7 Biblical Reasons for Churches to Be Open and Affirming

7 Biblical Reasons for Churches to Be Open and Affirming February 21, 2017

rainbow bibleMy church’s Facebook page has a picture at the top. It proudly displays members of our congregation at a gay pride parade. They smile as they hold a banner with a rainbow colored heart with the words, “Love YES! Equality YES!”

We want people in our neighborhood to know that we are an Open and Affirming congregation. We proclaim the fact that God loves you, just as you are. You don’t have to become something you are not to earn God’s love. As we like to say in the United Church of Christ, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We believe that especially during these times of political turmoil, Christians should be on the forefront of protecting LGBTQ rights.

Our church has had some push back, especially on our Facebook page. One visitor to the page recently made a familiar challenge to our position. He stated that we don’t take the Bible seriously because we simply ignore those parts that talk about homosexuality.

Actually, we take the Bible very seriously. But what does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Here are 7 Biblical reasons for churches to be Open and Affirming:

  1. Leviticus always comes up in this conversation. That book is primarily about how to conduct proper ritual worship. In ancient Israel, one of the biggest problems was the worship of foreign gods. We know that some worshippers of Baal and other gods practiced temple prostitution, including same-gender temple prostitution. That form of worship worked its way into ancient Israel. That’s what Leviticus is against. It’s not against committed same-gender relationships. Besides, I really like bacon and shrimp. And it’s impractical for me not to wear polyester…
  2. Many people cite Sodom and Gomorrah as God’s condemnation of homosexuality. But the Bible provides a different reason for the fall of these two cities. Sodom and Gomorrah fell because they fostered abusive relationships and injustice. As Ezekiel 16:48-50 states, they were destroyed because they were arrogant, overfed, and didn’t help the needy.
  3. Some people who believe the Bible condemns same sex relationships point to Romans 1 as their proof text. However, it’s more likely Paul was referring to similar issues that the Levitical priest had with impurities of ritual worship. But let’s just take the literary context. Paul writes that people first exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like human beings. They worshiped created things and then God gave them up to their passions. First comes idolatry then comes Paul’s list. Again, Paul’s main concern is worshiping created things. But what if the idolatry never happens? What if people in committed same sex relationships don’t worship created things, but worship the eternal God? Roman’s 1 isn’t about those relationships. Also, people frequently read Romans 1 and don’t ever read Romans 2, which is about not judging people for doing what happens in Romans 1, because, according to Paul, in judging them we do the same things. Whatever Paul meant in Romans 1, his point in Romans 2 is that it isn’t our place to judge others for it. Paul simply wants us to stop judging one another.
  4. For an explicit rejection of the human pattern of condemning one another, read Acts 10. I’ll give a summary – Peter was praying on a roof and fell into a trance. He saw a sheet come down from the sky that was full of birds and other “unclean” animals. God said, “Kill and eat.” Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” In other words, Peter said, “Do you want me to just ignore what the Bible says about those unclean animals?!” Peter was confused, but soon realized the message wasn’t really about animals or food. It was about human beings. After his vision, Peter was led to baptize a Gentile. Before he baptized the Gentile, Peter stated to those around him, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful to associate with or visit a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Here we are, 2000 years later, and we are still using the “law” to accuse people of being unclean. God told Peter to stop doing that. We should stop, too. For more on this, read Jame’s Alison’s book, Jesus the Forgiving Victim, pages 317-327.
  5. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 that, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” That passage isn’t about sexuality. But it is about the major identity barriers of Paul’s day. They were identities that led to an “us against them” mentality. Paul stated that in Christ, we can no longer structure our identity in a way that leads us over and against anyone else. Why was Paul so insistent about this? Because he knew that this human tendency to scapegoat was the very thing that led people to kill Jesus.
  6. Jesus references sexuality briefly, but he never says anything specifically about homosexuality. If it were something so important to him, the Gospel writers would have said something about it. It wasn’t an important issue for Jesus, so it wasn’t an important issue for the Gospel writers, and so it isn’t an important issue for us.
  7. Jesus never used the term “homosexuality” because, historically, the term wasn’t coined until the 19th century. And so, in the original Hebrew and Greek, you will never find the word “homosexuality” in the Bible because the word didn’t exist 2000+ years ago. Modern translations that use that term project a modern word onto the Bible. Why? I don’t know, but I’m always suspicious when they do, because the word simply didn’t exist.

Those are my seven points. Do you have more? Let me know in the comment section below.

If you are interested in exploring further, I recommend David Gushee’s book Changing Our Mind. Gushee is a leading evangelical ethicist who explains these and other biblical passages in more detail.

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