When I first started doubting the age-old “plain” meaning of Scripture, I was nervous. If I could say “Oh, that’s cultural”, to explain away the “Women shall not speak” passages in the Bible, why not use that for any passage that felt dated or inconvenient.
“You let women preach and you’ll soon be letting gays marry!” This last phrase was meant to be the last straw. And look, they were right.
So for about 10 years (from my spiritual awakening in junior high through college), I wouldn’t even look at the “liberal” side of the theological fence. God had a reason for inspiring Paul’s words about not allowing women to teach men and not allowing homosexual relations.
I would toe my party line and honor God. I thought these were the same thing.
On Sunday morning.
I had to find out more. My dive into the stacks at Biola’s library, my scribblings and questions made their way into my first book, Ruby Slippers (for those who want the cliffnotes, a review of Ruby Slippers by Finnish C.S. Lewis scholar, Jason Lepojarvi, translated here).
I had changed my mind about woman’s role in the church and home.
I was on the slippery slope that, according to some, would lead to gay unions. But my stake in men and women’s differences made me more convinced of Scripture being a good guide. In fact, my new view on men and women were informed by God who invited a man and women to take charge, together: Adam and Eve in Eden, Ruth and Naomi with Boaz, Deborah the prophetess and judge with Barak the warrior, Huldah the prophetess with Hilkiah the high priest, not to mention every well-matched husband and wife who refuse to believe headship means 51% vote.
My changing views of women deepened my trust in Scripture and my faith in God. Culturally illuminating arguments helped me trust Scripture even more.
But what about gay marriage?
I read Dannika Nash’s meteoric-rise-of-a-post “An Open Letter from the Church from My Generation” last week. In the final paragraph she explains, “If the Bible really says this about gay people, I’m not too keen on trusting what it says about God.”
Within this statement is a lesson for Christians on both sides of the gay marriage debate.
While I do not agree with an ultimatum in Nash’s post (she makes approval of gay marriage a litmus test for fellowship with her generation), I do see her concern.
Many of us Christians believe that homosexual relationships are sinful, and those living in them are living in unconfessed sin. We are convinced gay people are not in the kingdom of God.
Lesson #1 – Do you believe you have confessed all your sins, right now? Heck, I know there are dozens of unconfessed sins at this moment darkening my little heart for the primary reason that I’m unaware of them. I’ve yet to have coffee with a person who has experienced purity of heart and motive. Have you ever loved without greed? Have you truly known peace without anxiety? We are all adrift with sin, less perhaps each day, but really now, we are sinners.
Lesson #2 – God’s love is not contingent on our confessions. When I married Dale, I found that he knew love, Brennan Manning style, more than I did. From Dale I have learned to change (love does that), but not because he pounded me with the message “You know that is sin, Jonalyn, you better confess it if we’re to have a good relationship.” Nope, he loved quietly, powerfully, firmly. I now believe that Jesus has only one question at the end of our lives, “Do you believe that I love you?”
Now, that is preach-worthy, good news. And it’s part of the problem with this side of the anti-gay marriage debate. We’re not sharing the good news.
Lesson #3 – Christians got really good at hating what gay people did (hate the sin, love the sinner..right?), so good that gays sometimes call us “Haters.” The shame-addiction within evangelicalism over sexual matters has grown into an epidemic (more on that next week). That shame leaked into our distaste for gay people. We are reaping the consequences. Some of us actually think that disagreeing about what constitutes a sin will make or break God’s love for us… and gays.
And we are wrong. Nothing we do ever limits God’s love. Not our hate, not our secret shame, not our fear. God is still there and he is unashamed of us . . . all of us who love him.
Lesson #4 – And there are gay people who love God. Care to meet some? Head over here.
How often do we expect our faith in God to change our views and make us an outsider among our friends? Sometimes God’s ways are not the ways of our culture (be it the culture of our church, our workplace, our family, our friends). Sometimes God’s ways are the ways of our culture.
Danika Nash recommends Christians doubt the God who would teach that gay marriage is wrong. She recommends we check that we understand our Bibles before we preach against gay marriage.
Lesson #1 – Do we as Christians who are for gay-marriage know if gay marriage or homosexuality is discussed in Scripture? Can we say we understand why these passages (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10) on homosexual eroticism are in the Bible? Could they reveal something good, not hateful, about God?
Our love for our gay brothers and sisters cannot drown truth.
So what is the truth? Trusting your gut that gay people are cool, kind and wonderful (which I agree with), so therefore, their natural desires cannot be wrong (which I do not agree with) is not enough.
Lesson #2 – We all have plenty of natural desires that are not good for living in the kingdom of God. Where and how often do we let the Bible check us? If we claim to trust the Scriptures as much as Jesus did, we must wrestle with the Biblical passages.
Lesson #3 – Does our belief in gay marriage deepen our trust in God and the Bible or does it feel at odds with it? Have the culturally illuminating arguments helped us trust or discount the Scriptures?
Lesson #4 – Have we figured out if love, even pure love, can justify a marital union? Can we define what justifies a marriage by the state, before God (btw, there’s a fascinating discussion on what marriage in fact means at Soulation’s SturdyAnswers Seven Necessary Conditions for Marriage)? Are we prepared to explain to our children’s children why masculinity or femininity is not essential in a family unit?
Lesson #5 – When was the last time we allowed our faith in Scripture, God or Jesus’ love to guide us to take an unpopular, easily misunderstood position, like Rosa Parks did?
Resources for Study (I implore you to read both sides)
Best Christian Pro-Gay unions source: Martti Nissinen’s Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective
Best Christian Anti-Gay unions source: Robert J. Gagnon’s, The Bible and Homosexual Practice – Text and Hermeneutics
– Gagnon’s article Does the Bible condemn committed same-sex marriage?
Care to suggest others?