The rational Christian must admit that no one actually, in an objective sense, knows if there’s a hell, or knows how God feels about homosexuality. Any of us can pretend that we know those things, of course. But none of us really does. The Bible is open to an infinite number of perfectly legitimate interpretations. That’s one of its great miracles: in so many ways, and about so many things, the Bible insists that ultimately we must arrive at our own understandings and conclusions.
If the Bible were perfectly and explicitly clear on where God stands on the issues of hell and LGBT people, today the question of homosexuality would not be dividing Christendom in two, and great numbers of Christians would not be taking seriously the idea that nothing in the New Testament is meant to indicate that hell is a real and literal place.
The bottom line is that each Christian has to decide for him or herself whether there’s a hell, and whether God is or isn’t okay with people being and living gay.
When God comes to earth, and walks and talks as a man, you can be sure that, right off the bat, you’re into a whole bunch of stuff you will never, ever fathom. But as confoundingly complex as the Bible is, the one thing within it that comes across with extreme clarity is that Jesus’ primary, fundamental mission and purpose was one of love. The one thing in the Bible that’s crystal clear is that Jesus came to help us grasp the fullness and magnitude of God’s love for us.
This is my take on Jesus, anyway: first and foremost he meant to communicate the infinite degree to which each of us, individually, is loved by God.
Once I accept that as true, I know exactly what to make of the “controversial” questions of gay people and hell. If you begin with the conviction that (as 1 John 4:8 tells us), God is love, and you take seriously Jesus’s declaration that one-half of the most important of all laws is that we love our neighbors, then the debate over whether God does or doesn’t send all non-Christians to hell, or whether God is okay with gay people being gay, dissolves. Because thinking and talking about hell and/or God’s condemnation of gay people moves you beyond what you know to be true about Jesus Christ, and into what can only amount to speculation about him.
I’m a slow-witted person. I don’t like to think too much. I prefer to go with what I know, and, where possible, to shed the rest.
The idea of a God who would condemn to hell forever all non-Christians and gay people is logically, diametrically opposed to the idea of a God who loves mankind. It would mean that God is not obeying the very law about which he himself, as Jesus, declared none greater.
It would mean God breaking his own Great Commandment!
That just doesn’t make sense.
So I reject it.
I start with the love of Jesus; I let everything else fall away.
Good-bye the idea that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron.
I will be including this essay in the upcoming revised edition of my book UNFAIR. As you may know, I’m asking readers to help me proofread such essays. If you would, please leave any mistake you find in the text above—spelling, punctuation, syntax, anything at all—as a comment below. (Once I’ve incorporated your suggested changes into the text itself I may delete your comment, by way of keeping a clean and focused pathway for those wishing to comment on the post itself. I know that can seem really obnoxious; thanks for understanding why I might do it. And thanks so much for your help!)