(Post 4 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 section will be relatively short, but is of tantamount importance to me, because it’s where my beliefs for inclusion find their grounding in the witness of my own Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You’ll see on your handout a list of passages out of the gospel according to Mark, but I could have easily made this list out of any of the Gospels.
In many familiar bible translations, you could call this section of my presentation the “woe to you scribes and pharisees” section. Here’s a short excerpt from Mark 7 that’s the basic thesis of this critique Jesus makes:
He replied, “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you hypocrites. He wrote,
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far away from me.
Their worship of me is empty
since they teach instructions that are human words.
You ignore God’s commandment while holding on to rules created by humans and handed down to you.” Jesus continued, “Clearly, you are experts at rejecting God’s commandment in order to establish these rules.
Mark 7:6-9 (CEB)
Again and again throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus is confronted by devout and scripturally literate Pharisees and legal experts with some version of the question, “But how can you do this when the law clearly says otherwise?”
Again and again, Jesus responds with some version of, “If your interpretation of the law causes you to miss out on God’s command to love your neighbor, you have misinterpreted the law.”
To carry this further, to the legalist, sin is the transgression of a written rule. But to Jesus, sin is separation from God; having, as Isaiah says, hearts far away from God. Jesus sees separation from God and separation from neighbor as part and parcel of the same problem, and the legalists are using the law to increase separation rather than to remove it.
As I stated at the beginning of this series, I believe that all of scripture is inspired by God and useful to help us to learn and to grow. I believe that deep and meaningful study of scripture has the power to transform us, to help us to serve God and be transformed in ways we never thought possible. The purpose of scripture, in my eyes, is not to function as God, but to point us towards a relationship with God. The Bible is the inspired and accurate text that points us towards the living, breathing Word of God, Jesus Christ. And Jesus spent a huge portion of his ministry critiquing the sorts of interpretations used to separate people whose lives and cultural practices seemed to be beyond the pale of acceptable religious life.
It is because of what I believe about Jesus Christ rather than in spite of how I read scripture, that I believe that we are called to love and accept our LGBTQ siblings. That the picture of Jesus that I see is in the gospels is a God who stands with those that culture and custom called unclean and outsider.
Because of my relationship with God through the person and life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and not in spite of what I read in scripture, I believe that God calls us to accept fully LGBTQ people.
I also find that, even though he wrote some of the passages that are most difficult to deal with when it comes to acceptance of queer folks, Paul’s vision of the Church is a place where love takes us beyond the end of the law.
For the final section of this presentation, we’ll look briefly at Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
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