Unconditional: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate by Justin Lee – a review

Even though I know several people who are gay, the biggest problem I have when I talk or write about anything to do with being gay or gay relationships, is that I’m not gay.  I can’t get close to explaining what it must be like to be gay and especially what it must be like to deal with being a gay Christian.  Looking at all the news about gay marriage, gay bishops and most recently whether someone like Steve Chalke can be an evangelical and bless gay relationships, it’s quite clear that many Christians have strong opinions on homosexuality and are happy to let others know what they think.  I would probably count myself in that number.  I don’t deliberately seek to discuss homosexuality for the sake of it, but with all that’s been in the press, I don’t feel I’m in a position to ignore it.  The difficulty is that it is very hard not to come across as judgmental talking about those who are gay when I can’t honestly say I’m able to see things from a gay person’s point of view.

What I would find incredibly useful, would be to have a gay Christian friend I could listen to and talk things through with to get their perspective on things.  Recently I’ve been able to get as close as I ever have to achieving that.  I’ve been reading a newly published book entitled Unconditional by Justin Lee.  When you find a book with the subtitle, ‘Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate’ endorsed on the cover by Rowan Williams and the well-known US Baptist author and speaker, Tony Campolo, it suggests it might have something of value to say.

Justin Lee is an evangelical Christian who lives in the US who also happens to be gay.  The book is essentially his  story of growing up as a committed Christian with a deep desire to serve God, but then gradually realising to his own horror (as he puts it) that he was attracted to men.  He tells of the dilemmas and traumas that he has faced from his teenage years onwards trying to reconcile his faith and his sexuality and coming to terms with the consequences of not being a straight person in the church.

Lee tells of his initial attempts to act as a heterosexual person, finding a girlfriend and trying to fall in love in the hope that his same-sex attraction would fall away.  When this failed to work he then had to face coming out to his family, friends and church.  He talks about his experience of ex-gay ministries and his annoyance at not finding the solutions he was hoping for.  Various people along the way give him advice and attempt to identify some childhood event or experience that caused him to turn out the way he is.  In each case they are unable to provide a satisfactory answer.  Lee explains more than once that he was brought up in a loving family with a strong Christian faith.  There were no cases of abuse or any other reasons that might have caused him to develop feelings towards his own sex.

This is an honest account of a young man desperate to follow God at all costs.  He finds that despite his efforts to get help from Christian leaders, he is repeatedly left feeling that he has been preached at but rarely comes away feeling that he has been listened to.  Even though Lee explains throughout the book that he has never acted on his feelings towards other men, he found that just being openly honest about being gay caused him all sorts of difficulties within the church and his Christian groups at university.  As I read his story I often was left wondering how he managed to keep his faith through everything he experienced, but rather than driving him from God, these experiences left him more determined to search for answers and build bridges that would allow churches and straight Christians to be more understanding of gay people.

Throughout the book you can see Lee’s struggle to find a community where he is comfortable.  He is left feeling deeply uncomfortable when looking on the internet to find other gay people to talk to but instead often finding gay people just looking for sex.  His first visit to a gay club leaves him feeling alienated from the secular gay scene.  In church circles he hears a lot about ‘loving the sinner but hating the sin’ in reference to gay people in a condescending way that actually isn’t particularly loving at all.  Lee quotes Tony Campolo on this point:

‘I am always uptight when someone says… ‘I love the sinner, but hate his sin’.  I’m sure you’ve heard that line over and over again.  And my response is, ‘That’s interesting.  Because that’s just the opposite of what Jesus says.  Jesus never says, ‘Love the sinner, but hate his sin.’  Jesus says, ‘Love the sinner and hat your own sin.  And after you get rid of the sin in your own life, then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.”

Being made to feel like a second-rate Christian just because he is unable to choose who he is attracted to is a constant frustration for Lee.

A fair bit of the book is spent looking at the Bible and what it has to say on homosexuality.  Given his sexual orientation you might expect Lee to be biased in his approach, but if anything it makes him more careful to not to take sides, wanting to hear what God has to say over what he might  like to hear.  He gets irritated by those on both sides of the argument who can’t see beyond a single-minded ‘More truth!/More loving!’ stance where their entrenched views blind them to the likelihood that they might not have the whole answer.  As he goes through the instances where homosexuality is explicitly mentioned, he is unable to draw a satisfactory answer that is completely clear-cut one way or another.  Much of it comes down to the interpretation of the context of the passages and a few individual words.

What Lee does next is to try to fit these passages into a bigger picture.  Is there another way to approach this that allows these verses to fit within a Biblical framework that will give a fuller answer?  He turns to Paul’s writings for guidance:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13,14 TNIV)

After a lengthy discourse, Lee summarises what he believes he has learnt:

‘With these standards in mind, it became much easier to interpret Scripture’s difficult passages consistently.  Yes, there were slaves in Bible times, but doesn’t selfless agape love demand their freedom?  Rules about head coverings and hair length had a purpose in Paul’s culture, but if they had no ultimate bearing on our commission to selflessly love God and our neighbours, then, led by the Spirit, we can safely set them aside today.’

Lee then turns this approach to homosexuality.  He mentions Jesus referring to bad trees bearing bad fruit and good trees bearing good fruit.  He sees the bad fruit coming out of his church and good fruit coming from some monogamous gay Christian couples and begins to conclude that it is possible for gay people to have Christ-centred relationships that might not be sinful.  He is careful to explain that he could well be wrong on this, but what he strongly believes that there needs to be more far more grace in the Church on this matter.  The important thing, Lee has decided, is to do his best to live according to what he believes and remain open to God’s leading and trusting in God’s grace if he has made a mistake in his interpretation of the Bible.

While at university Lee posted his story of being a gay Christian up on a homemade website in the hope that those he knew would be able to read it and understand him better.  What took him completely by surprise was not so much the overwhelmingly positive response he received as people began to appreciate what he was having to deal with and having their thinking challenged, but rather the numbers of gay Christians who contacted him to let him know they were going through similar experiences to his own.  As the number of responses from all round the world increased, he set up a community forum as a way for gay Christians to gather and support one another.  This developed into the Gay Christian Network (GCN), which now has thousands of members and hosts an annual conference.

One thing Lee was very keen to ensure right from the start was that the GCN would be welcoming to all gay Christians irrespective of their views on the Bible and whether gay relationships are sinful.  He developed this into the concept of  ‘Side A’ (those who think that gay sex is morally acceptable in the right circumstances) and ‘Side B’ (those who think that gay sex is inherently morally wrong).  The attempt to bring together those on both Side A and Side B in the same place with the aim of finding common ground has drawn plenty of criticism, but as Lee puts it, for every one person who has left in protest, ten have joined deliberately because of the GCN’s attempts at bridge building.

Justin Lee’s vision is for this same approach to reaching across the divides to be seen increasingly within the church.  He does not think that we will reach the point where Christians will all agree on the interpretation of Biblical texts on homosexuality or on the morality of gay sexual relationships.  He would much rather the church came to terms with this tension rather than battling over it and instead look at showing more grace to gay people and be willing to listen and learn from their stories.  Christians repeatedly demonstrate how poor we are at being able to dialogue effectively when we disagree.  Learning to graciously dialogue is not easy but if the Church is to move forward without the rifts becoming bigger, this has to begin to happen more and more.

This book is challenging, but also inspiring.  It looks to find hope where there has been very little in the past.  As Lee reveals his story it’s hard not to appreciate how much he has had to deal with and yet through it all God’s love and grace shine through.  Tony Campolo is not a supporter of gay relationships and yet describes the book as ‘crucial for the destiny of the church.’  This is a huge statement to make, but as we’ve seen over the past months how churches welcome gay people (or don’t) is so incredibly divisive that he is probably not far off the mark.

If there’s one thing I’ve taken from this book, it’s the power of personal testimony.  I’ve often been taught at church that all Christians should be able to give their testimony explaining what God has done in their lives when to opportunity presents itself.  What I don’t hear so much of is teaching encouraging all of us to listen to and learn from the stories of those around us.  The more gay people are able to tell their stories and feel like the Church at large is interested in them, the more chance we have of breaking down the gays-vs-Christians mentality that has dogged the Church for so long.  Lee knows this is a huge issue that can’t be fixed simply or quickly, but his willingness to do what he can to take it on and wrestle with it should be an inspiration to all of us, irrespective of what our own personal views may be.

Unconditional is published by Hodder & Stoughton and can be purchased from various book retailers including Amazon, here.



Categories: Church, Homosexuality, Reviews

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38 replies

  1. Thank you: positive and hopeful indeed.

    If you’re serious about having a gay Christian friend you can listen to and talk things through with to get their perspective on things, there are several facebook groups you could join — Changing Attitude might be the best place to start…

  2. The problem you will face as an “outsider” is discerning when gay people are blagging it – claiming a moral position which they don’t take too seriously in their own circle of friends.

    Like everyone – gay people adapt the message to the social context. As a straight evangelical you will encounter an extreme defensiveness from gay Christians about how similar/dissimilar their relationship patterns are to straight Christians. As a gay man, I can safely assume the gay men who go to Steve Chalke’s church behave no differently than secular gay men (which is not to say all are promiscuous – but just that they are non-judgemental to the point of indifference when someone on “their team” isn’t monogamous) and brush off the moral posturing that follows on from such a statement.

    The other thing you will not be able to accurately access is when gay people are genuinely overreacting or playing the victim card. You don’t experience the same taunts day in day out – so when a gay person blows up over some (from your perspective) rather minor point – you are not in a position to understand whether they are exaggerating their suffering or, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, collapsing under the weight of a lifetime of insults and abuse.

  3. This raises the wider question of how much of a community a church is. Whether it supports a gay man who is celibate because of the beliefs that church shares is a similar question to how much it supports other people in need (all of us) or expects us to find our support networks elsewhere. Are we droogs or tovariches?

  4. “Washed & Waiting” is a very similar book. Well worth reading too.

  5. Sacred,
    I admire your courage and compassion.
    Sadly, an entire generation has grown up being taught that people are born gay.
    That assumption was made without evidence by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s , long before Genetic evidence would fail repeatedly to find proof supporting that false claim.

    • CCT

      Scientifically speaking, it’s true that we don’t know why some people grow up to be gay (the earlier psychological theories were never proved either). There may in fact be several different developmental paths to the same thing – or several different homosexualities. The “born gay” idea comes from the fact that most gay people (like their straight counterparts) experience their sexual orientation as something natural – occurring from the onset of puberty and never diminishing until late adulthood when all sexual desires fade away – regardless of whether they fight those feelings or express them. We may not know why gay people exist but gay people can talk about what it is like to be gay.

    • Sadly a generation of people have grown being taught that being Gay is a culture choice and only a culture choice. If only they would be good little people and go heterosexual – naughty children that they are. I do believe that there is some truth in the proposition that some people are born same-sex orientated. There by the grace of God.

      • Indeed. To those who insist that being gay is a choice, I ask: how do you know this? When did you choose to be straight? Some did, admittedly, but the vast majority of straights were born straight and can no more choose to be gay than a gay person can choose to be straight. Some of us are somewhere in between: we didn’t choose that either; it’s simply the way we are. One thing we know with certainty: Jesus does not approve of hypocrisy. Far better, then, to be true to who you are than to live a lie … and as I said earlier, the truth will indeed set you free.

        • My ramblings on ‘being true to yourself’ and ‘being free’

          Somebody once explained that if you’re gay ‘heterosexuality is like a club that you’ve never been invited to join’. That really struck a cord with me. That’s exactly how I feel around confident women who seem to have this sexuality thing all sorted out. On the other hand, I find it difficult to believe that marriage between a man and a woman is a gift that God has cordoned off for the cool kids. Doesn’t mean that everybody should or will get married, but the real mystery of marriage and sexuality seems to me to go deeper than who you naturally develop strong sexual feelings for. Melinda Selmys’ (Catholic) blog takes an in-depth (v. heavy on philosophy!) look at this issue: http://sexualauthenticity.blogspot.co.uk/ – what does it mean to be ‘true to yourself’? If you’re gay and have a husband and six kids, are you being ‘true to yourself’?

          I’ll come clean on this. The church never put me off homosexuality. I get on great with my gay friends (their much better than the boring oh-so-hetero cook kids! lol!) and I’ve never really trusted the church on this issue. I was put off homosexuality when I was 14 and I read ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’. About two thirds of the way through she runs into her ex-girlfriend who is married and now pregnant and pushing a pram. She feels physically sick by her friend’s pregnancy. Something just didn’t strike me as quite right about that. Can you really feel that way about a significant part of your body and be ‘free’? and from then on the homosexual road has had a big ‘no entry’ sign. That’s what I find with homosexuality. It seems fine on the surface, but then you just scratch a little and there’s something not quite right about the actual practice of it. I think that’s what Joe’s getting at – how comfortable are you when you get up close? Or are you only comfortable with the cleaned up middle class, gay marriage, nice house version with all the awkward questions pushed to one side.

          The problem with the church is that it lumps the whole subject in with other cultural choices – like moving in with your girlfriend. As if people wake up one morning thinking ‘I think I’ll choose to be gay today – that’ll shock my parents even more than that time I died my hair pink!’. It completely misses the whole point that this is an identity issue.

  6. Thank you Gillan for another sensitively handled and helpful post. I’ve found the debates on this matter informative, albeit low priority. No doubt some may regard my occasional brief comments as tersely dogmatic, but I’m open to re-consider.

    If I’ve understood, some contributors imply they’re same-sexually active, believe in Jesus Christ AND have his ok to continue in that life-style. Consequently, all of that would have a logical impact upon my own personal life, as follows:

    1. In view of that claim, am I to assume my own full repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour was never ever really necessary? Was I misled into doing that and in getting baptised?

    2. If Jesus has said it’s ok for them, then it must be ok for me to revert to my past life of occult knowledge and practices, along with all its accompanying demonic baggage?

    Clarifications/answers on a postcard would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    (Btw, I too know God’s deep agape love and thereby try to love others likewise.)

    • Oh, Richard, what a wonderful question. I am one of those queers. My answer would be, we see through a glass darkly, and past logs/beams. Do what you think is right, but do not assume it is also right for me.

      Again the broad and narrow way. You presumably think that the narrow way is your precise way of following Jesus, with your understandings of the Bible, and perhaps a wee bit of extra wriggle room for Evangelicals who do not believe exactly what you believe (but not much, as it is a narrow way). But for me, the broad way is the way of trying to conform to the norm, the narrow way is that way which is perfectly, idiosyncratically, my own. God made me this way for a purpose.

      And- Stop making sense!! Logic like that makes a mockery of Gospel. Gospel is paradoxical. The sense it makes is not a narrow logical sense.

      • Ta muchly Clare, your response doesn’t surprise me – and I understand your stance, for I was there! My clue for you was in my 2nd – it’s not what I think or believe at all, but illogically where I’ve been and seen! It would be marvellous for you, too, to know and be blessed by that.

      • Clare, at the risk of sounding argumentative – which is not my intention…

        I want to understand why God would lead any of us along a path that is perfectly, idiosyncratically our own? Would God be leading us at all if this was true?

        • Well, each hair on your head is numbered, and God cares for the sparrows. We observe that human beings are very different, and for example Myers Briggs shows how varied we can be. It must be that God has some purpose having humanity so varied. Remember the Bed of Procrustes, who forced people to lie on his bed and either stretched them or cut them to fit? Jesus is not like that. Jesus has a purpose for one person being sensible, another being fey. I am fey. I can do sensible rational argument, but would far rather do creative playfulness.

        • Isn’t it a given that we all have a unique life? We cannot occupy the same body or share the exact same set of experiences. But what does this tell us about God and his purpose for us? And those who rebel against him – are they not also perfectly, idiosyncratically, their own? If you are searching for God ‘inside yourself’ how do you avoid being deceived by the enemy?

        • These questions begin to seem rhetorical, but how do you avoid being deceived? “By their fruits shall ye know them” and the Quaker way is group rather than individual discernment.

        • I think we agree on the fruit of the Spirit. It is when we discuss the acts of the flesh (echoed in Romans 1) that we part company. The Holy Spirit has lead me to believe (against my natural inclinations) that “sexual immorality” means today what it has meant for other Christians down the ages.

        • My problem with the ‘fruits of the spirit’ argument is that I don’t see any fruits coming from same sex romantic relationships that I wouldn’t see coming from any deep and endruing same sex friendship (eg. David and Jonathan). The scriptures never banned same sex love. The Church never banned same sex love. What is banned same sex sex. What good fruit is coming out of the life of that bann?

        • Freudian slip! That should have been ‘lift of that bann’. I’m sure you’re going to inform me of all kinds of bad things that came out of the life of that bann.

        • Excellent questions Joe, and pardon me for coming in here, but these are always such an exciting part of being in Christ. May I too briefly answer your Q and hopefully bring some clarity?

          When we listen to Jesus and allow Him to lead, we move into the purposeful destiny He has for each of His Spirit-filled children – ie. to become Sons of God and, paradoxically, the Bride of Christ. (I disagree with Clare on lack of logic in the Gospels as that’s a tad misleading.)

          No more dull days when we realise our identity as individiuals in Him. All part of the mystery of creation to which scripture brings revelation through Holy Spirit. There’s so much much more…and then lots lots more…never ending…onwards and upwards…

          As for avoiding deception, as well as proper handling and wielding of the Sword of the Spirit (Scripture) this is where, imo, ‘testing the spirits’ can be used (1 John 4). Just as many men, eg. Spaniards, are named Jesus, so too unclean spirits will take that name and attempt to deceive us as being the Christ. Such imposters are dismissed by the real Jesus who – unlike them – came in the flesh and reveals Himself exactly as in the Bible, or revealed word of God. Why and how? Simply because He is the Living Word of God – utterly and truly awesome. We then KNOW the difference!

    • Upon what basis do you equate same-sex relationships with occultism, Richard? Your logic is seriously skewed, to put it mildly…

      • Thanks for the ‘window upon your soul’, Phil. Your own logic has missed the point, to put it bluntly…

        The basis of my equation is straightforward, viz: ‘equality of sin’ (ie. ‘missing the mark’).

        I see you’re a regular on this Christian blog but mistakenly presumed you’re familiar with Biblical basics. Whether you disagree with them or not is immaterial in this instance. And correct me if I’m wrong, our reference is not to benevolent (agape) or brotherly (phileo) trans-gender love but to erotic, same-sex love.

        No matter what form our own falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:21-26) takes, sin is sin. Theft, murder, idolatry, sorcery, sexual immorality are merely part of the whole gamut of sins. With one exception, however, all may be forgiven and cleansed through Jesus’ death and resurrection. (The sole unforgivable sin is to ascribe God’s work to the devil.)

        To be logically fair and non-discriminatory, anyone who considers same-sexual activity as not being sinful should – therefore – unequivocally claim the same for every other sinful activity, eg. my past occult involvement.

        Albeit a mistaken supposition, such a conclusion is logically consistent, is it not? In other words, IF there’s no such thing as sin then I’d have a legitimate grievance, would I not? On such grounds, following Christ would have been utterly pointless. Thank God it isn’t! Does this answer your point, and can you answer mine, Phil?

        All this scriptural stuff is not only true, but also personally proven to be so because, as remarked to Clare, I’ve ‘been and seen’! (My remarks and those of Richard P on thread of 21 Jan will explain.) A gentle reminder: there’s none so blind as those who won’t see.

        • Hi Richard … Straight non-affirming pastor checking in here. Not sure if I can fit the answer on a post card but let me address some of what you have been saying.

          To start off .. there are many things that good committed Christians disagree with. Let me list some ..

          Is divorce OK .. Can a divorced person remarry? Does the Pope speak for Christ.. Can Christians celebrate Halloween? Can Christians wear jewelry? Can women be ordained into pastoral ministry? Is God a Calvinist or a Wesleyan Armenian? What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is the gift of tongues genuine? Is it possible for heterosexuals who live together to still love Jesus even if they (perhaps falsely believe) they do not need to get married? Is abortion always wrong? Is infant baptism necessary for a baby’s salvation? Is baptism necessary for an adult believer’s salvation?

          These are just a few of the many doctrinal and moral issues that people disagree on within the Christian faith. Good faithful Christians (and denominations) believe differently on all the above issues .. and this is the short list. I trust that if someone disagrees with you in one of these areas .. that you are not going to decide to go back to occultism.

          If you want the postcard theology .. here it is .. (note: I can explain this just like I can explain many other viewpoints that I may or may not agree with such as some of the ones I listed above)

          The basic argument is based on context. Basically all of the passages that lean negatively toward same sex sex are not in a consensual loving context. A quick (post card) run down .. the Sodom and Gomorrah story – gang rape context .. Leviticus 18 and 20 –unknown mixed context within a larger context (some stuff we follow .. some stuff we don’t .. some are obvious obsolete dietary and feast day directives .. others .. are more nuanced ) … Romans 1 – a very obvious idolatry context and lust context .. not given for the purpose of condemning people but proving (to Paul’s Jewish readers) that their condemnation of others showed they knew the law (see Romans 2) and thus were not righteous through the law (Romans 3:23) … I Cor 6:9-11 .. multiple interpretations of questionable words .. is the text condemning : .. masturbation .. male sex prostitutes .. pederasty .. male same sex relations (the root words are male only) or some other sexual immorality. I Timothy 1:9 .. uses one of the words from I Cor 6 .. so the same questions apply.

          Side note: Similar interpretation arguments would be on divorce and remarriage .. which Christ condemns 4 times in 3 gospels and Paul condemns in Romans 7 and I Cor 7 .. Yet in the last 100 years or so .. many ..but not all denominations do allow for divorce/remarriage. This comes from the authority of the church .. not an absolute black and white interpretation of the passages in question.

          Continuing your post card request .. if one decides that (like the positive passages on slavery) the negative passages on same sex sex are out of context and thus irrelevant then where does that leave the individual who is trying to discern God’s Holy will? It likely leads them to the next question .. Is the bible silent on this issue? Not totally .. because marriage is discussed in scripture. So the next question would be: Is the biblical instruction for marriage prescriptive (male female only) or descriptive (describing a type of relationship)? And this, to me, is where the vital question is (assuming the individual has decided the negative passages are not relevant to the question).

          Like divorce and remarriage (and many other issues) if the church (individually or collectively) gets to this place it needs to make a decision apart from the black and white reading of scripture. Some churches/denominations have already made this decision one way or another. And .. Like the issue of divorce and remarriage .. there is not just one opinion of one view.

          The church is composed of individuals and denominations with an incredible number of different views on many important issues. Christ is the common bond. There was a time when I conveniently sat within a particular denomination and its viewpoint. But over time I have come to realize the amazing tapestry of convictions under the common bond of Christ. If you get to that place perhaps you will not be as threatened or feel that your faith is totally undone when you experience views other than your own.

          God bless,

          Dave

        • Well, Richard, I think I can say it little better than Dave – “dwaerp” – in his response. I do not share your interpretation of scripture; and your interpretation of scripture is no more infallible than mine. I do not regard loving, faithful same-sex relationships as sinful: there simply is no correlation with occultism. In the end, each of us stands or falls before God — and to God, the true and only wise God who alone is able to keep us from falling, be praise, honour and glory for ever more.

          I’ll throw no stones your way; and would be grateful if you’d refrain from sending any towards me or my LGBT friends. Pax.

  7. Thank you everyone, especially to Dave for taking pains to explain. Much to mull over and wait upon the Lord. As mentioned at my start, as with Gillan I’m open to consider other viewpoints – and avoid lobbing bricks! My question needed asking/answering.

    Thanks for the closing re-assurance Dave, but am transdenominational (as URC put it), attended many churches and thus not threatened. Also, I’d never return to the other side of the fence. (Joined that enemy camp because Catholics and Prots disagreed violently even though they believe in the same Jesus!)

    One question pops to mind however.:

    I agree with Joe about Holy Spirit yet some, in this or another thread, claim Jesus and/or Holy Spirit led them to accept their ‘same-sex’ status. May I ask how can they be sure this was indeed of God and how it was authenticated and by whom?

    You see, my immediate reminder upon reading the replies is that Jesus, FULL of the Holy Spirit as He was, was led by God to be put to the test. Satan used scripture to tempt Him and Jesus rebuked him by standing upon its correct interpretation (as He is the Word of God). So as the Son of God was tested, how can we mortals be sure what we hear and think is truly of God and not the deceiver?

    • Hi Richard,

      I am glad you found my response helpful. I am also pleased to hear that you are trans-denominational . This should give you some insight into the various positions denominations take(sometimes quite dogmatically) on some of the issues I mentioned in my previous post. In answer to your question on leading of the God’s Holy Spirit .. lets look at one of the issues I listed more closely and see if similar questions arise.

      On divorce and remarriage .. Jesus is rather implicit here that divorcing one’s spouse and marrying another causes you (and the new spouse) to be committing adultery. He is quite emphatic on this point multiple times in the gospels. Furthermore .. particularly in Matthew 19 .. Jesus gives clear reasoning for why he calls remarriage adultery .. that reasoning is that what God has joined together .. man does now have the authority to separate. Thus .. per Jesus God does not recognize the divorce . This I why he calls remarriage ‘adultery’. This is probably one of the most air tight moral arguments given in scripture .. its in the context of marriage and divorce .. and it gives the actual reason for the moral command based on the sovereignty of God and the fact that God and God alone makes and breaks any marriage bond. Paul in Romans 7 and I Cor 7 repeats this instruction .. calling a woman who remarries (while her husband is still alive) an adulteress (Romans 7) and commanding that a woman is not free to remarry while her husband is alive (I Cor 7).

      There is no New Testament affirmation or example of remarriage .. though one might find an example of divorce in I Cor 7 (that of an unbeliever departing) or in Christ’s words (if there is sexual immorality). However the church ..or parts of it .. under the guidance of the Holy Spirit has decided that these 6 witnesses (4 from Jesus in the Gospels and 2 from Paul) can be disregarded. We could ask your same question here (one one similar): How do we know that the church was following the leading of the Holy Spirit and was not deceived? After-all there is no New testament pattern for divorce and remarriage other than .. “Don’t do it.” So either thousands and thousands of couples who are remarried have a marriage blessed by God or they are living in perpetual adultery . Like the sexual morality questions we are asking here the stakes are rather high. I do thing the over-arching principles of grace and mercy (which do not always have rules ).. can inform us here. The church .. and these couples .. (even before the church made a decision on it) are likely doing the best they can to discern God’s will. One of the things that changed the church’s view on this was that they found that many remarried couples were still being blessed by God with spiritual gifts. Many were still fully committed to Christ and lived/live a life that was evident of that.

      Furthermore .. a look through the Old Testament reveals moral choices .. polygamy .. concubines .. and so forth that would cause us to likely reject many of these saints if they were here today. Yet God worked with them. And he called David a man after his own heart .. even though he had multiple wives and concubines. In my own faith tradition we define sin as a willful violation of a known law of God. For these folks in the Old Testament .. they were doing the best with what they had been given .. They likely didn’t know that polygamy and having concubines was wrong and .. for some reason .. God did not tell them at the time. But God loved them anyway and was able to work with them. Coming back to the question on remarriage ..re: Is remarriage OK with God or not? Only God knows …. but … if not .. I do not believe God is not going to penalize the folks that have remarried especially if they are earnestly seeking to follow Him. I think a better question to ask is whether these folks are earnestly committed to Christ .. not whether they have dotted the I’s and crossed the t’s the way we or some church denomination’s might expect.

      That same question applies here as we talk about gay and lesbian folks and sexual morality .. . I spend considerable time with gay and lesbian folks online, at conferences, at bible studies, and on retreats. I do see a sincere faith in many of these folks. God has not abandoned them because they are not towing the line that the church has set based on the church’s understanding of scripture. While I might not totally agree with how they answer the question of sexual morality .. I do believe the question is a valid one .. one that the church has not really wrestled with yet. And .. as I said before .. I do see a genuine faith in Christ in these folks .. and .. at times .. a maturity level that rivals and/or exceeds some straight Christians I know.

      Hope I have given you some things to ponder…

      God bless,

      Dave

  8. I know I’ve plugged this, already, but you really should read this blog – it’s about identity crisis, love, loneliness, hope, mixed-orientation marriage, the pressures of the culture war, the problems with the ex-gay movement, and what it means to ‘be yourself’. I feel in particular for those in mixed orientation marriages because the message from the gay affirming community is ‘who are you trying to kid?’ and the message from the Church is ‘there’s something deeply wrong with you’ (cause there’s not something deeply wrong with all of us?). We need to learn to accept people as they come if they’re not going to flee from our churches. http://sexualauthenticity.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/am-i-what-i-am.html

  9. Thanks so much for your post, Gillan. It has helped me to realise the importance of sharing my testimony as a gay Christian, which I have started to do here: http://songsandsonnets.org/2013/02/16/just-as-i-am-on-being-gay-and-christian/

    As dwearp points out above, good committed Christians (and denominations) disagree on many issues. I fully respect the views of those who think that same-sex relationships are wrong. What I think is most damaging to us all is not the fact that these different opinions exist, but (a) when gay Christians are told we cannot be “real” Christians, or it is assumed our faith is somehow lesser or less valid; (b) when Christians who do not believe homosexuality is wrong attack those who do, assuming they are bigots or that their faith is somehow less valid; (c) when all this gives non-Christians, especially those who are gay, a very negative view of the church and discourages them from seeking Christ.

    I am happy to share my experiences and views as a gay Christian with anyone who is interested.

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