Sometimes Tasha and I really don’t like the Bible.
We love it when it talks about love, and forgiveness, and passion, and the Kingdom of God. But we really don’t like it when it says things that are personal to us.
- Like that when we’re angry with someone we’re guilty of murder, or if we look lustfully at someone we’ve committed adultery in our hearts.
- Or when Jesus says we’ve got to be servants. It’s easy to serve someone, until they start treating you like you’re a servant.
- And we’re not huge fans of “not judging people.” We’re pretty holy – more holy than most – and we think we have the right to pass at least a little judgment on others. (In case you missed it, this point is meant to be sarcastic.)
In fact, there are quite a few topics that we wish weren’t addressed in the Bible at all. Like homosexuality.
Tasha and I have family members and friends whom we love dearly who are in homosexual relationships. We’ve spent time with these dear souls socially, we’ve talked about their relationships, and some have been overnight guests in our home. It would be so much easier if the Bible left the whole conversation alone.
But it doesn’t.
Before we go on, allow us to make one disclaimer up front. We believe the Bible is clear about this subject. We are familiar with many of the arguments around contentious passages, about the words arsenokoitês and malakos, and about contextual versus universal applications of certain topics. And we’ve read theologians and practitioners whom we deeply respect that believe the opposite that we do. But as we’ve studied the whole of the Bible, we believe the Bible speaks clearly that engaging in homosexual acts is a denial of God’s best for your life, regardless of how you were born.
That being said, we are not so naïve to believe that we’ve cornered the market on truth. We may very well look back in 50 years with hindsight that we misunderstood the scriptures and misrepresented God. If that happens, we will repent, make amends, and move forward, knowing that in our hearts we are seeking God. But today, with pure hearts, we believe the Bible is clear, and we must do our best to live lives that reveal the fullness of God’s kingdom, even in the midst of a broken world.
As Tasha and I look back over the past 20 years of marriage and ministry, we can identify several things related to the subject of homosexuality that we believe with conviction:
- As followers of Christ, our lives should overflow with love. Not a trickle, budgeted, efficient love, but a lavish, wasteful, excessive love. We believe “love” is the word all people should use to describe followers of Christ. (John 13:35)
- Sometimes loving someone well means having difficult, heart-wrenching conversations. We try to always speak truth in love, and with fragile conversations like this, we believe you should do the hard work to demonstrate your love for someone before opening the door to speaking truth. In the best of cases, your overflowing love for someone will prompt them to open up the door to a tender conversation. (Matthew 5:16 in The Message)
- A friendship with an agenda isn’t really a friendship. We don’t believe Jesus was kind and compassionate to people so they would do anything. We believe Jesus was kind and compassionate because he was a kind and compassionate person, because God’s kingdom is all about kindness and compassion. If we aren’t willing to make the long-term investment to be someone’s friend and get to know them and their story, we shouldn’t take the liberty to have a potentially hurtful conversation with them.
- Just because we disagree with you doesn’t mean we hate you. Or even dislike you. One of the saddest parts of this larger conversation is that it has been painted as, “agree with me or we are enemies.” And all sides have been guilty of this mis-framing. We recognize there are some difficulties living into this, but just because something is difficult doesn’t give us an excuse to shy away from it.
- The struggles related to sexual identity affect every human, and they run deeper than homosexuality. We believe all humans are born broken. The sin of Genesis 3 affects us all today, and because sexuality is such an integral part of human existence, it is heavily affected. We must figure out a way to link arms and hearts and love and encourage one another as we seek to discover and live out God’s kingdom in all parts of our lives, including our sexuality.
- The gospel is about more than personal salvation. One of the first questions we are asked by students when discussing the subject of homosexuality is, “Can a gay person go to heaven?” We think this is an important question. But because Jesus’ life and works were about so much more than personal salvation, we don’t think this is a central question. The kingdom of God is about the restoration of what was broken in Genesis 3, which includes personal salvation, healing, justice, passion, etc. Our lives and conversations must avoid being sidetracked, so we can live to reflect the big-ness of God’s kingdom.
- Our goal with every other human is community rooted in the Kingdom of God. We believe we have something to learn from every person we encounter. Even the person who has made a lifetime of destructive decisions is still made in God’s image, worthy of dignity and respect. No lifestyle choice or pattern of decisions changes our approach – as flawed and imperfect as we are – to try to see and help build the image of God in everyone.
So what does this all mean?
A parent came to us once, worried about their college-aged daughter who was moving in with her boyfriend. They asked us what they should do. We had a healthy relationship with this family, and after some lengthy conversation, our final “advice” was to work hard to preserve their relationship with their daughter, no matter what. Whatever boundaries they set, whatever events they choose to or not to participate in, we encouraged them to make sure they didn’t do anything to cause long-term damage to the relationship with their daughter.
We sometimes wonder what we’ve done – in our genuine efforts to “stand up for God” and “hold onto our principles” – that has done long-term damage to relationships with LGBT persons. We wonder if our hard-headed desire to be “right” in an argument has built walls of division that cripple our future communication with people with whom we disagree. We are fairly certain we’ve screwed up way more times than we’ve gotten it right. But we’re confident that God loves, forgives, and offers restoration. And we’re confident that God offers the same things to us, too.