|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on May 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM|
First things first, I want to say that I don't normally blog about "topical" issues in Christianity because they tend to detract from the important matters and leave people nit-picking, becoming judgemental and missing the spirit of the law in favour of traditionalism or legalism, which Jesus opposed strongly on numerous occasions. The Pharisees in Jesus' day were very good at following the letter of the law but they missed the point of them, and Jesus didn't beat around the bush when he made them aware of their hypocrisy and cold-heartedness. So I don't normally focus on what I tend to see as "trivial" matters which really shouldn't become the main focus of our faith, because they distract people from God's immense compasion and love which should always be paramount.
So I am very disappointed that the church plays such a small part in the everyday lives of most people who live in the UK today, even if we still largely consider ourselves a Christian country. The church should be prominent by living out Christ's compassion and loving values all the time in our communities. Sadly the church is normally seen as being old-fashioned and obsolete and a bit of a joke. Chrisianity features in our media only when it's portraying a well-meaning but clueless vicar in a sitcom (Vicar of Dibley being a refreshing exception), showing people fainting and speaking in tongues at American charismatic events, or on our own news stories as being a hurdle to progression when it comes to rights for women and homosexuals.
Why is this such a big issue? I just don't get it. The Bible is a massive book encompassing so many topics yet small verses, often only appropriate to the culture in which they were written, are blown out of proportion and made the centre of attention when they were never meant to be serious stumbling-blocks to faith.
So yes, there is mention of homosexuality in the Bible and homosexual acts are explicitly frowned upon, but there are several things worth mentioning here. Firstly, the number of times homosexuality is brought up numbers only a few verses in both the Old and the New Testaments out of over 30,000. It is clearly not meant to be a huge issue. Secondly, Jesus himself never talks about it, or if he did, it's not recorded. He spoke of fidelity in marriage and warned of being judgemental, however, so these are worth taking note of. Thirdly, there is argument to suggest that homosexuality and the issues surrounding it are cultural. Slavery and the role of women are perhaps other issues which need to be viewed with the right cultural mindset. Jesus didn't preach in 21st Century UK; he walked the earth 2000 years ago in Israel. The Old Testament is thousands of years older still. It's misguided to apply the Bible literally at all times with our perspective. This goes back to my previous comment about making sure we understand the spirit of the law.
The long and short of it is that I don't know what Jesus would say today about homosexuality, issues about gay marriage or two men or two women adopting a child. Perhaps he would disapprove of it; perhaps he would have a more complex response. I am not in a position to say. But he did continually teach us to be compassionate and not judgemental, and this really needs to be brought home to people who are abusive and exclusive yet call themselves Christians. If homosexual acts are indeed a sinful, then we do not have the right to judge unless we are sinless ourselves. Jesus illustrated this with his treatment of the condemned adulterer:
(John 8v3) The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group (4) and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (5) In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (6) They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (7) When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” ( 8 ) Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
(9) At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (10) Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
(11) “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
~ John 8:3-11 (NIV)
If anyone had the right to stone her, he did. But he didn't, and that's crucially important. It saddens me when I see people who call themselves Christians but pick on other people yet don't acknowledge their own problems. Jesus preached about this too:
(Matthew 7v1) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (2) For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
(3) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (4) How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
~ Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)
OK, so let's say that homosexual behaviours (as opposed to homosexual feelings, which I don't believe anyone can help) are not approved of by God. Or at least it's not what He intended for marriage. One man, one woman and a union that lasts a lifetime = marriage. I believe that Christians who read the Bible and come to this conclusion should be allowed to hold this view without fear of persecution themselves. It's one thing to protect gay people from prejudice and aggression, but sometimes I wonder whether it goes the other way enough. I see people who are exercising their right to freedom of speech and following their conscience but are then bullied and prosecuted as a result. This isn't right either.
Recently the story of Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland hit the news because the two devout Christians who worked there refused to write "Support Gay Marriage" on a cake they were making for a gay couple. It's interesting to note that the bakers did not refuse to serve the couple or make the cake they requested depicting Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, but only objected to writing a statement that their conscience disagreed with. Yet somehow this has gone to court? The Telegraph article that covers this story raises an interesting point that a Muslim printer asked to produce a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed might have similar reservations. I'm sure each and every one of us, regardless of our religious beliefs or political values, has a subject close to our hearts that would make it difficult for us to publish a statement in opposition to it. I feel therefore that the rights of the bakers in this instance need standing up for. They did not discriminate, show hatred or maltreat their customers; they simply couldn't make a statement against their conscience.
The two points I want to make from this blog post are that people should be allowed to follow their conscience without fear of persecution, and that Christians need to remember to be loving and compassionate at all times, which obviously includes the gay community. God loves each and every one of us, and there are numerous gay people who have felt God's deep love for them and let that be what defines them. If this is a topic that interests you, Sam Allberry's book "Is God Anti-Gay?" might be a worthwhile read for you. Sam knows what it's like to feel attracted to other men and has a strong relationship with God regardless so don't let anyone tell you that God hates gays!