Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reconsidering Homosexuality

Different and the Same
My perspective on same sex attraction has changed. What hasn't changed is that I still believe that the Bible clearly teaches homosexual practice as sinful. This is not a post that will defend that statement, although one day I may pursue that. Where I have changed, however, is in my perspective of and interaction with people who have same sex attraction.


Marriage, State, and the Trinity
Politically, I'm a comfortable conservative with libertarian itchings. It is true that I am opposed to same sex marriage in America.  I do recognize some accompanying issues with the redefining of marriage as something other than the union of a man and woman. But even with that recognition of potential issues, my opposition of same sex marriage is not primarily political. It's theological. The culture we are immersed in provides much context in our formative understanding. When we read of Christ's loving the church as His bride (Eph. 5:25) and of the great Wedding Feast uniting the Divine Groom to His Bride (Rev. 19:6-9) our assumed understanding is of the uniting of two distinct peoples.

Proper Christian theology teaches that God exists in a Trinitarian relationship. Yet, the Bible also describes God as one:"“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut. 6:4). Although three distinct Persons with three distinct personalities, God as Trinity is one. The underlying Hebrew word for one is ehad. This is also the same word used to describe the marital relationship between Adam and Eve. Speaking of the pattern of marriage, Genesis records that "man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Just like the Trinity is distinct but one, so is a man and woman in becoming one flesh. Men and women are different-both physically and emotionally. But in marriage they are joined together-distinct, differing genders-as one flesh. Marriage is an invitation to mirror the ehad, the oneness in diversity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

It is inevitable that same sex marriage will be the law of the land all across the United States. And that's ok. Public recognition of same sex marriage, although damaging to a theological understanding of marriage, will not doom the United States.

America and Rome
America's embrace of homosexual marriage, preachers say, will be the cause of its downfall. And here the comparisons to Rome are made. It's an understatement to say that comparisons to Rome are misleading. With Constantinople's rise to prominence, Rome became less central to a divided Empire. In 410, Rome was initially sacked. In 455, Rome was sacked again. Rome's decline cannot be attributed to one cultural, economic, or political factor. Disease, decay, lack of natural resources, and invasion all played a hand in Rome's fall. It was a culmination of events that took place over several hundred years. Even with Rome's fall, the remaining Roman Empire transformed and thrived as The Byzantine Empire and lasted for another 1,000 years. 

In 400 B.C. Rome was far more culturally debauched before and during its rise to greatness than in its Christianized state of A.D. 400 when it began to decline. There is no correlation between the morality of the Empire and its success. Conservatives who are quick to point out the similarities between America's increasingly progressive culture and Roman debauchery neglect to mention these factors.

We're All Abnormal
One of the basic truths about the Gospel is its clear proclamation that all of humanity is depraved. Every person that has ever lived, Jesus Himself the sole exception (2 Cor. 5:21), is a lost sinner (Rom. 3:10-12). Not one of us is as he should be. We are all abnormal. When faced with our faults we often say, "we're only human." The truth, however, is that we aren't human enough. Adam was most fully human when he was free from sin, walking in the presence of his Creator. Adam, Paul tells us, "was a type of the one who was to come" (Rom. 5:14). Man, in his perfect state, is but a type, or a forerunner of the True Human. This Man would take the title, "Son of Man." Humanity, ironically, has its fullest expression in the Divine Son, Jesus.He is the most fully human being that has ever existed.  There isn't one of us, saint or sinner, straight or gay who can stake a claim to normal humanity. That distinction belongs to Jesus alone.  

When we view and speak of people with same sex attraction as abnormal we dehumanize them. Though fallen, like us, they still bear God's image, like us. Consequently, our engagement with them will be seriously twisted. Heterosexual sins are not any cleaner than homosexual sins. It is God, after all, who says: 
"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it"~Ezekiel 16:49-50
This devastating proclamation does not negate the sin of Sodom's homosexuality (Jd. 7). What it does do, however, is reveal God's perspective. In God's eyes, pride and ignoring the poor and needy is just as damning as homosexual activity.

One day while walking back from class with my friend Sean, we were discussing a grotesque crime that was current in the news. "What an animal," I said of the criminal. "If not for the grace of God, what kind of people would we be, Josh?" Sean replied. He had rebuked me, and he was right. In my pride, I was actually offended at the what Sean said to me. Although I had believed what Sean said, I wasn't living it. When we in our pride look down on disgust at people with same sex attraction, we are sinning-and our sin is just as wicked as their practice.

Opportunity
It was one summer a few years ago that I returned to New Mexico from school and a young man sought my help in his personal struggles--same sex attraction among them. We talked about the Gospel, sanctification and satisfaction in Christ. I shared with him how as our relationship with Jesus satisfies us far more than sin ever could. And then I asked him if he had "victory over his same sex attraction." He said that he had. Our conversation then moved on. I cringe now when I think of that conversation and the counsel I gave him. While I believe I was correct in pointing him to relationship with Jesus and telling him how that satisfies us more than sin can, I did give him a false expectation. The impression I gave is that he could experience a complete freedom from the pull of same sex attraction. That's just not reality, for any Christian. Sin's seduction is never fully vanquished in this life. Paul himself struggled with this Christian living experience (Rom. 7:15). I've been saved for many years, and I still feel the pull of my own sins. These sins still compete with my joy in Christ. When counseling that young man, I painted an unbiblical, destructive, hopeless picture of sanctification for him.

My perspective at that time was that individuals struggling with same sex attraction are abnormal. Though I would never have said it, in my heart I truly believed same sex attraction to be a far more grotesque, wicked sin than others. During that time, if I saw a same sex couple I would have been disgusted and offended. That perspective seriously crippled my counsel to that young man. If I were to do it all over again, I would explain to him that although our sins are different, we are ultimately really the same. We're both struggling sinners desperately in need of God's grace.

I have finally reached the point in my life where I no longer view individuals with same sex attraction that way. I finally see them as people-magnificent, image bearers of Christ broken by sin just like me. They aren't the enemy. Their sin is no worse than mine. They need Jesus as much as I need Jesus.

Christians, 0f all people, should love and care most for people with same sex attraction. We, who have experienced Gospel power, should not view people with same sex attraction with disgust. We should not resent them. We should give them the Gospel not in word only, but in action. We must remember that we're all abnormal and that the Gospel is for all of us.