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Gospel Message and Sermon

June 11, 2017

multiple citations God, the Bible and Gay Pride—Part 2

Last week I shared something that might have surprised a few people. I said that if my father came with proof that the Bible does indeed condemn those who are LGBT, I would be faced with a decision. I could either keep doing what I’m doing—be a Christian pastor of an ONA church or…I’d walk away from God.

My journey to this place has not been easy. I’ve been in church all my life and it wasn’t sexual orientation that first began my wrestling with the Bible and the church. I grew up with the message that my life teetered between heaven and hell.

God had thrown me this rope called grace, but if I failed to grab it, I was doomed. The message told me that God’s grace was usually limited and qualified. God would be gracious if…I accepted Jesus as my Savior. The answer to why was always because the Bible says so.

God would be gracious, if I attended the right church—Catholics were not the right church and neither were the Lutherans and Methodists—we were Pentecostal and then Nazarene. And even that was confusing because the Nazarenes weren’t so sure about those holy-roller Pentecostals who spoke in tongues.

God would be gracious, if I was baptized the right way—immersed and old enough so it was a believer’s baptism. When I married Dean and we were going to baptize our 3-month old son (pardon the expression) all hell broke loose in my family. Literally I was going to hell and Dave would go to hell because we didn’t do it the right way. It all hung on me—right prayer, right rules—if I got it right. And when I was getting it right, I was the arrogant one about those who weren’t and thought it my duty to save them.

The Bible has been misused to defend bloody crusades and inquisitions; to support slavery, apartheid, and segregation; to sanction the physical and emotional abuse of women and children; to persecute Jews and other non-Christian people of faith; to support the holocaust and genocide; to oppose medical science; to condemn inter-racial marriage; to execute women as witches; to excuse the violent racism of the Ku Klux Klan; and to condone intolerance and discrimination against sexual minorities.

The verse most quoted as evidence that homosexuality is wrong is found in Leviticus 18:22. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. Leviticus 20:13 condemns the same behavior and says the 2 should be put to death.

Leviticus 18:22

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Deuteronomy and Leviticus are part of the story of the Hebrew people after Exodus. Once they were no longer slaves whose worth was based on how many bricks they could make, these former slaves had to figure who they were. God gave them the 10 commandments, but it wasn’t enough. Like us, they kept finding ways to get in trouble with each other. The Bible says that God established rules to keep the Hebrews (Israelites) separate from the polytheistic cultures around them. They were not to be like the Egyptians or Canaanites.

The boundaries established kept them different from all the cultures around them and accountable to this one God, who was too holy to be seen and whose name was too holy to speak. Some of the things that were forbidden were most likely due to a lack of knowledge about the human body because in that day no one knew that people could be allergic to something like shellfish. Others were forbidden because they believed that any bodily discharge made someone unclean. Other things that were forbidden are now accepted by most— wearing clothes made of 2 fabrics, shaving and cutting the hair, tattoos, 2 crops planted together. Adultery was punished by stoning as were other things like working on the Sabbath.

There is an episode of the show West Wing, where the President confronts someone about their belief that homosexuality is an abomination.

Obviously, this clip isn’t the authority on what the Bible means, but it raises some important questions. Why is it that we often get focused on one verse and ignore so many others? Why have we let go of some of the boundaries set in ancient times and continue to hold on to others? How do we reconcile what seem to be contradictions in scripture?

Colby Martin, a pastor who was fired by a church when he said that homosexuality is not a sin, wrote about his experience and his study of the Bible that led him to change his mind. Here’s his reflection for thinking about the question: do you think homosexuality is a sin? Colby imagined a scenario where he is hanging out with someone who believes it is.

We’re watching TV and the question is asked if I think homosexuality is a sin. I hem and haw a little bit and the other person says, “It’s a simple yes or no.” So I ask, “Do you think premarital sex is a sin?” The answer is “yes,” but some Christians think otherwise. “How about if I had an affair with another woman?” Eye roll—“Of course, that’s a sin!”

Well, what if I visit a strip club or solicit a prostitute? Annoyed by now, the other person asks, “You know that answer. What are you getting at?” One more—“Just to be clear, having sex with my wife is not sinful?” Of course not. “Thanks for your honesty. So one more question—is heterosexuality a sin?” After some thought, the answer—sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Maybe those are the questions we need to be asking. Is heterosexuality a sin? It is not a simple yes or no. Being straight is only one part of who a person is. When did you know you were straight? And we need to stop painting anyone who is gay as promiscuous and leading a lifestyle. It’s a life—not a lifestyle.

Next week we will finish the 6. In the meantime, as you think about these things, consider this: Do you really think God would damn you to hell for overestimating God’s love?

We’ve sung this sending song many times. Today it rings truer than ever. Let this be a place where heroes are fashioned. We must keep telling the truth even if our voice shakes. The good news is we do it together. Now go out to live the words we say—God. Is. Love.