Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RACE, Part 2

Last week our local library had its annual book sale. I always like to go and pick up a pile of used books cheap. Often I find books that I would never look for in a book store or library. Sometimes I pick up some real classics that I have somehow failed to read.

One that I found this time, was BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin. I don’t know how I had missed reading it long ago. There are many books on my shelves that have to do with race relations and conflict, but this one slipped by me.

The book is a true narrative by a white man who became black. Griffin was a writer who darkened his skin by the use of drugs and dye and entered the world of the African American. The year was 1959, near the beginnings of the civil rights’ movement. The place was the deep south: Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The book was published in 1960 and is still in print. Griffin was the first white man to attempt to write from the black man’s perspective. He opened white people’s minds to the horrors of Jim Crow in the deep south.

Why hadn’t I read this book before? Perhaps it was because good Christian white folks (even in Michigan where I was raised) didn’t read stuff like this.

I grew up in what would have been considered in those days to be a reasonably integrated town. I went to high school with black students and had friendly acquaintances with many. But I didn’t live near them or work with them. And I definitely didn’t go to church with black people! “De facto segregation,” they call it nowadays. There was an underlying racism that usually didn’t come to the surface. It was kind of like sex. Everybody knew about it and most people practiced it, but nice people usually didn’t talk about it.

Though I had heard of them, my first exposure to Jim Crow traditions was in 1955. I was in Parris Island, South Carolina with my Marine Reserve company. We had a Saturday leave to go to Beaufort and 4 or 5 of us young white men took the bus. Being Michigan boys, we just automatically sat down on the back seats. We couldn’t understand why the bus driver glared at us so harshly, until a black lady got on. She looked puzzled and nervous and almost got back off. Finally she sat down toward the back, but 3 or 4 rows in front of us. The driver intensified his glare. When we figured out what was happening, we simply thought it was funny and had a good laugh at what we considered just a stupid tradition. It never occurred to us how humiliating and degrading it was to the woman.

I moved to Texas in 1966. Here, though I saw more blatant racism than in Michigan, I also saw efforts to make things right. I have seen tremendous improvements and changes in the last 41 years.

Yet I have noticed that racism continues, not only in the south, but also in my home state.

I taught for many years in a multi-ethnic Bible college. The original purpose of the college was to provide solid biblical and theological education to members of minority communities, especially the African American community. I have been exposed to racial prejudice in both directions and could tell many stories. Though this college has been tremendously used by God to bring about racial reconciliation, bigotry lingers, even there.

Why is racism still so widespread, even among those who claim to be followers of Christ? Why do we find even godly people who show great wisdom in other areas showing such narrow thinking? Why do I catch myself having these feelings?

-- Well, first of all, there is the fact that we are sinners. If we know Christ by faith we are new creatures, but the old “me” is still active. Read Paul’s lament in Romans 7:15-23.
-- While we may be more likely to admit to ourselves our other sins and sinful thinking, somehow we do a good job of deceiving ourselves in this matter. I can’t count the times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m not prejudiced, but …” (I’ve even said it more than once.)
-- For some reason we distrust anyone or anything that is different. I suppose this goes back at least as far as the tower of Babel.
-- We like to see ourselves as the standard and judge everyone else by that standard. This is the sin of arrogance.
-- We like to see our actions which should be done in love, as a sort of condescension toward perceived inferiors.

Many will tell me that it’s really not that way any more, that we have progressed beyond that sort of thinking. I disagree.

I’ve never been black, either like Mr. Griffin or in any other way. I can’t get inside the mind or the skin of another of a different race. But I have had somewhere around 25 years of dealing with people of other races. I’ve heard statements of pain and resentment. I’ve seen pain on the faces of those whom I have hurt, even when I didn’t realize I was hurting someone until it was too late. I have also felt the pain of being distrusted because I am white.

But I have also felt the love of those who dared to cross racial barriers and I hope they have felt my love. I also pray that those who have distrusted me because of my race have learned to see the love of Christ in me.

(Also read RACE.)

Bill Ball

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Qohelet is the Hebrew title for the little book entitled Ecclesiastes in our English Bibles. Our title Ecclesiastes is from the Greek Septuagint and is a translation of the Hebrew title Qohelet, which means “one who assembles or addresses an assembly.”

I love this book, but I must confess that the first time I read it as a young Christian, I found it extremely troubling. It is full of apparent contradictions and tentative conclusions. Many see it as worldly, pessimistic, even cynical. The covenant name of God – Yahweh (or LORD) is never used. Most references to God use the definite article (Ha-Elohim): The God (32 out of 40). The author seems to deny the afterlife (3:19, 20; 9:10).

I’ve read many commentaries on the book, and while they have added much to my understanding, I get the feeling that they’re not quite sure what to do with this book either. One author says, “The thing that most surprised me in the majority of Ecclesiastes commentators was their extraordinary knowledge of Hebrew, coupled with the superficiality of their thought” (REASON FOR BEING, Jacques Ellul, page 12). Unfortunately, I suppose the same could be said for him.

Some commentators can’t believe that all these apparently contradictory statements can be from the same author, so they posit that it is a collection of random proverbial thoughts by various authors, pasted together by an ignorant redactor. They and others have a hard time with the claim made by Qohelet that he is one and the same as King Solomon, so they assume an anonymous author who assumes Solomon’s role. [He tells us he is “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), "king over all Israel in Jerusalem" (1:12). The only son (descendant) of David who reigned over all Israel was Solomon. Some have argued that the references to "all who were in Jerusalem before me" (1:16; 2:7, 9) could not refer to Solomon, since he was only the second king of Israel to reign there. However, Jerusalem was an ancient and powerful city named Jebus long before it was conquered by David.] Some claim a later date than Solomon (971-31 BC) because of a supposed reliance on Greek thinking. And so on and so on.

None of these claims can be proven. They seem to be attempts at deconstructing the text rather than dealing with it as it is. Usually those who make these claims have a very loose (if any) theology of inspiration.

But if we hold to the doctrine of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, if we hold that “all Scripture is (literally) God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), then we can’t crawfish out of dealing with the text as it stands. We must at least grant the same respect for its integrity as we would any other piece of literature – and more.

Unfortunately, liberal critical commentators aren’t the only ones who deal improperly with this book. Conservative evangelicals are not always truthful in our handling of it either. We don’t like those parts that seem to clash with our theology, so we “spiritualize” them away and try to make the book more palatable.

So how should we interpret the book? Here are what I believe are some important points:

-- We must deal with the book as a unit. It is tempting to pick out the good stuff, or the parts that seem more palatable, and to ignore the rest. This is, I suppose the biggest problem for evangelicals. We read the Bible “devotionally”; we memorize verses out of context; we pull passages out of context for sermon topics. But Ecclesiastes is different from the book of Proverbs.
-- We need to interpret the book in its context. It claims Solomon as its author, so we must see it from his perspective and in the context of his life.
-- We must search for the author’s intent. What is he trying to tell us? Though when looked at superficially, the book seems to ramble and wander back and forth, we must look for clues as to where it is headed.
-- We must recognize that though this book is part of the inspired Scriptures, it is not to be interpreted in the same way as the Mosaic Law or the prophecies of Isaiah or Ezekiel. It does not present us with a “Thus sayeth the LORD.” Its tentative conclusions may be incomplete and it is only when the author comes to a final conclusion that we can say that.
-- And, finally as Christians, we must look at it from this side of the cross and resurrection. Qohelet is not the final word on life!

So here goes a brief synopsis of my understanding:

Qohelet gives us, I believe, his purpose and theme in the frequently used Hebrew words ‘INYAN and ‘ANAH, which can be translated “occupation” or “task” and “occupied with.” In 1:12 and 13, he tells us “I, Qohelet, was king over Israel in Jerusalem, and I set my heart to seek and to explore all that has been done under the heavens. It is an evil task which God has given to the sons of men to be tasked with.” (Also see 3:10.) Though God has given this task to all “the sons of men,” Qohelet seems to feel this burden especially on himself and invites us to join him in a sort of quest for meaning in life, which he feels has been laid upon him.

But what is this task?

About 51 times he uses the Hebrew word TOB, which translates as “good” or “better.” “This is better than that.” At least part of his task seems to involve a search for relative good, perhaps to find the ultimate good. Not necessarily moral good, but that which is beneficial to man.

Unfortunately the quest runs up against many dead ends. Another frequently used term (35 times) is HEBEL, which is literally “vapor,” but which is usually translated “vanity” or “futility.” Many times he says “vanity of vanities.” Everything he tries seems to be a vapor. Not nothingness, but rather something that seems to have substance, but which can’t be taken hold of. We might say in a more modern expression, it’s like trying to nail jello to a tree.

We also need to note that Qohelet is starting from a completely “this world” perspective. Thirty-two times he uses the phrases “under the sun” or “under the heavens.”

So Qohelet comes to some very good tentative conclusions and advises us that life and its blessings are gifts of God. Enjoy them!

2:24: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and let his soul see good in his labor. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.”

3:13: “And also every man who eats and drinks and sees good in all his labor, it is a gift of God.”

5:18: “Look at what I have seen: it is good and beautiful to eat and to drink and to see good in all one’s labor which he labors under the sun in the number of days of his life which God has given to him, because that is his portion.”

7:14a: “In the days of good, enjoy the good,”

8:15: “So I praised pleasure for there is nothing better for a man under the sun, except to eat and to drink and to take pleasure, and this will stay with him in his labor all the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.”

9:7-9: “Go eat your bread with pleasure and drink your wine with a good heart for God is already pleased with your works. Always let your clothes be white and oil not be lacking on your head. See life with the wife you love all the days of your life of vanity which He has given to you under the sun all the days of your labor which you labor under the sun.”

Yet there is more to it than that. Look at 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has placed eternity in their heart, without which man will not find out the work which God has worked from beginning until end.” Though Qohelet is uncertain about what happens after this life, he knows there is more beyond it. In 8:12b: “I know that it will be good to those who fear God, who fear in His presence.” When will it “be good”? It seems apparent that he doesn’t believe it will happen in this life.

And so as Qohelet struggles with his quest, he is forced to look beyond this present life. Finally in 11:9, “Enjoy yourself young man, in your childhood and let your heart be good in the days of your youth and walk in the ways of your heart and the sights of your eyes, and know that in all of these God will bring you into judgment,” he reminds us that while we are to enjoy life, we are accountable to God. Again it is apparent that this judgment is set in the future, beyond this life.

12:13, 14: “Hear the sum of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every man! For God will bring every work to judgment, everything hidden, whether good or evil.”

If I may attempt to summarize what I believe Qohelet meant: God has placed in the heart of every person, a desire for something more than this life has to offer. We may spend our entire life searching, yet will find nothing of substance. We should, however, enjoy the good things of life, recognizing that they are all from God. And as we do enjoy these, we have to keep in mind that we must give an account to God for all.

And from our post-resurrection perspective we have to recognize that not only in Qohelet, but in all the Old Testament, we feel a longing for something better. That something better can only be found in Jesus Christ. Qohelet points to a need. Christ fulfills that need.

Bill Ball

Friday, October 26, 2007


It seems the church today is confused about homosexuality. There are many different views held.
There are those on the liberal wing of the church who see the issue as a matter of simple acceptance. As we have made progress in civil rights in America, the church has followed. The church has become more accepting of ethnic/racial minorities. The church is becoming more accepting of equal rights and roles for women. So it seems natural that we should accept gays (homosexuals) as equals. We should no more expect them to change their practice than we should expect people to change their skin color or their gender.
On the other, conservative wing, there are those who not only condemn homosexual practice, but the homosexual himself. They see homosexuality and its political agenda as a great danger to the family as well as to the church.

Who is right?

As with many matters, I believe that there is an element of truth somewhere between the two extremes.

I suspect that the homosexual is more often condemned today by many Christians, not so much for sinning in the biblical sense, as for violating the machismo required of the American male. But if homosexual behavior is a sin, the voice of Christianity is not only to pronounce condemnation, but also to hold out the possibility of forgiveness.

Before condemning or condoning homosexuality, we evangelicals must examine the Scripture and attempt to ascertain what the biblical view is.

What is Homosexuality? Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition gives the following definitions:
homosexual (adj.) 1) of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire to another of the same sex. 2) of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex.
homosexual (n.) a homosexual person, and especially a male.
homosexuality (n.) 1) the quality or state of being homosexual. 2) erotic activity with another of the same sex.

Though some dislike the term homosexual when used as a noun, thinking of homosexuality as a condition or part of one’s total sexuality, I will in this post consider a homosexual to be one who has this tendency.

There have been many attempts to explain homosexuality sociologically, psychologically and genetically. It is not my purpose here to discuss these factors unless they touch directly on the biblical passages being discussed. However, it is important to note that the Bible speaks to the practice of homosexuality, and not to the state of homosexuality. If the Bible condemns the practice but not the state, then all attempts to use factors outside the homosexual to explain his condition will not justify his practice.

The Biblical Norm for Sexuality. Before considering what the Bible has to say about homosexuality we must consider what it has to say about the sexual roles of men and women.

It is clear that God’s intention for the human race at creation was a male/female relationship (Genesis 1:27). In the more detailed account of the creation, God after creating man (male) is quoted as saying, “It is not good for man to be alone: I will make him a helper suitable for (corresponding to) him” (Genesis 2:18). We find (2:22, 23) that this “suitable helper” is the woman, and the comment is made (verse 24) that the man and the woman are to “become one flesh,” which includes, among other things, sexual union. One of the purposes for this male/female union is that of procreation. In speaking to the issue of divorce, Jesus endorsed this principle (Matthew 19:4-6), laying special stress on the idea of one man and one woman.

Paul also stressed the one man/one woman marriage relationship (1 Corinthians 7:1-5; 9:5) with the special emphasis on the sexual aspects. The husband and the wife are each under the authority of the other sexually. The reason which Paul gives here for marital sex is “because of immoralities” (porneias). This term was a broad term used to describe every form of sexual sin, which would include homosexual activity.

The only alternative to heterosexuality, which the Scriptures present, is celibacy, complete abstinence from sexual activity. This is presented as a respectable, and in some cases, preferable option. Jesus spoke of those “who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), apparently referring to those who abstained from marriage or any sexual activity. The apostle Paul could be considered one such “eunuch.” Jesus and Paul both urged that those who were capable of living without sex should do so (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7, 8). The single life is urged by Paul as permitting one to devote more time to spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Old Testament Teachings Regarding Homosexuality. The Mosaic Law very clearly condemns homosexual acts. The act itself is described and condemned twice in the book of Leviticus, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (18:22). “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act” (20:13). Both “abomination” and “detestable act” are translations of the Hebrew TO’EBAH which signifies the strongest repugnance of God. This act is condemned as being one of the customs of the Canaanites, which the Israelites were forbidden to take part in (Leviticus 18:3). The Canaanite religion was a nature religion involving everything from perverse sex acts to human sacrifices. It is for these practices that the Canaanites were to be exterminated (18:24, 25). The penalty for homosexual intercourse (as for many other sexual sins) was death (20:13).

Another related act condemned under the Mosaic Law was the Canaanite practice of ritual prostitution which involved both men and women (Deuteronomy 23:17, 18). This practice was forbidden to the Israelites and it was also specifically spelled out that their wages were not to be given to the house of the Lord. “You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 23:18). It is usually understood that “price of a dog” of Deuteronomy 23:18 refers to the wages received by a male cult prostitute. This custom was apparently never completely shaken by Israel. We find that male cult prostitutes were around in the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:24); King Asa waged a campaign against them (1 Kings 15:12); as also did Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:46) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:7).

Thus a study of the Old Testament passages with regard to the practice of homosexuality gives us the idea that it was something that was utterly repugnant to God.

New Testament Teachings Regarding Homosexuality. In the New Testament, we find no indication that the divine viewpoint toward this practice and those who practice it, had changed.  In the Pauline epistles we find frequent reference to the practice.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, Paul states that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God,” and then lists ten specific examples of who the unrighteous are. Three of the examples refer either directly or indirectly to those who practice homosexual behavior. In 1 Timothy 1:9, 10, Paul has a similar list containing two of the three mentioned in the 1 Corinthians’ passage. It will be profitable to examine these three words:
-- Pornos is the masculine form of pornē “a prostitute” from pernēmi “to sell.” The word is usually translated “fornicator” or “whoremonger” in the KJV, and could well have these meanings; however, it originally had reference to a male prostitute. In the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) in Deuteronomy 23:17 it is used to translate the Hebrew QĀDĒSH “male cult prostitute.” The pornos is condemned frequently in the New Testament.
-- Malakos literally means “soft” and when applied to men means “effeminate.” It especially is used outside the New Testament of men or boys who are the objects of sex acts. It is only used in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 6:9 in this sense.
-- Arsenokoitēs is found in the New Testament only in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. The word is derived from two Greek words: arsēn “male” and koitē “bed,” which is often a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Thus it means literally “a male who has intercourse with another male” and clearly refers to the homosexual.
In these Pauline passages we clearly see the same divine revulsion for homosexual practice of every sort, as we saw in the Old Testament. Probably the most vivid picture of the practice is that which Paul paints in Romans 1:26, 27, which is also the only clear reference to lesbianism. It will be necessary to examine the passage as it fits into the argument of Romans.

Paul in Romans 1 begins his argument for the necessity of justification by faith, by pointing out that God’s wrath “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (verse 18). The reason for this is given as the fact that man has rebelled against the knowledge of God which man has in natural revelation and has suppressed what truth of God he has. This led to a downward spiral in man beginning with idolatry and ending with “a mind incapable of correct judgment” (adokimos, verse 28). This is a historical picture of the human race, though this same movement can be seen in nations and cultural groups and even in individuals. The downward trend is punctuated by the use of the phrase “God gave them over,” three times (verses 24, 26, 28). This phrase may indicate three steps in the process, or three views of the same judicial action of God. If I may restate the process:

-- Man had a knowledge of God through natural revelation (1:18b-21a).
-- Man rejected this knowledge of God and designed his own religion (1:21b-23).
-- God, in judgment of man, handed him over to total depravity. This is described as “impurity” (verse 24a), “degrading passions” (verse 26a), “a mind incapable of judgment” (verse 28b).
-- This depravity resulted in all sorts of perverse activities, described as: the dishonoring of their bodies among them (verse 24b); homosexual activity (verses 26b, 27); “things which are not proper” (verse 28c).
-- The final result is a character described as “being filled with all unrighteousness” (verses 29-32).

It seems that homosexual practice is pointed out here in verses 26 and 27, as an illustration of the outworking of man’s “degrading passions.” The language here is vivid. Some facts to be noted are:

-- The words Paul uses here are “females” and “males” not “women” and “men.”
-- Lesbianism is called an “exchange.” This is the same word that is used twice of man’s abandonment of God for man’s own religion (verses 23, 25).
-- Lesbianism is not merely “unnatural,” it is literally “against nature.”
-- Male homosexuals are said to act “in the same way” as lesbians. Thus it seems that what is true of one is true of the other.
-- Male homosexuals are said to have “abandoned” or “deserted” natural heterosexual activity.
-- The words used to describe homosexual passions are very strong words. The word translated “burned” is often used in Koine Greek of the arousing of strong emotion.
-- The homosexual act is described as literally, “the shameless deed.”
-- Homosexuals are said to receive in “their own persons the due penalty of their error.” This would seem to indicate that the practice itself is not only the result of a mind incapable of judgment, but it leads to a further incapacity to make proper judgment.

It seems, from the Romans’ passage, that homosexual practice has a particular repugnance in the sight of God. There is no direct explanation given but the following may be reasons why this is so:

-- It is an exchange of the God-revealed way of sexuality for a new way of man’s own design. In this it mirrors man’s exchange of God-given religion for man’s own.
-- It is “against nature.” Most of man’s lusts are the exaggeration of God-given desires, such as the desire for heterosexual activity, for self-preservation, etc., but homosexual practice is not based on normal desire.

We may thus conclude that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments condemns homosexual practice. This must be understood clearly before a biblical position can be taken.

A Biblical Position on Homosexuality Today

The Homosexual’s Position Before God. As has been shown above, the homosexual stands condemned before God. He “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). And yet in this he is in no different position than any other sinner. Every New Testament passage mentioned above condemning homosexual behavior is in the context of the condemnation of other sins.

Christ died for the homosexual as certainly as for any other sinner and the homosexual can find forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, he is then no longer considered by God to be a homosexual. “Such WERE some of you” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:11. As with every other sinner, he is a new creature in Christ, even though he may still have these tendencies (See: LIES WE CHRISTIANS BELIEVE ABOUT OURSELVES.). This does not mean that God accepts the homosexual’s practice, but that God forgives him totally of that practice and sees him differently.

Salvation and forgiveness in Christ does not mean that the homosexual is free to practice homosexual acts. Romans 6:1, 2 is emphatic here: the homosexual (as everyone else) is not to “continue in sin.” Here it is very necessary to note the distinction between the practice of homosexuality and the state. The homosexual’s state may have been brought on him by genetics or years of conditioning. It may not have been the result of direct choice. When the homosexual becomes a Christian he is not guaranteed an immediate removal of his desires (nor is any other sinner). But he does have some alternatives:
-- First he must realize that he is forgiven his past and that God does not hold him accountable for his present tendencies.
-- The homosexual must understand that there is need for change in his life and that he must desire that change. In this he is no different from any other sinner. All of us are plagued with desires and thoughts that are sinful.
-- There is nothing wrong with remaining single and celibate. The person with homosexual tendencies is denied no more by the single state than is the person with heterosexual tendencies. In fact the single state has definite advantages for the Christian (Matthew 19:10-12; 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7, 17, 20, 26).

The Responsibility of the Church Toward the Homosexual. By this is meant the responsibility of the church collectively, especially the responsibility of those in the church who are heterosexual in orientation.

-- Truth must always be accompanied by love. Paul spoke of “living the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). He told the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Most of the preceding material has been devoted to ascertaining the biblical truth about homosexuality. This was not done in order to put the homosexual in the position of a second class person.
-- Every one who knows Christ had to come to Him as a sinner. The lists of sins in which homosexual practice is included contain also the sins of theft, covetousness, adultery, swindling, lying, etc. We have all been guilty (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10).
-- The homosexual who comes to Christ by faith is completely forgiven, as was each one of us, “Such were some of you,” says Paul, “but you were washed … sanctified … justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
-- The homosexual is definitely "different." As such he should not be loathed, but loved. Our attitude toward him should compassionately take account of his state and tendencies.
-- Our evangelistic efforts toward the homosexual should have no other motivation than our efforts toward others. Our primary concern should not be to convert him to “straightness” but to convert him to Christ.
-- The homosexual believer - as any believer - may lapse back into his old patterns of behavior.  As any believer he can find forgiveness in Christ.  And should be accepted by the church.

Conclusion. While the sin of the homosexual is unique, he is in a very real sense little different from the rest of us. All stand guilty before God and all are offered forgiveness in Christ. As in the case of every Christian, finding forgiveness does not eliminate the problems of the homosexual. He may be in for a lifetime of struggle. He may lapse. It is absolutely necessary for the Christian community to offer him love, forgiveness and acceptance.

NOTE: This post was revised on 7/2/2015.  The passage about Sodom was deleted after further study.  See:  WHAT DID SODOM DO? and SCHOLARSHIP OR TRADITION. 

For my further thoughts, see A STEP IN FAITH and LOVE IS AN ORIENTATION and LOVE IS AN ORIENTATION, 2.