If you or someone you love is LGBTQ, you may well have heard some pretty harsh things. You’ve probably heard that the Bible is black & white on this topic, and “that’s just the way it is.” But the Bible is black & white on very view issues. The nature of God and man, Jesus as the reconciler between God and man, our eternal security in God’s infinite love for us: these are black & white. Plus a few more. But by and large, the Bible is a love story showing us who God is, not a rulebook to follow.
Look at these pictures of the Manhattan skyline. Which one looks more like the real thing? Which one gives a truer representation? Actually gives you a feel for the city? Is more appealing? The one that’s not really black & white! Notice the second one is about 98% gray – hardly any true black or white. A variety of gray tones is necessary to convey a full picture. The one that’s literally black & white creates only a silhouette, even a caricature. Likewise, the Bible seen in black & white likewise creates a silhouette or caricature of God. In truth, the Bible is full of richly nuanced layers. It has to be. It’s the amazing true story of God with His people — how can we reduce that to a list of do’s and don’ts? It’s Abraham relocating his whole household from his homeland to an unknown place, simply because God said to do so. Or Moses watching the glory of God pass him while huddled in a cleft in a rock. Why would we even want to reduce that to black & white? That snuffs all the life out. A black & white interpretation precludes discernment: no context, no history, no reason as to whether something even makes sense.
Black & white Biblical interpretation has led to murders, wars, slavery, oppression, and self-righteousness throughout the history of humankind (as Mel White shows in this great piece, new to my resource page).
If the Bible is a black & white rulebook, then answer these questions:
1. Why did Jesus say the greatest command is to love God and love others, which is full of gray?
2. Why was Jesus so relentless on the religious leaders, who interpreted the Scripture entirely black & white?
3. Why didn’t Jesus stone the “adulterous woman”? (No, it is not because he warned her to “go and sin no more.” That would mean He’s saying, “I’ll forgive this adultery but don’t let it happen again!” Since when does black & white give you the first one free? No, He’s saying something entirely different. Read here to see His true meaning.)
4. Why would Jesus never answer the black & white questions put to Him — in black & white? He always lifted them to a different arena that no one could wrap their head around. What an offense it is reduce His amazing and beautiful life and message to mere black & white!
The Bible is not a rulebook but a love story. God is communing with his people, and there are only a few black & whites about it. He is God, we’re not. We need a relationship with Him and through Jesus we can have it. Love God and love others. That pretty well sums it up.
In Part II we will talk a little bit more about what it looks like for Jesus to sidestep simple black and white answers.