I have taken a long break from posting, but I am ready to begin again.
One of the things that has been quite disturbing to watch in my beloved UMC is the way Scripture has been handled in the debate over the issue of homosexual behavior.
People who know better often throw out scriptural red herrings in an effort to cloud the point. For example I have hear people say things like, “Well if you are going to take Leviticus literally, you will have to kill your teenager when they back talk you.”
Many of the people who make such statements ought to know better. For the most part, these people have theological Master’s degrees and have had training in biblical interpretation and yet they make statements which clearly demonstrate they lack even a basic understanding biblical hermeneutics.
The same people point out that Jesus never said anything about homosexual behavior and use that to justify that behavior. then when Paul explicitly forbids that behavior they claim he was not referring to committed same sex relationships.
Here are the problems I see with such arguments:
- Leviticus speaks to a particular context. In this context, God is attempting to bring a people a little further down the road than they were. God wanted them to be a holy people – not like the people around them. In the chapter which forbids homosexual behavior, God also forbids incest, bestiality and child sacrifice. In addition, the admonition to stone a son who curses his parents refers not to profanity, but to invoke a foreign god’s name to curse his parents.
- Jesus, indeed, never said anything specifically about homosexual behavior – he didn’t have to! he was a Jew speaking primarily to Jews. They had a common morality. When Jesus opponents tried to circumvent that morality with elaborate legal schemes he called them on it. By the way, Jesus never said anything about incest, bestiality or child sacrifice, does that mean these are acceptable?
- Paul mentions homosexual behavior, because as he spread the gospel to the Gentiles, he needed to talk about it because this behavior was acceptable and even celebrated in the Roman world. So, just has God had tell the people, “don’t be like the nations around you,” Paul had to say the same things to the Gentiles who were responding to the message of the gospel.
The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is open to “whosoever will” but for those who accept the invitation a commitment is required. Commitment is to align their lives with the life of Jesus Christ. That means that sinner – liars, gossips, adulterers, murders, those involved with pornography, slanderers, those who practice pre-marital sex and homosexual sex have a choice to make: do I choose to follow my own desires or those of my Lord and Savior?
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
– Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV)
Do people struggle with behaviors which lead to sin? Of course, we all do. but the answer to that struggle is not to baptize it and call it acceptable, but to speak the truth and support those who are trying to align their lives with the life of Jesus Christ. Except, perhaps those who are struggling with rape and murder.
Dr. Ben Witherington, III has an excellent video which addresses the biblical material on this matter.