Following the release of the popular “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines, and the innumerable responses by conservative pundits and theologians — including the cleverly titled ebook “God and the Gay Christian?” (Note the question mark. It’s very important.) — the church is discussing the morality of same-sex behavior as it never has before.
That’s really not saying that much, since the idea of homosexuality being anything other than a sin hadn’t been discussed within mainstream Christianity at all before this decade or so.
But still. The dialogue is cool to see. It’s much-needed, and has been for a very long time. I want to call the conversation “long overdue,” but that would be an absurd understatement, like saying a baby in the 403rd trimester is “a little late.”
What disturbs me, though, is the dire warnings of impending doom proceeding from Albert Mohler, editor of the aforementioned “God and the Gay Christian?” and author of its lead essay, and countless others like him. To hear them tell it, the truth of the gospel and everything that is right, noble, good, lovely, pure and otherwise awesome about the Christian faith will literally crumble to pieces before our eyes if we dare come to the collective conclusion that it’s OK for gay people to be gay.
Seems like a bit much to ascribe such weighty and apocalyptic consequences to a theological matter mentioned barely a handful of times in all of scripture, but that’s their prerogative.
For my part, I don’t think the sky is falling. Actually, though I do believe this dialogue is important, mainly because it will almost certainly lead to greater understanding and open-mindedness among the body of believers, I actually don’t think our opinion on the wrongness or rightness of same-sex behavior matters very much in the grand scheme of things. And here are three biblical reasons why.
First of all, the Bible says each human being is made in the image of God, ultimately responsible for his or her own deeds. “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done,’” Romans 2:6 says in a chapter that begins by sharply chastising anyone who attempts to judge other people.
What I think about what someone else does is irrelevant. The only opinion that matters is God’s. And I thank him for that, since I usually can’t get through a pizza order without calling my wife. I shudder to think what would happen if I had any bearing whatsoever on another person’s eternal fate.
Secondly, as a Christian, I am not called to be a policy maker for others. I follow Jesus, a man who recoiled when the devil offered him the reigns of every nation on earth, who disappeared any time his crowds tried to make him a ruler, and who in no uncertain terms told one of the few government officials he ever met that his kingdom is “not of this world.”
I fear we Christians who believe defending rights and patriotism are virtues above selflessness and grace have tragically missed the message of the very savior whose name we bear.
And the final reason my opinion on this topic doesn’t matter a whit is that I subscribe to the life-changing theological idea that sin is not a single act but a condition of the heart. Sin is not merely a stain to be cleansed, but a prison from which we need liberation.
Christians believe it is the salvific work of Jesus alone that frees us, not the cessation of our sinful behaviors. Therefore, we err if we ever teach that one must stop doing this thing or that thing in order to be saved. That makes as much sense as telling a friend they must get well before they see a doctor.
Is same-sex behavior a sin? It’s the wrong question. It doesn’t matter. The Bible teaches that all people — gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered and so on — sin and fall short of the glory of God, regardless of what they may or may not do in their bedrooms. The only question that really matters, then, is what one thinks about Jesus.
The bottom line is this: If same-sex behavior is a sin, then gay people are sinners. If same-sex behavior is not a sin, then … gay people are sinners — just like me and just like everybody else.
Hey, what do you know? Christians believe in equality after all.
Cross-posted with Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog.