• “Once more unto the breach”

    May 1, 2013

    jason-collins-4_3_r536_c534I can’t tell you how exhausted I am with this “issue” of homosexuality, particularly as it relates to Christian faith. Most days I feel like I simply cannot respond to yet another “Christian” assault on gay people. (I put Christian in quotation marks because I think most of these anti-gay statements come from a misunderstanding of what Christianity is and what Jesus wants for and of us.) But often I’m compelled to muster the energy anyway and say something because for many of us this is not an “issue;” it’s a significant part of our lives. It’s personal, and not to respond feels a bit like silently approving of statements that do not reflect the character or mind of Jesus, as far as I understand them and see them expressed in the Bible.

    As the whole world surely knows by now, NBA player Jason Collins is gay, a revelation that prompted sports commentator Chris Broussard to say, among other things, this:

    … If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality—adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be—I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.

    That prompted the executive director of the Gay Christian Network, Justin Lee, to write this. I’d encourage you to read the article. I thought it was spot on.

    One of my Facebook friends did not. He said, among other things, this (I’ve highlighted points I want you to notice, particularly):

    [Collins] had the perfect platform to explain how a Christian can be homosexual within the law of God. He did not do that. He had the perfect opportunity to claim to be a follower of Christ. He did not do that. He said he was raised with those values and basically chose which teachings of Christ that he follows. You can’t pick and choose your own Christ … I hope that he is a full follower of Christ, but if he is, he totally botched a perfect opportunity to share it, so bad in fact that it’s safe to say that he is not being led by the holy spirit.

    I haven’t read the Collins article in Sports Illustrated, so I’ll limit my thoughts to that which I have read: the Bible. I’ve read it several times, and believe me, as a gay Christian, I know all the relevant passages regarding same-sex anything and everything. I know them by heart. And I know all the various views out there about how to interpret them. My Facebook friend seems either unaware of the varying views or utterly dismissive of them. If it’s the former, shame on him for wading into these waters ignorantly. If it’s the latter, shame on him for arrogance that neither acknowledges other views nor feels any need to explain his own before condemning a man.

    I have so many questions for my friend. You really think it’s “safe to say” someone is not being led by God based on extremely limited knowledge of the person (his thoughts on one subject)? Do you have any idea how overly confident in your own spiritual fruit inspection abilities that sounds? And really, isn’t trying to determine who’s Spirit-led and not a little trickier than you’ve suggested? Jesus looked at the religious leaders of his day who were full of outward signs that they were following God, and he told them that whores and drunkards would get into heaven ahead of them. And what do you mean when you say Collins had “the perfect platform to explain how a Christian can be homosexual within the law of God”? What is the law of God for a follower of Jesus? Do you mean the Old Testament Law, because the Bible makes it pretty clear that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). That’s because Christ is “the end of the law” for those who believe in him (Romans 10:4). Have you read Hebrews? The whole thing is a plea for us to let go of the Old Testament Law because it has been set aside in favor of a new and better way of relating to God: Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law. How can you expect Jason Collins to be led by the Spirit and expect him to explain how to live as a gay man under God’s Law? The Spirit and the Law do not go hand in hand. Collins can only do one or the other: He can be led by the Spirit, or he can be under the Law. He cannot do both.

    Maybe, though, by “God’s law” you simply mean that Collins should explain how he can be gay and still obey the New Testament passages that reference homosexuality. As I’ve mentioned above, there are a number of ways Christians approach those passages, and depending on which way you go, you end up with very different conclusions, one of which results in a pro-gay theology. Since you would, at least at this point in your life, not agree with such a view, let’s assume that the Apostle Paul in the New Testament letters forbids homosexual relationships, period. How did Jesus, the founder and leader of our faith, handle the application of rules? We don’t have to guess. We have examples. Here’s one from Mark 2.

    23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

    25 He answered, â€œHave you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

    27 Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath …”

    Keep in mind, resting on the Sabbath was not just “a” rule. It was one of the big ten, inscribed in stone by the finger of God. Violating the Sabbath in Old Testament times could invoke the death penalty. It was much more serious than should I mow my lawn on Sunday. This was a hard and fast command. It was the law, period.

    Or not. Jesus did not dispute the Pharisees’ claim that his disciples were violating the Sabbath. He didn’t say, “Oh come on, it’s just some heads of grain.” He said, “Have you never heard what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?” Jesus is referencing an Old Testament account of David on the run to save his life. David didn’t have time to pack a picnic. He had to get out of town. When he found himself in need, he violated the law which said no one was to eat the bread in the temple. David did it anyway, and Jesus says that’s just fine because the law was made for man, not man for the law. In other words, the law was given for the benefit of human beings, not in order to wring from them every drop of hard obedience possible. When a law no longer benefits people, when it causes enslavement instead of freedom, Jesus seems to say it’s okay and even good to set it aside.

    I don’t believe the Apostle Paul anywhere in the New Testament condemns healthy, loving, gay relationships, but even if he did, would it not be fair to subject such a rule to the same standard to which Jesus subjected his Father’s own Ten Commandments? It’s hard to argue that the church’s traditional stance forbidding gays and lesbians from ever partnering with a soul mate has had positive effects. Just the opposite. The pain of isolation and subjugation has had depressing and sometimes deadly (consider the suicides) consequences for gay people.

    As far as I can tell, Jesus only gave one law to his people. Love.

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:8)

    The Apostle Paul took notice and echoed his Lord’s words in no fewer than three places (emphasis, mine):

    “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

    “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Galatians 5:14)

    Paul says love fulfills the law, and love does no harm to a neighbor. I will ask it again: which church position has done more harm to our gay neighbors, the one which says a rule is a rule is a rule, or the one which says, you know, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love?

    Posted in: More Gay Stuff

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