(Post 5 of 5 in a series on Human Sexuality)
Following United Methodist General Conference 2019, several members of my congregation started asking me if I could make a presentation about my own beliefs on human sexuality. I’ve always been pretty open about believing that the Gospel is fully inclusive, but after the church’s relationship with LGBTQ+ people got so much press, traditionalist and progressive folks alike were interested in my perspective. So I’m going to break it into five fairly long blog posts and dump them here.
This is a reflection on all of Galatians 3. Here’s an excerpt:
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.
You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:25-29 (CEB)
Jewish Christians were certain that gentiles needed to be more like Jews to really understand what it meant to follow Jesus Christ. That because Jesus was so distinctly within the Jewish tradition, it would not be possible to follow him without accepting culturally and biblically Jewish customs like circumcision and dietary purity codes. But Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, makes the case that gentile believers, like most of us who follow Christ today, are grafted onto the vine even earlier in God’s story than the Levitical codes. That we are heirs of God’s promise made to Abraham, because Jesus Christ is the one who was promised. Abraham was not in a covenant with God because of circumcision or the law, but instead because he loved, trusted, and followed God even when it was scary and costly. Even when God asked him to do things he knew were absurd or unreasonable.
And for Christians who are gentiles, we are heirs not because of the law and not in spite of the law, but instead because Christ has fulfilled the law. The law, as described by Jesus in Mark and also in 1 Timothy, is good. But its purpose is to provide support TO humankind; that humans don’t exist to follow the law, but rather the law exists to help support humankind in following God.
In Matthew 22, Jesus boiled the commandments down to this:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Matthew 22:37-40 (CEB)
And Jesus, Paul, and the early Christians took this radical message of love and used it to build a movement the likes of which the world had never seen. By promising life abundant and eternal through a relationship with Jesus, the early Christians developed communities that looked radically different than the world order. It was common for prominent women and slave men to come together in house churches across the Roman empire, worshipping God through singing, shared meals, and service to the sick and hurting in the community.
I believe that Paul’s vision of the beloved community of a unity in Christ across deep and meaningful difference in life and understanding, is the vision we need to follow Christ in Houston Texas today, and it’s the vision of the Church that shows me glimpses of what heaven might be like. That all who earnestly love Christ and seek to know him more are truly one in Jesus Christ. It’s a passion for this vision of God’s beloved community and Kingdom that inspired me to say yes when I heard the Spirit calling me to pursue a life in pastoral ministry. It’s glimpses of this beloved Kingdom I see when I look at this incredible, multi-generational, God-and-neighbor loving community. And its hope for this future that compels me to dedicate my life to service to Jesus.
Part 1: My Quadrilateral
Part 2: A Case for Celibacy
Part 3: Who am I to deny the spirit?
Part 4: Love over law
Part 5: Unity in Christ