Above we see an image I recently came across on a friend’s facebook wall. I see many posts on his wall that are upsetting, as I am sure many of mine do to him. I typically resist controversial commenting while deliberately seeking ways to be friendly and to keep communications open. I have learned this the hard way, from sad results of past facebook spewing.
This particular long-distance friend is already aware that I disagree with him, and has frequently forgiven me during weak moments over the years. With this post, I felt as if he had opened a door for me to speak the alternative viewpoint of a Christ-follower. I wrote him a private facebook message in hopes that he might round out his personal conclusions on the issue (as his post has helped me with mine).
First of all, being a follower of Christ has to do with your heart and mind and soul, not your behavior. I have learned that seeking Christ, rather than seeking holiness (which can be done apart from Christ), leads to the understanding that nothing we do, or don’t do, is what transforms a life. Everything we do wrong, or don’t do right, can be redeemed into something useful, by God. The work has already been done on the Cross, where Jesus died. We are no longer lost to sin and death, without hope. The only thing we need to do is recognize and reject sin in our lives, turn towards Jesus, and choose to trust him and be his disciple for the rest of our lives. The work of transforming our behavior is not for us to accomplish on our own. We become a work of God’s that will remain incomplete until our bodies are renewed along with our individual spirits, something that happens after physical death.
In this life, Jesus will also lead us to the ones who currently represent his “body”, his other disciples. Jesus hopes we will diligently seek to know all that he reveals about himself, especially in the Book he gave us via the Jews. Ask him to show you, and he will.
I continue with a direct response to the examples given in the post, of the ways that God has supposedly contradicted himself in the matter. The man who designed the banner shown above is using Bible verses as an example of truth, that everyone should accept as such. What about the rest of the Bible? How can we know which parts are true and which are inappropriate in our day?
Let us begin by asking, “How many wives did David have?” Eight are mentioned by name in the Bible, though it states that he had many others. For example, 2 Samuel 5:13 “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.” He married his first wife, Michal (1 Samuel 14-25), at the same time that he was supposedly “romancing” Jonathan. By the way, Michal was Jonathan’s sister. Jonathan was David’s brother-in-law. Jonathan had a son, a crippled 5-year-old named Mephibosheth, whom David took in and protected after Jonathan was killed at war. 2 Samuel 1:26 was David’s lament following the loss of his dear friend. Evidently, none of David’s wives at that point, including Michal, had been such faithful friends to him.
Here is the poem David wrote after repenting of his sexual sin with Bathsheba:
Psalm 51:1-4, 10-12
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Elsewhere in the banner, we are referred to Matthew 8:5-13 as an example of Jesus affirming a homosexual couple. I am simply baffled by this supposed “example”. The servant is assumed to be homosexual and not only that, the master of the house is then possibly having a sexual relationship with him. What part of the text refers to either of these assumptions? Is it a likely assumption based on our understanding of the desert culture 2000 years ago? Also, I have to wonder whether anyone else in the master’s household was disturbed by this, or shocked when the master speaks of it publicly. Are we taught from history that homosexuality was part of everyday life, and no big deal? The master didn’t come in fear or shame, but quite openly and courageously. Is this miracle more or less true to life with this additional context? Have we Christians missed this for 2000 years?
The banner then moves on to Matthew 19:10-12 and Acts 8:26-40. An assumption is made about the Ethiopian because he is called a eunuch, which was a typical position held in that era and culture. This man becomes transformed by his new faith in Christ. There is no mention of homosexual activity, before or after his transformation, only that he was a eunuch. What does being a eunuch (a castrated male) have to do with homosexuality? He is a maimed human being, who can’t have children. He would have less sexual desire than the average male. In the Bible, these men have either been physically maimed towards or naturally born with less libido. Therefore he could better fulfill his assignment to protect the queen, without taking advantage of her or being distracted. Eunuchs are never mentioned in correlation with any type of practice that the rest of the Bible calls sin.
Come to think of it, why is it so important that Jesus and scripture should specifically address a tiny portion of the world’s population, while leaving out specifics of so many other groups of people? Why has the Gospel, though Jewish, been relevant and acceptable to all the world’s ethnic groups, in every era, but now is suddenly incomplete?
We are next offered a comparison of Genesis 2:24 and Ruth 1:14, compelling us to suppose that Ruth loved Naomi as more than a beloved friend and mother-in-law. I find this hard to believe for simply the fact that Ruth had not one, but two husbands. After her first husband was murdered, Ruth lived with her widowed sister-in-law Orpah and her deceased husband’s mother, Naomi. Naomi had also lost her husband and would struggle as an old single woman in that culture. After the famine had ended in Israel, Orpah stayed in Moab while Ruth stayed with Naomi out of compassion. Ruth also united with Naomi out of a strong desire to leave her own culture and adopt Naomi’s faith. She was a non-Jew (a Moabite, an enemy of the Jews) who became “grafted in” to God’s people. She also had many children, including the grandfather of King David, therefore becoming an ancestor of Jesus.
Friendship is highly valued throughout the Word of God, often more highly favored than biological relatives, and more than marriage. God consistently values the spiritual and eternal over the physical and temporary. Not all of nor only our blood relations (or spouses) will be in heaven, and we will no longer marry each other. Community has always existed, as God is three beings in constant fellowship. Marriage was his invention on the final day of the Creation. Someday, those who distort these truths, God’s goodness, and his beautiful creations will experience his wrath. Those who destroy what he gave life to will be destroyed. There is only one escape, and it is a gift not an accomplishment.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” Jesus famously chose to invest the bulk of his time with those rejected within his culture. He is known as the Friend of sinners, because he desired for them to be saved from their sin, not because he condoned it. He wants us to be free and to give him the glory for our freedom.
We all have things that are not right about ourselves, that we dislike if we make an honest appraisal. For example, I have a tremendous problem with self-control, maybe not the same way as others who experience this, but for me it is hard to recognize or to fight. I lose my temper, I blurt things without thinking, I overeat, I don’t go for walks, I don’t try hard enough to get a job, I make excuses. However, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23), an outcome of my identity in Christ. The only way I can lighten my burden in this life is to cling to my identity, to look for his promises; to remind myself that when he chose me, he gave me “a spirit of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). No matter what I do wrong, I can safely return to him, and he will always be there. I have suffered from evil temptations and unfulfilled desires. I must persistently seek my entire satisfaction in Christ, in the life that belongs to him, not my own. This is my only hope and my only strength.
Luke 15:7-15 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
This is what we remember on Good Friday, later this week [25 March 2016]. When [Resurrection] Sunday comes, we celebrate that Jesus proved he has power over sin and darkness and death. We commemorate these two events every Sunday of the year. We choose to humbly accept that he alone has the power, and that he generously shares it with us.
1 Timothy 1:5, 9-16 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith… The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel…I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, …though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
The Law is for ME, and the Law is not for those who do not seek Christ. The Law shows me how I need to repent, so that I can turn away from sin and towards a better way, which is the Way to life, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you [before]. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Romans 8:1-3, 6 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.