“In all of mankind’s history, there has never been more damage done than by people who ‘thought they were doing the right thing.’ Five cents, please.” – Peanuts’ Lucy Van Pelt
All week we have been reading a letter I received from a father struggling with his son being gay. His struggle is based on what he has heard on Sunday morning for years. That does not make it right. That does not make it the truth.
I know this is new and scary. But as I wrote on Monday, all you need is an open heart. Let God do the rest.
Let’s continue with the Dad’s letter, Part 4…
“To expound the point, there are also some sins that are so egregious to our God that He lists them as abominations; an affront to His very existence and opposition to His very nature. The old church teachings that ‘sin is sin’ is not in agreeance with scripture.”
Here is my answer to him – and to those struggling with the same issue…
Let’s pause here, because you’ve just pulled a pin on a hand grenade of misunderstanding that Christians regularly lob at LGBTQ individuals. Let’s disarm that thing safely before it destroys any more people. This one is very easy if people are willing to be intellectually honest about it. Abomination means prohibited or unclean, but only prohibited for a time for a people group for a specific purpose. That’s all it means. We must get this very clear in our heads.
How many people have told you that God doesn’t change, so we can’t be messing around with his word, which doesn’t change. But in essence, his word did change. (Stay with me.) The Old Testament calls birds non-kosher, unclean to eat; they are an abomination. Then God tells Peter to eat non-kosher. For the time, birds were prohibited, ritually unclean, for the Jewish people. Then when God brought in the Gentiles, who apparently eat chicken, God said, “Don’t call unclean what I call clean.” So some things are for a time and a season. That is crystal clear.
From our perspective, “God’s word” did change. God’s heart and the overarching message of his word did not.
My friend’s husband let the “s-word” fly when he hit his thumb with a hammer. His young son said to him very seriously, “Daddy! We don’t say ‘SHIP.'” Okay, that’s totally cute! But imagine as an adult that he never says the word SHIP, and he condemns those who do. We would have to wonder what his problem was. Now, the culture will not sustain a ban on saying SHIP, and I’m sure this boy has long since learned the real s-word — thanks to brothers and schoolyards — so no worries.
The church culture, however, does sustain this misunderstanding about abomination, and it’s a bigger misunderstanding than SHIP. Abomination is so loaded with wrong meaning, we’d be better to use the word taboo, which conveys more its temporal, cultural and regional nature. Every time it comes up, we can say, “Abomination only means forbidden or unclean. [Audible sigh.] It doesn’t mean someone’s going to hell. It also applied to intermixed fabrics and eating pork. “Hey, nice cotton/wool sweater, and are you gonna finish that bacon?…”
Also, without a doubt, our interpretation of the Bible changes. We know the sun does not revolve around the earth, even though by reading scripture (Psalm 93:1, Joshua 10:13, Ecclesiastes 1:5), it’s pretty clear that it does! It takes a LOT of hubris to imagine that now we’ve got it right!
More from the letter…
“There are some sins that are so entirely antithetical to God and His Holiness, that they cannot be continuously committed or acted upon without penalty on an eternal level. Acting upon and fulfilling homosexual desires and tendencies is one of these sins. I’m concerned this is the fundamental scriptural principle that is missing from your well intentioned writings and posts.”
First, I realize that many religious leaders teach this, but it is not biblical. I could expound on this, but suffice to say: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No asterisk. I mean, there either is or isn’t condemnation, yes? And this verse says there isn’t.
Second, I appreciate what you are saying on the position about homosexuality as sin. But the truth we cannot ignore is that Scripture is not clear and has been academically researched and challenged at great length. Please, read James V. Brownson’s Bible, Gender, and Sexuality. It is scholarly, exhaustive, and it will illuminate your view of this. Also, Matthew Vines’ new book, God and the Gay Christian, due in May. I’m reading an advanced copy and it is eye-opening.
This view of homosexuality may be the biggest hurdle to understanding how I or anyone else can write what we do without fear. If you knew me personally, and you may discern from my writing, I take what I do very seriously; the last thing I desire is to mislead anyone in their understanding about God. But to call something a sin that is not a sin has destroyed lives, emboldened a majority to marginalize this minority, and driven those so marginalized to self-hatred and suicide.
Some figure we’ll go ahead and condemn homosexuality, just to play it safe. But Proverbs 17:15 says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” What?? (And there’s an abomination for you!) That’s an incredibly bold statement!
Apparently, to “play it safe” by adhering to wrong teaching on this is not safe at all — not for those wrongly condemned, and not for those wrongly condemning. Just a look around shows the cost to those who must trample other biblical commands to condemn homosexuality. They are unloving, harsh, and far out of line with Jesus’ attitude. We never see Jesus condemning like this. The only ones he condemns are those who condemn others.
We as Christians talk about the courage it takes to follow Christ. To stand up against evil, to rescue children from sex trafficking, to trust God with situations where we want to take control. All this requires courage.
It also takes enormous courage to recognize the error in a teaching or a teacher you have trusted for a long time, and for a belief you have internalized.
I challenge anyone who has internalized the belief about homosexuality as a sin, especially a sin that would send someone to hell, to rethink from the ground up, to find scholarly input different from what they currently believe, and then prayerfully, trustingly, dive in.
Ask God to show you his truth, show you his heart, and show you what you don’t yet understand about this LGBTQ issue.
That may take the most courage of all.
The title of my posts this week have included, “I love my son, but…” Maybe it is time we remove the ‘but’ and make it simple and true and unconditional and life-changing…
“I love my son. Period.”
[A final post about this letter tomorrow.]