The Gay Christian debate rages on, with what seems like more interpersonal casualties every day. How in the world can we find common ground in such a deeply personal and sharply divisive issue? I think we’ve been asking the wrong question. We’ve been focused on the rightness or wrongness of being gay, instead of: whose job is it to determine right and wrong?
Let’s start with the distinctive that is Christianity. What sets it apart from any other world religion? It is Christ. That sounds obvious, but He isn’t interchangeable with any other religious leader or teacher. He offers us an incomparable relationship, both to Him and to the rest of the Trinity. Tragically, the distinctive of Christ gets blurred when we focus on behavior modification or sin management.
Jesus Christ uniquely offers us a personal relationship. Augustine said, “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”’ Of all the world religions, only Jesus offers a friendship with God. Every other religion is based on doing right. They all have their “rules” to abide by, the list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus is uniquely the Way, the Truth and the Life — only in relationship with Him, not through our behavior, do we gain access to God in full acceptance.
Christianity gets distorted when it becomes a to-do list. Unfortunately, we see the to-do list in many Christian churches as well. Churches that were founded on faith in Christ morph into faith in ourselves and our own ability to do well and try harder. Galatians 3:2-3 says: “Did you receive the Spirit by words of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
God told us clearly not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (the do-don’t list), but to eat from the Tree of Life (Jesus). Every other faith offers the Tree of Knowledge, their own version of the do-don’t list. Only true Christianity offers the Tree of Life.
If you believe Christianity means adhering to a certain set of rules, that is false. The rules sound noble and biblical, but there is no power in this list. Paul makes this clear in Colossians 2:20-23. “If you died with Christ to the way the world thinks and acts, why do you submit to rules and regulations as though you were living in the world? “Don’t handle!” “Don’t taste!” “Don’t touch!” All these things cease to exist when they are used. Such rules are human commandments and teachings. They look like they are wise with this self-made religion and their self-denial by the harsh treatment of the body, but they are no help against indulging in selfish immoral behavior.” We have seen throughout the millennia that no one keeps the rules perfectly. (If we did, why would we need a Savior?) Certainly a civil society needs rules to maintain order, but consider this: we have more laws on the books today than we’ve ever had, and more lawlessness. Rules by themselves do not produce adherence to the rules, and they certainly don’t produce relationship.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is simply our interpretation of what’s right or wrong, devoid of relationship with God. God says clearly: “Don’t eat from that tree.” But all day long we gobble away at it, saying, “Don’t watch this movie, don’t hang out with those people.” God said don’t eat from that tree for one reason: we are not equipped to make those decisions. God alone is equipped to handle deciding good and evil, which were never meant to be imposed from the list, devoid of relationship. The very word “righteous” in the Hebrew context means “rightly related.” Of course, I’m not saying anything goes; I’m saying that true righteousness comes only in relationship to Him. When we abide in Him, He will lead us exactly where we need to go, even when He surprises us (as when He told Peter to fellowship with the non-kosher Gentiles).
The debate on homosexuality — “is it right or is it wrong?” — is still eating from the wrong tree – regardless of which side of the debate you are on. Insisting across the board that it’s wrong (or right) is just the good or bad side of the same tree. Instead, we need to eat from the Tree of Life, resting in relationship with Jesus and developing relationship with others. We must hold our opinions with humility in an open hand. We’ve seen enough of Jesus’ interactions to know they always go deeper than right or wrong, and always into the heart of relationship with Him.
Jesus offers a sweet, intimate, fresh relationship with Him, but only if we disentangle ourselves from the Tree of Knowledge and let Him graft us to the Tree of Life.