Last July, I posted a much-discussed defense of gay marriage. To this day, it is the most viewed post on this blog. I have received comments, emails, and many, many personal messages either agreeing or disagreeing with my particular stance, and to all of you, I am tremendously grateful for the responses.
Today, I want to think about homosexuality and the Bible, but I want to take a slightly different tack. Instead of thinking about what the Bible says, as I’ve already done, I want to think about the different perspectives and responses I’ve received and put them into practice.
I belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, for those not in the know. Right now, the world congregation is struggling to articulate its stance on homosexuality, not to mention gay marriage. So far, the unofficial stance is the prototypical Evangelical, “We support marriage between a man and a woman, etc etc etc, we follow the Bible, etc, etc, etc.” Many gay and lesbian members have fled the doors of the church, to my horror and dismay. But what about members who want to remain, who want the relationship with God? What then?
In the responses against gay marriage that I have heard, some of the most common threads include, “The Bible clearly forbids homosexuality and therefore, to have a relationship is to willfully sin” or “You can be gay, but you have to be abstinent” or “You can come to church, but you can’t hold church office.” It’s hard for me to accept this kind of logic, particularly because I wouldn’t want someone to say it of or to me.
I’m not arguing with the Bible. The Bible clearly denounces sin. But what constitutes sin? And how far do we go to keep it out of our churches, before we start driving people out, in the interest of self-preservation? And how far do we use the Bible to “prove” our point, at the cost of our relationships with others?
Let me share an anecdote from my childhood. It horrifies adult-me. So. Much. I feel, though, that it illuminates the dangers of “having the truth” and trying to foist on people who are either not ready or carry a different truth.
So, in 3rd or 4th grade, I had this antiquated science textbook that included healthful eating and discussed, in great length, the evils of soda (and seriously, it is actually pretty awful for you, but I still love my ginger ale). I was enthralled. Here was the truth, right in front of me. Soda was horrible, evil stuff, and people were drinking it ALL AROUND ME (you can see where I’m going with this, right? Buckle up; it’s about to get real awkward in here).
That summer, in day care (my mom had to work that particular summer), I ended up getting into a fight with two girls about soda. I regret this so much. I pulled out all the stops, the sugar content, the carbonation leaching calcium out of your bones, the WORKS. Oh, yeah, I was THAT kid.
Was I right? Yes, and I even had science to back me up. But did being right bring those girls to the truth? Did they quit drinking soda because I told them it was unhealthy? No, and in fact, they spent the rest of the summer making my life as miserable as they could, because I’d stuck my self-righteous nose in their business. It wasn’t as if they asked me what I thought about soda, or if I liked soda. No, I saw them drinking it and took the “Dare to be a Daniel” idea quite literally and decided to share the Health Message. Much to the cost of a potential friendship.
Obviously, soda and sexuality are very different. But I think my story exemplifies what has often happened when those of us in the Christian faith have tried to regulate others’ behavior because we are convinced of the truth that the Bible tells us. Obviously, if someone is hurting someone else (especially a minor, or breaking the law), we MUST step in. But there are other instances that make me more uncomfortable.
I’m especially dismayed by the idea that we can’t allow our gay and lesbian members to worship alongside us, or that they can’t possibly have partners because it’s an abomination to God.
You know what else is an abomination to God? If we look in Proverbs 6:16-19 (one of many, many places), God clearly tells six things that He hates, nay seven that are an “abomination” to him (again, refer to my post for that oh-too-brief discussion on abominations):
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren (NKJV).
Whoa. My biggest sin was just mentioned right there. That’s right, folks. I struggle–deeply and secretly–with pride.
I am an intelligent individual with pretty good health and a fair-skinned, slender(ish) physique. I am in a doctoral program and doing well and making reasonably good progress. I am a competent teacher who receives pretty consistently positive feedback from her students. I feel pretty good about myself. I forget all the time that this is a gift from God, and that I didn’t get here on my own.
God tells me in no uncertain terms, and in many parts of the Bible, that He hates my prideful heart. There are countless stories of men and women undone by their own pride. Pride is bad for me. It drives me away from God.
Yet, I am allowed to be married to The Chancellor. I am allowed to hold church office. I am welcomed into my congregation and shake hands with other members all the time. But my pride leads me away from God. It is toxic to church unity. It is, in fact, the very sin that turned Lucifer into Satan. And yet, I’ve not been asked to leave my church.
And that’s what kills me. All the sins that God continually discusses about run rampant in our church. And the sin we’ve chosen to fixate on is given very little definitive space in the Bible. I find it profoundly ironic.
I struggle with my pride. I have to die to it EVERY SINGLE DAY, and yet I cannot conquer it on my own. It doesn’t really “go away” for good, though God has helped me make strides towards defeating it (only with His help, again might I add). My Sabbath School (that’s the Seventh-day Adventist equivalent to adult Sunday School), a great discussion place for young adults, has unofficially and half-jokingly adopted a catch-phrase: “I’m not perfect. I need help.”
It’s the absolute truth. God tells us that ALL have fallen short of His glory and sinned. I am no better than the person next to me. It’s a sobering and humbling thought. And that’s why I cannot possibly decry another’s sin without first decrying my own.
As a Christian, I am asked to be a light to others, an example of God’s love. Sanctus Real, a Christian band, has written a song that, for me, exemplifies the joy and challenge of being that light: one line in the song proclaims, “You’ve been portrayed a thousand different ways / But my heart can see you better than my eyes / ‘Cause it’s love that points the portrait of your life.” Others see God in us. And how can they see God when our own sins are clouding over the Face of Love?
My challenge to myself, one that I hope others will take on, is this: to love others unconditionally, as God has asked me to love them. To die to my own sins (that God has convicted me personally of) every day. To hope that my friends and family are able to see God in me.
In the words of the song, “Let us see… Let us be your face.”