Wandering the savage garden…

Let’s get this straight

Homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible.

You may not like this fact. You may be afraid of it. You might be convicted by it. You might even get angry with me for putting it straight like that.

I’m sorry if that’s the case. I’d rather every word I write be like butter, smooth and pleasing.

But words like “homosexuality is okay now” are like butter after it’s been left out, and way too much of it: cloying, rancid. And wrong.

CNN this morning had an article, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority’,” that had a lot of assertions about Christians and opinions about homosexuality – with some Christians being unwilling to “come out” against homosexuality.

I feel for those Christians, even while rejecting their cowardice.

The CNN article was very depressing, both in its subject matter and in its attempted understanding of the biblical stance. It had some statements that were really difficult for me to read, because if they’re true, then there’re some Christians out there who really, really, really badly miss the point.

Like, to the point where fellowship is broken; they may be Christians in name only, and I’d rather be a nonchristian altogether than be a notional Christian, one who considers himself a Christian for social or historical reasons and lacks a true relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s an example from the CNN article:

But quoting the Bible doesn’t inoculate anyone from becoming a bigot or hater, some scholars say. There’s a point at which a Christian’s opposition to homosexuality can become bigotry, and even hate speech, they say.

Crossing such a line has happened many times in history.

A literal reading of the Bible was used to justify all sorts of hatred: slavery, the subjugation of women and anti-Semitism, scholars and pastors say.

The first statement is true; lots of bigots use the Bible to justify their idiocy. Yet these readings fundamentally misunderstand that the Bible is a tapestry, a set of balancing statements held in tension. It’s not a series of absolute statements.

This is an example of Western thinking being applied to an Eastern mindset. (See “Eastern and Western Thought” for more on this.)

From the article, again:

Slaveholders in 19th century America justified slavery through a literal reading of the Bible, quoting Titus 2:9-10 – “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything.”

Really? So the whole thing in the Torah about slavery being a temporary bond matters not? Oh, yeah, I forgot: it matters a lot. Slavery was not a Hebrew construct, the way we think of it, and the reality was that Paul was in a Western world and trying to help someone negotiate it; he was not giving a blessing to the idea of slavery.

This is where the church fails, and badly.

We undereducate ourselves and others in our church, so that we’re not armed, not prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, as we’re commanded to do by Peter. Actually, let’s look at that verse:

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15, ESV

Gentleness. Respect. Honoring Christ as holy. Heck, a defense!

Where are these things, in a church where one is unwilling to decry sin as sin?

To be fair, some people will misinterpret, wilfully. Some people will take a gentle statement that homosexuality is a sin as denigrating, because they’ve elevated that particular sin as an idol above all others in their lives.

This is a difficult obstacle to overcome. It’s also sad. It’s also a call to remember “gentleness and respect,” and a reminder that witnessing is most effective when it’s mano a mano, one individual witnessing to another.

And witnessing isn’t “Sit down, shut up, let me tell you about Christ” – it’s understanding the other person, walking alongside them, meeting their needs – not just for Christ, but their human needs as well.

But that doesn’t mean hiding the truth – to the contrary, it means finding the truth. If you’re wielding the Bible like a club, you’re doing it wrong.

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