at our tables and contributing to our conversations.
My reasoning is shaped by an understanding I hold with a piece of Scripture in Luke 7.2-10. It’s when the Roman Centurion Guard sends for Jesus to heal one of his servants. With our knowledge of Roman culture, where homosexuality was commonplace, it’s been easily interpreted that the centurion and his servant, for whom he had such a concern for that he sought an Israelite’s help, may have had a romantic relationship. Jesus responds to this Roman by healing the servant and even tells the Israelites, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.
Even if their relationship was not sexual, it stands out that Jesus asked for absolutely no qualification from this “outsider,” who even worked for the Israelite's literal, violent, cruel oppressors. Jesus simply serves him, honors him, and responds to his faith in Him. Couldn’t and shouldn’t we do just the same?
As Christians, sincere followers of Jesus Christ, if and when Scripture leads us to divide from or judge others, we must return to the example and presence of Christ in our own lives.
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
More than theology, we need Jesus. More than Scripture, we need Jesus. Jesus sits at a table with everyone, those we might deem right and wrong, accepted and unaccepted. If we are serious about seeking, following, and loving Jesus, we must join Him at that table because that is where He will be found. And whatever agenda we might have for everyone sitting with us, it must first and foremost be defined and directed by humility, service, presence, and love in Christ.