A few weeks ago, I joined a cause on facebook titled “End Homophobia”.  As expected, this generated several quips, comments and I’m sure a few raised eyebrows.  And to start off, I can somewhat understand how people that have become so insulated within church doctrine and have removed themselves from the popular culture could be disturbed by the apparent jumping of a pastor on the bandwagon of the homosexual community.  But…. what caught me off guard has been the absolute certainty and piety that has come with these comments.  So, instead of lying back and allowing wondering minds to wander, I figured I’d address this head on. 

I am happily married to my wife of 17 years and am not gay, nor have any inclination of the sort.  Those close to me over the past couple of years know that I’ve been struggling and searching for God’s stance on homosexuality.  At first read of that sentence, many of you will jump up and whole-heartedly claim that there is no question as to what God would say – I’ll address you in a minute.  Some of you may have already stopped reading, because the last thing you want to read is another walk down the Biblical road that ends in beating you up, kicking you out or questioning your sincerity.  I’m going to do my best not to do any of the above and sincerely ask that you continue reading.  But, if you do continue reading, please read to the end, because if you stop in the middle, you may miss my point.

I grew up in the church.  I grew up thinking that homosexuality was a sin.  And as AIDS became prevalent in America, homosexuality moved from a sin to THE sin.  It’s not one of the big 10, but it would most definitely be number 11 or maybe 7.1 if you place it as a sub-category of “You shall not commit adultery.”  And I really didn’t have any problems with that, until I took some time to become friends with some people that are gay.  All of a sudden, my theories and theologies in the homosexual community gained life and names; faces and friendships were added to the equation.  It was slightly before this time that I also realized that my knowledge of Scripture came more from what I had grown up being told instead of what I actually understood or had gained through personal study and allowing God to reveal himself to me.

So, I began struggling with “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?”, “What does God’s character suggest about my actions and reactions to the homosexual community in my world?”, and “What kind of an example did Jesus and/or the Disciples provide for dealing with homosexuals?”  And to date, I’ll say, I don’t have it figured out.  What I have come to believe is this:

1)      The Bible makes several statements about homosexuality in most translations (Gen. 19:5–8; Lev. 18:22,; 20:13; Rom. 1:26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).

2)      There are a number of growing scholars that will refute each of these verses as being used out of context when trying to relate the original Hebrew or Greek to a homosexual reference.  Probably the most concise version that I’ve found is located at http://www.soulfoodministry.org/docs/English/NotASin.htm.  This does not reference anyone from Oxford, but it resonates with the same or similar conclusions that they have used to create their 3rd Edition of the Oxford Annotated Bible that affirms homosexuality. 

3)      The same sentiment towards homosexuals today has been used in the past to keep women subservient to men and slaves as property; neither of which is commonly condoned or accepted today.  Just a few generations ago (and still in some back-woods areas) the Bible was used to justify slavery in America.  But if you were to try to pull that off today in most areas, you would get laughed or beaten out of town.  What changed? 

So, as a pastor and novice Biblical student, I feel at a disadvantage when trying to read others opinions and conclusions on the controversial meaning of homosexuality in today’s Biblical text as both sides of the issue seem to be so passionate that their stance and interpretation is correct that they may be allowing their emotions to govern their discernment.  Whom should I trust?

So, I choose to look at the example Jesus set forth in His time on Earth.  In John 8, where Jesus encounters the woman who has been caught in an adulterous encounter (reminder – she’s caught in one of the big 10 that God gave to Moses) he has a significant reaction.  He says after pointing out that there’s no one left to condemn her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Notice that the other people involved left unable to condemn her because they were not without sin in their own lives.  Jesus didn’t condemn her, even with the right to do so, but didn’t affirm her stance either – because He was very clear that what she was doing was a sin.  Remember this is the same Jesus whose ministry seemed to contradict everything that the religious leaders of that time thought to be the doctrinally sound stance of their day. 

I’m not certain that homosexuality is a sin and I’m not certain it’s not.  What I am sure of, is that it’s not my job to bring condemnation on someone who is homosexual.  Likewise, I’m certain that I am to love my neighbor (homosexual or heterosexual) as myself and am to reflect the love of Christ to the community around me. 

What I’m also aware of, is that as a pastor, I have a responsibility to my calling and God to shepherd a flock consistent with the Biblical narrative.  And it’s those areas that I’m struggling with most now.  Does my responsibility change when the person is an affirming follower of Christ and engaging in a sinful activity vs. someone who does not affirm to follow the same teaching and is engaged in the same activity?  I believe there is a difference.  But there is a stigma attached to homosexuality (if it is a sin) that makes this issue different than say gluttony, adultery or gossip (all of which are sins); all of which are prevalent in nearly any church in America.  I can’t imagine someone starting a cause “End Glutton-phobia”.  If there was one, would anyone question why I would join said cause?  I think not.  There’s no stigma attached. 

My hope in joining the “End Homophobia” cause is to see the church and culture come together where we love each other, in spite of our differences, understandings, presuppositions, doctrines and beliefs.  If homosexuality is a sin, there is a much greater chance that the Holy Spirit will point that out to my gay friends if I exhibit the love of Christ instead of the condemnation of religion.  And then maybe, if I have opened the doors of friendship, I will offer an environment that is safe enough to talk through what it means to follow Christ.  If it’s not a sin, maybe God wants to use my gay friends to make that abundantly clear to me.  Either way, if I put homosexuals on an island to be kept away from, I’ll never have an impact and neither will I be impacted.  Neither of which sounds like the message Jesus gave in the parable of the talents in Matthew.