Good Morning CTB family.
Your friendly, neighborhood, self-appointed Bishop here. Today I would like to tackle a sensitive issue with a simple request. It’s one I’ve been thinking a lot about since Jason Collins came out of the closet. At first I wasn’t going to touch it because this is a humor blog, and the topic isn’t funny. But today a conversation with a friend pushed me over the edge. So here we go. Here is my request…
To all my fellow Baltimore Christians, please stop saying “the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.” When you do so you reveal:
- A misunderstanding of sin,
- A misunderstanding of Jesus,
- And a misunderstanding of your job as one of his followers.
Let me break down these misunderstandings for you one at a time.
If you, like me, grew up going to a church every week, you were probably taught that God is a jerk-face judge who delights in pointing out all the wrong things we do. By well meaning adults who didn’t know better, I was led to believe God had ordained before time began magical rules and mystical rituals I needed to follow to make God happy. I was told that when I broke God’s special rules or failed to follow God’s divine rituals I was “sinning” and that sinning made God angry. Good little Christians, I was raised to believe, followed all the rituals and obeyed all the rules. When I didn’t I was a dirty, sinful failure who made Jesus cry.
This misunderstanding of sin saddled me with years of guilt, regret, and shame.
“But Bishop, if sin is not breaking God’s rules and failing to follow God’s rituals, then what is it?” you ask.
Great question! To get a correct understanding of sin, let’s look at a passage from Romans, a passage Christians love to throw at homosexuals – Romans chapter one.
Now most Christians, when denouncing homosexuality, like to stick with verses 26 and 27:
“This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.”
Christians love waving these verses at others they say, “See! Looky! Looky! God said homosexuality is a sin!”
But when we back up a few verses, and look at the whole passage, we see something much different going on here. Let’s rewind to verse 24:
“Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.”
According to Romans what is the cause and what is the effect?
The sin, the cause, is the denial of God’s existence. This is the fundamental plot of the Bible. God created humanity to love him, to be loved by him, to take care of one another, and to take care of the rest of creation. Tragically humanity screwed it up by denying God existed. Sin therefore is not breaking magic rules. Sin is not failing to go to church. Sin is replacing God with other stuff. The fancy theology word for this is “idolatry.” Sin is treating other things like God.
The book of Romans does not say homosexuality is a sin. It says homosexuality can be a byproduct of sin.
This distinction is extremely important, so let’s chase it for a minute.
- Fat people eat ice cream…but eating ice cream doesn’t necessarily make you fat.
- Alcoholics drink beer…but drinking beer doesn’t make you an alcoholic.
- People with a cold sneeze a lot…but sneezing doesn’t mean you have a cold.
Like I said, the distinction of cause and effect is important. Can you be a homosexual and have a deep, meaningful, fulfilling life following Jesus? Absolutely.
Now that we’ve rebuilt sin and understand that sin is denying the existence of God, not breaking super special rules. Let’s look at Jesus, the guy this whole Christianity deal is suppose to be based on.
You know what Jesus talked a lot about?
Loving God. Jesus talked a lot about his followers surrendering their personal agendas and selfish ambitions in pursuit of knowing God.
You know how Jesus said his followers should pursue God?
By loving other people. Jesus said if you want to “abide” in him, if you want to know God, if you want to connect in an intimate way to the divine, then you should give your life in service to your neighbor.
You know what Jesus didn’t talk a lot about?
Following rules and rituals.
You know what Jesus never mentioned?
You know who Jesus spent a large amount of time yelling at?
Religious people who demanded everyone around them follow rituals and rules to have a relationship with God.
Now having looked at Romans and Jesus, let’s move onto you, Christian-who-likes-to-say-homosexuality-is-a-sin. What is your role in the world as a Jesus follower.
MISUNDERSTANDING YOUR ROLE
We try to complicate Jesus’ teachings. We do our best to unnecessarily seek out imaginary nuance in between his words.
Unfortunately for us, he was clear and simple.
Want to call yourself a Jesus follower? Then sacrifice your life for other people. Be a peace-maker. Give generously, even at great personal cost. Consider others to be better than yourselves. Bring healing whenever possible. Seek opportunities to serve. Stand up for those being harmed and abused. Fight injustice. Free slaves. Defend the helpless and those who are alone.
Know what Jesus followers should not do?
Jesus followers should not go around telling people who aren’t oppressing anybody that they suck. In fact, Jesus was painfully clear that he didn’t want his followers acting like judgmental assholes. If someone is being abused, if injustice is going on, if people are being harmed – by all means Jesus people, step in and man up. But if you simply don’ t like how someone lives, keep it to yourself and don’t claim Jesus on your side.
So my fellow Jesus followers, please stop saying the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.
- Because when you do, you misunderstand sin. Sin is not breaking rules. It’s denying God.
- Because when you do, you misunderstand Jesus. He didn’t talk about rules. He talked about connecting with God through loving others.
- Because when you do, you misunderstand your role. Your job is to sacrifice yourself for your neighbor, not to voice your opinion about their choices.
The Bishop of CTB