For my last year in Bible college, I had to write a 25+ paper on a topic of my choice. Part of the requirement was I had to approach the topic from a pastoral perspective, and include a main passage to exegete (a critical explanation or interpretation of a text). Naturally, I choose the topic of homosexuality; more importantly, how the Church should biblically minister to gays and lesbians.
What follows below (and in future posts) is my research on the scriptures about homosexuality, and the Churches mandate to love GLBT people like Jesus. I am also adding new information concerning certain passages I wasn’t able to present in my paper due to time and space. It’s important, I feel, to show both sides of the issue, and I’ve tried to do that in the research that follows. My conclusions, I’ll argue, are biblical. My prayer is that you don’t see things my way, but that you see them God’s way.
Prove me wrong. Investigate these passages of scripture, this issue, yourself – don’t take my word for it. But in the end, make sure your conclusions glorify God. As Christians, our mandate is to align our lives to God’s spoken and revealed word. May you move, then, in the direction of His truth, and not towards opinions that suite and justify your experiences or agenda.
Setting the Stage:
Knowing that this is such a cumbersome topic, this paper is a condensed research on the issues that surround homosexuality and how it relates to the Church. The overall objective of this paper is to present a solid case, based on scripture, to compel the Church to take positive action in ministering to the gay community. Long overdue is the time for the Church to awaken to these issues and to respond biblically to them. No longer can the Body of Christ stand in ignorance. In the end, where there are many different ways to approach gays and lesbians, there stands but one authentic way to do so: as Jesus ministered, in a balance of truth and grace. Therefore, the Church must construct a bridge of truth and grace that effectively connects with the gay community by following the examples of Christ’s ministry (John 4 and 8:1-11) and submitting to the call He issued to His followers (Matthew 22, 28), all of which stems from an exegesis of 1 Corinthians 6:11.
In 2003, the Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census, through the help of the OpusComm Group, took a survey that polled gays about their religious affiliations and practices. Out of 8, 831 people, 63.7% claim to have an affiliation with a denomination, while only 38% actually participate in some type of church activity. The four main denominations that gays and lesbians affiliate with are as follows: Catholic 17.6%, Methodist 4.3%, Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) 3.8%, and the Episcopal Church 3.8%. The four main denominations that gays and lesbians participate in are the following: MCC 79.4%, Unitarian 66.7%, Episcopal 57.6%, and the Jewish faith 47.5%. While the numbers differ between religious practice and affiliation, they bring to light two surprising conclusions: the gay community does have a spiritual hunger, and, because of this hunger, the gay Christian movement is alive and growing. As the numbers suggest, the issue is not so much whether gays want to attend church, or even desire a relationship with Jesus; the issue is rather, how does the Church respond to such a request? Pastor and founder of the pro-gay denomination MCC, Troy Perry openly admits, “If the church had really done their missionary work, I don’t think that MCC would have ever existed” (as cited in Dallas, p. 227, emphasis mine).
Almost every gay and lesbian person, whether Christian or non-Christian, knows what the Bible says about, or rather against, homosexuality. The Big Six, as this paper will refer to these Biblical texts as, are the following Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10. All of these verses refer to male-male sexual encounters, with the exception of Romans 1, which refers to female-female relations too. Christians have used these six passages to prove, especially to those who live openly gay lives, that homosexual acts are sinful; they go against God’s original intent for mankind. However, while the message is true, Christians have incorrectly used these passages to drive a wedge between the gay community and the Church. Likewise, these passages have also been a major dividing wedge between church denominations. Instead of God’s Word proclaiming truth, that would cause mankind to turn back to God, the Church has used His Word to proclaim a “truth” that keeps mankind from turning to God and, in some cases, drives mankind to walk against God altogether. Not only has the Word been like a harsh weapon in this sense, but “biblical texts have been used to justify the unjust persecution of [gays and lesbians]” far too many times (Thompson, p. 81).
An attitude arising in the late 1990’s, and in full swing today in the majority of churches worldwide, is expressed well in this statement: “homosexuality has become … the sin set apart as worse than all others” (Hill, p. 339). Because of this, the message of God’s love, redemption, and freedom has been lost among the angry protests, riots, and heated negativity coming from the conservative right. The simple message of Jesus has been lost, among man’s narrow-minded theological ideals and tirades. Though the conservative right-wing of the church has much to apologize for, so does the liberal left-wing of the church. They have been guilty of presenting nothing more than “feel good” messages to Christians who are in dire need of heart transplants. The liberal church ignores certain standards in order to appease a pluralistic worldview, in the end offering anything and everything but the truth of the gospel message. While the ex-gay side argues for change, the pro-gay side argues for tolerance. While the ex-gay side strives to uphold God’s standards, the pro-gay side strives to re-interpret God’s Word according to today’s culture. The ex-gay side holds strong to God’s truth, and the pro-gay side holds strong to God’s grace. Neither side gives in and so there is a major division within the body of Christ.
What both agendas fail to see though is that each side is a vital piece to the overall puzzle, which must come together on a common ground of embracing Christ. One way of attaining this common ground is to agree that while the Bible does speak out against the practice of homosexuality “… we must separate thoughts and feelings from behavior” (Ludwig, p. 338). In other words, the Church needs to learn how to value the person apart from the sin. Another common ground needs to be, even though both sides use scripture (and misuse scripture) for their benefit, “there are only two ways one can neutralize the biblical witness against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of Scripture” (Jones, p. 204). Can a Christian truly hold a high view of scripture and at the same time use scripture to wrongly justify sin? Just the same, can Christians use scripture to condemn sin and yet never offer hope or grace to those in need of it? In order to biblically minister to gays and lesbians, the Church must correctly use the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:5), and take hold of those who are in need of being washed with His healing Word (Ephesians 5:26), both of which actions can stem only from His love and grace.
In light of this argument, Ludwig offers great insight: “The ploy of Satan has not changed since the Garden of Eden, for he continues to ask, ‘Did God really say…?’ And we keep answering, ‘Well, maybe not.’ Rather we need to come to God and say, ‘I don’t understand this, but I ask You to help me see this issue as You do.’” (p. 340). So in taking Ludwig’s sound advice, below are the Big Six passages, with special attention and exegesis being given to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Works Cited (for entire post series)
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