Homosexuality – What should be our response?

I was having a normal day then a few comments came my way that deserve their own post – and honest discussion. Check these out and let me know – what’s the best route here as it concerns our faith?

“Christians don’t have any right to protest against homosexuality or any secular topic” Scratch that and replace with;”Christians don’t have any right to protest against homosexuals or other political agendas”. Note; I can believe something that you don’t without judging you.” (BK)

“Would you agree that the Bible says homosexuality is a great evil?” (BB)

“I would disagree with this assumption as ‘a great evil’ (what does ‘great’ mean exactly?)” (Svs)

This was a highlight of some of the threads from a previous post – so what do you think – what is our best route (or even correct route) as Christians? Oh yeah – the homosexuality issue – bound to push a few buttons – but we need some honest and frank discussion on this issue.

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50 thoughts on “Homosexuality – What should be our response?

  1. Hi Society,

    Thank you for introducing this topic on your blog. You are bound to receive a variety of opinions.

    Here are my two cents:

    1) Human beings are created in the image of God. This image includes sexuality.

    2) Sexuality is complex. Same-sex attraction reflects God’s image as does opposite-sex attraction.

    3) Our sexuality should be expressed through intimacy, caring, love, and commitment.

    4) Prejudice against sexual minorities is prejudice against the image of God.

    5) The best way to overcome prejudice is to seek to understand.

    6) This understanding should begin by understanding real people (as opposed to proof-texting passages from the Bible).

    There’s a start!
    John

  2. Hi Society.
    Sorry it’s been a while since I stopped by. But boy did I stop by for an interesting discussion topic!

    I believe the Bible does say that homosexuality is a great evil. But it says the same thing about envy, hatred, laziness…etc. I understand the uncomfortability that Christians (and many others) feel when confronted by some one who is homosexual. I believe that that uncomfortablility puts homosexuality on our hypersensative radar.

    It’s funny, though. I can honestly say that before I was a Christian, I knew MANY homosexuals because I worked in a bar. I was never totally comfortable around them. But some of them I got along with, and some of them I didn’t, which pretty much makes them like everyone else.
    But now that I have been a Christian for nearly 20 years, the feeling of uncomfortability is greater. I try to treat them just as I would anyone else who is stuck in a sin they enjoy. But being a Christian does seem to magnify it a bit.

    I guess my only course of action is to treat them the same way we would treat anyone else who is not a Christian: Love them and befriend them, and pray that they eventually see things through the eyes of Christ.

  3. I would like to address some things in John’s comment, too.

    I agree that we humans are created in the image of God. But do you seriously believe that God has a sex drive? No. Sexuality is something that God gave us to help a man and a woman become one flesh. If that is not the situation between sexual participants, then it is no longer sex the way it was meant to be. It has become simply a desire to feel good; whether it’s by the sexual act alone, or the emotions that sometimes accompany it.

    Just curious…would you say that heterosexual lust is included in you beliefs about the “image of God”?

  4. Thanks John for that bit of information – and I always enjoy your point of view.

    Danny, good to see you once again (been a while I know) – I think you raised an interesting question about the whole gay issue – sometimes I think we need to just think on these thinga a little deeper – which you seem to do here.

  5. I was uncomfortable with homosexuals before becoming a Christian and for a long time after. I really have never been tested in my decision since coming to the understanding that it doesn’t have to be so but I am sure I can now relate to homosexuals as I do with anyone else, which is.. I will do my best to show them love and respect. Of course, as danny kaye pointed out, some I won’t get along with as with anyone else.

    One thing I would like to point out is that I do believe that homosexuality is a serious sin. Very serious. But so are all sins.

    We all need a good hard reminder of the destructive power of sin in our life now and then.

  6. I’m not sure I agree with John about the sexuality and God image thing, but I love his loving answer.
    I can look in the mirror, and see my image, but it pales in comparison to the complex being that it reflects.
    That said, I tend to just go to my Savior when I have a dilemma. How did He treat people? What did HE say about homosexuality? Nothing. Just something about loving everyone.

  7. I have to agree with Karen on this one. Correct me if I am wrong, but a rebelous child was to be stoned to death according to Jewish law. Do we do that today? I think we need to view scriptures in the light of God’s true character which is love! Defining someone as evil because of a sexual preference is wrong! Greed, selfishness, drunkeness are also sins, but we don’t define those that practice these things as evil. Why? because we are all guilty of them. I say let him without sin throw the first stone!!
    God’s mercy and grace extend far beyond our small world views!!!

  8. You are right that it is a more basic question. And it is one that I don’t believe the Scriptures come right out and answer in total. However, I would hesitate to say that a sex drive is part of God’s image.

    When I read Song of Songs, I will certainly apply it to the Lord’s relationship to us. But I cannot say that it is analogous to our marrages, which is much more likely the intent of SOS.

    In my opinion, being in God’s image is not something we can pin down too tightly. But, in my opinion, there are certainly things in our human-ness that we can exclude, such as our sinful natures and our desire/need for food, sex, warmth…etc. These are things that stricly apply to mortal man.

  9. Chris, you are right that Christians should not call define people as evil just for one particular sin. And I agree that we are all guilty of the sins you listed and MANY more…

    I will add only that we should not back down from confronting sin just because we are guilty of it ourselves. There are plenty of sins that a loving brother or sister could and should call me on that they are guilty of themselves. If they love me, they will not wait until they have mastered the temptation of the sin before they call me on it. And together, we will be strengthened.

    To get a back on topic, though, I do not believe that the sin of homosexuality is similar to drunkeness and other willful sins (as opposed to greed, anger, envy, which are equally evil, but sneak up and get us before while our guard is donw). The practice of homosexuality is something that can be repented of. I say this because I have seen it done. Sure, the temptation may still be there. But the practice of it can be stopped.

    Yes? No?

  10. Hi John,

    If one is concerned with the task of obedience, syllogisms are right out from the very beginning. Quite simply, if you love God you will follow the priorities of God. Priorities are prior to thinking. To paraphrase SK, there’s just nothing left to think about … only the decision to obey.

    A reluctance to go to the Bible on the issue looks like a reluctance to find God’s opinion, and, in this case, it is unapologetically opposed to homosexuality.

  11. Chris,

    You are correct that children were compelled to obey their parents and if they refused they were to face death. This was to instil in them the seriousness of obeying God … something we moderns know very little about. We tend to look at Abraham as a child murderer because we only care about society’s opinion and not about God’s opinion.

    The practice of obliging children to obedience under threat of death is not repeated in the New Testament, but homosexuality is expressedly forbidden many, many times in the New Testament.

    “Defining someone as evil because of a sexual preference is wrong!”

    In 1 Corinthians five Paul takes up the case against a person who claims to be a believer but has a ‘sexual preference’ for his mother. Paul clearly states that these ‘consenting adults’ should be thrown right out of the church, and that this should be so obvious, that they should have done it already. He also says he isn’t interested in judging those outside the church, but a believer in Jesus Christ is to obey the Scriptures which say to avoid sexual immorality.

    “Greed, selfishness, drunkeness are also sins, but we don’t define those that practice these things as evil. Why? because we are all guilty of them. “

    They are sins, you are correct, and we are all guilty of them. The Bible is clear that all sins are not the same. Jesus talks about the difference between “gnats” and “camels”.

    Like the other sins, I believe (on account of Christ’s perfect life and sacrifice) a homosexual can find forgivenness. But he is called to leave that life on the cross.

    “I think we need to view scriptures in the light of God’s true character which is love!”

    Chris, I take it you are not a magician, but there seems to be a little hocus-pocus going on here. Specifically, “Love” is not a magic word. To travel to Las Vegas, find women with low expectations working the streets (and the men who go to them), and then wave ones arms in the air and call their behavior “Love” is more than bizzare. It is deception.

    Spiritual love is serious. To say that God’s love means He is OK with whatever choices we make is to overstep the quality of love entirely.

    Love is not indifferent to living righteously. Love is the fulfilment of all righteousness. And “tolerance” (that is, the practice of stomaching the indecent practices of others) is not a virtue, but a necessary evil. Mercy, on the other hand, (the practice of forgiving someone for what is acknowledged to be evil) is a virtue.

  12. Here is the second half of Romans chapter one. Read this passage and ask yourself what God’s opinion is on homosexuality?

    How seriously does He take it?

    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
    Therefore God gave them over in the the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.
    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural relations ones. In the same way the men also the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
    Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithles, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

  13. Burning Bush and Danny
    Look, I will not be drawn into a long debate over the issue again.
    You obviously see it your way and I see it mine. Using scripture as a to defend a position (yours or mine) is frivalous to me. I can come up with scripture to suppoprt my views too. What’s the point? I no longer have the desire to do so! As far as this discussion is concerned, I’ve stated my opinion and will say no more. you will not be able to change my mind one little bit. And I suppose I will not be able to change yours! But as for me I will always choose grace over judgement!

  14. Sorry, Chris. I wasn’t trying to lure you into a conversation you didn’t want to have. I just figure that when a person comments, they want to discuss things.

  15. Let me cast the first stone – hahahaha

    I guess after reading some of the views on this issue (and I enjoyed them all) I have to weigh in on this issue – with an opinion.

    We can search the bible and find all kinds of things against homosexuality – mainly from the law and then Paul’s letters (Romans was quoted I think). That being said we can find a lot of things against every other sin in those laws and Paul’s letters (ex: drunkness, envy, greed, etc – and no these don’t sneak up on us – either we have or haven’t faced up to them and the paradigms we built for their justification). But these are all sins.

    I read about Jesus and I see him embracing people within those sins – drunks, prostitutes, and thieves (that should be a song Chris). Top that off and Jesus broke cultural barriers in relations with Samaritans and Romans – and also broke Jewish laws (including the sabbath and touching lepers). It seems to me Jesus looked through religion and saw the hope of these people – and simply loved them. He loved them without a real good social reason to do so – even for his times. But if we are gonna question the nature of love then we have to question Jesus’ love in that also – he seemed to not make rules within which his love existed or would exist.

    But we have been given the ‘mind of Christ’ according to Paul – and if we read those gospels I see a really clear picture of someone who called out religious figures and their practices – for the love of others (do not forbid this). And Jesus seemed to love beyond reason of all thing – he even loved his enemies – or what we would suppose to be enemies. He had no good reason to love someone who hated him – but he still did – now that seems irrational.

    But if we can’t love homosexuals for who they are as humans then we cannot say a thing like ‘I have the mind of Christ’ – we’d be lying. Do you think Jesus hates homosexuals? I think as much as hated anyone else while he ealked this earth – which seemed to be like something he didn’t do – although he did have a rough time with religious folk. I think love doesn’t have a boundary or have rules – if it did then we couldn’t put unconditional behind it. But I have to think God can love and forgive greater than I ever can. I look at a gay person and I don’t hold a thing against them – they are humans and I love them also. How can the one that taught me to love – love less than I?

    Also, I think sin is something we all have to deal with in our time – between God and us. We can’t make someone repent or say some prayer and then suppose this is all over with – doesn’t work that way. People have to deal with their sin before God on their time-clock – as much as we may hate that – and sometimes we do – we have to have another virtue within live – patience. God loves that person we throw out of the church – becuase God is love. And his love doesn;t need our conditions put upon it – I think God wants us to work with that person in ‘sin’ – and to love them all the way – even unto death’s door – and nothing more. If they never change – what is that to you? You are neither that person nor God – you have to deal with how you acted and that’s basic – so choose to love, not to punish.

  16. If, rather than a woman caught in adultery, it had been a man caught with another man, and brought before Jesus for stoning, I can not imagine that the reply would have been in different….

    “He who is with out sin cast the first stone”

  17. Society,

    You did get a lot of comments! So often these types of discussions turn into speaking about people in the third person.

    I will say it this way: if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning, I want you to know that you do not have to give up your faith to be who you are. There are thousands of congregations and ministers in the U.S. and Canada who will welcome you as full members of the church and will celebrate your relationships. I am a Christian minister and I have officiated at same-sex blessing ceremonies and I am pleased to serve a congregation that is fully open and affirming. You can find a congregation where you live at http://www.gaychurch.org/

    Many blessings,
    john

  18. john shuck, While I think that we must try to love each other without judging, I don’t see how we can celebrate and affirm sin. I would truly feel sorrow if my understanding that homosexuality is a sin caused someone to walk away from me and God but it would be their choice. Then again, maybe you have a more true understanding of God than I do.

  19. Brotherken, I agree. I do not think we should celebrate and affirm sin. Neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is sin. Sin is that which causes suffering. Gay and lesbian people have suffered mightily from being condemned unjustly.

  20. brotherken said maybe you have a more true understanding of God than I do

    I wouldn’t bet on that, Ken. Pastor Shuck’s “two cents” are sound bytes with little meaning.

    Human beings are created in the image of God. This image includes sexuality.

    Eve was given to Adam because he was alone, NOT because he was horny. Sexuality is for the purpose of reproduction in natural creatures which Adam and Eve were not originally.

    Sexuality is complex. Same-sex attraction reflects God’s image as does opposite-sex attraction.

    So, God has a nice ass? Gimme a break. Sexuality is NOT complex unless you have multiple sex partners and wonder which one’s going to infect you [OK, that’s a joke].

    Our sexuality should be expressed through intimacy, caring, love, and commitment.

    Platitudes…

    Prejudice against sexual minorities is prejudice against the image of God.

    Who says? First, prejudging is not something we should do [only God can judge the human heart – Romans 2]. It makes no sense that sexuality is the “image of God” if it wasn’t in His ultimate plan. We are being led to the eternal; sexuality is temporal. The “image of God” is not temporal.

    The best way to overcome prejudice is to seek to understand.

    Platitudes…

    This understanding should begin by understanding real people (as opposed to proof-texting passages from the Bible).

    Pastor Shuck doesn’t like to “proof-text” passages from the Bible. Surprised?

    That said, I know several Christian homosexuals and I do not doubt their faith as they seem to agree on THE crucial point; the worst thing that could happen is NOT that they could lose their sexuality [they know they will – in death], but the worst thing that could happen would be to reject their Lord and Savior. To put anything ahead of the love of Christ would be a sin [BTW, that IS sin, not “suffering”]. All Christians should proclaim “I surrender all.” Amen?

    God bless to all…including Pastor Shuck. I’m praying that you will lead gays to the Lord, and not just to themselves.

  21. So what was the Christian response – well in this post – it was all over the place but a lot of the same idea’s play out:

    (1) Accept them as you would anyone else

    (2) Care about their situation in life

    (3) The ‘sin’ question is one that is doubted by few people – but it never found over all concensus – the majority gave the cliche ‘love the sinner – hate the sin’ – can’t say I agree altogether but it was the majority on the blog

    (4)Like everyone else, God does love them – and the question of what that love looks like is somewhat debated – but we can be sure God loves everyone.

    I think the discussion got us thinking about a community of people we interact with in quite minut ways – my suggestion is this:

    – This next few months make friends with people from the gay community and get to know what their issues are – care about them and spend time understanding their perspective. I think it will do us all some good to make friends with someone that is a professed ‘gay’ person – give us some perspective on our ownselves.

  22. Escellent summery Society. I would just like to add that we must not only struggle to love and respect the gay person but each other also. It is hot issues like this that can tear apart families and communities. Let us all try to remember that this is a personal relationship and only God can change the heart of an individual.

  23. Excellent summary, society.We must never lose sight of the goal that every person God helps us lead to the Lord is a treasure in His sight. They should be a treasure in ours also.

  24. Hi bruce
    A lot of people helped lead me to the Lord, but it wasn’t until He swept me off my feet that I was changed. As far as being a treasure in His sight, I hope so. Take care.

  25. Thanks, Bruce
    Jason, perhaps not “love the sinner, hate the sin”. I’ve never liked that saying myself and I think that’s because everyone who says it is almost without exception talking about someone else who’s gay. They’re tired of hearing it and I don’t blame them. On the other hand I don’t think “love the sinner and their sin” is the answer either, as our New Age Presbyterian minister would have us believe.

    I think the proper response is “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” – forget sin. In poetry there is a saying, “kill your darlings” – it means that when that nuance [catchy saying, mention of a favorite place, experience, etc.] we’ve fallen in love with gets in the way of THE GOAL of the poem, you must scrap it. The more you love the Lord, the more you’ll kill your darlings. To paraphrase that, love the Lord and let the Holy Spirit sort things out. If you add that to my response to Pastor Shuck’s 6 theses, my point is quite clear.

  26. “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” – forget sin (jj)

    Jim, I get what you are saying. I know how most of what is demonstrated by Christians is rooted in prejudice. But I think if you believe homosexuality to be a sin then you cannot overlook it. It has to be addressed as sin does it not? And I don’t mean to walk around with a big sign protesting gays. I don’t think the church has the right to speak morality to the world but pastors are called to be the voice of God to those who willingly come to listen.

    Is the message given us complete without preaching against sin? The thing I disagree with is that homosexuality is preached as some special kind of sin. Yes some sins are worse than others but I just don’t see anything so evil about homosexuality that should cause us to not try love the person (unless it is rudely pushed on others).

  27. brotherk
    “Love the Lord, forget sin” is a starting point. I don’t mean to overlook sin. Going back to my first post, “to put anything ahead of the love of Christ” is a sin, and that’s what sin is [anything that separates us from God]. Homosexuality is thrown in the sin sack but it isn’t represented as THE sin.

  28. Who here has no sin?

    According to God, sin no longer exists. Certainly, there are things we will do that harm ourselves and/or others, but the penalty for that is of this world, not of God. He only sees Jesus when he looks at His creation. Jesus covered it all, and made it all new, fresh, and clean in God’s eyes.

    Causing harm to ourselves or others might be stupid and painful, but it has no effect on God’s view of us. Through Jesus, we are righteous to God, fully redeemed and fully forgiven forever.

    Sadly, not even the christians believe that.

  29. Thanks Bruce,

    Good thoughts. Love your blog.

    I really don’t think you are ever going to get past this if you continually think in terms of sin.

    As I wrote in a recent post, God is Lavender, our fear of sexuality is what causes us to project negatively on others, namely women and sexual and gender minorities.

    Oh, and Jim Jordan, regardless of the insults and names you hurl in my direction, I will not be silent.

    Blessings,
    john

  30. When I said you, I didn’t mean you, Bruce, I really meant all of us. We are not going to get past this unless we stop thinking in terms of sin.

  31. Mr. Shuck
    You paid all that money to go to Princeton Seminary and you can’t find ANY common ground between what I am saying and what you are saying regarding homosexuals? Shame on you! Half of my clientele is homosexual and they are fine with the message that I have given to you. 700 gays walk through my door each week. How about you? Do you even have 700 members in your entire church?
    Get real, sir. You have no right to steamroll these blogs with your seat-of-the-pants interpretations.
    Blessings.

  32. Jim,

    That was an interesting response.

    Truthfully, I am not exactly sure what you are saying. What common ground might we have? I will ask you directly:

    Should the church affirm, celebrate and bless same-sex relationships as we do heterosexual relationships? My answer is yes. What is yours?

    Peace,
    john

  33. Jim, I am quite schocked by the venom you seem to want to spit into John’s eyes from time to time – is that the correct way to treat another human according to our gospel? I mean, it seems a little harsh this bickering with him all the time.

  34. Bruce:

    Sin may have been destroyed on the cross, but Jesus still says to a lot of people, “Depart from me, I never knew you!”

  35. Sorry for the outburst. You all have my sincere apologies. It did however produce a response from Pastor Shuck.
    Should the church affirm, celebrate and bless same-sex relationships as we do heterosexual relationships? My answer is yes. What is yours?

    My answer is mostly yes! First I would say that the church must continually affirm, celebrate and praise God for our salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Second, we must never judge the heart of another human being. Last, I noticed that you used the word relationships instead of marriages. I don’t see the efficacy of performing same-sex marriages in the church. That would cross the line from affirming Him to affirming our culture. But questioning the authenticity of the spiritual bond between a gay couple equals judging the heart.

    My main concern is that you are tossing out the lifeline to homosexuals [not helpful] which is the same as our lifeline, the Word. The answers are there, not in our culture.

    Last, I am very passionate about talking to homosexuals about the gospel. You shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that God may use a variety of ways. So what if a homosexual came to relationship with Jesus Christ at one of those ex-gay conventions? I certainly would not be bothered if God used you to bring an unbelieving homosexual to Christ. If you do, write me and I’ll celebrate with you!

    Peace be with you also,
    Jim

  36. Jim,

    Thank you for that. I didn’t understand your point of view before. I think we are on the same page regarding same-sex relationships. You put it quite well, “…questioning the authenticity of the spiritual bond between a gay couple equals judging the heart.”

    The question of marriage is one that won’t be decided for some time. I do think that same-sex couples should have the legal rights that opposite-sex couples take for granted. But that is not the central point in terms of this discussion, from my point of view. I think rituals of blessing such as holy unions for gay couples is a way of communicating the gospel.

    As far as talking to homosexuals about the gospel, I agree. However, I don’t think that homosexuals should be targeted as those who need the gospel more than heterosexuals. I know that is not what you are saying, but that is how I understood you at first, and that is how much of the church regards homosexual persons.

    All people need the gospel, whether homosexual, heterosexual or whatever other box in which we may put people.

    You and I may need to have more conversation on the content and language of the gospel, but I think that my ministry (and yours) is that which seeks to communicate the transforming power of God, revealed in Jesus, to a hurting world.

    Blessings,
    John

  37. A bit late, but…

    No, I don’t believe homosexuality is a “great evil”. In fact, I don’t really believe it’s a sin.

    The term did not exist when the first English translations of the Bible were written; it was first used in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and first appeared in an English translation of the Bible until the 1950s (the Amplified). On yet another note, it is alleged that King James himself was gay.

    Ultimately, Christ commanded his followers to “love your neighbour”. That includes the queer community. God created them, too.

    http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible

  38. Hi Shelley,

    I agree we are to love homosexuals.

    What’s your take on the Romans passage? I asked an athiest friend of mine from Berkeley to read it, and he told me he didn’t understand how anyone could think the Bible tolerated homosexuality.

    The King James version seems less tolerant because it says those who engage in sodomy will never enter heaven. Sodomy is just a single act whereas the modern translations (“homosexuals”) is more like a continuing thing:

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

    Btw, “Sodomy” seems like a reference to that city God destroyed because of its sexual immorality.

    Again I continue to maintain homosexuality is wrong and God hates it.

  39. Burning Bush and Others,

    In 2001, I wrote an essay regarding an amendment to change our the PCUSAs policies of exclusion to glbt people in regards to ordination. The amendment failed. The struggle continues. In my essay, I talked about the use of scripture. I felt then and I still feel that my approach was a compromise measure. The essay was entitled Amendment A Will Keep All God’s creatures in the Ark

    I paste the relevant portion regarding scripture here:

    “I highly value scripture. On the whole I hear it as God’s Word of boundless love and enduring hope for creation. I preach from scripture week by week. I believe that our church should be ordered from the message of scripture. This message is ultimately embodied in the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. I take scripture so seriously that I cannot take it literally. I always wrestle with what my beloved New Testament Professor, the late J. Christian Beker, called coherence vs. contingency. What is the coherent, central and timeless message of scripture and what aspects of scripture are contingent upon context, culture and ideology?

    As fallible interpreters, we will often mistake the contingent details of the Story for the coherent Message of the Story. No one is immune from this tension. That is why we need each other. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a diverse community to interpret God’s Word. It is even trickier to apply our interpretations of various texts to current situations, issues and people. It seems to me that we must have a clear, fair and intelligent understanding of contemporary problems in order for the Message of Scripture to speak with any authority to them.

    The contemporary problem we have had before us for 25 years or so is whether or not openly gay persons (my shorthand for “self-affirming practicing homosexuals”–which I find to be laborious and dehumanizing) may serve the church as Deacons, Elders, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament. The actions by various General Assemblies (“definitive guidance”, “authoritative interpretation”), PJC decisions, and G-6.0106b (and the litigation that has followed in its wake) seem to suggest that the majority of presbyters have so far said “no.” Are these actions backed by the coherent message of scripture? Many agree. Many do not.

    Prior to the last General Assembly over half of the biblical studies faculty at PC(USA) seminaries called the scriptural evidence of denying full participation of gay and lesbian people in the church into question. (1) They saw that the contemporary problem (the denial to ordained leadership of openly gay persons) was not sufficiently addressed by the selected biblical texts often used to support this position. To them, some of these texts are contingent to a larger narrative.

    For example, Romans 1:26-27 is a culturally contingent example of Paul’s larger coherent assertion of humankind’s inability to comprehend and obey God’s will. The Levitical prohibitions (i.e. Leviticus 20:13) are ancient tribal contingents of the larger coherent Holiness Code which instructs Israel to be Holy as God is Holy. It is also true that the coherent biblical drama is couched in the contingent patriarchy from which Israel was embedded. The contingency/coherence model reminds us not to miss the forest for the trees in biblical interpretation.

    Some passages, such as the Sodom and Gomorrah incident (2), refer to the sin of inhospitality and gang rape, and the much disputed word in I Corinthians 6:9 seems to come under the rubric of what we might now call “sexual misconduct.” Neither would be acceptable then or now. Certainly much of what was acceptable then in regards to sexual behavior and relationships we would no longer find acceptable. Much of what was unacceptable then, we do find acceptable now. (Rather than go into detail on that point, I refer you to Walter Wink’s article, “Homosexuality and the Bible.”) (3)

    None of these passages speak directly to contemporary human beings who live in loving, ethical, mutually affirming, and community enhancing relationships that happen to be of the same gender. In fact, I might go as far as to say that no contemporary social issue is addressed directly by scripture. That is why we need the Holy Spirit. You cannot simply go to the Bible and “look it up.”

    In my opinion, a more appropriate text to illuminate this issue would be Acts 10:9ff where Peter beholds a vision of unclean animals being lowered to him on a sheet. He is commanded to “kill and eat.” The message is not about food, but people, namely, the Gentiles. What was formerly unclean is now clean. That is certainly a recurring and coherent message of scripture. God chooses the unexpected to do God’s work. Many of the parables of Jesus as well as the actions of Jesus were told to counter the prevailing notions of his time in regards to people who were considered unacceptable, untouchable sinners. Jesus partied with them.

    For me, the coherent message of scripture is one of radical inclusive grace and an invitation to discipleship to everyone, which entails living holy lives. If we are fortunate enough to share our lives in intimacy with another, our relationship should be based upon the Gospel ethic of love, fidelity, forgiveness, stewardship, unitivity and hospitality. (4) I have been blessed to know gay and lesbian couples who have lived that ethic pretty darn well. They in turn, have been a blessing to the community and to the Church of Jesus Christ.”

  40. Very compelling points, John
    This is a very difficult issue and to some extent we are all seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance on this.

    My curiosity is if the Levitical laws were a dramatic intervention by God as He was preparing to bring His Son into the flesh, the contingency of calling homosexuality “an abomination” during that period might well make sense. Once the Messiah was brought into the world and He gave His life on the cross to show God’s reality and supremacy, then the subsequent births that mattered would be of those who were born again supernaturally through the love of Jesus Christ.

    What are your thoughts on that interpretation? Seems to me that it all comes down to faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice in that critical moment in History where coherency and contingency came together, where hope and reality merged. We believe in Him and the Holy Spirit leaves it’s deposit in our hearts sometime afterward.

    I think the best we can do is lead others to that encounter with the real and present Holy Spirit. I am convinced that “the clincher” is nothing that we do because in my experience it wasn’t a person that touched me. The Holy Spirit did all the work.

    God bless.

  41. Man this ‘gay’ issue is a very intricate issue with more avenues and alleyways in the road than even I thought. Jim and John I am glad that you are both looking at the issue and dialoguing on it – I think as a Christian community we need more of the this – on a lot more issues than just the ‘gay’ issue. (Also big ‘shout out’ to Burning Bush for his comments).

    It’s is a very tough thing to fully acquire scripture’s total understanding of the issue since parts of the bible seem to mention it or not mention it (ex: gospels). Once upon a time a community would live by a single letter (or trading of letters) or a single copy of the gospel – not a whole book. Now if I only had Matthew what would be my interpretation of the ‘gay’ issue? Likely would be to ‘love’ them but I also think I would come to some of the conclusions Jim has made – merely based on the ‘2 become 1’ passage. But in the end, there doesnt seem to be harsh judgement against gays in that particular gospel – or any of them to be honest. It’s not until the letters that we see outright condemnation of the action – by Paul.

    But is Paul even commenting that there is ‘no hope’ for the gay person? If so, he is in direct conflict with his own faith and the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness and mercy. I think Paul may have had reason to say these things – reasons we do not see but perhaps he did from Roman society and from Jewish Law (schooled in both was he).

    All I know is I have to take a longer look at the issue scripturally – I won’t disagree I will find this is a ‘sin’ – at the same time I won’t disagree I will find the love of God for everyone – and sin seems to be something we can all work through.

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