Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation: Understanding 3

 by Christopher Blake

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9
. Homosexuals can be genuine, model Christians. 

A model Christian exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law" (verses 22, 23), Then comes verse 24: "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." 

Can these texts describe a homosexual? (Can they describe a heterosexual?) Remember that God does not save people in varying ways, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:3). We are all sinners; Christ died for all of us; we are all saved through Christ. 

Robert Folkenberg remarked, "I cannot imagine God condemning someone for overcoming a sinful tendency." The crux lies in the overcoming, or as Paul put it, the crucifying. We can battle against gossip or envy or pride or impurity or cowardice or laziness or love of money all our lives and still be model Christians, because we are overcoming and because we point people constantly to the model, Christ. Similarly, homosexuals may battle against their orientation all their lives and be model Christians the entire way. 

"Ah," we say, "but if they are Christians, they must give up their homosexual lifestyle." When we say that, what do we really mean? A homosexual writes, "I find that the words 'gay culture' are often used as a shorthand way to conjure negative images of our lives. My experience of gay culture includes, among other things: poetry, music, literature, theater, sports, humor, and politics. My understanding of heterosexual culture includes, among other things: domestic violence, abortion, rape, and sexual harassment. My point is to look at only one side is mean-spirited and inaccurate." 

If by "homosexual lifestyle" we mean "having sex with persons of their own sex," that's one thing. But there's more to a lifestyle than sex. Not everything a homosexual person does is immoral. My sexual orientation does not make everything I do either right or wrong. We should take care never to communicate Christian disapproval of a lifestyle strictly on the basis of taste or personality preference. 

As I see it, God didn't create homosexuality, as He didn't create loneliness or disabilities. But God loves homosexuals just as they are now. His grace already covers them. And He expects them, as He expects everyone to grow in His grace and to follow His leading. We should not ask for more. Or for less. 

10. Being a homosexual is not a sin. 

Our church does not regard the condition of homosexuality to be a sin for which one must give an accounting to God. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual under the section "Social Relationships," p 147 states that "homosexual practices and lesbian practices are among the obvious perversions of God's original plan." Seventh-day Adventists Believe...continues the thought. "Scripture condemns homosexual practices in strongly negative terms (Gen. 19:4-10;  cf. Jude 7,8; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26-28; 1 Tim. 1:8-10). Practices of this type produce a serious distortion of the image of God in men and women" (p.303).

I looked through Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White for words on homosexuality. Amazingly, with hundreds of references on other topics, including roughly 150 entries on criticism, I could not find any specific counsel on homosexuality. 

"Perverse" is defined as "willfully deviating from acceptable or conventional behavior." I found nine entries in the Index under "perversity." including: 

  • "God pities men struggling in blindness of perversity" Prophets and Kings, p.435) 
  • "Children inherit perversity from parents" (The Adventist Home, p. 174). (Context refers to "traits of character.") 
  • "Christ bears with the erring through all their perversity." (Education, p. 294). 
  • "Let not man's perversity move you from firm faith in God" (Testimonies, vol.8, p.129).
  • "God refuses to be wearied out with world's perversity" (Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 416). 

The church's distinction between condition and practices underscores our first understanding of the difference between being a homosexual and practicing homosexuality. A person is not a contemptible pervert for being a homosexual any more than we are all perverted and retarded compared to the Creator's original design. Ellen White's counsels on perversity apply to you and me, whatever our sexual orientation. 

Some have said that being a homosexual is a sin because it is "unnatural." The phrase "God originally created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" is used to highlight a crucial point, namely, homosexuality isn't how God intended the two genders to coexist. 

From there people imply that what is natural is good, and what is not natural is not good. (After all, aren't we supposed to eat natural foods?) Yet homosexuals claim they have felt "natural" sexual feelings toward the same sex all their lives. Furthermore, if claims for a biological origin of homosexuality turn out to be true, some would argue this proves the condition is natural

But natural doesn't necessarily mean good. As Richard Lovelace writes in his book Homosexuality and the Church: "An appeal to nature proves nothing in a fallen world." By the same token, unnatural doesn't necessarily mean bad. Adoption agencies, eyeglasses, pasta, airplanes, and compact disks weren't in God's original creation either. 

The danger here for the homosexual is that hearing "You're not normal" translates to "You're a freak" -- and then suicidal depression descends. What needs to be communicated is this: We're all born with natural sinful tendencies. Every human being is naturally unnatural, for one reason or another, and we must battle different natural tendencies that would rip us from the Father and rip up those we should love. "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members" (Romans 7:21-23). 

We cannot condone homosexual sexual activity. Homosexual sexual activity is sinful -- it is apart from God's will. Yet a difference exists between the person who fights against homosexual tendencies and the one who experiments with or revels in them. It's a sin to cave in to temptation. It's not a sin to be tempted. 

Sexual acts are charged with meaning because they involve our very beings. "Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Which brings us to what we've always said in INSIGHT: Be careful with your sexuality. It's powerful. Like electricity the power can be life-enhancing or life-destroying. Only when we are able to control it does it become good for us. 

11. There is no scriptural support for practicing homosexuality. 

As Seventh-day Adventists we believe the Bible to be God's thoughts communicated in human language. Read any of the biblical texts that mention homosexual acts. Not one says homosexuality is in God's plan for humanity. The Bible refers to obviously condoned sexual relations solely in terms of heterosexuality (see, for example, Genesis 2, Song of Solomon, Ephesians 5). 

Other texts condemn homosexual sexual acts (see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; other possible applications may include 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. 1 Timothy 1:8-11. and Jude 7). Without going into great detail, we should note that some theologians find these last texts to be obscure, and that the Leviticus and Romans texts refer to the abuse of homosexuality, to homosexual promiscuity, rape, or prostitution, and not to the homosexual sexual orientation. They point out that biblical condemnations against similar heterosexual acts are even more plentiful, and conclude that "a simplistic English reading of the few scriptural references to homosexual acts do not suffice to determine the Lord's will for homosexual persons today."38 Still the fact remains that these scholars cannot, without resorting to strained speculations, find in the Bible license or praise for, or even one word of counsel on, homosexual relationships. 

The Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists commissioned a book to be written by Ron Springett, professor of religion at Southern College, on homosexuality. Published in 1988, Homosexuality in History and in the Scriptures provides a thorough treatment of historical and biblical perspectives on homosexuality.39 In the book Dr. Springett examines "the claims made in much of the 'gay' literature," and also looks at other texts "used by overzealous Christians bent on finding condemnation of homosexuality throughout Scripture."40 

Dr. Springett concludes the book with these words: "The church must accept the individual of homosexual orientation who needs help and support and [who] struggles against same-sex tendencies. But those who insist on and promote the active homosexual lifestyle as normal, natural, or even superior to heterosexual relations by that very act disregard the sole authority upon which the church's very existence and mission is based, namely, the Scriptures." 

12. The problem won't just go away. 

Whether people suffer silently with it, ignore its existence, or rage against it, the question of homosexuality remains. In some Christian denominations the issue has reached epic proportions.

Rebecca Ruth Richards was a minister in the United Methodist church until 1990, when she surrendered her credentials on the basis of her homosexuality. In June of that year she was granted an opportunity to address the Annual Conference Executive Session, and said in part: 

"I have come here today to tell you my story. But I do not speak for myself alone.... There are countless other lesbian and gay sisters and brothers who in previous years drifted silently away. And there are many other, whose stories cannot be told, whose courageous faithfulness in ministry and refusal to be driven away from their call to serve causes them untold pain and isolation. 

"It is long since time that these stories have a name, that we put a face to the pain and suffering that is happening all around us. It is time for the church to feel in its collective gut the hemorrhage that has been going on for far too long."41 

The text of her speech continues under a banner that reads: "Homosexuality: A Difficult Issue for United Methodists." 

It's been a difficult issue for Seventh-day Adventists, too. The issue doesn't just "go away" because we want it to, because people don't just "go away." Even if they leave our congregations, even if they wander through waterless climes or grope for a mythical success ladder, people are still here on this planet, still needing the fellowship of the Spirit, still longing for unconditional love, still connected by invisible threads to Christ's body. And the problem remains.

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. Benton.
  2. Ronald M. Springett, Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures (Biblical Research Institute).
  3. Springett, preface.
  4. Rebecca Ruth Richards, "'Telling My Story...,'" Baltimore Conference Connection, Jan. 31, 1991.
  5. They do not see homosexuality as a sickness, which is how alcoholism is often seen.
  6. Dallas.
  7. Elizabeth Moberly, "New Perspectives on Homosexuality," Journal of the Society of Health, December 1985. In Springett.

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