Monday, April 29, 2013


"For though I am free from all, I have enslaved myself to all, that I might win the more.  And to the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews.  To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law -- though not myself being under the Law-- that I might win those under the Law.  To the lawless I became as lawless -- though not being lawless toward God, but under the Law of Christ -- that I might win the lawless.  To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all, that by all means I might save some.  And I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I might become a fellow partner of it" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Paul was not a hypocrite.  Because he was moved by a genuine love for Jesus Christ and for his fellow human beings, he did everything he could to bring the two together.  He did not fake it; he attempted to put himself in the place of the other in order to introduce that person to Christ.

And this is important -- he sought to become like them, not to make them become like him.

In my previous post I wrote a rather cursory review of the book Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin.  I mentioned the fact that the book convicted me in a number of areas.  I also said that I plan to write more on these and related questions from both a personal and a biblical view.  I am attempting to do so on this post.  (I am also keeping in mind the comments on that post.)  The dashed quotes are from that post.

-- "First I need to ask myself what I have done to erect barriers that would prevent me from relating to GLBT people, and to attempt to remove those barriers."

I confess that I have at times erected barriers, although sometimes unwittingly.  Though I long ago dropped any perceived derogatory labels, I'm told that though gay people don't mine the word homosexuality, they do not like to be called homosexuals.  Sorry, I didn't know that.  Labels change; we've seen it with racial labels.  I try not to use labels of any kind unless necessary for understanding.

I also confess that while I have tried to avoid being political about these issues, I did vote on the definition of marriage amendment when I lived in Texas.  I saw it at the time as a defense of the definition of marriage.  I suppose I also was seeking a point of agreement with my right-leaning Christian friends.  I see now that it is perceived as a denial of rights to gays.  I have evolved and would vote otherwise today.

-- "Many of the principles that Marin presents for relating to this one group of people are applicable across the board for relating to any group.  I need to adopt many of these in all of my relationships and ministries."

Again, I have to confess that while I have sought to apply many of these principles and methods across racial, ethnic and religious lines, I have failed in doing this across the line of sexual orientation  Perhaps one reason may be that I don't have many gay acquaintances; or perhaps I do, but my perceived lack of compassion has prevented them from letting me know.

-- "I need to rethink the whole theological and biblical basis for my position on homosexuality.  Am I interpreting and applying correctly the Scriptures that deal with these issues?"

Marin in his book has a whole long chapter (chapter 7) entitled, "The Big 5" in which he brings up five passages of Scripture that are perceived as barriers between Bible believing Christians and the GLBT community.  As I said previously, "His principles of interpretation leave one wondering what they (the Scripture passages) do say."

I believe these passages cannot be avoided; nor can they be interpreted away.  They must be dealt with, though not to erect or remove barriers but as expressions of God's thoughts on the subject.  I will not attempt here to thoroughly exegete entire passages, but to place them in what I perceive as their biblical and cultural context.  Nor will I, in this post attempt to deal thoroughly with all five of the passages referred to.

The Scriptures referred to in the book are:

Genesis 19 -- the Sodom and Gomorrah story.  The traditional understanding -- both Christian and Jewish, is that Sodom's sin that warranted its destruction was homosexual behavior (the origin of our English word "sodomy").  I now recognize that there's much more to the story than that.  I will need to devote a whole post to this at a later time.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 -- the part of the Holiness Code prohibiting same sex behavior and prescribing its punishments.  This is part of a much larger code dealing with various sexual behaviors.  These laws are only a few of the 600+ laws enumerated in the Mosaic Law (Exodus through Deuteronomy).  While I believe many of the prohibitions are valid today, not all are.  We must remember that the Law was given, not as a perfect expression of God's will, but as a system of regulating the behavior of a redeemed but very sinful people.  And it was given to one nation only, the nation of Israel.  So I believe its regulations must be interpreted from a New Testament perspective.

The remaining three passages are in the New Testament and do have a direct bearing on our understanding of the issues.  I'd like to deal first with the one that seems to be the greatest barrier:  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 --  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the  covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

As Marin says, "Gays and lesbians read this passage and feel that Paul is telling them that all hope to inherit the kingdom of God is lost" (page 130).  But does it really say that?

A look at the context shows that Paul was dealing with his readers' behavioral problems.  It is clear that he assumes that they are "saved" people.  In the first chapter he refers to them as "saints" (verse 2), "the called" (2, 9, 24), "brothers" (10) -- "blameless" (8).  So he is not in this passage referring to their final destiny, but to their present behavior. 

He is telling them that this list describes what they were before they came to Christ.  And he reassures them that these nouns no longer describe what they are at present.  They have been "washed," "sanctified" and "justified."

All of us can find ourselves on this list, not just those called homosexuals, and if we're honest, we still behave in these same ways, even after conversion.  But God sees us as new creatures in Christ.  This passage is not a threat, but a plea -- a plea to bring our behavior into conformity with who we are.

Do we fail?  Of course.  Paul's whole letter to these saints was written to deal with their failures, based on who they -- we -- are, not on labels that we or others may place on ourselves.

Romans 1:26, 27 is another passage that must be read in its entire context, verses 18-32.  As Marin points out, "God did not give them over because they had same-sex attraction" (page 128).
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);  “things which are not proper” (verse 28c).
-- The final result is a character described as “being filled with all unrighteousness” (verses 29-32).

While it seems clear that homosexual behavior is condemned here, there are enough sins listed to include us all.  Paul's aim is not to make us hopeless of salvation, but to show us that our only hope is in Christ and His work on the cross -- NOT in our own "righteous" behavior.

As we're told in 3:23 and 24 "... all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."  It is "to all who believe for there is no distinction" (3:22).

1 Timothy 1:9-11, like the previous passages, gives a list of sins, including homosexual behavior.  And I believe that like the 1 Corinthians passage above, it describes what we were, not what we are.  As Paul saw the Law's use, it was not given as a way of life or those who are in Christ, but to point out to people their need of Christ.

-- "I need as always to ask, what would Jesus do?"

This has been my goal for many years, and I have attempted to ask this question in most relational and ethical situations.  I must again confess though that it hasn't always been the first question I asked, and I haven't always lived up to it.  I've written on this frequently elsewhere.  (See:  A STEP IN FAITH 10/9/09)

Every one who knows Christ comes to Him as a sinner  The list of condemned behaviors given in these passages includes all of us.  The person who comes to Christ by faith, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is completely forgiven, justified, saved.  And every one who knows Christ still struggles with behavior and temptation.  And we all fall back occasionally.

Our evangelistic efforts toward gays or lesbians, should not be to convert them to straightness, but to bring them to faith in Christ.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


After a discussion on the issue of homosexuality and how we the church are to relate to the gay community, a friend gave me a copy of the book, Love Is an Orientation, which is being used in a study group in our church.

I found the book an easy read and feel it is a significant contribution to the discussion of Christian/gay relationships, though not of course, the final word.

The author, Andrew Marin, assures us right at the beginning, as well as a few times throughout the narrative, that he is "a straight white, conservative, Bible believing, evangelical male ... raised in a Christian home in a conservative suburb ... and grew up in a large evangelical church," and that he personally wanted nothing to do with the GLBT community (page 16).  He then proceeds to tell us how his world was rocked by the coming out of three of his closest friends within a three month period.

After these events and subsequent conversations, Andrew felt the call of the Holy Spirit to become completely immersed in this community, even moving with his wife to Boystown, a GLBT section of Chicago.  Eventually he began the Marin Foundation, a ministry to those of the GLBT community.

Marin recognizes the great gap that separates the straight evangelical Christian community and the GLBT community.  He seems to see a major part of his ministry as building bridges between the two.

Marin also recognizes the barriers on both sides and that each side has stereotypes of the other.  He apparently feels the need for himself and the Christian community to do their best to break the barriers by rethinking their behavior.

This book is as I said easy reading, though probably not that easy to absorb.  It is punctuated with stories and anecdotes about real people and real experiences; this is one of its great strengths.

The book's greatest strength, however, is the fact that the author doesn't home in, as many have done (myself included), on the barriers, on those questions that separate us.  He seems to be more concerned with simply listening to what those in the GLBT community have to say, and to be more concerned about exercising Christ-like love toward those to whom he's called to minister.

Too many of us evangelical Christians have limited our responses to trying to determine the why's and how's and what for's about these folks -- to come up with biblical or psychological answers to their condition.  Marin rather simply seeks to love them.

And this however, while the book's greatest strength, is also its greatest weakness.  There are real questions that need to be answered and these are not answered, or when they are, seem to be dealt with superficially.

One set of questions that were dealt with in this way were those the author refers to as "The Big 5" (chapter 7), the biblical passages that appear to unequivocally condemn homosexual behavior.  His principles for interpretation leave one wondering what they actually do say.

Marin writes however, not primarily as a thinker, but as a doer.  To read the stories and testimonies is a great encouragement.  Though one can find much to criticize in the book, we cannot deny the fact that Andrew Marin has a tremendous ministry to those in a subculture that most the of evangelical community has forgotten or would like to forget.  And he gets us started with some how-to's for beginning to come out of our warm little churches to reach out to these.

I recall a story I heard (possibly apocryphal) about someone who said of Billy Graham, "I don't like his way of doing evangelism," to which Graham was said to have replied simply, "How do you do evangelism?"  I believe we need that question in mind when critiquing Marin's ministry

While I don't feel called, as Andrew Marin, to minister to this specific group, reading this book has convicted me in a number of ways:
-- First I need to ask myself what I have done to erect barriers that would prevent me from relating to GLBT people, and to attempt to remove those barriers.
-- Many of the principles that Marin presents for relating to this one group of people are applicable across the board for relating to any group.  I need to adopt many of these in all of my relationships and ministries.
-- I need to rethink the whole theological and biblical basis for my position on homosexuality.  Am I interpreting and applying correctly the Scriptures that deal with these issues?
-- I need as always, to ask, what would Jesus do?

I plan to write more on these and related questions from both a personal and a biblical view in the near future.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Uni and I have been reading in Second Samuel in our Bibles.  As we read of the family conflicts in David's family that blossomed into civil war in the nation of Israel, we can't help but ask the above question.  Though we've read these stories many times, it seems that we have more and more difficulty finding answers.

When I was still a young believer of 19 years old, I attended a small Baptist church.  There was always a shortage of workers in the church, so I was appointed as Sunday school teacher to a group of fourth grade boys.  I was given little training; just handed a "quarterly" and assigned my room and group of boys.

Our lessons, as I recall, were about the "heroes" of the Old Testament, the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel.  As I was still fairly new myself to these stories, I was learning right along with my class, just trying to keep at least a week ahead of them.

It wasn't long before I began to realize that these "heroes" were not really heroes, they were bloody, violent womanizing men, who seemed to have little if any regard for human life.  My task it seems, was to be something of what today would be called a "spin doctor."  I had to make these guys look good to my impressionable boys.  It was hard.

Sadly however, we teachers seemed to be more concerned about trivial matters then about the real moral conflicts.  Some for instances:

David vows to kill every male in the household of Nabal because Nabal had refused to provide him and his men with food (1 Samuel 25).  We were more concerned with our boys' giggles over David's referring to these people as "any that pisseth against the wall" (25:34 KJV) than over their hero planning to slaughter innocent people.
David brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) and celebrates by dancing "before the LORD" with all his might, clothed only in "a linen ephod," apparently not a very modest garment and act.  David's wife greets him with scorn, accusing him of exposing himself to the women like some pervert (6:20).  David counters by cutting her off from sex for the rest of her life (verses 21 and 23).  Honestly, we were more concerned about David dancing (a Baptist taboo) then about his cruelty to his wife.

And the story continues as David himself commits adultery and murder; then his whole family falls apart.  One son rapes his half-sister, then her brother murders him and later leads a coup against his father.  Civil wars follows -- violence and murder.  David ends up a pitiful old man.  I can't remember how I explained all this to fourth grade boys, or later to my own children.  How can I even explain these matters to adults?

And then we have the passages that present David as "a man after God's own heart."  How can we justify that statement?

Well first of all, the statement does not mean that David had a heart for God, but that God had a heart for David; in other words, it's not saying that David sought God, but that God sought David first!  Compare the Hebrew construction in these three passages:
"... Yahweh has sought for Himself a man (literally) according to His heart." (1 Samuel 13:14)
"And his (Jonathan's) armor bearer said to him, 'Do all that is in your heart; you go first; look I'm with you according to your heart.'" (1 Samuel 14:7)
(David said to the LORD), "For the sake of Your word and according to your heart, You have done all this ..." (2 Samuel 7:21)
In all three, the expression "according to your (or his) heart" has the meaning of something like "as you choose" or "according to your choice."  We would say that God chose David, a violent womanizer, an adulterer and murderer, a failure as a husband and father to be the object of His grace.  And we're not told why.
David's behavior is not commended or justified, simply recorded, as part of the history of God's chosen but sinful nation and of the family line of His Messiah, Jesus.

But David did have a heart for God; we see it in the Psalms he composed, as he pours out the longings of his heart.

God in the Bible does not present to us "good guys"; if we're looking for them we will be sorely disappointed.  He rather presents to us a history of failures -- of fallen men and women, who occasionally demonstrate a great love for God and their fellow human beings.  The people in the Bible are much like the people we encounter in history, or in the news, or in our churches.  They are much like ourselves:  people who have come to God as sinners and who have received and enjoy His grace.