SAN DIEGO, September 6, 2016 — Those who fought to make same-sex marriage legal rebutted the objection of conservative Christians by invoking the separation between church and state allegedly imposed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Now that such rights have been secured, that separation is being blurred as many LGBTQ people seek to find affirmation inside the church as well as outside.
Some clergymen, such as Pastor John Pavlowvitz of North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina, offer that affirmation freely, not only refusing to call the practice of homosexuality sinful, but rebuking any who do. Pavlowvitz wrote the following on his blog, Stuff That Needs to Be Said:
It’s the height of arrogance to assume that the manner in which someone loves is up for another’s debate. I’ll never tell an LGBTQ person that their gender identity or sexual orientation are not God’s best for them, because I simply do not believe that to be at all true.
No clear reading of scripture shows that Jesus promoted a homosexual lifestyle. Would He have shown compassion to homosexuals? There are abundant examples of Jesus treating with compassion people who felt like outcasts from society, people lonely and disenfranchised. He offered forgiveness to anyone willing to turn from sin. But He did not approve of sin.
Many will object to this conclusion:
“Jesus was silent on the whole subject of homosexuality, so how do you know what He felt about same-sex marriage or attraction?”
Gospel accounts do not record Jesus speaking about homosexuality directly. But Jesus did confirm the divine inspiration of the Jewish Holy Scriptures, referred to in those days as The Law and The Prophets, and insisted that the Israelites continue to honor God’s Law.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:17-20)
Jesus authenticated the entire law, including the specific law about homosexuality:
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (Lev 18:22)
A great debate exists about whether same-sex persuasion is a learned behavior, a genetic predisposition, or a state for which there may be a variety of causes. Important as that discussion is, the point here is about the teaching of scripture. Those who do not believe in the Bible reasonably ignore it, but to assert that the Bible says what it does not is dishonest. The scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are anything but silent on the subject of sexuality.
In the New Testament, Paul, while preaching forgiveness for a whole litany of sins, includes homosexuality on the list. Before the discussion of mercy, he describes the practice itself.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. 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 lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Rom 1:26-27)
“Wait a minute! Should we trust Paul’s words? Paul wasn’t one of the original disciples of Jesus.”
No he was not, but Paul encountered the resurrected Christ later on (Acts 9). The original disciples were given special authority by Jesus (John 20:22-23), but one of these disciples, Peter, later authenticated the words of Paul, even to the point of equating Paul’s letters with Scripture.
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Although Jesus did not directly comment on homosexuality, He did refer to the practice indirectly by speaking of the entire Law of Moses as a revelation from God. And Paul, authenticated by Jesus’ disciple Peter, directly addressed the subject.
“What about the popular assertion that Jesus was himself gay and had a sexual relationship with his disciple John who was called ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’?”
There were several Greek words for love during the New Testament era. The word for sexual love was eros from which we get the English word, erotic. Eros was not used of Jesus and John. Instead, the word in John 13:23 was agapao, a kind of love that went beyond emotion and stressed action, often sacrificial action, e.g., loving a person enough to lay down your life for him or her.
This is not a sexual word nor even a romantic word. Indeed, it is the same word used of God in John 3:16 where the Gospel writer talks about God loving the entire world.
In our zeal to re-clarify the Bible’s standard about homosexuality, let us keep in mind that the primary message of the New Testament is not one of condemnation but rather forgiveness. God may not like the practice of homosexuality, but He loves homosexuals. He loves everybody and people who feel same-sex attraction are no more separated from God than anyone else.
We are all guilty of sin and all of us experience impulses that we can choose to give in to or restrain. Yes, people are commanded to repent, but every human being is guilty of something and even when we turn to Jesus, we do so only by the mercy and help of God’s Spirit. There is no room for arrogance or looking down upon another’s struggle.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.