By Roydon Frost.
A Christian alternative to homophobia.
The controversy of the last few weeks has been yet another reminder that when Christianity and homosexuality are thrust into the public arena together, the effect is to polarize. The volumes rise, but nobody hears a thing. So perhaps it’s good for us as Christians to reexamine ourselves and try to recast the “debate” as the open, honest, listening exchange it ought to be. To do that we need to go back to the heart of what we believe and why we believe it. But first…
All too often we as Christians use isolated verses as prooftext to legitimize an underlying homophobia. We take this or that verse, normally out of context, as license to hate gay people, rather than love them. Where we have been guilty of this, our only appeal can be, “please forgive us”.
You sometimes hear gay people speaking with great pride of their “coming out” as a kind of homecoming, an emancipation, or even a birthday. It was the day they became who they truly are. As Christians we need not deny any of that. Only to say that it falls short. There is a “coming out” that travels further into true freedom, that reaches down deeper into the depths of human identity, that offers a more enduring peace. It is a coming out required of all humanity: the acknowledgement that we are at odds with God. It’s only when we admit that we have been living independently of God, and we don’t want to any more, that we truly arrive home. And so the heartbeat of anything we say to the world as Christians has to be an invitation to that kind of coming out: “Come out, whoever you are”.
We can only make that call, we can only say what we say, as the equals of those to whom we are speaking. We speak as pilgrims on the very same road. All of us have a genetic predisposition to sin. All of us suffer from the same chromosomal disorder called “rebellion” that manifests in a thousand different ways. And what’s true of sin in general, is true in the particular. It’s not just that we are all sinners. It’s that we are all guilty of sexual sin: anyone who looks at another human being lustfully – that’s the bar Jesus sets, and it’s more or less a universal indictment. Adultery, sex before marriage, homosexual practice, “window shopping”, flirting with intent – that’s a wide net, and we all get caught in it. Therefore anything we say is not said from above, or below, but face to face. The Christian and the non-Christian, the gay and the straight, we stand shoulder to shoulder in this thing called sin.
Speaking the truth, in love
We have nothing to say as Christians, nothing meaningful to add to the conversation, we have no message to bring, apart from the love of God in Jesus Christ. That message encompasses the universal sin condition, and the particular sexual sin symptoms described above. It is fundamentally the problem of sin that the love of God in Christ overcomes. This is the great message of the Bible. And when you read the Bible, you have to do an interpretive tap-dance to exclude homosexual practice from the problem of sin. That the church has only started doing this dance in the last hundred years, under immense political pressure, should say something to us. We can’t join this dance. There is nothing loving about withholding the full meaning of the love of God in Christ for the sake of political correctness. Love and truth always go hand in hand.
The grace of God is enough
Here’s the key: whatever the nature of our sin, God comes close to us in the person of his Son. He steps into our condition. He overcomes the death to which it inevitably leads by passing through the cross, to new life. And so he makes us new again. In him we have a new identity which has nothing to do with our distorted sexuality, or the particular way in which it is distorted. He restores us to a wholeness that allows us to worship him, even in and through a renewed sexuality. His grace is enough for us, whoever we are.
Perhaps if we admit our guilt, and return to these basic truths, perhaps we might be able to engage in a more fruitful dialogue with those who are currently so angry with us. Perhaps we might be able to speak the truth, and do it in love. At the very least, it will not be our own sinful folly that offends.