I wanted to say thanks to the 90+ students who attended my class, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church” this last semester at Eternity Bible College. I loved our interactions, discussions, and the very helpful feedback you’ve given me throughout the semester. As a brief recap, we spent most of our time in the text, working through direct and indirect passages relevant to the issue. We also listened to a few (former and current) LGBT people, who helped us put flesh on the topic. During the last few classes we discussed all the “what about…” questions that surround homosexuality. “Can I attend a gay wedding if I think homosexual behavior is a sin?” “What do I do when my child comes out?” “Should I vote against gay marriage?” and many others.
For those who weren’t part of the class but wanted to be, I will soon release two online courses on homosexuality through The Silo Project, so stay tuned.
I often get asked, have you changed your views after studying the topic and teaching the class? Sometimes the question is genuine; other times the questioner has a sharpened pitch-fork ready to address the wrong answer. In any case, my answer is always the same: “yes and no.”
No, I have not changed my view about what the Bible says about homosexual behavior. The Bible says homosexual behavior is sin. I’ve tried to read the text from the affirming side—”monogamous, consensual homosexual behavior is blessed by God”—but I’ve found their arguments to be unconvincing. No doubt, there are several good points made by James Brownson, Matthew Vines, and others, and I may agree with some of their exegetical conclusions about some passages (e.g. Gen 19), but at the end of the day, there are too many interpretive problems with their view, so I can’t buy it.
So, I (still) believe homosexual behavior is sin. The difference, though, is that now I know why. I’ve worked through the passages, thought about the theological questions, and listened to countless testimonies from LGBT people. I’ve heard, weighed, and considered the main arguments for the affirming position and still remain traditional in my views not because I’m addicted to tradition, but because the traditional view rightly captures what the Bible says about homosexuality. Hopefully, now, my view is based on the Bible and not my upbringing or assumptions.
So I haven’t changed my view. However, I have changed my posture. I used to think that standing for the traditional view of marriage meant that I need to wear it on my sleeve and front my conclusion at the beginning of every conversation. But Jesus didn’t, and so neither will I. Jesus, of course, never mentioned homosexuality. However, he did take a conservative stance on various sins while dishing out grace quite liberally on those steeped in those sins.
Jesus stood against extortion, yet didn’t mention extortion when he encountered extortionists (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-10).
Jesus stood against violence, but didn’t mention violence when he befriended a leader of a violent superpower (Matt 8:5-13).
Jesus opposed adultery and even took a hyper-conservative view on sexual ethics (Matt 5:27-32), but he didn’t front sexual sin when he encountered people engaged in it (Luke 7:36-50).
Jesus didn’t often lead with law; instead, he led with love and he loved people into holiness.
I often wonder what made Jesus so compelling to sinners. Why were they “drawn to him” as Luke 15:1-2 tells us? I think it’s because his cosmic love for people seeped deep down into the bones of people who were broken and battered by a sin-tarnished world. In a round about way, my traditional view of homosexual behavior compels me—if I want to be like Jesus—to love LGBT people even more. Not, love the sinner and hate the sin, but love the sinner and hate my own sin. Because we’re all sinners. I should have more LGBT friends, and not less, if I’m true to my non-affirming view. Jesus had few friends who were conservative religious people, but he had a whole slew friends who were thugs, fornicators, extortionists, gangsters—or people who were simply rejected and unloved by the religious elite.
Therefore, I want to be known for hanging out in the gay district in town, for donating time and money for people suffering from AIDS, and for attending parties that are filled with gays, lesbians, and transvestites. Why? Because Jesus was known for attending such parties (Matt 9:10-13), so much so that it tarnished His reputation (Matt 11:19). But Jesus didn’t care about His reputation. He cared about grace. He cared about love. He cared about fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by His Father and energized by the Spirit.
So have I changed? Ya, I guess I have. Hopefully I’ve changed toward, not away from, Jesus. Such a shift will always be dangerous and invite criticism from religious people.
My understanding of the issue of homosexuality has also changed. That is, I no longer can see same sex attraction and orientation as some abstract ethical debate that I banter around with among all my heterosexual friends. Homosexuality is not an issue. It’s people. It’s Matt and Leslie and Dan and Jeff and Jeremy and Maddie and many other beautiful souls trying to find hope and peace in a broken world. Loving people doesn’t mean affirming whatever behavior they desire; such an approach has never resonated with historic Christianity. But loving people the way Jesus did involves deep and radical commitment, sacrificial generosity, and a burning passion to discover and delight in the humanity of God’s image bearers. If we construct walls of conditions and prerequisites—“I’ll love greedy people, but not gay people…I can tolerate gluttons at my work on doughnut day but I despise my lesbian boss”—we fail to mediate the healing love of Christ. And we fail to uphold the biblical gospel we claim to promote.
In any case, I’ll be blogging less about homosexuality. Why? Because I need some space to reflect, read, and have non-social-media conversations about this vital topic. Plus, there are many other beautifully complex truths that I’m passionate about.
So, my next few blogs will be about grace (or charis): that ever so familiar and ever so watered down truth that binds us to our crucified King.