Beloveds, we have faced so much in these volatile days. My heart goes out to Christians torn by their compassion for the LGBTQ and their sense of duty to uphold their moral standard. I continue to pray for God’s revelation to everyone on every side of this issue.
I am always moved by Jesus’ answers when He is challenged on points of any debate. The religious leaders tried to trap Him at every turn: paying taxes, the resurrection, divorce. What culture or line of thinking doesn’t try to get people on their side? But Jesus did not choose sides. He disarmed questioners with His surprising answers. That is where I want to live — outside the obvious, beyond the Tree of Knowledge by which we determine right and wrong in our own strength, and living straight from the Tree of Life. His Life.
Below are questions I’ve been asked by sincere believers who feel obligated to uphold their interpretation of God’s principles. I answer them because I think they deserve an answer. (I also put them a new FAQ page.) But I entreat you to seek God’s heart for this issue, as He has revealed compassion for the powerless, the hurting, anyone who needed Him (sinning or not).
I do not question the veracity of the Bible. But every generation has believed their interpretation to be true and without error. Yet every generation has been proven to have faulty interpretations somewhere along the way. (The Bible has been used to prove a flat earth, an earth-centered universe, prohibition of interracial marriage, the inferiority of women, and burning of witches.) We are wise to expect that we are wrong somewhere, and we don’t know where. (If we knew, we’d stop being wrong.) Instead, we would be wise to hold our interpretations lightly and follow our Jesus wholeheartedly. I appreciate your taking your role as a follower seriously, and I pray for the very heart of Christ to be revealed.
Q: Do you believe it’s a sin to be gay?
A: First, let me distinguish between same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior. Being gay means being attracted to the same sex, even if you’ve never acted on that attraction. We cannot control who we’re attracted to — even those who believe that homosexual behavior is a sin must concede that being attracted to the same sex is not a sin. (Jesus was tempted in all things, yet was without sin, Hebrews 4:15.) As for the behavior, I believe this is what Paul would call a disputable issue. Some issues are clear and talked about very frequently in scripture, adding to our certainty about them; other issues are not, and become a matter of individual interpretations and personal conviction. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth, John 16:13. Some gay Christians feel convicted about homosexual activity and choose to be celibate; no one can impose that on someone else. Other gay Christians do not feel so convicted, and no one should impose on them either. (This is not to say that all of Scripture is relative or that God doesn’t ever speak clearly, but some issues are not central to salvation and the church has agreed to disagree; I believe, from the testimonies and Scripture around this issue, that this is one of them.)
Q. Doesn’t the Bible have many verses that soundly condemn homosexuality?
A. No. Out of the Bible’s 31,103 verses, homosexuality is referenced in only 6-7 (depending on interpretation). In my understanding, those verses basically refer to idolatrous practices of the time, including idolatry, male prostitution and rape. The important thing is that the verses simply aren’t clear (the Greek word in two of them is actually found nowhere else in the Bible or even in outside texts at the time), which leads me to the conviction that this is a disputable issue. There are many other issues that the church has agreed to disagree on — such as baptism and women’s roles — and the Bible tells us how to deal with disputable issues according to our own conscience (1 Corinthians 8 and 10:28-30). Check this for a full treatment. You can also click here and here for other links from my Resources page.
Q. Doesn’t marriage equality threaten the culture?
A. I have not seen a single convincing study that says same-sex marriage will harm the state of marriage as it is now. In fact, heterosexual marriage is in a mess as it is, with high divorce rates, high remarriage rates, no-fault divorce. To leave a whole segment of the population without recourse for marriage is unjust and goes against the principles of freedom that this nation was founded on. To continue to subject gays to special condemnation threatens the culture. Those who talk about losing their ability to speak out for their own beliefs are still talking about rights they fear losing, not rights they are content to deny others, which should further their empathy with those who do not have rights of their own.
Q. Wouldn’t acceptance of my gay friend/family member just condone their “sin”?
A. No. Our job is not to approve or disapprove, but to point people to Christ, who can speak into lives much more effectively than any of us! Jesus did not tell us to police each other. He did tell us to love God and love others — which is a focus on the heart. Christians are often consumed with behavior, but Jesus focuses completely on the heart. It’s God’s job to deal with our lives. We rest in Him and He will direct. If we would focus even half as much on loving others as we do on judging others’ behavior, the world would be a different place – a place more like the kingdom of God.
Q. What do you mean, Jesus addresses the heart, not the sin, when He told the woman to “go and sin no more”?
A. Jesus words really mean, “Go and leave your life of sin; in me, you don’t have to live this kind of life; I have so much more for you!” He is not saying, just gut it up and resolve not to do this stuff. He never advocates self-effort to get ourselves together. This woman caught in adultery had just been dragged naked to the public square and narrowly missed the death penalty. She had been deluged in a tsunami of humiliation, judgment and fear, and Jesus in His beautiful and compassion-drenched way, saved her! To treat “go and sin no more” as a judgmental warning is to say it is throwing a cup of water on after the tsunami. Instead, as always, Jesus gave her a power-packed invitation. “You don’t have to live this way! You deserve so much more as a child in God’s image than scraps from those who are just using you. I will give you life!” Jesus offers LIFE. To focus on sin is to shove His uncontainable offer into a teacup. Also, it was Jesus who was saying this, which is exactly the point. God is the one who is capable of truly convicting of sin in a way that is constructive, not condemning, in a voice of tenderness rather then judgment.
Q. Didn’t God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality?
A. No. God destroyed Sodom because of their horrible humiliation of travelers in a culture that required hospitality, demonstrated by their attempt to shame by gang raping the visitors to Lot’s house (Genesis 19). “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy,” Ezekiel 16:49. See Matthew Vines’ and Justin Lee’s links on Resources.
Q. Don’t you believe we must speak the truth in love?
A. Absolutely. The truth is Jesus loves us. The truth is Jesus can bring about the growth any of us need. The truth is Jesus. Paul uses the phrase “speaking the truth in love” when he is reminding believers of who they are in Christ. It is a positive appeal to the new creation they now are — a far cry from using it to beat people over the head with their issues. In light of that new creation are Paul’s words about love or Jesus’ words to take the plank out of your own eye.
Q. If someone believes homosexuality is a sin, how is it loving not to tell them?
A. Whenever I hear this, I think of Brennan Manning, in the gutter from alcohol, whose friend flew in to see him every other week, to sit with him in the gutter and to take him to breakfast. “He didn’t try to change me,” he said, “he just loved me.” He said just being there was the most loving thing he could have done.
Even if I were convinced homosexuality is a sin, it would not be my job to change it. The church has tried for many years and inflicted much harm. Jesus did not tell us to convict others of their sin; Jesus did tell us to love others beyond all reason, going extra miles and turning cheeks. Any verses about confronting other believers are for church structure rather than person to person. The ones that are person to person are about making amends and praying for your persecutors, not correcting.
Q. Shouldn’t we restrict homosexuality just to be on the safe side?
A. No! To cover our bases spits on the cross. We should love just to be on the safe side. The Galatians likewise were told they should get circumcised “just in case,” and Paul said he wished those detractors would go ahead and emasculate themselves! That’s as strong a language as you can use! But their suggestion combines salvation through works with the saving grace of Christ, as if His redemption of us is incomplete. That’s why Paul rightfully condemns it as blasphemous.
Q. What if you are wrong and homosexuality is completely condemned in the Bible?
A. Whether you are convinced that homosexuality is wrong, or if you are convicted that we have misinterpreted these scriptures — either way, we are called to love, and we have done a poor job of it. God is well able to guide us in His truth — on any issue at any time. If people sincerely seek Him and miss His leading, God is still bigger than that. Jesus railed only on the self-sufficient, self-righteous, not the tender-hearted who humbly seek Him. If you are interested in bringing healing to this area in which we have failed to show the love of Christ to a large segment of the population, who now feel that Jesus is not for them, then this blog is for you.
Q. Are you really going to question thousands of years of church tradition?
A. No generation of Christians is ever fully correct, because it is always comprised of humans. Every generation has some revelation. How else do we remain dependent on God? God DOES reveal in shocking ways that dash cherished beliefs we were CERTAIN were true. Peter was so shocked by God’s instruction to eat non-kosher, he had to see it three time in a vision. That’s after a lifetime of eating kosher. As big as that was, eating non-kosher was nothing compared to the new thing God was doing by opening His offer of salvation to the Gentiles! Do you think the chosen people of the time had a hard time with that? Even harder than to say that God may not have the problem with homosexuality that people do? Absolutely. Make no mistake that God’s revelation to Peter went against his cherished, lifelong beliefs — and went against the scripture he lived by. We must put the living word above the written word, not because the written word is flawed, but because our interpretation of it is flawed. In some way, we have our interpretation wrong, because we are human, and it is impossible for us to have perfect knowledge. We’re too close to our errors to see them. The Pharisees absolutely venerated the word, yet they missed the Messiah! Copernicus knew the earth revolved around the sun, but his work about that couldn’t be published until after his death to avoid persecution of the church. The church is a very big ship to turn. One hundred years later, Galileo was put on trial for affirming what Copernicus had discovered – again, to be persecuted by the church. But as we know now beyond any doubt, the church was wrong. The Bible was not wrong, but the interpretation was wrong. The trouble is when we cannot separate our interpretation from the inerrancy of the Bible itself — we believe our interpretation is the only way. Those verses look air-tight at a glance, but upon real, open inspection, following where the evidence leads and not where we think it leads, we find we may not interpreted them correctly. I will not live and die on the interpretation; I will live and die on being OPEN to having misinterpreted them.