i've been intrigued for the last couple of weeks or so by all the debate over 2 subjects: gay marriage, and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
i found myself driving home from work last week, grieved in my spirit because of a caller i heard on a radio talk show. this guy said that he is a veteran of the US armed forces, as is his significant other - they met in the military... and this man, who says he is very religious, believes that God made him gay, therefore God has sanctioned his union with his S/O.
during my last year of college and my first year in post-college "real life", so to speak, i heard many arguments on both sides of whether homosexuality is genetic, environmentally caused, or a choice - basically, did God make you gay, did your upbringing make you gay, or did you choose to be gay? and for pity's sake, if it's a choice, why would you choose it knowing the sociological and relgious taboos, the persecution you would face?
that's got to be one of the toughest questions out there for a Christian person. the Bible is VERY clear on the subject - both old testament prohibitions and new testament statements make it obvious that God views homosexual practices as sin. then you've got the people who make the point that, in context in the book of Leviticus, you've also got a lot of other prohibitions about not having sexual relations with a woman who's menstruating, and other things that modern Christians don't really think are all that huge of a deal. so is homosexuality that big of a deal?
my thoughts on the matter - some things in the book of Leviticus were ordinances that had to do with things that were clean and unclean - if you broke the rules, you were unclean and had to go through a purification ritual, but you weren't stoned to death or anything. some things (like incest and consulting psychics) were socially unacceptable and the perpetrators were to be disgraced and cut off from the community. some things in Leviticus were considered detestable to God and cause for execution. guess which one homosexual acts falls under.
as a side note, in that same chapter, i find it interesting that people who offered their children as sacrifices to Molech were to be stoned... and if the people of the community turned a blind eye on their sin and did not execute the parents, then all of those who refused to carry out the execution were to be cut off from the community, and God himself would turn against them. i wonder what is our modern society's version of sacrificing your children to Molech? that's a deep one. that one's likely to piss off a variety of people just by suggesting something. like abortion - insinuating that the taking of an unborn human life for the convenience of its mother (the father doesn't appear to have any say in the matter, truthfully) is equivalent to burning your child alive as an offering to an idol, that's going to get a lot of people angry. mostly liberals. i know, not all abortions happen for the convenience of the mother. and there are legitimate arguments for allowing abortion in cases where the mother's life or health are at stake. that's a very personal decision - and as i see it, what it comes down to is how much faith you have that God can heal and protect your life. lack of faith is a sin, but it's one all of us struggle with to some degree. and i don't think you can mandate faith by law any more than you can legislate morality.
but back to my original thought. homosexuality in the old testament was a capital offense. "but we're not under law, we're under grace! we're under the new covenant!" good thing for the entire human race, isn't it? the fact that Jesus Christ gave his life in our place to pay the price for our sin is the only reason any of us have any hope. we're all a miserable bunch of sinners when it comes down to it, when you look at what sin really is. sin is what separates us from God. it is what goes against the nature of God, which is holy, awesome, pure love. "well, see, God is love, so why is it sinful for me to love someone just 'cause they're the same sex as me?" hmm, let's see. it's not the love that's the sin part. it's the luuuuuv *wink wink*. or, the lust that you allow to come between you and your God. see, when God says something's a sin, he doesn't change his mind... he's just made provision, once and for all time, to restore you to right standing with him without you having to go through the ritual cleansings and the burnt offerings and the shedding of your own blood to atone for your own screwups. Christ already did that. this doesn't negate your responsibility to understand how God wants you to live, how God wants you to express His love to the world, and to do your best daily to live it out.
the conclusion i came to after about 2 years of thinking about it, praying about it, and reading other people's opinions about it, is this: homosexual behavior is a sin. and it's one of several kinds of sin that some people have an inborn tendency to and others do not. some people have addictive personalities and struggle with drugs, alcoholism, gluttony, pornography, too much TV, and all kinds of other stuff that comes between them and God. some people have to fight the desire for promiscuity and adultery their whole lives. some people are kleptomaniacs. some people struggle with the "thou shalt not covet" aspect. some people - most people really - have an inborn tendency to pride, and it takes a daily death to self to live the life that God intends. all of this stuff is sin. and despite the fact that some things carried harsher punishment in the old testament than others, in the new testament we get told "the wages of sin is death" - all sin separates us from God, and that is spiritual death. being a homosexual is no different than being a heterosexual who has to fight an addiction to pornography or a desire to commit adultery. it's a hard fight. some people actually are delivered of the desire - some people fight it their whole lives. some people fight for a while, and then slip and fall, and then get back up and fight some more. it's just when you stop fighting and wallow in your sinful lifestyle that you spit in the face of God's grace, and that's what most Christians find repulsive.
but you know, that whole "hate the sin, love the sinner" homily is true. it's just hard to live out. that's our cross to bear as believers, something we need to learn to do. we the church need not to ostracize homosexuals any more than we ought to ostracize unmarried heterosexual couples living in sin (which we also do all too often) or drug addicts or... hey, just because their struggle with sin is more obvious than some of ours, we the church have got to stop looking down on them. we're not perfect either, people. we all fall short of God's glory. we're all in the same boat. it's called the human condition.
this is not to say that i agree with allowing people who are "wallowing in sin" - people who are unrepentant, who don't agree that what they're doing is sin, who aren't even trying to conform to the image of Christ - to hold positions of leadership in the body of Christ. i don't think they should be unwelcome - the church is a hospital, it's for the sick and needy, not for the well to sit around and feel good about themselves... but if you're sick you need the attention of the doctors, you don't need to be trying to care for the other sick people.
and no, mr. ex-military talk show caller, i don't think that God blessed your union with your significant other just because you feel like you were born gay. you can't negate what God calls sin just because you have a human nature that desires to sin.
but... there's the blood of Christ, that covers a multitude of sins. no matter what you've done, you can be forgiven. you can be restored to right-standing with God. his sacrifice was once for all time ENOUGH to satisfy the law's requirements. it was a gift to all of mankind. what saddens me is that so many people think "great, Jesus did that for me, so i don't have to worry about it, i'm going to heaven no matter what."
you know, we do have some responsibility here. we have to accept what he did, and use that as a basis for a relationship with him. because if we don't, at the end of our time here, when we come face-to-face with the holiness of God, and we try to say "but, Jesus died for me, it's all good!", he's going to look at us and say "i never knew you." if what he did for us doesn't matter to us here on earth, if it doesn't change our hearts and make a difference in how we live out this life, if we deny him before men, he will deny us before God.
i haven't seen "The Passion of the Christ" yet. i want to, and i know it's going to be an excruciating experience but i need to. my hope is that Mel Gibson managed to get this across in his movie - not just that Jesus Christ was tortured for us, bled for us, and died for us, and then rose from the dead in triumph over death, but... that this fact has to make a difference to us. it has to mean something to us. we have to be so inexpressibly grateful for that, that it changes something inside us. i once read a short poem in Cornerstone magazine, i forget who the author was, but it totally summed it up for me:
"go to hell
if you can't
take a gift."
i know all that - and i still struggle like the rest of humanity... i need to be reminded of the meaning of the Cross. the reality of the Cross. because the words "he died for me" have become so commonplace in our world as Christians, that they have lost their meaning, and i need to see it played out in front of me in all its graphic bloody torture for me to force myself to think about it. well, maybe not. but it's an opportunity to do that in a new and fresh way.
i appreciate what Mel was trying to do here, and i am intrigued by the effect that it's had on our culture even before most people have gone to see it. everyone's talking about Jesus Christ and his horrible death as a willing sacrifice for our sins. it's all over the news. people may disagree with how the movie portrayed the Jews, or the roman soldiers (that has to be one of the dumbest criticisms i've heard yet), they may howl about the amount of time spent focusing on the blood and gore and torture that Christ went through... but overall i think it's very interesting and very positive to have this public discussion.
the effect will have to be a polarizing one - you can't sit on the fence for this, Jesus didn't give you the choice. some people say that Jesus was all about bringing the people together, he was all about love... but that's not strictly true. not everyone agreed with him, and there were those who hated him enough to try to have him killed. they hated him because he threatened their self-righteousness. he made them think. he challenged them to change - and they couldn't deal with the fact that they weren't RIGHT. and you know, when it came right down to the end, the common people who followed him around and listened to his wise words and the very ones who cried "hosanna! blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord!" at the triumphal entry are the ones who turned their back on him and shouted "give us barrabas" when he didn't decide to overthrow the roman government and become the earthly king they were expecting. and his own best friends denied, doubted, and hid in fear. Jesus was a polarizing figure all right. and humankind hasn't changed a bit in 2000 years.