Josina Guess is a beautiful writer and lover of Jesus. She lives with her husband and their four children at Jubilee Partners in Comer, GA.
“So what did you think?” We were driving home from the revival that my son’s 6th grade classmates had invited him to attend and I wanted to hear his thoughts. In the three years since we moved down south this was my son’s first invitation to do anything with anybody born and raised around here. He was excited to see his friends, his “homies” as he affectionately calls them, and I was coming with a little trepidation but an openness to worship with my neighbors.
“Not good.” He said. “Why?” I asked, filled with my own answers to that question.
“The preacher was pretty racist to gay people.”
Sure enough, the pastor was using the advance of gay rights as proof of how far America has run from God’s commandments. He lamented gay marriage rights and reminded everyone that he was saying not his words but God’s words. He lambasted “so-called” Christians that tell gay people that God loves them without telling them the truth.
I was so thankful that my son was thinking in church and that he told me that he did not agree with the preacher.
I said with a sigh that these folks at that church, just like our family, really love Jesus and love the Bible. “Yeah,” he retorted “just like church folks during slavery days.”
We talked about how people used the Bible to uphold slavery and people use it now to condemn gay people. We even talked about how even Satan used the holy scriptures to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. I said to him that listening to teaching like that makes me want to read the Bible more to see for myself if I’m just ignoring scripture or reading it differently.
That evening made me want to pray for revival for sure, maybe not in the way that pastor intended. I am a washed in the blood, born-again, Bible loving, Jesus lover who absolutely believes that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. When I shook the pastor’s hand after the service I felt so sad because I do not know how, except through God’s amazing grace, we could ever see eye to eye.
In Mark chapter 7, Jesus was responding to Pharisees that were appalled that his disciples were not washing their hands before they ate. He responded “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” And what is the commandment of God but that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God? Is traditional marriage between a man and a woman more holy than loving people who choose to make that covenant with a person of the same gender? What is more important to us, traditional marriage or the commandment of God?
My son has come a long way from calling everything “gay” as his peers were doing in school, to listening and speaking up for folks who are gay. I have too. I used to think it was enough to just accept gay people as my neighbors, but now I’m convicted that the church misses out if we don’t embrace the ones who are called to be our brothers and sisters in Christ and called into covenant relationships with one another.
I found this article called Homosexuality and the Bible by Walter Wink at the Fellowship of Reconciliation website. It helped me to want to keep reading the Bible and finding God’s story of liberation fulfilled in those living words. You can read the complete article here. In conclusion, Wink says:
“Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well, and nowhere attacked it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified? One hundred and fifty years ago, when the debate over slavery was raging, the Bible seemed to be clearly on the slaveholders’ side. Abolitionists were hard pressed to justify their opposition to slavery on biblical grounds. Yet today, if you were to ask Christians in the South whether the Bible sanctions slavery, virtually every one would agree that it does not. How do we account for such a monumental shift?
What happened is that the churches were finally driven to penetrate beyond the legal tenor of Scripture to an even deeper tenor, articulated by Israel out of the experience of the Exodus and the’ prophets and brought to sublime embodiment in Jesus’ identification with harlots, tax collectors, the diseased and maimed and outcast and poor. It is that God suffers with the suffering and groans toward the reconciliation of all things. Therefore, Jesus went out of his way to declare forgiven, and to reintegrate into society in all details, those who were identified as “sinners” by virtue of the accidents of birth, or biology, or economic desperation. In the light of that supernal compassion, whatever our position on gays, the gospel’s imperative to love, care for, and be identified with their sufferings is unmistakably clear.
In the same way, women are pressing us to acknowledge the sexism and patriarchalism that pervades Scripture and has alienated so many women from the church. The way out, however is not to deny the sexism in Scripture, but to develop an interpretive theory that judges even Scripture in the light of the revelation in Jesus. What Jesus gives us is a critique of domination in all its forms, a critique that can be turned on the Bible itself. The Bible thus contains the principles of its own correction. We are freed from bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible. It is restored to its proper place as witness to the Word of God. And that word is a Person, not a book.
With the interpretive grid provided by a critique of domination we are able to filter out the sexism, patriarchalism, violence, and homophobia that are very much a part of the Bible, thus liberating it reveal to us in fresh ways the inbreaking, in our time, of God’s domination-free order.”