It’s been over a month since I wrote the following post. It came out of me in a burst of heartache and anger, and then…..I chickened out on posting it. It seemed really bold when I wrote it, but as I reread it now I think, “Is that all? What was I afraid of? I couldn’t even stick my neck out this far?” I’ve seen people take far greater risks in the last few days, and now I’m a ashamed of my own cowardice. This post which felt like a watershed moment when I wrote it now seems like just another step, just another admission of where I’m at.
I’m motivated to publish this now because of the discussions I’ve seen this week on Facebook, surrounding same sex marriage. I’m astonished at how many Christians still sound as if they’ve never had a conversation with someone who is gay. For the love of God – I mean, seriously, for the love of God – the least we ought be able to do is listen to other people. I honestly think some of us are afraid to do that – afraid to listen; afraid we’ll be infected with empathy. We can do better.
I’m feeling a little cranky tonight. I’ve got a head cold and a toothache – my first toothache in decades. I haven’t missed them one bit, and the fact that this one is located in a tooth with a root canal and a crown doesn’t bode well for the dental budget.
Also, I’m really struggling to catch up on my school work. I fell behind when my mom died, and every week I come up a little bit short of being really caught up. The mental pressure of knowing that, at any given moment, I should be doing school work is….fatiguing. Kids, stay in school. ‘Cause this business of doing school in middle age is not as glamorous as it sounds.
And then there’s this. We’re talking Christian Ethics in one of my classes. That’s practical, right? We were challenged to think of some contemporary issues or events that call for thoughtful biblical-theological reflection. One of my issues was the church’s response to the gay rights movement. When asked for biblical principles that would come to bear on the issue, I talked about the creation account, but I also mentioned the misuse of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the small number of scriptures addressing homosexuality (relative to other issues addressed in the Bible), the inclusion of outsiders in the ministry of Jesus and the disciples (including sexual “others” like the Samaritan woman and the Ethiopian eunuch), the golden rule, and blah, blah, blah, etc.
I guess I sounded soft on the issue, or something. So here’s the response I received from a classmate.
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable (Lev 18:22). If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable/ They must be put to death (Lev 20:13). Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Ro 1:26-28). The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Homosexual offender is on this list of the wicked (1Co 6:9-10). I believe these verses say that homosexuality is sin. The Bible tells us to love everyone. We are to hate evil. Let those who love the Lord hate evil (Ps 97:10). Hate what is evil (Ro 12:9).
Really? REALLY? I don’t even have the words to articulate how much this bothers me, if this is the entire ethical response that this person has to homosexuality. I mean, just reading those last couple of sentences makes my tooth hurt more. Hate. Hate. Hate. Evil. Evil. Evil.
“But what,” I want to ask my classmate, “would your ethical response be if your son or daughter came out to you, and wondered if you could still love them? And what would you do if they wanted to introduce you to their partner? And how would you respond to the celibate homosexual in your church who is desperately lonely and afraid to share who they really are? And how would you help to fill the space left by the spouse and children they’ll never have? Would you open your home, invite them for holidays, make them feel like a part of your family? Or would you just keep quoting those verses at them?”
Jesus identified with all the wrong people, you know. They were changed by him, changed by his presence – but that’s weird, because he often seemed to forget to tell them how evil they were, and how much he hated evil. In fact, he seemed to like those “wrong people”. He seemed to enjoy their company. And so the pharisees accused Jesus of being unclean himself, of doing miracles through the power of Satan, because he identified with the unclean. I love that about Jesus. He cared far more about people than about his reputation.
I thought of that as I read my classmate’s response, because I heard it as a rebuke directed at me. She assumes I’m on the side of “the gays”. And you know what? She’s right. I am. If the choice is between hurling clobber passages at them and erring on the side of love, I choose love. God knows me. He knows I want to be faithful to Him, want to do the right thing. If I’m getting this wrong, I trust that He’ll either show me, or forgive me, or both.
I’ve got so many unresolved questions, but at some point you have to be willing to move in one direction or the other. I’m choosing to move toward my gay friends, the people too many Christians still describe with words like “pervert” and “abomination” and “detestable”. Some of them are choosing to be celibate because they believe that’s what faithfulness to Christ requires. Some of them have concluded that they can serve God in the context of a same sex relationship. Maybe they’re mistaken about that: I don’t know. That’s part of my own confusion. But I know that some of them are in more faithful, long term relationships than the straight marriages that the church supports.
Either way, I’m on their team. I want to support them as they seek a truly Christian sexual and relational ethic – and I want them to support straight Christians as we do the same. I really believe if we live in the presence of Jesus, he’ll transform us from the inside out, as he sees fit.
“Love is the fulfillment of the law.” I choose love.