This is a blog that has been in my head for some time, and maybe in my heart for longer. It has taken time to weed out the irrelevant bits (just via my brain filter) and get it down to the point. This truly is going to be controversial, simply because I do not believe anyone else will concur with me; it is my thoughts and feelings alone. I am going to annoy everyone, in both camps, I am sure, friends and foes alike.
Sitting on a fence can be done, but only for short periods. I am getting very sore indeed by now, being just so unable to decide on which side of this fence I can dismount.
I am an evangelical Christian (formerly atheist) who decided to follow Jesus Christ as a teenager. I have a disdain for liberal churches that too easily water down the message of the gospel of Christ, but I cannot ally myself with the all-too-prevalent policies and political wranglings of conservatives, often labelled as the ‘religious right’. I am both conservative and liberal* on differing topics, and seldom find any political party or grouping to whom I wholly subscribe.
*[ I later tried to outline just how I differentiate conservative and liberal in another blog here.]
Today is the day my own local assembly votes on the issue of same-sex marriage, so maybe it is about time I addressed this: ‘Liberal’ churches have been seeking to re-draw the borders on their relationship with homosexuality and find a way to accommodate everyone into one big happy agreement so we can all get along so easily. ‘Conservative’ churches are seeking to voice their opinion that such a thing is sinful and wrong, and make their stance known to the world that they shall oppose it at every turn and at any cost.
However, my own holistic reading of the scriptures, which tries to take on board all that I read, and marry together the seeming ‘contradictions’ that exist there, leads me to believe that both camps have got it wrong.
To the liberals:
I must point out how I read my Bible: it is the mind of God! I do not and cannot decide to ignore any part of it (unless it happens to be a later addition to the manuscripts that has no original authenticity in it), nor do I choose to read some verses and pay no (or less) attention to other verses. It has often been said that one must read a Bible verse in its context; this is very true, and for me the context is the whole thing. Such is the mind of God that it is fantastically complex beyond our comprehension, but my Bible reveals to me what I believe he wants me to discover about him as I read it.
There are plenty of scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, that highlight that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes. I wish it weren’t, truly, for the friends I have had and still do have, who are homosexual; I know that they believe that they had no choice in the matter, and cannot help what they feel. To say it is purely a choice is far too glib and off-the-cuff for most homosexuals but there are clear cases of identical twins who become adults, with one clearly declaring their homosexuality, the other not, so it is also glib and off-the-cuff to say that homosexuals are just born that way: it is a complex thing, and needs to be addressed within churches in love, care and understanding, by true leaders with pastoral hearts. SO; to say that it is not sinful, and accept it as a lifestyle within a Christian church, flies in the face of our scriptural teachings. If you wish to do that, I would personally prefer you change your name to something else, not Christian, to be perfectly frank! [amendment: I have read some really good exegesis presented by these groups on the topic, and cannot fault their commitment to scripture, so my declaration was one of pride: I have always known I am not one to judge another’s salvation, so also I now realise I cannot demand they change any label they so wish – if they belong to my heavenly family, so be it]. I recognise I have to concede that so many various weird and wacky groups can claim that tag, I just have to live with it. I only try to live by the scriptures of his word. I struggle to negotiate between my soul and my spirit that is united with God’s Holy Spirit in this matter, but I accept his word. Though it is not a matter of salvation, in my humble opinion.
To the conservatives:
Yes, there are plenty of verses that highlight this sin, and that goes along with all other sin, as I have already tried to point out in previous blogs. Let’s take it in the context of the whole Bible again, as I stated earlier – I cannot help but read through it and recall to mind various admonitions and commands:
‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt. 5:38-44)
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ (Rom.12:20 – quoting Prov. 25:21,22)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking… (1 Cor. 13:4-5)
He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:51)
That last verse, from the words of our Lord concerning the wicked servant, makes it clear to me that hypocrites do not belong in the kingdom; Jesus often hurled this insult at the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for saying one thing and doing another, or condemning others for things that in reality they did too, or something similar.
Now I believe that I have a right; the right to practice my beliefs and my faith unhindered. Surely it is clear that I would be hypocritical were I to say to any other believer, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, whatever, that they should not have that same right. I will defend anyone of any belief to maintain their right to believe it and live by it. I can still speak and preach against it, and state that I believe Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” as he claimed boldly himself (John 14:6) but not allow myself to fall into the trap of the hypocrite in denying my rights to others. I had a Muslim friend in school who debated hotly with me. We disagreed with each other, but remained harmonious friends throughout.
As for my rights, I am commanded to lay them down for others. I am to count them less. What? Seriously? Yes, indeed – Jesus even talks about the right to defend yourself and states ‘no! turn the other cheek!’ If someone wants to take what is mine (my shirt), I am to give them more (my coat as well). Stop and think about this, for just one minute; is our Lord Jesus serious about this? Too right he is! His way is radical and ground-breaking! To follow him is to go against all the ways of this world – we are to have a different mindset:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:2)
This way is against not just the world, but our own natural nature, and this is what we are to wrestle against, as Paul related so eloquently in Romans 7 – we all struggle with sin, and if sin is going against his commands, then if we are being ‘self-seeking’ over our rights, or ‘dishonouring’ to others, or ‘boastful’ or ‘proud’ about our own stance on anything, are we not disengaging ourselves from what Jesus wants in us? He clearly and truly wants us to be subject to others, even our enemies; that is his way, and it is certainly not ours, but we must strive for this.
Again, my soul that wants to fight back when I’m kicked or offended argues with my spirit over this, but again, I must accept his word (even though I might not always attain it). If others have a belief in something and ask for a ‘right’, regardless of what it is, I must acquiesce to that request. I do not wish to do so, but, as my dear beautiful Lord prayed in Gethsemane before he went to his fate for me, “not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Were I to be asked myself to vote on same-sex marriage, I could not, in all conscience, vote yes: for me it is wrong, against God’s word but at the very same time, I cannot see myself actually voting no. I feel I must abstain. And in any democracy, we can, no, we must accept the democratic will of the majority. If we decide that we like democracy only when it suits us, then are we not just plain hypocrites all over again? If you wish to block democracy, then just state that you don’t believe in it! Is there any politician who would do that?
That fence is still painful, but this is a cushion to my seat. Maybe I should see it not as a fence but as simply a narrow and lonely path that I follow. I shall get down now and follow my path. Here I walk; I can do no other.
Grace be with you.